See Exhibit A: In the Present with Past Lives

I was able to review the last decade of my life via email. Yes, I’m an email hoarder and prior to today, I was ashamed.

As I scrolled through my “Sent” basket it was as if I was a voyeur into someone else’s life. Except it was my own. I was able to see who I kept in contact with regularly. I found that I participated in far too many, “Forward this to 50 people, including me” chain emails. Email was my primary news source for celebrity news, concert information, etc. I was also able to see that email or text is my preferred communication method.

As I casually perused my old electronic footsteps, to my surprise I found traces of communications between myself and an ex. I thought I had erased all evidence of that experience ages ago and yet there were some stragglers left behind. Likely as a lesson worth reliving today. What was clear to me all these years later is that he liked and was interested in me. He just wasn’t ready or capable of a serious relationship. I could see now that it didn’t matter who I was or even how well I treated him. His inability to commit was about him and fortunately it didn’t take long for me to realize that my time was valuable. And, that eventually I would meet someone who would be willing to commit; to lay his life down for me and protect me if necessary. That’s the kind of love that I deserve. However, to receive this love, I had to be willing to let go of someone who only had the capacity to “like” me. Which shouldn’t have been difficult, considering that I was doing a lot of the heavy lifting and he was mirroring back to me what I had given him. This practice is commonly referred to as “mirroring.” For example, I place my chin in my hand and you place your chin in yours. I send you a GM text and you send me one back. Minimal initiation; basically, it’s a courteous exchange versus a real connection based on authenticity and individual desire. It should have been a “no-brainer” to let go of crumbs in exchange for an entire bakery. I learned the fundamental differences between compromise and settling while dating. This experience taught me to trust my internal Northstar.

I rediscovered connections with people that I no longer have. One day these acquaintances were in my inbox and the next they were gone. I observed the woman that I was striving to become through different alliances, workshops, courses, activities…there has been absolutely no slacking over here! I was actively publishing and getting paid for writing feature stories. I was on a NYC-level grind and I was killing it! I’m reaping the benefits of these efforts today.  

The most glaring observation however, was that I regularly served as an adviser to friends and family. During much of this period, I worked in Human Resources and it seems as though it was a 24/7 role for me. Over the years I’ve allowed people, especially those whom I care about, unfettered access to my time and counseling. So much so that I’ve not only helped them, my “services” were even outsourced to some of their friends and family. There was a clear pattern of my having undefined boundaries. Or, not being able to understand why I was feeling “tired” most of the time. I was mentally drained because I never used my “off” switch. Someone simply asked for a favor and I often chose to say “yes.” Sometimes without thinking, or honoring the times when my honest answer was “no”, or, “unfortunately, I’m not able to do that.”

I draw parallels to my career in HR because one of the most important traits that an HR person needs is empathy. The ability to understand an individual’s needs or concerns, and determine how the corporate guidelines address the matter at hand. So it’s about listening as well as coming up with recommendations/solutions (as applicable. Some people just need to vent.) There have been times when I took on other people’s issues as though it were my responsibility to fix them. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid.  I’m practiced in playing the role of helper, whether I want this responsibility or not. Which is why this behavior seemed normal to me.  

No, I didn’t need vintage emails to point out this character trait in me. The emails gave me an opportunity to face it, address the facts, and change my behavior. I mean how could I continue to avoid it with the evidence posted up like, “see Exhibit A, Stephanie!”?

Looking back, I have minimal regrets. The email archives were enlightening as they were inspiring. They reminded me of where I’ve been. That I’ve done and continue to do hard things. I am blessed to have maintained more friendships than I’ve lost over the last decade. I’m proud of myself as well as the progress that I’ve worked hard to make. I’m proud of the woman I’m becoming. I’ve been enjoying my life with so many amazing people. Many of whom have served as counselors to me; those who were and continue to be my “Person.” 

I needed this reinforcement right now because I find myself feeling as though I’m standing still again. As of late, I feel as though I’ve encountered more questions than answers. There are areas in my life that feel stagnant and undetermined. It feels uncomfortable as impatience visits more often than I need or want. Those old emails reminded me that I’ve been “here” before. I now have concrete proof that just like before, I will get through this phase too.

Sometimes our purpose supersedes our plans. Sometimes destiny overrides our desires. The wait is almost always worth it.

It has always been worth it for me.

I Can Help You Find Your Purpose

Searching for your purpose?

First, try discovering what you like. What are you interested in?

Do you like movies; what do you like about them? Do you want to act in a movie, do you want to write a movie, or work on a movie set? Do you want to direct a film?

You like makeup? Do you like wearing makeup? Does the idea of applying makeup on other people interest you? Does the idea of working in a retail environment excite you? Would you prefer to do makeup for private events (e.g., weddings, parties, proms?) The same questions could apply to doing hair, or nails, or about anything.

You must start with these basic questions first.

Why?

Because they get you to thinking about details. Basic questions leads to visualization-envisioning yourself doing a specific thing. If you can “see” yourself doing something clearly, along the feeling attached to this accomplishment, the idea may be worth pursuing. Even if you start by researching how to get started. Google and YouTube research can literally change your life.

You may discover that you’re not willing to invest the time, energy, or money to move forward on the idea or desire. For example, you may decide that now is not the right time to attend cosmetology school and get a license.

Next tip, consider what kind of environment you will likely work in. Or what your ideal work scenario looks and feels like.

