Today I woke up and had no desire to get sit at the office. Instead, I went to satisfy my craving for french toast at a pseudo-diner, which is how I had so much bacon (I surprised myself…). I’ve been working on making my little office a more homey and welcoming place, but I’m still not there yet. I think the biggest impediments right now are the carpet and the walls. And also the chairs. They look like very serious office chairs, with arms, tall backs, black leather, and everything. Not the kind of place where you feel very creative. Or inspired.
Recently my sister and co-founder R has been working with a spiritual coach (who told her to start doing what you feel inspired to do every day vs what you SHOULD do, which is why I’m having breakfast out :). How cool is it that R is doing this?! I believe some may call her a psychic? I’m not sure. Regardless I THINK what they do on their calls is a meditation, exploring R’s nightime dreams, tarrot card reading, etc. It’s kinda super duper cool because my whole life I’ve felt like some of us in my family are a bit psychic. As a kid, I thought it was mostly by brother, partially because he actually owned it. He would always want to play games where he had to guess a number in your head, your zodiac sign, or what you’re thinking. And this never stopped in adulthood! He still does this and still sometimes calls or texts random messages about feelings he’s getting or things he saw in the future. And get this: he’s been spookily right about things in the past! So he’s a bit hard to ignore in that way. 🙂 As my little sister R got older, I started to notice that she can be surprisingly on” too. And that she is a strong contender. This was surprising. I think all three of us at some point must have googled “how to hone your psychic powers” , read a little about it, maybe even bought a book or two (I know both me and my brother separately did this), but the fact that R secretly went as far as hiring someone to talk to every week about this is super duper cool!! I always thought she might have a gift but had NO idea she was pursuing any of this! It was always something we laughed off. As for my own psychic connection, I’ve always felt in some way connected to the supernatural. As a kid, I have been visited by “ghosts” on multiple occasions. In all cases, what surprised me was that they looked like completely normal people, nothing like the ghosts I had seen in shows or movies. I also always got the number 11:11. Like always. Back then we wore watches so it was a little more fun. 😉 As an adult, I would ask for signs, crazy ones, and actually get them. One time it happened so clearly that I vowed I would never ever second-guess if this stuff was real again, it was just too powerful. Here is the story of that time that I emailed to my dad on July 9, 2012 (for the record, I NEVER email my dad so that’s how big this felt):
Dad, today I got a sign from above that I’d like to share w/u… I look for these from time to time, and they’ve been a big part of the decisions I’ve made in life. Two days ago, I was having a rough day. Starting a business from scratch is v.difficult, and I was questioning if I should just go get a job. I get offers for very well-paying jobs frequently and could easily take one, but I’m trying to force myself to pave my own path in life, grow something now while I’m young, become my own boss. Mom had called me and said some unsupportive things about my choices in life these days and I was having a sad day. Rich [my brother] of course invited me to a beer after work to cure everything! On my way to meet him, there were lots of birds flying and I said “great, all I need right now is a bird to poop on me.” Then I thought, “wait, they say it’s a sign of good luck when this happens…the last (and only) time a bird pooped on me was 18 years ago when I was 10, and I think I’ve had an amazing life since then, so it’s true, it must be good luck.” Then I made a deal with God. I said, “God, if at any point in the near future, a bird poops on me, I promise to take it as a positive sign that I’m making the right choices in life and that I should keep following my heart.” And then I felt silly, and thought “can u imagine if this really happens? what would be the chances? Funny donna, making strange requests in ur own head.”
Now, only two days later, I was eating lunch at a spot in Boston near Harvard where I’ve eaten many times before, and a bird dropped a big flop right over my head, hit my face, my chest, everywhere… Everyone at the cafe was startled at my big smile, and all I could think of was “Thank you”…..
The funny part is I also remember negotiating with the powers above exactly how much time they had to send me this sign. I decided that just asking for bird poop was going to take forever, considering the last time I got it was 18 years ago… I didn’t have that long to wait. So I said “If this happens in the next 3 months, I’ll take it as a sign.” Then I thought how silly I was for putting constraints on the powers above, like THEY could be told what to do, puh-lease, who did I think I was? And literally two days later, I got poop galore and it literally felt like the heavens above opened up. I felt the bright light of the sun shining on me and where I was sitting. While everyone around me was startled and worried they were next, I literally looked up at the clouds and the bright light beaming from them and laughed like crazy. N was the only one there who witnessed it and she still loves to tell the story.
