What would lead a woman to choose to walk into a fire? What could entice her to stroll confidently toward the heated breeze while inhaling hints of smoke? Perhaps she has already lived in hell on earth. So now, in what appears a final act of mutiny against her life’s trauma, she decides to consume the fire by choice before it savagely consumes her.
I think we all agree the world is changing like never before at what feels like a dangerous pace. Life is forcing us to consume experiences we never thought we’d live through globally, in our local communities and within our families. Grocery and gas prices are soaring, while housing prices skyrocket faster than the pay scale in most industries. Regardless of gender, race, nationality, or religious preference, everyone is being affected by an elusive, intangible shift in how we exist and experience life on earth in recent years. Even more palpable lately are the shifts we feel on a personal level.
With all these shifts occurring outside our immediate control, how do we maintain order and experience purposeful progress in our daily lives? More importantly, how do we maintain order and progress towards our destiny? After all, we should not be walking around merely to exist. Many of us are still passionate about the pursuit of our heart’s desires for our personal and professional goals. Regardless of the crazy we see around us, there still exists for some the pull to make the pivot towards a true purpose.
In 2018, that pull was too strong to ignore. I couldn’t take it anymore. Life was whipping my behind from every angle, and I’d had enough. Ironically, the whipping started many years prior. Some aspects of my life were great. I was married to my best friend, my parents and children looked well, and I was on a steady ascent on the proverbial career ladder. Yet, there were significant elements of my life gradually infecting my vitality with a cancerous vengeance.
I hated what my marriage had become. My husband and I were barely managing the toxic environment in our home. I was doing my best to hold things together. My daughter’s mental health was spiraling. No one (except me) wanted to admit there were issues with her unusual outbursts and other behaviors she’d exhibited. It was a classic textbook case of we’ll ignore it; God will fix it. Oh, and my career of over 20 years was not fulfilling at all. Sure, I was successful, but to be honest, I longed to take a leap from the career ladder I was holding onto — waving my middle fingers on the way out. After working more than 60 hours a week disaggregating data and writing and delivering professional development trainings, the higher ups would always sing my praises in annual reviews but as soon as the song was over, they were asking for more.
One morning, I awakened from a horrible dream, struggling to breathe. Making my way to the bathroom, I lifted my head and could not stop staring in the mirror. The woman staring back at me was unrecognizable. The eyes, the lips, the nose and hair were all familiar; but who was she? That day I told myself I’d had enough. Something had to change for good. I couldn’t continue another day with toxicity in my life. I needed to pivot. A decision to file for divorce was step one, so I thought. I assured myself a break from my husband had to happen. The permanence of divorce was not the goal because love was still there; but being married to him at that time was intolerable. What I didn’t anticipate was that “the break” I needed was actually going to break me…into several pieces. Tears flowed for months. They came as soon as I woke up, in the shower, while praying, as I ordered coffee, driving to work, in the office with the door closed, in the grocery store, on vacation, walking to the park, in the bathroom at work, and driving home from work. The tears wouldn’t stop. Covered with scars from life-long battles and bent under the weight of others using their insecurities as a weapon to harm me, I was overwhelmed. No doubt, I had landed at “the bottom” I had heard others speak of.
Yet, I could faintly smell the smoke in the distance. A voice inside continuously nudged me to enter the fire and release it all. It was time to pivot. After years and years, the experiences and decisions delivered me to a place of what I thought was irreparable brokenness. Divorced. Rejected. Embarrassed. Exponentially heartbroken. Truth be told, I smelled the smoke emitting from embers burning for a long time. However, this time the fire alarms were reverberating all around me. Unable to ignore the sounds, I knew it was time.