For example, making movies is a long arduous process. Oftentimes one scene can take hours for the crew to set-up, which means there is a lot of sitting around and waiting. I know this first-hand because I scored ‘Extra’ work in a Nike commercial (directed by none other than the incomparable Spike Lee), “Blue Chips” (starring Nick Nolte), and worked as a stand-in on a T.V. show called “Missing Persons”. I was the leading lady in a college film (can’t recall the name); I even worked (as an intern) at the Jerry Springer Show (no further comment or details will be offered at this time.) Moving on…

Or, are you someone who prefers a more structured schedule? The current job market lends itself to a lot more options that are better suited for different personality types and individual preferences.

Sometimes, you just have to be willing to try different career paths and see what happens.

As I entered young adulthood, I also aspired to become a make-up artist. Thanks to a chance meeting with James Brown, father of famed make-up artist and beauty mogul, Bobbi Brown, I got my chance. The next thing I knew, I was interviewing for a part-time freelance make-up artist with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics! It was an unbelievable experience. I had the chance to work an event at Neiman Marcus, where none other than then-Lead Makeup artist Cynde Watson, who was there to teach Chicago the art of a beautiful makeup application.

I took a break from makeup to attend college and work a more “traditional job.”  Years later, the makeup bug never left me.  After moving to New York and settling in, I decided that I wanted to work at M.A.C. Cosmetics. I was fortunate enough to work at the first flagship M.A.C. store in Times Square as a freelance makeup artist.  Shortly thereafter I became a part-time makeup artist. During the process, I realized that being a makeup artist wasn’t really for me. I became clear that I loved the company (I still do); met and worked alongside some of the most amazing and talented MUA in the industry, yet this career lane was not for me.

You see, I realized that I liked the idea of doing makeup versus actually doing it. I preferred being a customer instead of the person working behind the counter. This despite the fact that I was working for a brand that I loved as a consumer. The makeup job was still retail. I was expected to meet weekly sales goals which made the application of makeup feel secondary. I also realized that I was stretching myself too thin and whatever gains that the part time job afforded me diminished because I was working a full-time job at the same time. Something had to give or I was going to burn out fast. So, I had to make a decision to walk away from the part-time makeup artist job.

The silver lining is now I know. Sometimes the only way you will know whether something is right is by trying it out. 

On the journey to finding your purpose, you must be prepared for a solo trip. Many people won’t get your dream. Not your family, friends, partner, colleagues, neighbors, and random people you meet at happy hour. Mainly because some people need to “see it” done before they believe it. They believe in the lottery because they know someone who has won it. Some people can’t grasp the concept of something unless it seems “realistic” or easily attainable to them. Many well-meaning “advisers” will caution you to play it safe. To be “smart”, as they take you into a verbal abyss of their past failures and shortcomings. They’ll throw in irrefutable facts such as age, financial status, gender, race, social economics, education…they will argue the case against your dream for you. Because perhaps someone did the same thing to them. Or simply because this dream was never assigned to them; it was given to you.

If you want to pursue a career in acting-go do it! Unless your peer group consists of Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, or Robert De Niro, you should take acting advice from naysayers with a grain of salt. You have to be mindful that there are people in your circle as well as those on the perimeter, who are in silent competition with you. 

You must follow your own Northstar and trust it. Uncertainty and even failure aren’t always proof-positive indicators that you should quit; it’s quite the contrary. These could be signs that you are actually on to something great. Realized purpose is the much coveted pot at the end of the rainbow. As elusive as it may seem, it’s real and it is yours for the taking.

You’re ready now. Go for it!

Strangers & Sycophants-Tested friendships

Some people use divisiveness to garner false loyalty from others. They will unscrupulously take certain statements out of context with the intent of spreading misinformation and confusion.

They will often talk about what the other person did or said, from a first hand perspective. Often omitting the critical common sense question: “Why did this conversation take place in your presence, and what was your response?”

Growing up, I remember my mom used to save various “Love is” newspaper clips and prominently display them in the kitchen. The one that stands out the most read, “A true friend will hear the worst about you but refuse to believe it.” I’m so grateful to have learned such an important lesson early in life. I have met many people who presented themselves as “friends.” Time and experience would prove otherwise in some cases.

Friends who hear negative things about you have a responsibility. Actually the responsibility is mutual. If someone discusses your friend in a negative light, you can remove yourself from the discussion; let the other person know that you are friends with the so-called bad actor, or simply offer an opposing viewpoint, (e.g., “I’ve never experienced that with her, maybe you can let her know how you feel?”)

There are different perspectives on whether to let your friend know “the tea” that you have been served. This could be complicated at best because it begs the key question: how did you get invited to this particular tea party in the first place? There are also other complicated situations, perhaps involving family, close friendships, and even work situations, where discretion is required. Going back to my earlier point about mutual responsibilities in friendships, I don’t think it’s our jobs to ensure that no one speaks badly about our friends. People are entitled to their opinions based on the experiences they have had with a person even if this happens to be “your person.” I think we do have a responsibility however, to let others know where we stand. Whether it be about another person, or from an integrity perspective, we will not be party to one-sided conversations or accusations.

I believe the heart of the matter comes down to the following: Did this “tea” (e.g., gossipy, maligning, negative) information change you? Specifically, change or challenge the way you think and feel about your friend? If it did, how and why?

Which leads me to another quote by the amazing Joan Jett: “You’ve got nothing to lose and you don’t lose when you lose fake friends.”

It takes time, maturity, coupled with fearless clarity to acknowledge and accept who our friends and loved ones really are. To fully accept and embrace ourselves even. If we know them, then we know them. We know what conversations or statements they are capable of having, and with whom. We often know what motivates them, what ticks them off. And vice versa. So if we’re being honest, how was someone else (essentially a stranger), capable of manipulating an existing friendship by introducing “new” information? Who exactly did the stranger expose…you, or your friend?