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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.



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?
The bottom should be there if enough water and air are let out, 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.
Dedicated to the #SAcommits series, my 32-year-old self and all of you
Digital hugs, loves and waves,

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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