This post is courtesy of guest blogger, Julie Nichols.
I have felt for a while now that I’m not in charge of my own destiny, that I’m just a pawn for others to use in my own life. This is not something that I was aware of until recently. Sometimes it’s not until you’re outside of something that you are able to look back inward and see how messed up everything was.
For my entire adult life I have a running theme: Work really hard to help others succeed. But not me. See, I didn’t feel like I had the right to succeed. I didn’t know everything I needed to know (or so I thought) or have all the experience, and (even with 20 years in the workforce) I felt like I was destined to help others to shine – not myself.
I wasn’t always like this. I am a born performer. From my earliest years I was belting out “Tomorrow” along with the ANNIE score, channeling Ariel while we both sang “Part of Your World” in my living room. I could not WAIT to set foot on a real stage. Through high school, I excelled in choir, vocal jazz, and theatre, and I even got my degree in Theatre. I burst out into the workforce singing, dancing, and laughing my way through national tours. I found a home in the Chicago theatre community. I wanted to be an actor. And I was! I was really doing it.
But I always had a side gig. To pay the bills, of course. Through those office day jobs I gained incredible experience in marketing, education, and business administration, while also being free to tread the boards at night. I would often leave the house at 7 am and not return until 11 pm, but I loved it. I was in my 20s, with the boundless energy of a 20-something. God, I miss that.
Something changed when I became a mother (to twins.) I became a vessel for caring for others. Acting went on the back burner (more like packed away in a dark corner of the basement). I shifted my career from admin work to managing a small business. Everything I was and did was either for my children, my husband, or my boss. My reason for living was to serve others. To boost them up. To do all the work behind the scenes to make THEM shine.
I was never very good at being on crew. Not the kind with the rowboats – the team that makes the show run from backstage. Sure, I was really good at telling people what to do as a stage manager, and I could remind actors to take their places like a well-oiled machine, but I always wanted to be OUT THERE. My home was ON the stage, not off it.
For years, I felt that I wasn’t being my true self. I had all this incredible knowledge and skills, and while it was being put to good use, it wasn’t putting the spotlight on me. I was the one running the spotlight from the back of the theater, pointing it at everyone else.
Then I was laid off twice in 15 months. My confidence was at an all time low and the job market had turned drastically. I needed help, badly. I reached out to Tami Palmer, who had helped me through my first layoff, and she opened a new window. She taught me how to network. She gave me the opportunity to connect. I was introduced to people who, within minutes of meeting me, were telling me about my value. Wait a minute: “You like me? You really, really like me?!”
I reached back out to these people and started connecting. Those people connected me with more people, and so on, and so on. I was sharing my background, my process, my experience, my advice. It was exhilarating and exhausting. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I could feel it coming. “Something’s comin’, something good… if I can wait… I don’t know what it is, but it is gonna be great…” (queue West Side Story).
Then it hit me: “These people value my advice, and I think they might pay me for it. Holy crap. Is this what I’ve been looking for? I think it is!”
I grabbed a notebook and started story-boarding a website. Then a business plan and a to-do list. I was on FIRE with excitement. That feeling that I used to get on stage was now surging through my body and I felt… lighter. I felt hope. I saw a future where I was my own boss. And it was bright.
That was about a month ago. I’m not one to sit on my laurels, so full-steam ahead I went and things are happening. I launched a digital marketing agency. I put my entire network on blast. I’m landing clients. I’m reaching new people. I’m planning for the future and I’m excited for what’s in store. AND, best of all – I get to perform again. Yup, I’m monetizing my talent to create a cabaret act as an additional stream of income.
I’m betting on ME. Maybe for the first time. And my heart is full.
When nothing is holding you back, doors start to open. Walk through them and just see what you’ll become.
Bio: Julie Nichols is the owner and lead digital marketer for Julie Nichols Marketing, a digital marketing agency offering content, brand, and social media strategy and execution for small businesses and solopreneurs. You can find her at julienicholsmarketing.com or on LinkedIn.