Yet another person has told me that I suffer from trauma. As you can imagine, this is not something I ever want to hear.
The first time was when I went to see a therapist about stress eating, and she said, “Heather. Your Dad got cancer, you went through a very sad breakup, your school is going out of business, you’re in perpetual financial stress, you’re freaking out about climate change, and more. You need to acknowledge that you’re experiencing trauma.”
March 14th, 2017 – Capstone Project Update for School
Well, these past three months have been a complete disaster. I tried to get out of my lease, and finally succeeded. I started moving this past Saturday. But when I returned on Sunday to pick up some more things and take a shower, my roommate started screaming at me that I didn’t live there anymore and tried to drag me out of the apartment by my arm.
This was the most traumatic experience of my life. I’ve never been physically assaulted like this.
I finished moving that day, thanks to the support of my friends and the landlords upstairs.
I want to stress at this point three things that I think will tie in nicely to my March update.
- Literacy is power. A history of integrity and honesty are bonuses. If I hadn’t documented the things my roommate had done, I wouldn’t have made the case to get out of my lease with losing only $700; it would have been much more. Literacy and the ability to write are SO IMPORTANT.
- Financial security is power. I can’t believe I just said that. As someone who considers herself comfortable with uncertainty and calculated risk, I now know that living without recurring income does not work. I’ve lived my whole life with a giant pile of money that dwindled down. And then I’d use my white privilege and opportunism to grow it back up within a month or two, only to have it dwindle down again over time. Sadly, I was toward the end of it when I moved in with this roommate. I did not have the financial means to lose the money and just move.
- My body knows what’s up. Over the past three months, I’ve had my humanity, confidence, and will chipped away, bit by bit. By the second month, I was an apologetic shell of a human being. I had stopped exercising, reading, writing, quit my job, started stress eating again, slept for 12-14 hours a day, and more – all signs of depression. Then, I woke up one morning needing to quit smoking pot – it’s because my body knew that I needed to see what was happening. Immediately, I started to experience intense and traumatizing nightmares each night – most about the roommate. Then I randomly decided I needed to use the last bit of my financial security to start boxing. It was because my body knew that I needed to develop strength and clarity through exercise. Before, I was full of repressed anger and confusion that I couldn’t source. It wasn’t until I started doing boxing that I could see some semblance of hope – that there was a way out of this. And that it would take non-financial resources to do it.
For the past two weeks, I’ve worked with a nonprofit that economically empowers folks from disadvantaged communities through teaching and coaching entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset.
The first workshop, last Monday, when we last spoke, was spectacular. It was in a neighborhood called Lake City in North Seattle. Outside of the library where we were meeting, a row of drug addicts and homeless loitered. Cars parked out front, from which parents with kids hurried in and tried to avoid them. My colleague and I parked in the garage underneath the library, to find it reeking of urine and weed. I later heard that needles were regularly found there.
When participants of the 6-week cottage food workshop began to arrive, they were mostly white. One was a stay-at-home dad who just quit Boeing. Another was a former marketing guru with a boob job, wanting to start a line of health-food products.
Cottage food is a business structure where you can cook in your own kitchen. You can’t make more than $25,000 a year. It’s meant to help people validate a business concept and make supplemental income. It’s not designed to be a livelihood. Even the name, “cottage food”, to me, seems inaccessible.
The workshop was fabulous – they asked amazing questions that stumped the teacher. I was completely impressed – until it clicked that this was not our target demographic. I asked the teacher about it afterward, and she said that the majority of the impoverished were in South Seattle. The organization thought they’d make this North Seattle one so that it could be accessible to folks who lived north. As I asked her probing questions, she said, “We’d probably need to only have events in South Seattle if we wanted to increase the likelihood of reaching our target demographic.”
Two days later, I went to the South Seattle workshop. Almost everyone was either Muslim, black, or a single mom. One couple, a black man and white woman, soon realized that this was not the place for them – they made furniture from driftwood for wealthy people and were already up and running. At the end of the class, they got 1-1 consulting with the teacher.
This workshop was completely different. The couple asked most of the questions, but most others sat with their arms crossed. The teacher continuously said things like, “You’re not like Bill Gates. You don’t have to dream that big.” The woman next to me, a Muslim Samoan, didn’t speak English very well. I helped her go through the workbook. At the end, the teacher said he would find her someone who spoke English and Samoan to help her. She politely declined, but the teacher insisted. It wasn’t clear if it was because she didn’t understand or some other reason, maybe cultural.
I won’t recount the whole workshop, but to say it was the opposite of the North Seattle one would be an understatement.
The workshop spoon fed participants everything that they needed to know to start a successful, viable business, capable of supporting themselves and their families. This was not a workshop for people who could “just google it.” Most of them did not have internet access, and had to rely on the public library. Some of them were not US citizens, and would be contributing by providing daycare and other off-the-radar services.
When I get back from Residency, I’m going to comb through the data that the nonprofit. I’ve also started pro-bono consulting with them. I want to test a hypothesis that I have.
Assumptions: Most entrepreneurship programs throw participants into the deep end of the pool. While the intention is to ensure that everyone can swim, I believe it’s really a weeding out process between the ones who will “make it” and those who will not. The reality is that most of the time, participants are not from disadvantaged communities with a lifetime of oppression and an externally ingrained “can’t do” attitude.
Hypothesis: The nonprofit has an approach that works for folks who have a “can’t do” attitude, but since they’re there, probably a “can do” attitude. Rather than throwing folks into the deep end, they nurture folks. They are available by phone for questions every day. If someone can’t figure out how to set up a Facebook Page, rather than saying, “Figure it out,” they’ll make the Facebook Page for them. They continuously empower participants until the participants one day, they stop calling – their business is up and running. They have confidence in themselves. They’ll occasionally be stumped by something, and will ASK FOR HELP.
