It’s Friday, just after noon, and punctuating my laptop screen are Waylon Lewis’s peach shirt and ample chest hair.
The glowing white rectangle of the doorway behind him on the left mimics the white book peeking over his right shoulder.
Nearby, I hear my diaper-donned rescue Chihuahua, Angel, lapping up some cool water as my mom microwaves a plateful of mashed potatoes my sister made this morning. A group text message just whizzed by from my sister, asking our mom to cover the potatoes in the microwave as she heats them. I’m often third party to this kind of “helpful,” household hint from my caring, slightly neatish-freak of a younger sister to our more relaxed, Bohemian, not-a-stickler mother.
Watching Waylon, Elephant Journal’s founder and Editor-in-Chief, edit live and sprinkle in thought-proving gems throughout the 75 minutes he spends with our Elephant Academy “Find Your Voice” weekly writing class has provided the welcome pause and insight I’ve needed to help me transition into my new life.
Two months ago, my sister, mom, and I moved in together, sharing a space literally on the Hudson River (I regularly hear waves swooshing below me) in Jersey City, New Jersey. The three of us—that’s me in the middle near our new home—haven’t lived together in over 30 years.
And considering we’re three grown, highly spirited women with diverging opinions on TV volume, room temperatures, and yes, kitchen protocols, the arrangement has been going remarkably well.
I’m sitting on my bed because there’s lots of activity in the rest of our apartment. My bedroom is actually intended to be a den, small (9×10) and windowless. When the movers brought our two trucks full of belongings here from Georgetown in Washington D.C., they kindly removed the doors to my room and closet so my furniture would fit.
The space I had in D.C. was bright and airy with two huge sets of windows that showcased a neighbor’s bountiful magnolia tree, classic brick sidewalks, lots of dogs and humans enjoying walks, and several dignified townhouses. I loved my combo bedroom and office so much that I frequently said, “You’ll have to peel my dead body out of here,” but alas, quite alive, I left it behind.
I’ve made the most of my new space, however, decorating it all warm and cozy with familiar pieces and accented with plenty of teal and turquoise—my happy colors. A candle called “Ocean” gently glimmers in the corner, adding to the warm, beachy vibe I strive to cultivate.
The lighting in here is dim, but bright enough to immerse myself into Week Five’s live class. I took this course because even though I am over 50—ew and wow, it’s still a shocker to see that in print—and have a degree in journalism, experience as a copywriter, marketer, and communications director, and have taught at a Big Ten media school, I’ve never come close to nailing my voice. As a late bloomer in nearly every conceivable way, my lack of easy, dynamic expression finally bugged me enough to do something about it.
I’ve cherished writing and its associated arts ever since I was gifted my first Golden Book, The Poky Little Puppy. By age six, my dad and I were identifying typos on restaurant menus for kicks. By nine, my heart would pound with the opportunity to diagram a complicated sentence on the chalkboard in front of class.
By 14, I fell in love with the poem “Sea Fever,” by John Masefield (sensing a nautical theme?). By 24, I had a Master’s in Journalism, and by 30, I’d won a Daytime Drama National Writing Competition. Then came the marketing work, textbook writing and editing, copywriting, press releases, strategic plan writing, and interviews with the likes of Mick Jagger.
But never really the type of writing that had me sharing what it’s like to be me.
I’ve been hoping this course would help me unlock my voice so I can rid myself of my stale and stalled writing approach and my inability to share what’s on my mind in a compelling way.
Yet here we are in Week 5, and this is the first time I’m actually writing. I’ve attributed my absence to all the pitching, ditching, time, money, and uncertainty involved with moving. To all the expected and surprise adjustments of living in a completely new city in a cave of a room. To the energy I’m putting into refining and growing my coaching practice. To the fears I’ve had of trying, yet being unable to unlock fully the potential I know I have within.
It matters so much to me now:
Because I’m not exactly a lass, yet pursuing fresh adventures, living in a new city with a killer view of Manhattan and my amazing mom and sister, rescue dog, and my sister’s pug.
Because I’m a career coach who has helped hundreds of people land and thrive in work that really matters to them. I want to communicate how spectacularly important and possible it is to do that so I can support even more people’s transformations.
Because I am, as of this October, a 30-year vegetarian who cares more than anything about compassion, empathy, how we treat one another, and how much better we need to treat the miracles that are animals.
Because I’m a former deputy mayor who understands the real impact and influence local government can have over our daily lives. I know how messages are created and hate seeing the nonsense of politics and persuasion—from all sides—taint the possibilities of genuine, positive outcomes.
Because I am an ardent fan of meditation and yoga. Three decades after I wish I had, I’m finally getting my yoga teaching certification so I can weave yoga and meditation’s incredible benefits into the mindful life, high performance coaching programs a few colleagues and I are developing.
I have stories to tell, smarts to impart, and experiences to share, hopefully with a dash of light humor along the way.
Perhaps writing this article in my comfy cave is the first gentle, hinting glimmer of my voice?