I didn’t mention this to my dad but part of what my mom had said to me that day was also “Look at you, you’re dating a woman. You don’t have a job. What’s going on with you these days?” It was like I was the biggest loser ever and had suddenly gone crazy in life. She made me feel like I should literally be wondering if I have a brain tumor messing with my sanity. Instead of celebrating my joy at finding love and at having the courage to take the plunge to start a company, I was left completely unsupported and criticized. In the back of my mind, I could also hear my dad’s voice yelling at my sister “What are you doing with your life? You’re going to fail at this, you hear me? You’re going to fail!” It was a pretty aggressive and very mean statement. I’m pretty sure we might have had a big cry about it, but of course R knew exactly what to say in that moment to stay strong. I know my parents have always tried their best to support us and I know a lot of their disapproval has come from fear. As immigrants and war refugees, they literally lived lives of fear. We were raised to be scared and distrustful of everyone and everything. I won’t get into my dad’s life story but suffice it to say he had a difficult upbringing that he can’t talk about for more than a minute because his eyes start swelling (eldest of 7, grew up in poverty, lost his dad when he was 9 and had to take care of his mom and 6 siblings, raped by bosses as a child/teen, lived in a war-struck country and saw body parts on the streets, etc etc). Safety was not a commodity to be taken for granted. Tragedy could strike at any time. I remember the first day my dad drove me to my new college door room in Boston and told me “Don’t trust ANYONE. You hear me? Not even your high school friend and new roommate. NO ONE.”
This is the mindset of fear that we were raised with well into adulthood, in America. So being supportive of us starting a start-up instead of accepting “normal” stable jobs? No, I wouldn’t expect it. Supportive of me applying to colleges I couldn’t afford? No. Supportive of me applying for a job in NYC that would mean I’d have to move away from them after college? No. Nevermind that it was Wall Street and a job that kids spent their entire childhoods working up towards, a job that other parents literally hired coaches for to prep their kids when applying (I know that now because I’ve written a book to help students considering this career path and I get contacted by parents weekly, and from ALL OVER THE WORLD!). Not only did I not have the same private education for it, coaching prep, or connections, but I also didn’t have anyone encouraging me to go after it. Oof, it was a lonely road of resilience for everything I went after in life. I remember once I got the banking interview, after much hard work and networking against my parents’ support, my mom gave me her blessing to move to NY if I got it. I walked into that interview BEAMING. I even shared it with the recruiters because it felt like such a big deal. How much of my soul and mind were always occupied by fear and disapproval? Sure, as an adult, I’ve gotten stronger and needing less of it, but our very survival is tied to our parents’ approval. We learn since infancy how to make them smile and laugh, make them love us, make them approve of us, so that we may be fed, clothed, protected, and taken care of. In our very nature is the need to earn other people’s love and approval. It’s how we survive.
My mom was always the first to come around and lend her support. I appreciate that about her. Eventually, she sees that the things I’m pursuing are worth it and she sees that there’s a slight chance I may actually get them and she says “Ok, go for it!” and she celebrates the victories. My dad’s approach has usually been to not get in the way and rather sit back silently disapproving until I prove him wrong. I am grateful that he never got in the way like other dads, particularly Middle Eastern ones, may have. In this way, he was tremendously “supportive” but the criticism and waiting around the corner to say “I told you so” when you fell flat were paralyzing.
I know now that all this disapproval came from my parents because they wanted to protect us, they wanted our lives to be “easy”, not difficult. They wanted to shield us from the things that may be difficult to achieve or pursue. And they certainly wanted to protect us ultimately from the things they did not know or understand. They didn’t understand the American culture. They didn’t understand what moving away to college meant so they were against it. They did not understand what moving to NY and working on Wall St meant so they were against it. They did not understand what moving to Hollywood to pursue acting would have in store for me, just that it meant no stable job, so they were against it. They did not understand what starting a company and trying to raise money for it meant, so they were against it. They did not understand what marrying a woman would mean for the rest of my life, just that it looked hard as hell and that society wasn’t making it any easier, so they were against it. You can see how overall their fear and disapproval came from love and from wanting to protect me and shield me from “bad” people. I can appreciate that.
But let’s for a moment ponder what it would have been like to have parents who approved and celebrated these choices?! I can’t really imagine it so I’ll leave that exercise up to you but I’ll share one story.
I was talking to a friend’s mom once about her daughter. She was a bit sad that her daughter was still living in their small hometown in Texas. The mom was a well-traveled person who was born abroad. She told me that she encourages her daughter to move abroad and travel if she’d like to. She would love for her to explore and have new experiences, and would wholeheartedly support her in any way she needed. I was shocked. Every time I planned a trip abroad (including applying to study abroad in London), my mom would go around telling people “Why do I have to have the crazy daughter who wants to travel?!” Let alone me moving anywhere. With that came a lot of daily grief weighing me down. So it was strange to hear this woman tell me that she wants her daughter to spread her wings and fly. Assuming she wouldn’t nag and pass judgement if her daughter DIDN’T want to move, it seemed like knowing this would be so empowering for a young person. So I’m not sure what families who don’t live in fear look like, but this gave me a glimpse into it.
Ok that’s enough for now. Longest post ever! Thanks for reading this far. It’s nice to go down memory lane with you.
Only through exploring how we got here can we figure out how to get to where we want to go…