The 'Highlights' of my work and life are: 20+ years in American Business in banking and finance, an MBA from Columbia Business School, a Masters from Johns Hopkins in Organizational Counseling and Coaching, Certified Emotional Intelligence Consultant, and Certified Shamanic Practitioner
Looks pretty good on paper, huh? Perhaps you might want to know what I call the 'Emotional Resume.'
For almost 20 years, I struggled to find my path and my way through corporate corridors. This can't be it, I kept saying over and over to myself.
From a hard working upper middle class family, the oldest of six, I ate 'surprise' casseroles for dinner, drove in a huge 'green bomb' station wagon - think Griswald's and the movie Vacation, and the Jersey Shore and a tiny, tiny, house shared with Grandma and Grandpa were all the summer entertainment we ever wanted or needed. I started working when I was 14 years old in a china shop, I sewed a bunch of my own clothes, and then made it 'big time' when I became the first person in my neighborhood old enough to babysit. There were no extras, and if we wanted something we learned to earn it.
Fast forward to 2000. From an outsiders perspective, my life looked ideal. On paper I was a success, MBA firmly in hand, a job offer as the acting CFO of a high-tech company. Three years earlier I had been diagnosed with melanoma while working insane hours on Wall Street for a boss who asked why I bothered 'to come to work when I should be home sewing buttons on my husband's shirts.'
Time to make some changes; I took the job at the high-tech company and that brought me down to Virginia.
I had moved away from family before, but this time it was different. I didn't move away to go to college, or to live in Europe as an abroad student, I moved away to find myself, which began a rift in my family that would eventually rip wide apart before ever repairing.
Virginia turned out to be an 8 year stint during which the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were attacked. I went back to school, again - this time for a master's in counseling. Turns out I loved psychology, and would have been very happy to have been a psychologist rather than an accountant. Also turns out that my choices put me at odds with the people I loved most.
My graduation day from Johns Hopkins was a victory of sorts, some might say Pyrrhic. I had made it through, worked three part time jobs, held two internships, moved to a tiny apartment for half the rent, and was broke. On May 3rd, 2003, my checking account had barely $300 left; I had debt in the five figures and a choice to make. I could keep trying to work the new business I started based on my coaching and counseling skills or go to work for a DC think tank that promised to show me the world on their dollar. I chose the later.
For the next five years, I traveled all over the world and learned to give speeches to crowds of 500+. If you believe that nothing happens as coincidence, then there is some merit in reflecting that this experience was designed to correct for a lack of self-esteem. Public speaking is after all the no.1 fear for 95% of adults. I was no exception. It terrified me, so what better way to build esteem than to "do the thing you think you can not do."
I've moved six times in seven years, the last one clear across the country on the promise of a new life in the great Pacific Northwest and a grand new job designing the coaching and selling process for WaMu. I got a new life and with it I got a little more reality. WaMu went out of existence and took my paycheck with it.
And that's when I finally came back to doing the thing I was always meant to do: healing, teaching, and coaching individuals in their work and in their lives. I love this work and to quote Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, "The smell of the grass, the feel of the glove. The bat. I'd have played for peanuts. Ah, hell, I'd have done it for nothing." That's how I feel about my work today.
Why tell you my story? Because it is a story that packs in it raw determination, coupled with a renewed belief that we can build a community of hope, a society of new leadership, sustained, healthy, economic, and balanced. We can be an example again to each other and to the world.
And it starts with choosing our future, carefully, thoughtfully, intentionally.
The simple reason to know my story is that it is not extraordinary, it is real, it is the common experience of most people who make up their minds that they want something more, and then choose to go after it. There are no parades, no media or press, there's little recognition. But, at the end of the day, there is that one moment, where you stare yourself in the eye and you slowly smile, knowing today was not wasted, today ......... I lived.
Go after your story, figure it out. Now, during these amazing times, get off the bench. As the Native American Hopi Elders said, in 2001, "we are the ones we have been waiting for. I am looking forward to knowing you!
Be well, Kelleen