I’m sure these are the basic mid-life crisis questions. My recent mid-life crisis was desperate for the answers.
I spent hours trying to find them. They eluded me.
Frustrated and hopeless, I sought comfort from my usual internet distraction. I’ve been getting lost in elephant journal articles for years, usually sticking to articles on love, relationships and a little meditation or mindfulness here and there for good measure.
However, on this particular night, my typical reading was interrupted by something different—an article encouraging readers to sign up for the Elephant Academy Apprentice Program.
I took it as a sign from the universe:
I love to write. Why have I never heard of this before? I need a challenge. I need a distraction. This is what I need!
My inner voice convinced me to apply.
And just like that, my life changed.
Among many other things, the apprenticeship teaches how to promote on social media. I had the impression that scheduling posts on our pages was just a lesson in how to use Facebook. How naïve I was.
What I gained was a glimpse at humanity and what’s important to us through the lens of social media. It’s heartwarming to realize that just one encouraging quote could make a difference in someone’s day. But even beyond a single person, the impact of what social media can achieve is more significant than I could have imagined. When we share an article or a quote and it inspires others to share, we are passing along knowledge that educates, inspires and benefits every single one of us.
This apprenticeship presented me with a platform to affect change in a meaningful and fulfilling way.
Now when I share a post, I like to add “share the love.”
By sharing an article about conserving the ocean, saving the elephants or a simple quote about treating others or ourselves with compassion, that is exactly what we are doing.
We all have the ability to help change the world, and sharing our words with others is one of those ways. Waylon Lewis and the staff of elephant journal don’t teach us exactly how to write, break down sentences or how to build a story from beginning, middle and end.
They teach us to overcome fears and that we have more potential than we ever believed, lessons that extend way beyond writing and this apprenticeship.
It took quite a few class exercises and a lot of courage for me to step out of my comfort zone and start to share my stories and my voice. Prior to these last few months, I was too insecure to share most of what I wrote and somewhere along the line I adopted the idea that to share my work would be too emotional and self-indulgent.
The second writing I submitted for publication was rejected. The feedback basically said I wasn’t giving enough. I was defeated and upset.
“Did they not know how hard it was for me to share what I wrote? Did they not know how much I gave of myself?” I screamed along with some other not so nice words.
Fortunately, my small group leader gently reminded the group that feedback is part of learning and I realized I wasn’t alone. It quickly becomes clear that everyone involved in this experience shares the intent of sharing knowledge and love.
My bruised ego stood corrected. I had been afraid to be vulnerable. I was holding back. I was being selfish by not sharing. The editor was pushing for the best of me.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
What this apprenticeship teaches us is more than typing words next to each other and building a pretty story. It teaches us to have guts. It teaches us to dig deep and feel—to make the reader feel. We learn to be honest and that sharing who we are matters.
This experience allows an opportunity to present our words in a way that transcends self-indulgence and makes a difference, if only for one person, and sometimes that one person is you.
Sometimes making a difference requires more than sharing our words. I’ve edited many documents in my life, but never have I accepted the responsibility of helping to transform another writer’s experience.
At times, editing is simply checking for punctuation and formatting an article to make it more readable and appealing, like putting the bow on a beautiful gift.
Other times it is spending hours on Skype with your peer-edit partner helping them to find their voice, embrace vulnerability, defeat their own inner-critic, rewrite their article with them and then allowing yourself to be open to their feedback on your own work.
The apprenticeship granted me new confidence as an editor and a new lesson: in life, just like in this experience, we are all students and teachers.
I know I will always be a student of elephant journal. The lessons I’ve learned are too numerous to convey and I’m certain I will continue to gain new ones as I continue to read, write, edit and share.
As for that mini crisis and all those big questions, the Elephant Academy Apprenticeship helped me with that as well. It turns out I had the answers within me all along.
Who am I?
I am a writer…a title I didn’t have the confidence to claim just a few months ago.
What am I contributing to this world? Am I making a difference? What is my purpose?
We all possess the ability to make a difference in this world. We just need to find our voice and a means to share it. Not only did the Elephant Academy Apprenticeship remind me of this, it showed me the way. I now have my stories to share, a means and a purpose.
I will strive to continue to help change the world by editing, teaching, “sharing the love” and of course, writing.
“May it be of benefit” ~ Waylon Lewis, Founder of elephant Journal
Join: Elephant’s Fall 2015 Academy: an Online Certificate Apprenticeship in Social Media, Writing & Editing.
Author: Kelly Chesney
Editor: Emily Bartran