The past four weeks have been exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. Let me explain.
When I was a little girl, every Election Day, my mom would take me with her to our neighborhood polling place at the church down the street. Nothing out of the ordinary for a single mother who had to bring her two children with her everywhere she went, I admit; but what she did when we would arrive, was. Back then polling places were equipped with actual voting booths, complete with a curtain to ensure the privacy one needed to fully participate in one of our country’s greatest activities. As my mom picked up her ballot from the volunteer she would ask, “Can I take her in with me?” The answer was always, “Yes,” and I was given the opportunity to participate in my own little way (though I had to stand on my tiptoes to see what she was actually doing). The gravity of the responsibility was never lost on me as she explained who she was voting for, how the voting process worked, and why she was voting as she was. I was fully aware that what was happening and what she was taking part in was nothing short of an honor.
Though I can’t explain exactly why those moments turned out to be magical for me, they were nonetheless. I, as a wee one, felt empowered. I felt part of a bigger picture. I felt like my voice (my mom’s voice) mattered, and how awesome is that?
Those election days as a little girl sparked a love affair and a fascination with the workings of political systems and government. How we come to elect those that represent us as a whole, how policies and laws are created and enacted, how checks and balances work and why they matter, have always seemed so romantic to me (what can I say, I’m a little weird). So much so that one of my college degrees is a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. I worked for a time on multiple campaigns in San Diego, and I am now into my second term as vice-chair of the City of Fresno’s Disability Advisory Commission. Those election days and every one since (with the exception of this circus of an election cycle) molded me in a way that I’m sure my mother could have hardly predicted back then.
Since those days I spent in the voting booth with her, my heart has always been drawn to Washington D.C. To me, D.C. is my Mecca. It’s where I have harbored lofty career aspirations and every choice I have made was done with the dream of someday making my pilgrimage east.
Public service has always been important to me; using my voice, my vote and my education to advocate for the underdogs and create better policies on a grand scale have been the catalyst for my life’s work. Filling in the gaps in community life for those groups that live on the fringe of our society has always been my life’s major motivation. And, for me, all roads lead to Washington D.C.
Now, here’s where it gets exciting…
Recently I have enjoyed a surge of business as an independent consultant, receiving phone calls and emails from agencies and companies that have heard about me and wish to employ my expertise on various projects. This turn of events has been all that I have worked toward for the last six years; but four weeks ago, oh four weeks ago, how my life changed.
When I woke up on a Tuesday morning waiting for me in my inbox was a message from an East Coast consulting firm asking me to join their team for an upcoming, long term contract. The project? Working as a disability subject matter expert for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for the National Capital Region (insert squeals of joy and excitement here). Exhilaration abounds.
So what has been the terrifying part of this scenario? What’s so scary about my dream opportunity that I’ve worked so hard for? I was asked to rise. I was invited to a table I have never sat at before. I have been asked to jump into the deep end for the first time without my floaties. Everything I have ever done prior to four weeks ago has served to prepare me for this chance; and while I know with all I have that I am capable of meeting the challenge I did have to talk myself off of the proverbial cliff when working on all the project’s required submission paperwork. As I was sitting at my desk hour after hour, my chant to myself went something like this, “You got this. You got this. You got this…” And come to find out, I rose. I met the challenge for the first phase of this project, I jumped in the deep end and I didn’t drown.
We live in a culture that makes “overnight success” look like the status quo, that only the less successful actually have to work for what they get. Our kids have come to believe that they are entitled to that which they have not earned themselves, and that “making it” is as easy as going viral or becoming a reality TV star; all of which frighten me for future generations.
This new opportunity is one that I have dreamed about, meditated on, and worked my ass off toward for years. It is nothing short of the result of believing that I would be of value someday on a large scale- all the while doing the tiny little things every single day that paved the road to get there. This moment, this dream, was paid for through the sacrifices of my time, my energy, the consistent money that I didn’t make had I been working for someone else, my sleepless nights, and most often paid for with my sanity. It has cost me a great deal but I can tell you this, it has all been worth it. Every single great accomplishment, by anyone, requires an ungodly amount of sacrifice and emotional fortitude to survive the crap you have to go through to get to the end result.
And now, having paid my dues, I stand here humbled and intensely grateful. No, this opportunity and those that will come in the future are not owed to me and I know that I still have to show up for my own life every single day. This is not the end of a journey but merely a new beginning of sorts. My dreams require my active participation and I’m ready for the continual challenge.
It’s a funny thing that happens when a colossal dream comes to fruition; you stand in humility and gratitude that runs so deep it can overtake you.
My loves you must promise me this, love your dreams and love them hard. Be willing to show up for your future in whatever way that Mother Universe calls you to do and then never ever give up. Own it, claim it, internalize it deep in your soul, believe in your unwavering ability to see it through to completion, and remember that it will never come easy. But that’s okay; “easy” has never served anyone.
And if all else fails, on those days when the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be the train, just chant to yourself, “You got this…” It works every time.
Tiffany is a disability consultant, entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, and change agent. Find her at: www.TiffanysTake.com. Instagram: @Tiffanys_Take.columnist