23: The Year of Growth

PSA: This is a long piece so bear with me, it’s worth it.

With every birthday, I take time to reflect on the past year and the journey it has been, and time to set goals for the new year ahead. I am thinking back to my 22nd year and how much turmoil, confusion and loneliness I felt that year. It was the first year without my family being within driving distance, my best friends from high school and college spread out across the country and a career that did not start out the way I had anticipated. I won’t get into the details here but looking back, 22 felt sad and dark and lost.

What a difference 23 made. I invested in myself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, and it paid off in a BIG way.

23 described in one word was the Year of GROWTH. I have never grown as much as I have in the past year. It has been hard work, but it has been worth the time, energy, tears and effort.

It has required me to stop pointing fingers or blaming others as a way of dealing with things that do not go the way I think they should have gone. Life is not happening to me, I am choosing the way I am being in this life, in every moment. I choose how I show up for myself and for others in the way that I respond to different situations.

So how did my journey begin?

Last year I was recruiting for a new job because, quite frankly, I was miserable in my old role working for my old boss. Looking back, I could have used this work then, but I wasn’t in a mental space to allow myself the chance to grow and transform. Mentally, I was in survival mode so there was no chance for growth coming from that place.

One of the companies I was recruiting with was AB InBev for the Global Management Trainee program. With only one year of experience, I was still eligible to apply for the program so I went for it. There were 9 steps in this interview process from start to finish and I made it to all of them. The process started at 1300 applicants and I made it to the final executive roundtable interview in NYC as one of the top 25 contestants. Long story short, I was not one of the 12 people they extended an offer to.

I was devastated. I felt like a failure, like my hope was over for ever getting out of the professional situation I was in. Little did I know, this “ending” was the beginning of the transformative journey I was about to embark on.

My Career Transformation

A week later, I received an email in my inbox from my then mentor that he found a new role for me on his team to run the end-to-end strategy and implementation for marketing automation on his Commercial Marketing team.  There was a reason I didn’t get the job at AB. This role, this team and this management are exactly what I needed in my life. This new role opened up doors and possibility in my career that I had no idea I was even capable of. My love for learning is leveraged every day in this role. I feel challenged and engaged every day from solving the puzzle that is managing a technical system.

My management has also changed my life and my relationship with my work. While I do not align with the values that ExxonMobil has at a corporate level, there is something so special about the micro-culture within my team and area of the business. After having a previous boss that treated me like I was small and worthless, I can appreciate what a difference it is to have a management team that supports, challenges and trusts me.

My Mental and Physical Health Transformation

A couple months before the interview process with AB began, I went to Croatia and Slovenia with my best friend Heather. She recommended this lifestyle app called Noom because it has worked for her in reaching her health and wellness goals. I shrugged it off at the time, not wanting to invest money and time into what I thought was just another food tracking app.

After I didn’t get the AB role, I decided I needed to throw myself into something that was going to help me change SOMETHING about my life that I had control over. So I chose to jump on the Noom train… and I never turned back.

Noom provided me tools to build new habits that support me mentally and physically in achieving my health goals. It changed my relationship with food and taught me how to appreciate and love my body as it is today.

This has been a point of struggle for me since I was 13 years old. Feeling fat and ugly and worthless was daily occurrence for me for the past decade. Imagine the damage that negative self-thoughts (that are just simply not true) can do to a person’s confidence and self-love over time. I will tell you – it will completely destroy them both.

Noom helped me understand my eating habits, gave me freedom to eat what I wanted to without feeling guilt and self-loathing, and allowed me the ability to now look at myself in the mirror and see a person I love and appreciate every day. If that alone hasn’t sold you on trying Noom, I don’t know what else will. It requires dedication and hard work, but nothing worth working toward is easy to accomplish.

While my body did not lose outwardly noticeable weight because of Noom, it gave me is a sense of confidence that makes me feel more beautiful and alive every day. That alone lifted a weight off of my shoulders and reduced stress hormones in my body so I can be the person I am meant to be, for myself and for others.

My Emotional and Spiritual Health Transformation

After finding out about my new role, I committed myself to staying in Houston at this company for at least another 18 months to hit my 3 year mark, when my 401K vests. If I could make it through the first 18 months, I could 10,000% do another 18 months in a new, exciting role with a team and management that supported and cared for me.

So I gave myself the freedom to actually make a life for myself here in Houston instead of always feeling like “I better not start my life here if I am just going to leave soon anyways for a new job in another city.” This was one of the best gifts I have given myself, emotionally. The ability to commit to staying and the opportunity to create community for myself where I am right now has allowed space for this growth.

As part of my commitment to staying, I decided to commit a Yoga Teacher Training program through my favorite studio in Houston, BIG Power Yoga. This 2 month program would require me to commit 200 hours to staying in Houston on the weekend, which at the time (pre-COVID) seemed like a huge commitment to me considering I had spent most weekends leaving Houston to escape my life. It was supposed to happen in April and May this year, but due to COVID, I deferred to the fall program in October and November – a luxury I could grant myself because I knew I was staying in Houston.

