In March of 2015 I was at a crossroads in my life. I had been feeling the call to change my life and pursue something new, but didn’t quite know how to transform the feeling into a clear vision. A good friend of mine who was in the same boat and I decided to take the necessary steps to move forward together. This weird crazy journey brought us to Michelle. Michelle quit her desk job in 2008 to become a Career Coach full-time. She specializes in helping creative women find their path to a new job or entrepreneurship. If you are looking to begin a new journey while changing your life permanently and for the better, I encourage you reach out to Michelle here: When I Grow Up Coach.
Michelle was gracious enough to sit down with me back in the early fall after I decided to do this interview series. She was the first interview I completed, but also the one I felt would be best suited to the New Year and teaching us how to find a new path in 2017. If you find yourself in a season of restlessness and want to understand if that feeling is pushing you towards something awesome, this is the lesson for you.
Ebony: “What was a time in your life where you felt you had to hide who you were?”
Michelle Ward: I was an Executive Assistant, I got in trouble two years after I got there for talking too loudly.” I said okay, “Well, then I’ll just be quiet, that’s fine.” A week or so later, because I made a point to be quiet, I didn’t speak up and talk. Any time I needed to make a call I would go into another room. I made myself quiet and then I had a meeting about a week later and was told, ‘You’re really being too quiet and people think that you’re not helpful.’ I went into the departmental meeting and I was quiet. So, I wasn’t raising my hand to do things. Or I wasn’t my usual self, being outgoing and friendly and I just sat there. She was just like, “Well, it’s coming across as you’re not being helpful to your team.” So, I said to my Manager, ‘Well, you took away all of my communication skills. So, I literally don’t know what you want from me. Either I’m loud and this is who I am and this is who I’ve been for two years and now it’s a problem. Or I’m quiet. I don’t know what the middle ground is for me and my personality. She said, ‘Well, go back to being loud, that was better. So, that was almost 3 years of feeling that way and wearing the business casual clothes and once I gave my notice and knew it was going well and I wouldn’t have to go back to Corporate America I took those clothes and donated them.
E: That’s like if someone said, “Ebony you’re not allowed to laugh anymore.”
MW: Right! Yes! Right!
E: Not gonna work guys, you hired the wrong person. Sorry. What did you do to overcome that particular time or change your circumstances?
MW: “Well, I knew I was leaving. It was still very upsetting because I took it very personally, and so I got upset. I remember crying and one point in the meeting and then being mad at myself for crying in the meeting because I was like, “You’re giving your notice in three months, what are you doing?” You have one and three quarters feet out the door. I changed my circumstances by giving my notice and starting my business. I had to change my perspective on the job. I took that job knowing that I was leaving. As hippie-dippy as it sounds I think a mindset shift is really important. And my husband put it really well and I still say this to clients who are over achievers, like I am, he said,’You’re use to being the teacher’s pet, you’re use to raising your hand for everything. Stop it.’ That really helped me keep my hand down and not be the over-achiever and not take things so personally. That was a really great guideline of just, ‘I’m here and doing my work. No one can tell me I’m not doing my work or doing my job.’
MW: To me it’s sad when you have to detach because it means, ‘I don’t care.’ And I don’t want to show up for any part of my day or my life not caring about what I’m doing, but in situations like that that’s what you have to do, I think, to survive them. Or you have to just get the fuck out. I was really good at getting the fuck out of tons of situations. Before I had that (Executive Assistant) job and this is a story I tell everywhere I go, I had this abusive boss who made me psychosomatic. It was finally my wake-up call when I was going to that job and I was on the train and it was Union Square during rush hour and I felt sick to my stomach. I ran out with thousands of people and dry heaved into the trash can. And this is the hold that this job had on me…I wasn’t like, “I need to get my ass back home because I’m obviously really sick.” I was like, “I need to get to my office so I can get my laptop tell my boss that I’ll work from home and all the while I was like, “How am I even going to get back home? Should I get back on the subway? If I get on the bus it’s going to take hours I live a hundred blocks away. What am I going to do? The second I had my laptop and I left I felt fine and I just left that fucking job. I got a position as a tech recruiter, I don’t even talk about this, as a tech recruiter and I was there for three weeks and the second I started the job I was like, “Oh this isn’t going to work.” I started getting my Executive Assistant resume ready there and meeting with recruiters and going on interviews. They were like, “Huh, we thought you we’re going to be better at this job.” And I was like, “Yeah, me too, sorry” and three weeks later I’m like, ‘Bye’! I just had to get the fuck out of that situation and I just went and did it and it was just what I needed for the time being until I found something real. But at the time I thought it was what I was going to do and it became very evident that it wasn’t going to be much better than the situation I left and I just wasn’t going to tolerate it. The end.”
Moving forward in 2017
If you have related to any of this interview, don’t stay where you are! There is hope! I implore you to let go of discouragement and know that there is a way out. I struggle with hopelessness and wonder if the things I am working towards will come to fruition, but the only way to move forward is to take one step at a time and keep going. Don’t let another year go by without making the changes that you need to make and no longer allowing fear to be your excuse. Fear is never an excuse to stay put.
In Part two of this interview Michelle and I will talk about the things that bring her joy and one of those is helping people like us make incredible changes to our current paths. I hope you will join us as we continue.
To The Revolution!