Finding my Footing

IMG_8922Tomorrow is my 35th birthday.

And at no other point in my life have I felt more sure and secure of my purpose and passion. Even as I post this blog I am on the road, serving as a keynote speaker at three separate campuses in northern Georgia. I am loving what I am doing and who I am.

But it was not always like this.

I used to be jealous of people who said, believed and lived out the saying “Do what you love, love what you do.” I was REALLY good at doing things and getting things done. But I hadn’t fully landed on my passion, niche or what I would be remembered for. This was me three years ago, before I started to blog, research and speak about social media in higher education.

I had just left a full-time job and jumped into my doctoral program full-time. I remember feeling like I was a balloon, floating in the dark and quickly losing air. I wasn’t secure in my research topic, career direction or even my personal life.

I sat alone on the eve of my 32nd birthday and started writing. Tears came easily and just when I thought all emotions had passed, sobs emerged while I prayed.

It was that night I finally gave not just my heart – but my career to God. I said,

God I am lost. I don’t have it figured out, so you get it all. Take me where you need me to be. Make what I do matter in this world and in your eyes. Please God hear me. Amen.”

I cried myself to sleep and let what I wrote be tucked away – while I let God do his work on me – until today.

April 4th 2016

There have still been tears, but since that night everything has changed. I am in awe where God is taking me. This year I have become a doctor, flew around the world as a professional leadership speaker and been published twice. So, I am finally sharing what I wrote that night unedited.

You might feel how I did. Alone, confused, frustrated, looking for direction in your life. Sharing is taking a lot of courage, but also part of my healing process. This journey has not been perfect. I am not perfect. I wrote this depressed and a stranger to the woman looking at me in the mirror. I’m sharing this because I have worked extremely hard not only on my career, but the relationship with myself and God.

If you know these words, I encourage you to seek support. Whether it is a counselor, friend or faith. All those things worked for me. I know I will always be my worst enemy and critic. And the love of myself and my life will always be a long-term status update. But I’ve never been alone. My husband, my family and my family of friends  – with me every step of the way. Three years later. The eve of my 35th birthday, I have found my footing.


Footing

4.4.2013

Running on air, no footing to be found.
Maybe a new pair of shoes will help.  Lose a few pounds.  Look prettier.
Everything hurts.  It’s heavy.  God are you there?  It’s me Josie.
I don’t want to be a bother and talk to or seek out others.
They are too busy being and doing exactly what they should be.
I don’t have that. I want that. To be me.

 

There has to be land soon right? I need to find my footing.
Life can’t be like floating.
Pushing in the same place. Maybe even backwards.
But I have to appear put together.
A so-called student claiming to know what is right. Faking it.
Convincing myself every moment that I won’t explode.

 

Safety nets weakened by tear drops. Wearing wrist-weights in the deep end.
Tiptoeing for a ledge, tapping my foot out in front of me. Where is it?
List-full of plans, written over and over again. It’s not enough.
Breathing is hard when you hold everything in.
Is it all in my head? Does this pain even exist in reality? Get it together!
Tripping. Stuck. Running in place. All at the same time.

 

I want to be something.  Special.  Important.  Remembered.  Worth it.
Shoe-souls worn down to paper towels. I feel everything.
Screaming in my ears.  My own voice.  32 years her and I.
It tells me things.  Hurtful things.  I will never survive with it there.
Crushed by the words.  Turning against myself.  Crippled.
Holding so tightly to ensure I don’t get too far.

 

I tire from my search.  Have you seen the ground?  A spot of dry land?
When did I lose sight of the shore?  Was I ever there?
Did I run so quickly to ‘life’ that I forgot my voice, my heart, my head, my-self?
What other choice did I have?
If enough water and air are let out, the bottom should be there, right?!  It has to come soon.
I hope I’m not going too fast.  That it won’t hurt worse than this.  The bottom. I’m falling.

 

I am lost.  I am alone.  I fear my shadow, as I dash in circles and sideways to keep up.
Sounds I can’t see, people I don’t understand, places I don’t belong.
But she is right in front of you.  She wants to be your friend.  She wants to make you strong.
To hold you up.  The good and hard parts.  You Josie.  
Stop fighting.  Let go.  It’s ok to be right here.  Footing or not.
You are all you have on this run.  Every step.  Every breathe.  Every part.

 

Ripping down the debris encasing me.  Layer by layer.  It will take time.
Me, Myself, & I.  Not alone.  Here.  Fighting.  For me.
Lace up each shoe with hope, like I have never been injured.
Recovering from a life not so linear to follow.  Or lead.
It has been a long run.  And today was enough.  Tomorrow is part of the process.  
The footing is still far.  Pursuing my purpose.  Piecing together the masterpiece of me.

 

Hold tight.  I am here.  I am worth it.  I will be something.  I will do something. I will be remembered.

The wait was worth it and so are you. Now that I have found my footing, it feels like I am going with the current of life – with more blessings of people, places and projects streaming seamlessly alongside me, not against me. Turning my life over to a bigger cause directed me to my path. This path still has potholes, tight corners and uphill climbs. But I love who I share it with the most.  Me.

 

Dedicated to the #SAcommits series, my 32-year-old self and all of you
Digital hugs, loves and waves,
Josie

4 Responses to Finding my Footing

  1. Kevin O'Connell April 6, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Thanks for sharing and putting yourself out there Josie. Enjoyed reading and it certainly can be tough leaving a full-time job and figuring it all out when you are on your own. Congrats on a great year and happy bday!

    • Josie Ahlquist April 11, 2016 at 10:22 am #

      Thanks Kevin – and you keep up the great work you are putting out there!

  2. Kandy Mink Salas April 14, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    Josie – I referred someone to you today to talk to you about teaching online. She has some similar life experiences as you. She will write to you. However, in looking for your contact info, I finally read this post and it has stopped me in my tracks. In mid 2014, I was also at a crossroads, which at the time, felt like a dead end. I was at a place where I was finally humbled enough to say “God, I have no idea what the plan is here, I can’t see what you have in store for me and I am very afraid, but I will trust you to figure it out.” Scary right? And it was the next week that Sharyn called me and told me about the full time faculty opening at APU. And, as they say, the rest is history. I find it amazing that when we finally realize that we are not in control, but that God or the universe or karma is at work, that’s when fantastic things happen. I am so, so happy for you, that you can feel yourself fulfilling your destiny! Keep up the great work! Much love, Kandy

  3. Diane Sheldon-Ku August 11, 2016 at 6:02 am #

    Josie,
    Thank you for your courage to do as you are led! Reading your post this morning gives me an amazing sense of relief…to see my feelings in such elequent words, written in front of me.

    I felt that finally, someone else fully understands.

    In reality, I’m finding that there are so many of us that feel this way….at times. In fact, one of the things I’ve been working on is creating an online course — being the real you. It’s a system that takes people step-by-step through each stage with the exercises, tips, and support built in.

    Like you stated so well. We will feel this way until we decide to let go of the Control and (I call it) “show up” where we’re supposed to be. (Where our higher power, God, the Universe needs us at that time.) Just as you put yourself out there today…for me…now I have the courage to “show up” where I need to be even though it feels counter intuitive.

    I’m beginning to realize that this feeling is the billboard (signage) telling me that I’m not spending my time where I need to be…hmm. Thank you for this and for everything.