I’ve been thinking about putting my thoughts and feelings into words for weeks now, but for some reason just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Maybe it’s because putting it on paper (or social media) makes it REALLY real.
Tomorrow marks the end of my 15-year government career. I’ve spent time at the US Patent and Trademark Office, the Smithsonian, and the Dept. of Defense. I’ve been very successful in my career, despite not finishing college, or maybe rather in SPITE of not finishing college. I worked my butt off moving from contractor to government, starting at a GS-7 salary and working my way through the ranks where I will end my career as a GS-14. I’ve worked with great leaders and have had the opportunity to lead others. I’ve had struggles and challenges, but through it all, I learned and grew into the dedicated civil servant that I am. I loved working for Dept. of Defense. I believe in our mission and it was at least a small way I could give back to my country; having never been in the military, this was my way of giving back. It’s been a great road; leaving is bittersweet.
During my 15-years with the government, some pretty amazing things happened to me. I married my soul mate and partner in crime, Eric, gave birth to an amazing little boy, Nik, and discovered the sport of natural bodybuilding. During my own competition career, I met an amazing woman, Mary Bell, who was not only my coach and mentor, but also became one of my dearest friends. In 2008, she took a chance on me and asked me to take over coaching on the East coast as she moved across the country. That first year, I had 5 clients. I was a nervous wreck as I was learning “on the job,” discovering my own unique methods of coaching and using much of what I had learned from Mary. I must’ve done something right because somewhere in the last eight years, I have gone from 5 clients to over 250; this year alone we have helped 150 clients in some way, big or small. But this isn’t all about the business to me, the number of clients I have, or even how much money I make. Somewhere along the way, I discovered my true calling, my passion, my WHY I do what I do. I realized that I was not only helping these women look great on stage, but I was helping to empower them in every aspect of their lives. I watched them grow as athletes, women, wives, mothers, and business people – every aspect of their lives changed as they found their inner strength through the power of competing. Coaching was what I was meant to do!
It made sense really, as I’ve thought about this a lot recently – thinking of how my life has gotten me to this point. My childhood wasn’t always great, there was a lot of addiction and dysfunction; but somehow I managed to persevere. Perseverance is key here. I never look back on my childhood and think “why me?” Instead I think “thank you for making me stronger, giving me the ability to persevere when things get tough, and the internal strength to conquer any obstacle thrown in my path.” When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher or a veterinarian. I loved to teach, even back then. I always had a can-do attitude. My grandfather tells me, even now, that I was always one that was moving forward and wondering why others couldn’t get it together and move forward like me. Fast forward to my government career where I ended up in many teaching and coaching roles. I traveled the country training Patent Attorneys, I trained Smithsonian employees and coached and mentored in everything I’ve done with DoD. Coaching, teaching and training just seemed to come natural to me. It was truly what I was born to do. I overcame the odds against me in my childhood. I overcame the odds against me in the government with not having a college degree. I overcame the odds in my issues with binge eating disorder, body dysmorphia, depression and a plague of illness and injury along the way. I persevered and it has made me a better coach for it.
In the last 8 years, Center Stage Figures & Physiques has grown leaps and bounds. I’ve accomplished things I only ever dreamed I would do. If it weren’t for the amazing support and expertise of my business manager, Brandi, I know for certain I would not be here writing this right now. In the 3 years we’ve been working together, we’ve not only grown our clientele, but we’ve had 3 hugely successful seminars (with more on the way), 2 successful competitions (with another on the way), we’ve written and published a book, added training and nutrition to our already successful posing services and basically kicked butt with everything we did. It got hard, but we persevered.
I managed to do this all while continuing to sustain my government career, take care of my family, manage my own health and fitness (5 surgeries along the way), and coach hundreds of clients each year. It was hard; I sacrificed so much time with family and friends. I worked 7 days a week, often 15-hour days trying to get it all done and be everything to everybody. I almost quit several years ago, three to be exact. I decided it would be easier to just coach as a hobby and stop trying to build the business into something that could sustain me; it was just a pipe dream after all. Or at least I thought. I remember the night I posted a plea on Facebook. I asked people to tell me how I had impacted their lives and if I were to stop coaching, what that would mean to them. The response was overwhelming. I knew, right then and there, I had to do this. I had to make this work for all the women (and men) who depended on me, as well as for my own happiness, fulfillment and wellbeing. I’ve never looked back. I persevered.
So here I sit, 8 years after it all started. Tomorrow will be my last day working for the government. I am achieving the dream I have worked so hard for, yet it is still bittersweet. I have struggled this week trying to find the right emotions and what I should be feeling. I couldn’t find any, not excitement, not sadness, not nervousness, nothing. Then it hit me, the lack of emotion wasn’t lack of emotion at all, I was simply feeling a sense of calm. I am ready. I’ve never been so ready to do something in my life. It’s the right time, the right place, and simply the right thing to do. Of course I AM excited, nervous and even a little sad. But mostly, I’m calm. I have THE most amazing support system in my family, friends and clients. I know I will be successful, because it’s the right thing for me to do. Those around me know the WHY behind what I do. It’s never for the money or the glory or how many clients I can coach. It’s about bettering the lives of those around me. It’s about having some impact, no matter how big or small. It’s about inspiring others to search out their own passion. It’s about ensuring all women (and men) get the chance to find their own inner strength, outer strength, and perseverance.
If you’re still with me, thank you for reading this. Thank you for taking the time to share in my moment. Thank you to my amazing husband, Eric for all his support and patience and for sacrificing his own time with me, so that the women I coach could have my support. Thank you to Brandi who was able to take my vision of what I wanted to accomplish and make it a reality; this truly would not be possible without you. Thank you to Mary Bell, who, without her, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the sport; her own passion for helping others is what set me on the path to this where I am now. Thank you to my dear friend, Raima, for being my eternal sounding board, my sanity check, and for making me realize how much what I do means to people. Thank you to my amazing mother in law for all her help and support while Eric and I ran around with clients, she was there for our Nik. Thank you to all the friends that I never get to talk to or spend time with because I’m always working or with clients. Thank you to the family I rarely see. And last, but not least, thank you to all of the clients I’ve worked with over the years. Every one of you has had an impact on my life and has made a difference in where my journey would eventually take me. Thank you all for being on this journey with me. Guess what??? The journey is only beginning. Hang on tight – it’s gonna be a great ride!