It has been an incredibly fascinating and inspiring experience. I went to another one that Wednesday night and this Monday night. More to come.
To close the loop on personal shit, I moved to Port Orchard, which is an hour and a half away from Seattle, including a ferry ride. I live with a sweet couple in their 60’s. The house is huge – about 3,000 square feet. My room is bigger than most of the apartments I’ve lived in for the past three years. I have a view of the water from my window – I can see it now. The wife reminds me so much of myself, and really gives me hope that I can create a life for myself. That it is possible for me to thrive, despite all of my hang-ups.
The view from my bedroom window. This picture doesn’t do it justice. Just know that it’s spectacular, especially with a good cloud day.
I’ll spare you the 20 or so pages I wrote about the roommate situation, and instead leave with you with what I learned:
I’ve learned out of this experience that I never get blocked creatively and productively, except for when I’m in a toxic environment. I’ve learned that I am not personally developed enough to be able to handle this kind of situation or to have conversations that make a difference. I’ve also learned that at some point, I just don’t want to deal with it. It’s not worth it.
And of course, my morning Tool of the Titans fits my life perfectly.
I’ve learned, most important of all, to listen to my body and my spirit. None of this learning was worth the cost.
So, let’s talk about listening to our body. For me, it starts with letting go of my identity(s). If I’m attached to an identity of who I am or who I should be, I don’t listen.
The first time I remember letting go of my identity was when I went to boarding school. While there, I was disconnected from the “real world” for almost two years. Every night, I’d recite my old friends’ phone numbers. Then, I’d fall asleep to playing alternative songs in my head. I refused to accept that I was there, in central Florida, surrounded by barbed wire and Jesus.
And one day, after about a year, I started to sing show tunes. Soon, I forgot everyone’s phone number, and the alternative songs were replaced by The Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof. I took on the identity of Anne of Green Gables and was in “the depths of despair”. But at least I accepted it.
Topol, the OG of the shimmy.
It made boarding school much more bearable, and at times, enjoyable. I was able to master and control myself, and therefore my situation. I gained the respect of my new community, and they accepted my secularism as much as I accepted their Southern Baptism.
Since then, I’ve broken down and rebuilt my identity over and over again. Always, it involved letting go.
But the most recent one, I’d argue, has been the most difficult to part with.
A couple of months ago, I decided to break away from the identity of entrepreneur. I’d started businesses, helped people, been engaged, and engaged others. In times of crisis, I was unstoppable. Whenever life was uncertain, I’d default to what I knew would pull me through: being the entrepreneur. If I pick that apart, I discover that being an entrepreneur means being present and courageous and resourceful, tenacious with grit, trusting my gut, seeing possibility in crisis and trouble, and so much more.
Sounds pretty good!
Then I realized what being an entrepreneur really meant to me: being the hero!
Here’s the thing about my wanting to be the hero and the entrepreneur – it’s all driven by dopamine.
You know how it’s easier to see other people’s shit than your own? Well, try looking in the mirror, except the mirror is your family, and you don’t know them well enough to be triggered by it. What a treat! Getting to know them has been quite a gift; I don’t think I would be half as successful if I’d grown up knowing them. Engaging with them brought me to a hypothesis – that we have high dopamine. It’s how we’re crazy and genius and contribute and self-sabotage, all at the same time.
It’s my hope and dream for my extended family to be unleashed, but I have no delusions that it doesn’t need to start with me. Fortunately, I’ve worked hard on my personal development, and self-awareness has its bonuses. And ready for the next level, I went to a naturopath and low and behold, my dopamine is high as fuck. She tested me for hormones, but then was like wait, this makes more sense.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I am extremely committed to being myself and growing along with it, identity be damned. But I find it a little hard to do this when my brain is built for cocaine. And I can tell you from personal experience that dopamine isn’t even that great. It’s just ridiculously addictive. It explains why I haven’t really been a fan of drugs other than weed.
As much solace as it gives me that I am unlikely to become a (non-weed) drug addict (and yes, I’m still off the weed), it doesn’t change the fact that it’s because I have drugs already inside my brain! Suddenly, Wantrepreneurship make sense! It was all driven by feelings of being a hero, so it’s no wonder that my post-ARCBio entrepreneurship was so fleeting! And even ARCBio was created to save the animals.
Speaking of heroes, I’ve heard myself say an embarrassing amount of times lately, “He’s out of my league.” Ew! These are words that I never would have said as Heather the Entrepreneur. Or even, Heather the Hero.
I recently moved in with a woman in her 60’s who’s had one heck of a life. I asked her today, “Do you see yourself as a hero?”
I see myself as a servant.
Damn. I’m pretty sure I’ve read that somewhere, but I could see that she really meant it.
This woman was in love with a boy who everyone said was out of her league. But it worked out. I live with them, and it’s adorable af.
No one’s out of my league!
You see, I was asking her about this guy that I like. Every month I see him at an entrepreneur’s event, and I would’ve stopped going once the organizer stopped having after-events. But I kept going cause I wanted to see him. I wanted to talk to him. I just wanted to get to know him better!
This past February, I finally got my chance! Until someone who I love/hate sat down and started talking about skiing.
Up until that point, I was 100% into getting to know this guy more.
The next day, however, I woke up annoyed. Folks who want his time have to schedule it months in advance. He has no social life. He’s single. He has like 900 businesses. He travels constantly.
For the next few days, my body said, just ask him out! My head said, try to get on his calendar. Maybe you’ll have a company to talk about by then. Just email him to ask him out and maybe his assistants will talk him into it cause they’ll see the email first. And a bunch of other things.
Well, with moving to Port Orchard, and school, and all of it, I’d forgotten about it until this morning. I see him tomorrow!