In the DYL for Women workshop, we hear from many women that sharing their individual story is an important step in being accountable to the process of Life Design. Nicole Ralston shares her experience after participating in the San Francisco workshop in February 2019.
My name is Nicole, and I’m a former high school math teacher turned full-time mom. Last year, I thought about returning to work and was determined to find a new career that allowed me to have a flexible schedule, but I had no idea what that looked like. I kept playing the same ideas over and over again in my head and felt very stuck. I purchased a copy of Designing Your Life last year, and although I LOVED the first few chapters, I couldn’t find time to complete it while chasing after a baby and toddler.
I finally decided to commit to finding the clarity I was craving and enrolled in a DYL for Women workshop at the beginning of 2019. My goal for the workshop was to feel confident in determining the next step in my career path, but I came out of it learning so much more about myself as a person in general.
Although I was very excited to kick off the weekend, I also was very self-conscious about how my thoughts and plans would be received. I am normally one of those weird people that adores public speaking, but I could hear my voice shaking when I read my goal for the workshop to the entire group. What I experienced then, and for the rest of my time with this community, was empathy, support, and encouragement from not only Susan and Kathy but from all the participants — women I had never met before. We continued to share our answers to the various exercises (luckily in pairs and trios), and I felt like I was really being heard, not just in my words but also in how I spoke about my plans. My partners in the workshop exercises would tell me when I sounded excited, bored, nervous, or joyful. That feedback was so insightful. Not only that, but I felt so cared for being listened to that way. The return on that small exchange of vulnerability was huge.
What’s funny is that although I intended to determine what I should be doing next career-wise, the feedback I got was that I needed to simply take time for myself in my current role as a full-time mom. I was so surprised to hear that, but when I think back on it now, it makes total sense that they picked up on this need. I struggled to complete an Odyssey Plan in which we were asked to write about what we would do for the next 5 years if money and image were no object. Yes, I struggled to simply daydream. My “wild” plan was still a relatively practical one, and my group members noticed. When I revealed how difficult this exercise was for me, they told me that it sounded like what I really needed wasn’t necessarily a new career but maybe some time in my week to just relax and simply play.
I didn’t realize how much I needed that permission, especially from all these wonderful women whom I already admired. I am an over-achiever, and it’s especially hard to carry that mentality into parenthood. There’s always more you can be doing for your children, but if you do it at the expense of self-compassion, it benefits no one. I also became aware of how much I related being an adult to being good at everything I did, to always making the right decisions. I forgot how I used to approach the world with wonder, eager to try and learn new things, simply for the joy of learning. I can do these thought experiments. I can try out something new, and if it doesn’t lead to anything, it’s totally fine! The reward is in the journey itself. And I realized that I want to model that for my kids so they grow up into the woman I also hope to be.
I left the weekend feeling the magic that life holds again. Instead of being worried about the future, I now see it in terms of its possibilities. My husband and I have been doing the workshop exercises together, having wonderful conversations about our future plans and lots of fun simply daydreaming. I also was inspired to continue a writing and drawing hobby I started at the beginning of the year.
Continuing to share my feelings and reflections on my past, present and future, especially through this new lens, has kept my momentum going after the workshop. Lastly, I hired a babysitter twice a week so I can simply do nothing for an hour or so (seriously, I forgot what it was like to just sit and watch an episode of Jane the Virgin un-apologetically), and that rest has in turn made me more present to my children when I am with them. I’m excited for what the future holds because I know for sure that it can and will be fun.
See more of Nicole’s musings on parenting and life at www.nicoleralston.com
Check out what she shares on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nicoleralston_/