When we go through changes in our life, we must be prepared for this: well-meaning friends and colleagues will see a sassy, savvy upbeat woman emerge – and this may challenge them. They might like to follow your path and do not have the courage – it’s as simple as this.
There can be a million and one excuses why they can’t do what you’re doing – and some of their excuses will be valid. However, this is about the next stage of your life, and it will drive home some truths about you and the people around you, even though many of those who challenge you will be long-standing friends.
In the years since I turned 40 and began this journey of change, friends and family have questioned me about what I was doing. Sometimes it was as if it were a competition or a test. “So, what have you achieved so far?” It was as if I had to report in on where my life was going.
When I left my role as Head of Business Development at The Australian Ballet and started studying psychotherapy, I found that some of my closest friends questioned me like a school principal about why I was going down this path. At the time I didn’t realize that this was about them, and their discomfort around personal development. Some of my friends found it was easier to stay in an unfulfilling marriage. They would say to me, “How will I survive financially if I leave my husband?” And then have affairs to satisfy their sexual needs. It was as if they were living double lives.
At the start of the change I was also quite conflicted. I knew deep down that I was meant to be doing this, yet I had no job or career path mapped out. As a woman who from the age of 12 had worked during the school holidays and had always found waitressing or cleaning jobs during university, I realized that I was out on a precipice.
And although I had no idea where I was going to end up, I kept holding onto the slim belief that I would use this psychotherapy training to help me take my musical passions back into the corporate world.
I was also mixing with a totally different group of people. I still remember walking into the room on the first day of psychotherapy training. I had to do a double take: this gathering resembled a hippy tribe, whereas I’d come from the corporate world of Chanel suits and French champagne.
Yet something inside me said, “You have to go ahead. You have to take your life to the next level. But first you must understand yourself and find a way to leverage this knowledge into your new creative coaching work.”
Of the people I met in training, two women have become life- long friends and members of my support team.
My support team
There are three special women in my life who are my support team – Carmel, Arian and Ivana. We’ve known each other for over 15 years and have shared both highs and lows. During this time, we’ve all been there for each other: encouraging, supporting, challenging each other in positive ways too.
I met Ivana at the Sydney Opera House when we played in the orchestra for The Australian Opera and Ballet. She had fled from Prague in 1968 during the Russian invasion and, though she had no English, we spoke the same language – the language of music. We were close then and became closer over the years, even when our lives took different paths: hers as a mother, mine as a career woman. I believe that her life’s challenges, though very different, enabled her to support me through mine.
I came to meet my other friends, Carmel and Arian, at psychotherapy training. We were all from very different backgrounds: Arian is a former Buddhist nun who has a rich and full life; Carmel has a social work and aged-care background. Their friendship and support is priceless to me and they are still my closest friends. I believe our friendship has survived because we saw each other expose our fears and insecurities, and we worked through them together.
I wonder how many friends and family members stay with us through our challenges? It’s a bit like a marriage – it will survive if you see and accept even the worst of your partner. I now look at my friends and family thinking, “Thank goodness I was able to learn about myself, and not have to pretend to be someone I am not.”
I imagine that if you’re reading this, you may want to change too and move ahead in your life. Certainly, there will be times when the path you’ve chosen will reach a dead end – then you must return to the creative part of you and find another path that connects.
I must add that you’ll be fine. I know that when we have the courage to move into a new stage of our life, things happen and the challenge is that they may not appear in a structured way – but instead, appear randomly.
It’s like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – at times there will be heaps of blue sky and you think to yourself,” How does that fit together?” Then “Bingo!” A piece with a flying bird appears and helps you put that final part of the jigsaw together.
Some suggestions to help you move along this path
- Always keep in mind what life was like before the change, and how life is now.
- Always remember this question, “Do I want to look back on my life in 10 years and find that I’m stuck in the same unfulfilling career or relationship?”
- Always have one or two really close friends who understand why you wanted to turn your life around. Try to have people who come from a neutral position, rather than those you work with. Special friends are those who listen, have lived an unconventional life and importantly understand themselves. They are a rare breed – take care that they don’t fly away, or become extinct.
I believe that when we have the support of special friends we can climb the highest mountain and let your inspiring woman out. She has always been there.
With your special friends supporting you, now is the time to set her free.