When the pandemic hit Houston and we had to shelter at home, my yoga studio offered their infamous 40 Days to Personal Revolution program virtually. I had always wanted to do it before but made up excuses on why I couldn’t because of the time commitment. While sheltering at home, there were no more excuses. Just accountability.

So I committed to it and threw myself in 100%, as I usually do with things I commit to. I stopped doing my bootcamp classes and instead went headfirst into practicing Baptiste yoga 6 days a week, meditating twice a day, and practicing inquiry through daily journaling and a weekly discussion session.

When I started on the journey, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea I was about to transform my life.

Through this program I learned how to be vulnerable, create community and connection, be the person who brings people together, and feel worthy and whole as the person I am today without the pressure to be or act perfect all of the time.

The idea of living “above the line” in my life and not resorting to reacting as an easy way of being has helped me tremendously in understanding that life is not happening to me. I am the one to create the experiences I want to have and I am the one to show up as the person I want to be, no matter what the situation is.

I finally freed myself from my own chains of pressure and stress and expectations. I  let them go so I could finally sit in the confidence of who I am and accept others as they are. This is where the magic lives and where the real work and possibility begins. I am so grateful for this work and for this community.

An Ode to the Women in My Life My Tribe

In December 2019, I created a dream board with my friend Melissa about the person I want to be in the future. The following quotes appear on mine:

  • “Choose Joy”
  • “It’s never too late to change your career”
  • “Write the story you want to read”
  • “Slow down and just be”
  • “Grow where you are planted”
  • “The community of women I have found has turned out to be one of the best parts”  

Looking back now, I didn’t know it at the time, but over the next 6 months, I would literally create that life for myself. I am currently the embodiment of the vision I manifested for myself 6 months ago. I am that woman. This is the work, people. We can do hard things.

I am choosing joy in my everyday life and choosing to invest time and energy into the things and people who make me feel alive and fulfilled.

I am writing the story I want to read, and I plan to write that story in a book one day. Stay tuned.

Thanks to COVID-19, I was forced to slow down and just be for the first time in my life. I think that has been the greatest gift of all because it allowed me to recognize the things that are important to me and grow where I am planted.

And most of all, I have realized that the community I always dreamed of having has already begun to develop and it keeps growing. I have a tribe of women who love and support me. Who show up for me and who I love showing up for. Who inspire me and push me to be my best self every single day. Who love me for me and who I love back, deeply. Who see me as I am and say “that is my best friend,” no ifs or buts about it. I am so lucky and so loved. Yes, I 100% am crying as I write this.

To the powerful women in my life, I always thought I struggled to make good girlfriends growing up. When in reality, I was just waiting for all of you. I was waiting for women in my life who I can admire, learn from and be inspired by. For women who allow me to be my authentic self, and allow me to support them as much as they support me. These friendships are part of what make me who I am today and I wouldn’t be here without you. You know who you are – I love you and thank you.

The Funny Thing about Timing

It is funny how things build on each other.

In October, I got rejected from what I thought would be a dream job. I now realize it is the opposite of what I see for myself in the future.

In November, I received notice I would be getting a new role and a new team and a new boss. I also started Noom and started transforming my mental and physical health.

In December, I created the dream board of the vision of the woman and person I wanted to be one day.

In January, I started my new job and my career started to transform. I started to heal old wounds.

In February, I committed to doing my 200-hour yoga teacher training program in April and May.

In March, the pandemic hit Houston and I deferred my yoga program to the fall, allowing me to participate in my first 40 Days to Personal Revolution. I transformed my spiritual and emotional health through this program.

In April, I read Untamed by Glennon Doyle and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This on top of the 40 Days program was the recipe for transformation. (I will write separate pieces on these books but I highly recommend them!)

In May, I started a second program through BIG called Be Big Now. I have learned how to be the one in my life to bring people together and bring my ideas into reality with the courage to look fear and doubt in the face, and keep going anyways. I found my voice and courage to stand up for racial justice and raise the voices of the black community.

In June, I created and hosted a workshop on how to create a life for yourself that brings you joy and aliveness, which required so much courage for me. I found the strength to keep pushing forward in the fight for racial justice in a country that claims to be free.

It is incredible how life builds on itself. I couldn’t do the work on my confidence and self-worth before I fixed my relationship with food and my body image. I couldn’t do the work to stand up for racial justice until I found the courage and trust in myself and my inner knowing on who I am and what I stand for. I couldn’t be the woman on my dream board until I did the work on myself, so I could outwardly spread the love and create the connection that I desired to.

Everything was building on itself, and I am so excited to see the growth that my 24th year has in store. Thank you for making me feel loved and supported. This work is hard, but it is so worth it. We can do hard things.

P.S. Huge shout out to my human, my partner & my love, Bill who supports me every step of the way with love and compassion. Thank you for putting up with my antics. You are the MVP in this life.

XO, Haley

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