Welcome to my Second Acts Series!
Today, we have Dr. Julie Connor sharing and reflecting upon her journey to a spectacular second act.
When I was five, I loved to warm my hands by a fire. Roast marshmallows. Twirl sparklers. As I got older, I looked to other people to tell me who I was and what I enjoyed. When we were children, our choices were driven by a personal sense of fun and adventure. As adults, we often can’t distinguish opportunities filled with excitement from those that bore us to sleep until we are forced to make a decision. Motivated by the proverbial “fire under our tails.”
Shortly after I completed my doctoral program, I received an envelope from the school district where I worked as an instructional coach. It felt like fire in my hands. I was intuitively aware of its contents. A letter explained my job was axed as a result of downsizing. I went back to school to earn degrees in school administration and educational leadership. I hoped the degrees would allow me to take a leap of faith out of traditional educational positions into a career I loved. However, I had no words to describe “a career I loved.” I was only sure of one thing: I was standing on holy ground.
A friend asked, “What do you want to do?” I didn’t know. He asked, “What do you like to do?” I had no idea. I spent years developing workshops, designing programs, analyzing data, and composing submissions for other people in higher positions who would take credit for my work. I did it to ensure job security. And I never had it. I thought maybe sometime somehow some way I might capture moments where I could do bits of what I liked to do. I worked so hard to please other people that I lost myself in the process. I finally realized that there wasn’t anything anybody else could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself.
I retreated to a red chair in a corner of my home for more than a year. I churned out masterfully-crafted application forms, composed essays, designed PowerPoint presentations, prepared for interviews, and scoured on-line listings for positions I did not want. I applied for jobs where skills in assessment and data analyses were needed. I learned a foreign language to become more marketable. I applied for jobs in my hometown, in different cities, in different states, and in different countries. And I withdrew from the world.
I was tired.
I searched through magazines hoping to find something that would make me feel anything but sad and hollow. One night, I dreamt about a tiger. The next morning, I found a picture of a beautiful tiger leaping through the air. In the kingdom of spirit animal guides, a tiger represents personal power, courage, and strength to face and overcome obstacles. I like tigers. When I was five, I wrote love letters to Tony the Tiger and mailed them to the North Pole (because everybody knows that Tony the Tiger lives with Santa Claus). The paper tiger in my hand was powerful and strong. I felt happy as I looked at the tiger and the memory it triggered. And I felt strong.
I found more pictures. I found words and meaningful quotations. I purchased poster paper and attached my collection of pictures and words to its surface. It became my vision board. I developed a daily practice of recording all of the blessings in my life in a gratitude journal.
I volunteered to facilitate workshops at local colleges, urban high schools, and support groups that desperately wanted someone to remind them that they still had dreams. Organizations requested copies of my goal-setting resources, inspirational stories, prayers, and reflections. I slowly rediscovered what made my heart sing one step, one activity, one prayer, one goal, one habit, one picture, one encouraging phrase, one journal entry, one conversation, one risk at a time.
Throughout the months that followed, my vision board evolved. My dreams hadn’t gone anywhere. Years ago, I was too frightened to nurture my own aspirations because I didn’t trust any of them could come true. So, my dreams took a nap until I woke up. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,” insists Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I cut those words out and attached them to my vision board. Next to the tiger.
I love the collaborative hammering out of mission statements, constructing goals aligned with a vision, and building relationships. I love engaging in meaningful dialogue with others as they discern their dreams. I hate data analyses. I like to plan and show others how to use tools that empower them to pursue their passions. I love to write.
The same fire that melts butter hardens steel.
The process of rediscovering one’s personal passions can be excruciatingly difficult. I had to relearn how to listen to that intense brilliant voice within that knows – that’s always known – what I enjoy, where my talents lie, and what I believe.
Vocare, in Latin, means “to call.” The root of the word, vocation. When we find the courage and wisdom to respond to the Voice, we stand on holy ground.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest and philosopher, said, “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
Where are you now?
I am a keynote speaker, goals & planning catalyst, and author of the goal-setting workbook, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide. I founded a network to inspire and empower women over 50.
Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?
My primary piece of advice: Do something. Start anywhere. Any step forward is a step in the right direction.
Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?
From my book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide:“Do the next right thing and the next right step will reveal itself to you.”
In Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide, Dr. Julie Connor will help you discover your dream, define your purpose, and create tangible goals. Julie empowers you with the skills and tools needed to transform your dream into a spectacular plan of action.
Where to find Julie…
Julie, thank you for sharing your incredible journey. I enjoy following you online and look forward to reading your book.