A little over a year ago I was invited to join a group of twelve women charged with discovering their next best selves. I said yes. About a year ago we met in a conference room for the first time to learn the plan, build a schedule and get going.

The abbreviated version is that I was tired, more than a little lost and not sure how to move forward. I had received some coaching from a more established musician in an effort to gain some guidance toward planning my next moves but still it was all a jumble. I remember going into that first meeting in that cold conference room somewhere near Columbus and thinking, “I might not grow, but I can support everyone else in their growth and that’s not nothing.”

A year ago I was scared and lost and feeling like a royal mess. I knew I was chasing approval from everywhere- my friends, my neighbors, the music community, radio guys, venue hosts, church members, everybody. I was waiting around for that one stamp of approval that would put all my doubts and fears to bed once and for all so that I knew what I was doing was the right way to go.

Then we met again. New town, new conference room, new blank sheet of paper. It was August, the summer had been crazy awesome and still, I was feeling lost and shaky.

We each took a big 3M giant post-it sheet of paper, some crayola markers and an empty space of conference table and got to the job of brainstorming and dreaming. Then we each took turns sharing our thoughts and visions.

Have you ever been invited to join a group of women charged with discovering their next best selves? Have you ever been given space and time to ponder the questions, “Where are you?” and “Where do you want to be?” When was the last time you were asked to actually answer the question, “What do you want?”

A year ago I had given little thought to any of it. I was just trying to get by from day to day and fake my way to the next thing.

After a tearful 3M post-it paper presentation and a chicken cordon bleu with mashed potatoes meal, I drove home fearful and worried like maybe I just didn’t have a next best self. Maybe this self was the only self there was.

And then lightning and then thinking and then writing in my journal. Then coaching, then friendship and camping and playing more shows. Then declaring, then forgetting, then declaring my intentions again. Then one step and another, then one more and now it’s been a year.

Chasing that stamp of approval is a hard habit to break, getting sad and quitting still shows up from time to time. Wondering where I’m going is still there but not in the same way as it was.

Have you ever gotten together with a group of strangers and become friends? Have you ever given yourself the gift of really seeing what parts of your daily routine are helping you and which parts are keeping you sad or stuck or worried or anxious? Have you ever spent time thinking about how to take care of yourself better? And I’m not talking about carbs and treadmills. I’m talking about how to really care for yourself as a precious, irreplaceable, beautiful child of God put here in this earth to use your gifts and talents the best you can from the healthiest, most peaceful state of mind possible.

Now it’s a year later. I’m not afraid of bad days. I don’t think my worth is shaken because I’m depressed. I don’t worry so much. I don’t get overwhelmed as much. I’m not that woman crumbling into tears and doubt beside a 3M post-it paper. And thank God for that.

And it has to do with finally seeing myself as God sees me. It has to do with giving myself permission to feel everything because the human experience is about feeling everything. It’s not about erasing negative emotions from your life. It’s about finally knowing what helps me feel strong and clear-eyed. Because you know what? If you don’t think about it, then you’ll never know the answer.

Do you love carbs and hate the treadmill? Do you love Netflix and nachos? That’s fine. But do you love something even more that you’re refusing to give yourself? Are you doing whatever it takes to escape the tougher quest which is stepping into your true identity?

Here’s the thing I’ve learned: when you finally surrender to your heart’s calling, your life’s vocation, then you don’t need the Netflix as much. When you finally discover what it is you were built for, you tap into energy you never thought you’d have, you find bravery and urgency and drive that makes the white wine or the Netflix or the treadmill not nearly as important because you’re finally becoming who you were always meant to be. And you find that you can feel whatever you need to feel, you can let yourself be special, you can take up some mother fudging space and suddenly, you’re seeing it.

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