As I was researching remedies for both Writer’s Block and the flu I was battling, a friend called to interrupt my desperation. Someone had seen my Twitter post “Why I haven’t killed myself yet” as a cry for help.
“Um, Heidi, what’s up?”
“Er, slow down….that was one syllable,” said a voice that had known me for years.
“I’m too old for another reinvention! I’ve had a thousand impulsive leaps. Why do I think a writing platform is going to be my holy grail? What if no one cares? What if no one connects? What if…..”
“What happened to ‘Roadtrip Heidi’?”
“I don’t know,” I took another tissue out of the container and blew my nose for dramatic effect. “What happened to Bali Heidi? Or India Ashram Heidi? Sayulita surf Heidi? I f****climbed Mt Kilimanjaro Heidi? Why is it that I always feel my best and truest when I am not at home?! Why am I a crazed wreck here? And why do I have Writer’s Block?”
“Perhaps you need a better support network?”
“Network?! I know every person in this 7 by 7 city!”
“Well maybe you need to hunt out those that you don’t.”
We are what we eat. And we are whom we choose to surround ourselves with. Perhaps I needed to meet other women that were also attempting a leap of faith, jumping overboard from society’s ship into a raging ocean. Perhaps I needed more women that appreciated the struggle to walk about naked instead of covering themselves up in Gucci. Perhaps I needed to get out of the house.
There was a women’s entrepreneur event that night. It was my weapon to battle my case of the “What if’s…” I hastily tossed back three cough drops, changed out of my flannel pajama set, and left my solitary abode for the first time in three days. I had ideas, I had questions, and I was quite eager to talk to someone other than the other, rather annoying, personality in my mind.
From what I understood The Fearless Women’s Entrepreneur Network (FWEN) is a diverse community of women who have innovative ideas for the future. Via mentorship, events and coaching, FWEN encourages women to defy the conventional day job and realize the true passion within their soul. The group serves both new and three-time entrepreneurs, giving them the confidence and skills they need to take the next step, whether it is writing a business plan or reaching their millionth customer. Or in my case, the confidence to not freak out and contemplate heavy narcotics.
As I entered the event I looked around. Whew! I didn’t know anyone here! With strangers I could be myself. It looked like a typical networking event with large pretzel bowls and Trader Joe’s wine. However, the conversation seemed a bit more intense that usual. As I turned on my eavesdrop ears, I heard women eagerly chatting about their new business ideas. Their eyes gleamed as they gathered creative thoughts, constructive critique, and most importantly, encouragement. I was in a sea of ocean swimmers who had just jumped ship.
“Wow—the women are actually opening up to one another,” I said to a board member.
“Yes, we really want to awaken the spirit in other women. This event is not about the snacks-it’s about the support!” she said.
Another woman chimed in, “So many women just beat each other down in efforts to hold themselves up. That’s not the type of environment we need.”
I was hooked. And it wasn’t the pretzels. I needed to talk to the founder. Through these events she was doing what I was attempting to do online; unite women and support them in taking the risk to defy societal pressure and build up the dream they had in their hearts. Naked. Fearless.
During a networking game of “Fun Fact Bingo,” I finally met Starla, the founder of FWEN. I do not remember Starla’s fun fact. But I do remember that she left behind a career in portfolio management to create the group in ‘efforts to save her from herself.’
“Why did you leave the world of finance to create a women’s networking community?” I asked. Community building certainly wasn’t as lucrative as day trading.
“Well, my soul was dying. I had lost sight of who I was.” Starla, like many others, had become too caught up in life’s hamster wheel of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ to realize that a different life was possible.
“I was miserable as a portfolio manager. But sometimes we do not know we are miserable when we get caught up in society’s pull. We just go through the motions.”
The women around us nodded their heads in agreement. “Often we are too busy just trying to survive,” said one. Another mentioned that life becomes a checklist of bill paying, work deadlines, and exercise routines. There is little space to be creative and do something profoundly different. Doing something different isn’t the easiest way to pay San Francisco rent either.
“I knew when I gave up my ‘dream job’.”
“You gave up your dream job?” I asked confused. I needed the back story.
As a money slinger, Starla’s dream job had always been to work on Wall Street as a trader. “That was it-that meant you had made it,” she said.
And then it happened. A big bank called, she was on her way to the Big Apple. Starla was high on adrenaline as she sat down to tell her husband the news. Dollar signs glinted in her eyes. After calmly listening, he looked at her honestly. “I do not know if I can go through this next ride with you,” he said. He knew that she had been unhappy in the money world and wasn’t sure how a more demanding job was going to improve things. In that instant Starla realized what was at stake. “I wasn’t going to give up my marriage.”
Starla also realized that she wasn’t going to give up herself either. The next day she walked in the office and turned down her ‘dream job’ without thinking twice.
“If it was that easy to turn it down, than perhaps it wasn’t really a dream job,” she said.
Instead of dollar signs, Starla decided to focus on people. She built a business around coaching and mentoring and connecting others.
“Creating a fearless women’s network saved me from myself.” Starla believes that many other women also need to be saved, guided through a process to discover their internal gift. “We all have a gift and can make such a difference, but we often get lost along the way.”
What Starla had said really resonated with me. I have often felt society seeking to break my spirit. We have all heard the chiding voices when we seek to leave stability. ‘Why, what’s wrong with your job? It’s great! In fact you should be happy to even have a job in these times. Why leave?’
With everyone telling us we are doing the ‘right thing’ by staying still, it makes it all the more difficult to jump of the tracks and do something different. Luckily for the women of San Francisco, Starla was routing for people to jump.
I got her card and left to meet the other jumpers in the room. One advised start-ups on funding rounds, one was creating a new lip-gloss brand, another woman had a gluten free bakery, and yet another had created a not-for-profit to help exchange students re-immerse themselves. The room was rich with ideas for a better tomorrow.
I left the event inspired, and ready to write again. Hello chapter 2.