How I Lost My Identity and Found My Purpose

New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. ~Lau Tzu

Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. ~Zig Ziglar


A life well lived is full of beginnings.

We sigh, and smile, and coo, and nod approvingly when we hear about 90 year olds who learn to paint, or start a new career, or write their first book. Because those people are a great example of what we want for ourselves: the first page of a new and exciting chapter – no matter how close we are to finishing the novel.

Our souls crave new experiences, new adventures – maybe for the scenery and maybe for the company. But maybe because learning something for the first time makes us feel like kids again. There’s a childlike joy in seeing something new, isn’t there? Some little tickle inside that wakes us up for a while.

But you don’t get lots of beginnings without your fair share of endings.

And it can be hard to muscle through those ending times. It can be hard to see that there’s a new chapter at the end of the one you’re living. That there’s something new on the other side, and this ending is just life’s way of making room for the brighter bits to come.

I can say that with authority, you know. Because I have a vibrant, technicolor memory of a younger version of myself heaving wet sobs on the floor of my Chicago condo, sunlight mocking my sorrow, sitting next to a tiny human I had just created – and who I had just realized I couldn’t delegate to anyone else.

Because I’m a woman, I tend to hide my accomplishments and deflect praise. But at one point in the not-so-distant past I was a badass, high-powered lawyer. It wasn’t just a job. It was definitional, weaved into everything I knew about who I was as an adult.

When I introduced myself, I’d extend my hand for a too-hard handshake and say – “Hi, I’m Michele – I’m a lawyer.” 

Then I had my son.

And I realized that – no matter how much I might want to – I could never go back to having the defining part of my life be my career. At least, not as a lawyer.

And – my god – that hurt.

As a new mother, your whole identity shifts, and you wonder (usually silently) if you’ve completely ruined your life.

Because for me – and for many others like me – my career was my first child. I had nurtured her, developed her, been immensely proud of her and couldn’t wait to see what she did over the next 20 years.

I never – ever-everever-ever – thought I would give her up. But what are you supposed to do when the success of your first child depends upon the neglect of your second? And for me, that was the case. For me, being a mother was not compatible with being a litigator.

The two most precious parts of me … could not coexist. (Note that for many women, this isn’t the case. This isn’t a judgment of any other woman’s choices or decisions – it’s a purely personal reflection.)

So on that sunny summer day when I was supposed to be overcome with motherly love and emotion and beam magic mother starry eyes at my kid, I was really just crying tears of grief, and sadness, and loss, and anger that I was in this mess. I knew the decision I had to make – I wanted to make – was going to mean the death of something I also loved: my identity.

And so, on that very sunny robins-egg-blue-skied day, I lost Michele the lawyer.

I won’t lie. That was a tough one, and my period of grief and denial was very, very long. And very hard. But that ending … led to so many beginnings.

I started a small business, which led me to learn all kinds of skills – like how to set up a website, how to create a mailing list, how to market, how to create a facebook page – all kinds of ways to use the long-dormant creative part of my brain in new and exciting ways.

I would get up at 5:00AM to read books about business, poring over them in the dark morning hours until everyone else’s alarms went off.

And that was all exciting – fun – fascinating – new! But for someone who had always had a goal to reach, whether it be a test or a trial date or a partnership track, it all seemed … directionless. Like I was learning all these wonderful things just for the sake of them. Just to mark time, and stay busy, and feed my brain while my life passed by.

And I wondered if I had made a terrible, awful mistake by leaving the law – and my identity – behind.

I would fuss about that a lot, actually. (Just ask my husband.) I would wonder aloud – how can I weave together all of these things that I know and love? How can I mash together law, and government, and politics, and design, and copy, and e-mail lists, and facebook pages, and marketing, and business, and inspiration? More importantly – how can I make a difference?

And then, November 8, 2016.

Oh.

Oh, I see.

For me, everything had to fall apart … for everything to come together.

Suddenly all these little bits of experience and knowledge and passion came together like interlocking puzzle pieces, and I could finally see what the picture of my life was supposed to look like.

And I loved what I saw. I still do.

I wish I could whisper in the ear of my younger self who sat sobbing on that condo floor, angry that she couldn’t have it all and wondering what her life would be about. I wish I could tell her that she’s made space for a new beginning. That she’s going to make a difference – that she’ll inspire, and teach, and comfort, and encourage.

That she’ll speak to crowds of hundreds of people, give hope to tens of thousands more, and she’ll do it all on her own terms – in her own voice – in her own way.

And I wish I could tell her that the loss of her identity as a lawyer … means she’ll find her life’s purpose.

Because that’s what really happened.

I’m not sharing this story just to give you a window into my life. (And honestly, I hope it’s not too terribly much information.)

