Brave are the courageous souls who dare step outside the predefined yellow brick road. -Kami Guildner
Sure, I knew about the yellow brick road. I watched VHS (yeah, I said it). I knew within my deepest heart-of-heart that there was a yellow brick road for me, no matter how far away it seemed growing up in a single-parent home on welfare.
Dorothy knew what she wanted - a way home - and she shared her way with Toto, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion. Her approach was rooted in focused optimism and kindness.
My way was different.
Tripping onto a Yellow Brick Road
My first ‘road’ was everything but yellow or brick. I faced so many moments when the road divided or even disappeared. While I had companions, they changed frequently, especially at those intersections when I moved house and school. Throughout many of these years, I struggled with negativity and gossip, judgement, insecurity.
Like Dorothy, what I did have was bravery, determination, and a hell of a lot of resiliency.
Overtime, I could identify what I didn’t want.
In fact, even at the time I knew I was spending the majority of the time moving away from what wasn’t working for me anymore.
I didn’t know where I was headed -- which explained my intense and short fads throughout high school and college as well as my move to Germany -- so when I caught sight of what I thought was the Yellow Brick Road of Corporate Success, I rushed towards it.
For the first few years, I did so much to stay on that yellow brick road of success that I am not proud of today, like yelling, setting unreasonable deadlines, and expecting people to work as much as I was working ... all while busy flagellating myself for imperfection.
Leaping back onto *MY* Pathway
Then I had a huge wake up call both professionally and personally . In that wake up call, I slowly began to see that this specific Yellow Brick Road wasn’t mine.
That and I had a lot of apologies that I needed to offer.
In that wake-up, it was so clear to me that I had reached a Y in the road.
One way was clear, bright, brick, yellow, and well-traveled.
The other way was …. Not.
I knew that the other way was mine.
I not only stepped, I LEAPT.
Determination, and resiliency brought me to the yellow brick road in the first place, while optimism, kindness, and bravery led me on my own special pathway.
Turns out, that “not” road is so much more.
More than yellow: it is all the colors.
More than brick: it is all materials.
More than bright: it is both mysterious and illuminating.
Looking back, the leap was my sliding door moment. Peter Howitt had this moment and made a movie about called, wisely, Sliding Doors. Brené Brown frequently references these moments as ‘sliding door moments’.
Even if you don’t know either reference (or what a VHS is), I bet you do know times in your life when you took a different ‘door’ or ‘path’ or even ‘yellow brick road’ and found a wildly different outcome.
Barefoot on *MY* Pathway, aka I am Firedancer
Because I didn’t expect -- in fact I fought -- becoming an entrepreneur. I didn’t anticipate ever winning an award for being an entrepreneur who “epitomizes visibility, courage… someone that’s getting out and has some resilience in what they're doing” as Kami described me.
In fact this was so out of my realm of expectations that I was sitting in the back of the room during the virtual Extraordinary Women Ignite Conference, waiting to celebrate the 2020 Firedancer -- whoever she was! -- and then share my year journey as Kami’s client.
Did I mention I was barefoot and had to turn around to put my shoes back on so that I could accept the award? Video proof for a smile.
Why was I barefoot? Because on this pathway -- special to and for only me -- I am BRAVE. I am confident. I am kind. I am determined. I am optimistic. I am barefoot.
I am Firedancer.
I am so deeply grateful for the rocky road I started on, for my years on what I thought was the Yellow Brick Road of Corporate Success, and especially for the bravery to create my own, unique pathway of life.
Being a Firedancer with all of her visibility, courage, and resilience is an honor.
Being on my own pathway to building a movement one woman in tech at a time so that we shift how we define, identify, and celebrate BRAVE is my passion.
Thank you, dear reader, for being a part of my movement and sharing in my passion.
For more, take a listen to my Interview with Kami on Extraordinary Women Radio