When The World Was My Oyster
Most of us don’t feel invincible on a daily basis. Yet, there was a time when, despite my age or any other barriers, I felt invincible. The world was truly my oyster.
Do you remember a time in your life when you felt that way? It was before having to file a complicated tax return, dealing with tricky relationships, or wondering about your virtual security. It was also a time before any major heartbreaks (either personal or professional).
Once upon a time, I felt absolutely confident that I was going to take life on with all of my heart and soul; and nothing could stop me from achieving everything I wanted in life. I can still see that view of the world like it’s a dream – floating in my mind as a happy place I can visit when needed. Earlier this year I made a decision to stop visiting my dreamy place and return to my invincible mind set. It got me this far, after all.
To explain how this invincible mind set can help you succeed, I’d like to share some of my story with you. It’s full of ebbs and flows, but it’s mostly about how I my invincibility was constantly challenged and kept me going.
It’s Easy to Be Invincible When You Feel Safe
As a young woman of fortunate circumstances, I was kept in a bubble of security by my family and community. That made it easy to imagine a beautiful future. I would often lay on the front lawn and day dream about life’s possibilities and create stories in my mind while watching the clouds.
It was a time when every adventure was a Goonie adventure for us kids. We found weird trash in the woods and it became a mystery to be solved.
As a young developing woman, I was bullied by the “cool kids” for being physically different. I did not understand why they didn’t want to be my friends. In my mind, they were missing out on all of the fun times they could have by being my friend, but it also made me pretty sad.
This wasn’t something I could easily talk to my family about, so I kept my shame secret. I did everything I could to keep smiling. Mom and grandpa always told me that you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar (which actually does not make sense, but I won’t get into semantics).
Eventually, I turned one of my bullies into a friend. My mom found out in a very roundabout way that this girl was breaking all of my pencils in school, so we decided she should come to my birthday party. She not only showed up to my party, but we had a great time. She is remains one of my closest friends.
Growing Into Real Invincibility
Life shifted in middle school and high school, but there was still a sense of safety. Imagining a bigger better life beyond our small town was easy because I was confident of the endless possibilities. The few teachers who warned us about how hard life gets did not deter me from dreaming big. I was going to be someone, make a difference, and change the world.
In my tween years, I had a short stint auditioning for TV commercials – after being “discovered” at the grocery store. I didn’t get very many gigs. Voice over was the most alluring to me because it seemed magical that someone could add my voice any image or video. None the less, being turned down time and again wasn’t easy or fun.
Sixteen year old Candi had very little admiration for the people working in the entertainment industry. It was glamorous and fun, but not a realistic future. Most of the time I chose school over auditions. There was something very appealing about higher education. The pursuit of knowledge and the unknown world beyond New York drew my attention.
Throughout my childhood, one thing was certain and that was faith. I always had faith that there was something bigger than me (maybe God or maybe something that has yet to be defined). Mostly importantly, I had faith in myself. My family and community raised me to always believe in what I could do to change the world.
Explosions and Terrible People Couldn’t Stop Me
It wasn’t until college that I had a truly rude awakening to the world. The world was thrown into chaos on my first day of classes with the explosions in New York. I was so scared and isolated. Home seemed so far away. I thought my father was working in the building that day, but returned to my dorm room to learn that he was not there.
For the first time in my life, I saw people as cold and insensitive. I met some of the best and worst people during my college years.
Just to be clear, I wasn’t in college, because I was in a conservatory – which should probably be renamed a “competition school.”
There was such a heavy focus on being better than another student, rather than being your best self. It created a lot of cognitive dissonance for me. I was always in competition with myself before that time. Suddenly, I needed to know the appropriate way to react to other musicians who were metaphorically thumping on their chests. And I couldn’t become friends with everyone I met because, frankly, I didn’t like them and they almost certainly did not like me either.
I cried a lot that first year, but it was therapeutic. It was tough to feel so uncertain about who I could trust. That was a strange new experience for me – not being able to immediately trust or like others.
Yet, the deep faith I had in myself and my own invincibility did not disappear. Somehow, I found a way to push forward and find joy in small things.
There’s Freedom in Self-Care and Community
Post-college real life was WAY more interesting. I was working in this incredibly small, but unique fine art museum. I was learning so much from the entire team and the experience of being on my own, paying bills, and completely taking care of myself. There was so much freedom in it that my sense of invincibility came back in full force.
Sometimes I think I should have stayed at that little museum. It was interesting work, a secure paycheck, and a great team of people. But that wouldn’t be much of an adventure.
My next big challenge was Broadway. Promoting a Broadway show purely using the barter system (show tickets as my bartering tool) is a distinct kind of life experience. Show tickets are a powerful tool in New York City. Everybody wants to see a show or knows someone they’d like to gift those tickets to.
The flip side of Broadway is what happens behind the scenes. Show producers are not the kindest or easiest people to work with. Some of them are great, but certainly not most of them. This was a big life lesson for me – how to let go and not care when someone else takes credit for my hard work or ideas. There was a lot of “idea theft” in the industry and everyone seemed concerned about out-doing the others.
It was reassuring to meet people from the Broadway League and Off-Broadway Alliance. Those organizations are aimed at creating community, rather than competition. Attending those meetings gave me a needed reminder about the good people in the world. My invincibility was strengthened by seeing some of the collaborations between shows.
The Dream and the Challenge
Then it happened… the dream for many musicians before me and many after me. I got a job at Carnegie Hall. It happened so quickly that I do not recall how long it took between the interviews and start date. One minute I’m meeting with the HR Manager and the next I’m a part of the marketing team. It was like fairy dust had been sprinkled and my wish came true.
No dream is perfect though. It became a harsh reality when the boss was fired. Long story short, no one knew about me other than the marketing team and my job was suddenly in question. Imagine an oval table of powerful women leaders ( each in a director role) at a table with unsophisticated 20-something you where all of the questions are shot in your direction. It was a tough day for me.
The first couple of months were a challenge. Just like college, I cried often during that first month. There were people who expected me to fail, give up, quit, or run away – at least that was my perception. Ultimately, they wanted me to rise to the challenge.
Two years later, I learned so much from my experience in that magical place among many wonderful people that I decided it was time to make a big move – a life changing move. The challenges set before me made me stronger and bolstered my invincibility.
When I gave my notice, I touched base with each of those women leaders. We had come a long way since my first month on the team. I had developed some great relationships, accomplished demanding work, and (hopefully) made a difference in each of their departments. We parted ways on very good terms, and I came out stronger than before.
It was bitter sweet to say goodbye to such an important part of my work and life story. However, an exciting new chapter in Texas was calling my name.