Chapter 5: Ugly Selfies: Remember Who You Are

Laci taught me how to swear.

She taught me how to swear and use emojis. I’ll never forget the day she said, “your light is so bright sometimes it will attract moths and fleas. This isn’t your fault. And they don’t get to dim you.”

Laci changed my life. And the evolution of my selfies. We had only ever talked on Facebook and Twitter and the crazy woman invited me to visit her for New Year’s Eve. The unimaginable happened. She gave me the freedom to ugly cry and I bared my soul. Laying out my worst pieces before her, I feared she would turn tail and run. Instead, she said, “Now I really really love you. You are so beautiful. Let’s do ugly selfies together.” And so we did. And they’re stunning. We are ebony and ivory. We take over the room. She makes me stronger and reminds me I am strong.

She knows about light and dark and moths to flames. Laci grew up in Vegas. She’s seen all the glitter and every drop of dirt smudged behind. Somehow she manages to keep shining in the midst of itl. When I arrived that September day on my way across the country, she greeted me with a hug and a silver bracelet. Its delicate loop held a compass. “It’s so in all your travels you can always find home.” I wasn’t sure what that looked like but I hoped I would find it too.

Before she and I sat down to talk, she turned the tables on me. She and her podcasting and business partner, Chris Cerrone,interviewed me about the trip. We laughed and swore and cried a little bit and then the two of us found a quiet space to talk. After telling me about all of her current endeavors, multiple businesses and clients, I asked her when she found the time to breathe, “I don’t have to look for time to breathe,” she said, smiling at me from the corner, “I’m breathing in process. These things I’m doing bring life to me. They fill me up. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be giving my time to them. I’m at a point in my life where my time is far more precious to me than it’s ever been. I don’t give my time to things which are weighing me down anymore.”

Then she began telling me the story of her evolution.

“The past year of my life has been the most transformative in terms of me figuring out who I am. I was in a corporate career that sucked out my lifeblood. I left that to work for another corporate job and it sucked all my creative juices too. When I was first laid off from Cirque du Soleil, I began to look at is a positive thing. I started wondering if I could be a consultant. For so long I had been told I wasn’t good enough, but I thought I would try it out. Through the entire process I kept saying, “now is my time. Now is my time to figure out who I am.” My goal during that time wasn’t to make money, though I needed to…it was to get back to basics and to figure out who the hell I am and get to know my kids again.

I had this moment of no longer being a corporate girl. I didn’t have a title to identify who I was, so I had to give myself one. I finally had to learn to just get the f — — over that but for so many years its what I had lived by. That’s what the world looks like, so it was partially shedding the need to even identify myself. That took about a year. The whole time you tell yourself you’re not worthy of the new chapter in your life and you find the people who remind you that you are.”

Her words tumbled one onto another as her story came rushing out. I knew this story, so many pieces of it echoed my own.

“I was starting to believe the shadows in my head that whispered, “You can’t do this. You’re not enough. You don’t have a college degree. You can’t do this.” I went through about nine months of trying to figure myself out and then was given an opportunity to go back to the corporate world. Within a month, I acknowledged that it wouldn’t be my forever but I was going to use it to get to where I wanted to go.”

I shook my head in agreement. People who are dreamers often hear voices which say “you’re not worthy.” We all have people in our lives who are scared by the dreams we dream and the risks we take. I had a conversation with my dad around the same time as the one with Laci. He had sent me an article about dreamers and doers. I told him there didn’t have to be either/or. The people I was interviewing were both. That’s the only way to get things done. That’s can be make other people feel like they’re not doing enough, which in turn causes them to put down and make us feel unworthy. I asked her how she battled it.

“You get stuck in a box,” she said.

“I’ve always done this. For long time I was thinking if I’m going to be a consultant I’m going to have to be this specific type of consultant. My partner and co-host, Chris, is the first person in my entire life who taught me, “you’re more than this. Stop boxing yourself. You know so much more than this. You’re undoing all the good you’ve done.” He started pointing out the good in me and the things I knew. Because of that, it’s forced me to go down the path to stop believing the lies and begin believing in myself. Community makes the world go round. Making sure you have people around you who will cheerlead you and point out your faults is important. Who you surround yourself with is the most important part of being a dreamer.”

She told me that she didn’t believe in cutting people out of her life unless they were just completely toxic, “Instead, I’m choosing wisely who I invest my time and energy in. I’m a big believer people come in and out of your life for a reason. When they go, I let them go but I know they’ll always be there. I had to learn how to dream again too. Sometimes there is a need to sever all ties but it’s that much more difficult to pick up all the pieces if there is supposed to be back in your life again.”

I agreed with this, “Yes,” I said, “When you surround yourself with enough positive influences there is not enough room for the negative ones.”

Her words reminded me of the community surrounding me, of how she had spoken into me so many times, “Don’t lose yourself. Don’t forget who you are. In the middle of the chaos. In the absolute crap that is this moment. Remember who you are.” Which are the words I would find in my inbox one morning from a friend an ocean away. “You are Melissa Hawks.” The message whispered in middle of the darkness swallowing me whole. “You are a light, a song, and a star. Remember who you are.”

You may be forgetting who you are today.

Because today is made up of rusted shut doors and steel toe boot in the gut moments. And the road is dusty. Your eyes are so filled with grit, you can’t see beyond the very next step. Stop right there in desert road and the waiting and dust and the why and when and “but how?” I want you do something for me.

Pause. Pull out your phone. I don’t care who is watching. Turn that front facing camera at you and capture the beauty that is you. In this moment. In the center of the screwed up situation you’re wading through. Or at the top of victory mountain. Wherever today has brought you. Build a monument to this moment with that selfie. Don’t be afraid to make it an ugly one or beautiful one or anything that shows exactly who and what you are in this moment.

The voices and events and shattered bits and past that are doing their best to define you are all liars. Look at that picture. See the truth. Hey. YOU. You are a light. A song. And a star. Look at you. You’ve made it. Remember who you are.