I’m sharing it because we all have fitful beginnings and painful endings, longer and shorter chapters in our lives. And sometimes it can be hard to understand why one of those chapters has ended, especially if it’s one you really loved.

So while I can’t whisper in my younger self’s ear, I can whisper in yours.

If something is ending, something is beginning.

Maybe it’s a group you started, or have been with for years, that is faltering. Or perhaps work has stalled, or a campaign is over. Regardless, a whole new period of exploration is opening for you – so you can see where your talents and passions will lead.

Pablo Picasso once said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.

But you can’t find your “why” if you don’t have the space to ask questions, to explore, to try, to learn, to change direction…

…to begin.

And, friend? I hope your life is full of beginnings.

Now, let’s get to work!

~Michele

P.S. If you’re facing an ending or you’ve had a similar experience – please leave a comment below. Tell us about it. How has your ending become your beginning? 


Actions for the week of March 11, 2019:

Tuesday: Watch the House Save the Internet! (11am eastern, livestream linked)

Three cheers for the internet! House Democrats have introduced the “Save the Internet Act,” which will restore the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order (the unjust repeal of which was the subject of intense public pressure as I’m sure you remember). There are a bunch of bills that have been introduced – but the Save the Internet Act is unique because it doesn’t only prohibit blocking, “throttling,” and paid prioritization (requiring users to pay more for faster access). Although it does prohibit those practices, it’s a much broader bill, and recognizes that ISPs have lots of ways they can “stack the deck” in their favor, and defining net neutrality in the context of three practices would be … unwise.

So instead of listing out the terrible-awful things ISPs cannot do, the Act “empower[s] the FCC to prohibit unjust, unreasonable and discriminatory practices.” It also provides for some additional transparency for consumers, and restores the FCC’s authority to fund broadband in struggling – and rural – communities.

You can read more about the act at The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has a number of well-written articles dealing with net neutrality in general and the Save the Internet Act in particular.

So this is a good idea, right? Right. Today there’s a hearing on the bill in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – at 11am. CLICK HERE for the link to the live feed.

You can find out whether your representative is a member of the Committee by CLICKING HERE (note to MO members – Billy Long is a member of the committee).

And you can read the bill (H1644), and see who is sponsoring it, by CLICKING HERE.

If you have a Republican representative, I’ll save you a search – thus far only Democrats are sponsoring this legislation. Let’s see what we can do about changing that, shall we?

Wednesday: National Democratic Training Academy! (And some jobs!)

Have you been wondering how to get a start as a Digital or Fundraising Director for a campaign? Then do I have the training for you! The National Democratic Training Committee has opened a training academy just for Digital Directors and Fundraising Directors.

This is an intensive, FREE, 8 week online program beginning in May 2019, culminating in an all-expense paid week of training in Chicago. They are committed to helping participants find jobs in these positions with participating campaigns. So, you need to be prepared to relocate in July. You can read more about the program and apply online by CLICKING HERE. Applications are accepted until April 1, 2019.

Thursday: Has Your Phone Missed You?

First, know that Thursday at 10am eastern, Wilbur Ross is going to be on the hot seat with the oversight committee. So CLICK HERE to go to the committee page for the livestream. I think this one will be … interesting. Don’t forget the popcorn.

Second, are you jonesing to do some call time?

Have you been looking, longingly, at your phone and wondering when you’ll be able to call potential voters for a candidate again? Then do I have the action for you! You can call Wisconsin voters from your house with Mobilize’s new campaign for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This election is critical for the redistricting process in 2021, and it’s yet another pickup opportunity.

Go HERE to sign up, and once you sign up you’ll be given an e-mail with materials on the race and all the info you need. Call from the comfort of your couch, in your p.j.s, with your fuzzy slippers!

Friday: Congressional Recess – Where’s Your Congresscritter Next Week?

Can you believe it’s another congressional recess? It is! Beginning on Friday, Congress will be on spring break (the House recess starts Friday, Senate begins next week). So check the https://townhallproject.com/ to see what events your Congresscritter has next week – and if they don’t have any listed at the Town Hall Project, give them a call to see what they have planned!

And if they don’t have anything planned, see if you can get a meeting with them or their staff! If you have the opportunity to meet with your House rep, you can talk about net neutrality (see Tuesday’s action). If you have an opportunity to meet with your Senator, you can ask them about HR1 – the House’s sweeping election reform bill (you can read a nice description of its various provisions here).

And if you didn’t know that there was a congressional recess at all next week – check out your (completely free) 2019 Women’s Action planner by CLICKING HERE. It’s got all of the house and senate recesses blocked out for you!


P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S: Yes! Some of you have asked if I write for a living, and the answer is “I sure do!” Visit www.mhornish.com to learn more.

P.P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s