One day while on the phone with a friend who had also endured a recent breakup, she advised me to “choose to be happy” right before we said our goodbyes. Sounds simple, but that statement ignited something. It latched on and rooted itself in my spirit. Later that evening, while lying in bed, her words replayed in my head. It dawned on me, “Wait, I have a choice!” I said aloud. For so long I experienced my life and happiness backwards, not in the driver’s seat. At 40-something, I had lived my life as a series of reactions since I was 18 or so. Managing month after month, year after year by reacting to situations that were happening rather than making things happen the way I wanted. My friend’s words were a much-needed reminder of the choice I possessed. Honestly, that was something long forgotten. I can recall the day I surrendered some aspects of my future to reactions instead of intentional actions. Before high school graduation, I had gotten accepted to Florida A&M University’s School of Journalism. However, the critical voices living in my head convinced me that my desires were ridiculous. How could I be a sportscaster and writer? How could dreams of working for CBS come to fruition? Forced by fear, I officially changed my major before classes started freshman year, and I’ve been reacting to that choice ever since. My entire career trajectory was curved away from what my heart truly desired.
In my own words, the pivot is a seismic shift that forever changes the understanding of who you are and subsequently how you choose to live your life. Once the pivot takes place, you no longer make decisions based upon previous experiences or a previous mindset. You can no longer choose to navigate in fear. Instead, your life is navigated with unprecedented intention and purpose embedded in almost everything you do. The pivot changes you at your core forever. Everything is done with a new intention. Post-pivot decisions are ones that include multiple leaps and changes that thrust you towards the life you really desire and the goals you really want to accomplish.
Truth be told, I have been chasing a pivotal shift in my life since 2005. The following were my attempts at what I thought were the “pivots” over the last 15+ years.
- going to graduate school to get a master’s degree and securing a promotion
- joined a church and sang in the choir
- relocated to another city for better pay and opportunities
- connected with my soulmate and married him
- started various workout regimens, went to yoga and drank more water
These events were great life choices, but the fragrance of the fire still lingered as I would lie in bed at night staring at the ceiling. With all my accomplishments, something still continuously stirred in my spirit to transcend above the “successes and happenings” and connect with my most authentic self. All the boxes were checked, but that insatiable gnawing was present—still.
Deciding to incinerate, or unlearn, self-defeating behaviors cultivated a seismic shift in my mindset. During this same time, an even more important decision was made. Once I looked within and questioned my life’s choices, the realization emerged that I couldn’t do it all myself. Prayer, meditation, or good ole fashioned quiet time must be employed in this process. The time is for you to connect with yourself and affirm your next steps. With an emphatic declaration, I determined the pain of my life’s path had a purpose, and it was going to come to fruition. God and I spent months and months examining those broken pieces together. With His direction, clarity was solidified about who and what I would keep for the remainder and who and what we would burn to ashes.
I started therapy and went consistently for about 16 months. Connecting with a life enhancement coach also elevated my healing. Both, along with my faith, played significant roles in helping me stand firm on my own two feet and climb out of it. As soon as I emerged, the fire was in clear view. The warm breeze danced around me as I approached it. The therapist made sense of my upbringing and its impact on my life as an adult. The life enhancement coach guided me through my early stages of refinement once in the fire. A time or two the fire almost consumed me, as the work was daunting. The pain of examination was too much to bear on several occasions. Yet, the undoing and unlearning were a must. With the expertise of both individuals, revelations, awakenings, unlearning, removing of labels were all achieved. Oh, and I cried and cried some more. I got it all out of my system.
I chose the fire. I chose to heal and chose true happiness. I chose to have faith, trust the Creator and the experts to guide me. After 26 years, I decided there was no way I could continue to work so hard and be unappreciated in any relationship, and in my career. I have chosen to exit gracefully since creating my own business, Imagine Me, LLC in 2018. Imagine Me is a tutoring and life coach business for children and families. It is now also the mother company of the up-and-coming Kuumba Books and Café, a place for urban professionals seeking creative and intellectual stimulation and a space they can connect and converse. Kuumba Books and Cafe will be a getaway, a place to be educated and enlightened. It is for upwardly mobile individuals seeking a refuge to relax, read, meet up, and network.
The pivot is an inside job. It starts with burning away the unnecessary and discovering, unlearning, and healing to emerge brand new. I survived, and I am on the other side. Are you reading this and being enticed by the fire? What desire lingers in your head when you lie in bed at night? What dream does your heart still yearn to achieve despite all you’ve been through and the uncertainty in the world today? What is keeping you from transcending it all and living authentically? Don’t allow fear to stop you. Go into the fire. It’s time.
Connect with Rubye Dunn to follow this next journey at email@example.com and on Instagram at @rubye_dee.