The Choice to Shine

I’m a huge movie fan, an entertainment trivia buff, and someone who loves all things Hollywood, so the Academy Awards on Sunday night was like my Super Bowl (or World Series, or whatever your sport of choice). I’m not interested in the designer gowns or which couples walk the red carpet. I am interested in watching someone’s life change in front of my eyes. In a moment an actor goes from one of the many to an Academy Award Winner. Opportunities change, choices grow, and a dream is realized.

I am in awe of these moments because more often than not, these actors have taken a risk to play the part that scored them their Oscar nod. They moved out of their comfort zone or took a role that nobody thought they could tackle. They listened to their gut or took a leap of faith.

Year after year this has inspired me and served as a reminder. For most of my adult life I have played it safe, stayed within the norm, and looked to others for validation. But in the last couple of years I have made a significant shift. Instead of doing what is expected or assumed, I have made choices outside of my comfort zone. Not just for the sake of being different, but because it’s what my heart and soul really wanted to do and I finally took the time to listen.

Really listening inspired my decision to write, publish a book, have more children, and become a yoga teacher. It also helped me let go of things that didn’t serve me, like unfulfilling work or social obligations that I dreaded. Letting go created space for what inspires me on a soul level.

This process of discovery has been the greatest and most difficult work of my life. I have been tested by outside opinion, finances, and finding the right work/life balance. But I have been most challenged by my own insecurity and fear, that part of myself that is uncomfortable with change.

I was reminded that this is the human condition when actress Sandra Bullock was asked why she changed her direction, personally and professionally, during a pre-Oscar interview. She responded, “I became committed to being scared and being braver.”

These words resonate so deeply and explain exactly how I feel on a day to day basis. Being scared often makes me question my choices and my direction, but I also know that fear is often an indicator that I am doing something worthwhile.

I know that part of my life work is to write and talk about this type of awareness, and even more important, pass this message along to my children. While I am not completely sure how to do this effectively, I do know that listening to myself helps me listen to my children.

Part of my job as parent is to provide structure and safety while teaching my children to live within a society, but the other part is to make sure I hear my children, respect their thoughts and honor their strengths. To help them trust their inner voice so they live a life that pleases them instead of trying to please everybody else. I know that these concepts cannot be taught with just words. I realize it is something that I need to demonstrate, something that I need to live.

And as usual, the Academy Awards on Sunday night was one of my favorite reminders of the tremendous possibilities in all of us, and the life changing opportunities that lie ahead. The actors and the movies really moved me this year, as did their speeches on award night. I listened carefully as they had their moment of a lifetime, and my 38-year-old self heard their words with greater clarity.

I may never be an actor, but I know what they mean with they say that all things are possible. I may never be famous but I understand when they say that a great family and a team of friends helped them get to where they are. I may never meet these people that I have read about my whole life, but I know we are more similar than we are different.

We all want to follow our dreams and live the best possible life. We all want to experience love, discover our life’s work, and raise our children with a sense of self and respect for community. We all want to shine. And if we can make the choice to shine, even when outside opinion or fear tells us otherwise, the world becomes a brighter place.

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