In the fall of 2012, I was in rough shape.
In fact, that’s probably the greatest understatement of my life.
In the fall of 2012, I was completely and utterly lost.
Like, miserably, hopelessly lost.
This fact became blaringly obviously to me at one of the most wildly inconvenient times imaginable:
At a wedding.
Remember the last time you were at a wedding?
When someone you haven’t seen in years asks you, “Hey, how are things?” or “Hey, how’s it going?”, what was your response?
Say it with me, everyone:
Things are good. I’m good. Family is good. We’re good.
You get the idea.
But this wedding was a little different. This time, in South Bend, Indiana, surrounded by high school friends, 6 years after we had graduated—everything came to a crashing halt. Instead of laughing and singing and dancing and saying “good” along with everyone else, I found myself outside, on the curb, and crying.
Not just crying… sobbing.
Like, ugly, girl-cry, sobbing.
So much mascara…
Anyway, the only saving grace was that I was not alone. My friend Matt was with me. And instead of trying to rush me back inside, Matt sat with me as we tried to piece together the previous three years to uncover the real reason that I had lost my way.
I don’t know if I’ve ever formally thanked him for that moment, so I’ll go ahead and do that now.
Matt, I love you, and my life wouldn’t be the same without your presence in that moment.
Here’s why I needed a 2nd opinion on the reason for my breakdown enlightenment. As far as I could tell, I had done everything “right.” I honestly couldn’t understand where I had gone “wrong.”
Seriously, I had checked all the boxes.
I did everything I was told would make me happy.
I spent 2 years building a successful and prestigious career working on the trading floor of a Wall Street firm. Before that, I graduated from Yale, one of the best schools in the country, with a degree in behavioral psychology. Before that, I graduated from high school, 4th in my class with an offer to play college softball in hand.
All I could think was, what else could I have done?!
Even in high school I played it safe!
I sat quietly in church. I paid attention in school. I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t stay out past midnight (often), and didn’t disobey my parents.
Seriously, I was the good kid.
I had worked so hard my entire life to do everything “right.”
So why was I so completely, utterly, miserably, hopelessly lost?
It took the last 2 years, countless tears, several beers, and a few good ears to figure out the answer to that question.
But now, with hindsight being what it is, I think I’ve found the source of that deep, deep unhappiness.
I discovered the reason that, despite my best efforts to live life the “right” way, I had stumbled upon everything that was wrong for me.
Well, 4 reasons, really.
And thankfully for you and me (being fans of fancy language and all), these 4 lessons lent themselves very nicely to a pretty, little acronym.
The reason I had done it all “wrong” while trying so hard to get it all “right” was that I hadn’t been OPEN to what life had to offer for me.
Not for everyone else—just for me.
So what does it mean to be OPENed?
Everything you will learn in life builds upon a pre-existing foundation. We all have a basic set of skills, knowledge, behaviors, and motivations. We all have a particular set of life circumstances, experiences, and attitudes. No two of us were raised the exact same way nor do we have the same exact propensities or passions.
We all have different stories that make us unique and beautiful.
Being OPEN means allowing life’s graces to build on that foundation.
In order to do that, we have to be aware of a couple basic ideas.
The first is opportunity. O reminds us to be opened to the opportunities around us. Sometimes these opportunities don’t make sense to other people. We have to be good consumers of the opportunities that come our way.
The second is possibility. P teaches us to be opened to the possibilities for our lives. The nature of possibilities is that they are not readily available to us like opportunities. We have to think if terms of what might be out there for us.
The third is expectations. E challenges us to be opened to the idea of eliminating the unnecessary expectations set on us by others. These could be limits that you set on yourself… without even realizing it! We have to let go of these bonds to move forward authentically.
The fourth is fear. N empowers us to be opened to the idea of living a life of no fear. The only way to embrace the opportunities in your world, seek the possibilities you cannot yet see, and let go of the expectations of others is to choose a life of courage over a life of fear. We have to be brave, and as Brene Brown says, dare greatly.
Choosing a life in which you courageously chase your unique mission over the societal definition of success…
That’s what it means to be OPEN.
So, over the next 4 weeks, we are going to explore each of these ideas in full. One week dedicated to each important lesson that leads us to living an open life.
Come along for the ride.
Even if you start out with that ugly, girl-cry sobbing, I promise you’ll end up smiling.
And I promise, I’ll be there to wipe that mascara off your face.
See you next week for the first round in this four-part series—O is for Opportunity.