Not Once, Not Twice, But Thrice.
It’s not just the number of times our dear friend Dorothy clicked her heels in order to return home to the Sunflower State.
However, there is something the main character from The Wizard of Oz and I do have in common. Three was the number of times I distinctively remember bumping my head on a glass ceiling after charging into the workforce. Although I didn’t desire to travel to Kansas, the third time I hit that invisible, yet present barricade, I knew it was time to return home.
Following my graduation from undergrad, I felt ready to take on whatever the world had for me. By the time I was 22, I had studied abroad, helped to allocate $250,000 on a Student Activities Budget Review Committee, graduated with honors, and dropped the mic as the commencement speaker for my class. Like most millennials, I created opportunities for myself and others, shook hands with some of the most prominent authors and leaders, and stacked up some pretty good, “Let me know if you need anything” favors in my pocket. Although I felt my experience served as a pre-requisite to skip a few rungs in the ladder, I knew I still had to pay my dues; and that’s exactly what I did through various employment and freelance opportunities.
From conducting meetings with executives, to plugging up cell phones, to leading presentations, to cleaning up buffet lines – I did it all. I played the background role so well that I surprised some people with my leadership capabilities. I always had this belief that if I just kept going, I would silence the internal kernel of emotion that repeatedly whispered, “There’s more to life than this”. I would dampen that sound with the “attagirl” accolades and the verbal expressions of gratitude I received from a myriad of people. Yet, somehow I couldn’t shake the idea that if I allowed the trajectory of my career to continue on this path of horizontal growth, it would quickly morph from a stepping stone into a stumbling block. So, I began to take inventory.
I knew that somewhere along the way, I stopped learning about things I actually cared about. There’s nothing wrong with sharpening the corporate tools in your toolbox, but there’s also something valuable about fueling your passions, both old and new. I decided to return to school because I craved knowledge, especially in a structured setting. While seeking out graduate level opportunities, uplifting podcasts, and encouraging blogs; I remember discussing the idea of returning to school with someone I was working with:
“School? Yeah, you would be better off getting a Bachelor’s degree” They stated.
I caught myself from laughing, not only at the comment, but also at the complete satire that accompanied the suggestion. “I have a Bachelor’s degree already,” I simply responded with a smile, “I’m actually referring to a Master’s degree.”
It took multiple interactions with “Petty Patties” for me to realize that not everyone will understand your desire to continually grow…even the ones that say they’re rooting for you. But, the reality is sometimes, they can’t. Sometimes, their ceiling is simply your floor.
I vividly remember waking up the day I decided to do something different. That morning, I rose just before my alarm rang and stared blankly at the stucco above. Instead of praying for this feeling of discontentment to be removed, I finally came to the resolve that I couldn’t keep ramming my head into the invisible barrier that only existed when I acknowledged it. I finally decided to listen to that soft whisper that had grown into a roaring yell; constantly echoing in my head. I finally decided to trust my God given talents, my book sense, and common sense. I finally decided to start my own business.
To sit here 11 months later and finish this blog is still a complete shock. I have not only managed to stay afloat, but I’m learning to ride the wave – and take advantage of the lifelines found in those who lend their support. I don’t know where this will lead, but I’m more humbled and grateful than I have ever been in my life. I’m thankful for the bumps and bruises, because they help tell this ever unfolding story. I’m appreciative for the days of doubt because they allow me to borrow from the strength of others who always believed in me. I am indebted to those moments of failure, because they stirred up the #MOXIE within.
In our Wizard of Oz metaphor, it took Glenda the Good Witch to let Dorothy know she always had the power, she just had to believe it for herself. And for those of you who love Ms. Lena Horne, the same was true in The Wiz as Dorothy was reminded to know herself which encompassed knowing her mind, heart, and courage.
So, now I’m telling you: You’re A Glass Ceiling Breaker. It may not be right now, but the opportunity will present itself for you to turn the ceiling into your floor. Who knows what that opportunity will look like? However, rest assure that a time will come for you to gather the jewels of wisdom you’ve acquired and go to the next level – are you prepared? I challenge you to take inventory of what #MOXIEmoment allowed you to reach the bottom of this blog. What is it that brings you “Home”?
Don’t let rungs in a corporate ladder, links in a chain of command, or a Title IX Classification keep you from your best self. When the time is right, shatter that ceiling.