Looking back, the evolution of the chapters of I have been cumulative and wondrous, powerful and sensical, simple and profound. From medicine and mental health to planning weddings, writing blogs, and traveling the world. My decisions were usually bold and brazen, but not usually pre-planned or well thought out. I didn't know I had an 'intuition'. Nobody taught me.
I asked the other day on my Instagram stories how my followers would explain intuition to a preschooler. Hundreds of views. Less than a half-dozen responses. Maybe they thought it was rhetorical? Maybe we just don't know the answer. How can we know the answer to something most of us were never taught ourselves?
As I stumbled out of serial entrepreneurship and "accidentally" into the world of tech startups, I (in true-to-form fashion) had no idea what I was up against.
Full of thoughtful (or maybe thoughtless?) grace and humility, led by a selfless heart and wanting to make a difference on a larger scale than just myself, I had an idea. Looking back, I realize the idea was to make a difference - and that part was food. Fine. Cool. I want to make an impact larger than myself. Awesome. It's just the modality I chose that I really wish I'd looked into further. I felt that the way to make a big difference was in the biggest space I could conceptualize at the time: technology. My heart was in the right place, but my lofty goals got ahead of me in a big way. Nothing could have prepared me for the friction I was about to bump up against.
Having no idea what I was doing, having never built a tech startup before, I innocently became the founder of a startup. Overnight. No barrier to entry, no proof of eligibility required. I simply followed my ... gut? And, I mean, every time I told someone about my plans they seemed really impressed and that felt good, so I just kept going.
Five years and a hundred thousand dollars later I faced full-on total mental breakdown. The day before one of the biggest pitches of my life I fell completely the fuxk apart on a mentorship / strategy call with some colleagues. I clicked off my camera as my emotional floodgates unleashed pent up feelings of overwhelm, frustration, exhaustion, isolation, and fried right out my eyelids and down my face. I attempted to choke back my feels and steady my voice long enough to answer questions when called upon, but it became glaringly clear to everyone on the call that I do not hide emotions well. And so I just gave up. Just like that. I gave up the charade. I clicked my camera back on and sat there in my virtual room among my virtual team of colleagues and I sobbed. Not the delicate-whimper-cry that's pseudo-acceptable in our stoic adult world.. no.. this was full-on snot-nosed, out-of-breath, unable-to-gather-my-thoughts caliber crying. I'd reached a limit I didn't even know I had. The limit broke. I broke. And that moment changed everything. That was the moment in which I simply stopped giving a fuxk.
I had nothing left in me.
No more puppy-like excitement at new prospects. No more edging-on-arrogant confidence in myself and what I was building. No more desire to jump up and down excitedly in front of investors or accelerators or review panels attempting to prove my worth.
I. Was. Done.
I couldn't. There was nothing left in me. It was taking all the energy I had left just to breathe. And suddenly, nothing else felt more aligned, more conscious, more aware than to simply S T O P.
Dear Startup, we need to take a break. It's not you. It's me. I'm sorry.
The breaking point had actually become apparent a few weeks prior. I was interviewing an expert for the purpose of onboarding them onto our tech platform. He was a coach - specifically a name that'd been tagged when I made a request for an expert in the space of healthy/toxic masculinity. I was motivated to use my platform to shed light on both contemporary/conventional topics as well as fringe / New Age / alternative. Everything about this powerful soul was entirely outside of what I'd bargained for when we connected. He challenged me and poked holes at my platform - but not in the aggressive, diminutive way that investors did but in a larger-than-life type "I'm here to wake you the fuxk up." way.
He asked about me. Not just about the tech but about me (which simultaneously intrigued and aggravated me). I touted the accolades we'd collected and spouted off the pursuits we were chasing (at this point I'd gotten pretty good at pretending I didn't feel like a deer caught in the headlights when asked to prove worth - my startup's and my own). He negated my efforts to recite my successes and asked deeper about me.
"Is this what you really want?"
- who is this guy? and what gives him the right to challenge me this way?
I don't know what led him to share his thoughts in this way that day, though I'm sure he would say 'Spirit' made him do it (which, admittedly, at the time would have made me roll my eyes and dismiss him) - but his evocative message pierced me. "Sure you can get this (massive) investment... but is this what you want? What you really want? Do you want to be in bed with these investors? Do you want to have to pay them back 10x their investment in 3-5 years? Are you sure this is what you want?"
I don't remember many more of the details of that connection. At this point my head was spinning, I felt triggered and awakened, challenged and held. I was equal-parts annoyed and disarmed. He saw something more.. his mystic side, I guess. It was spontaneous and other-worldly. I couldn't make sense of it. I just knew it felt right. He was right. His words, seemingly plucked from total tech startup obscurity... his words were a guidepost I'd been unknowingly searching for. I needed someone to hold up a mirror to my face and call me on my shit. I was dancing someone else's dance. I was playing someone else's game. And I was drowning. I'd been drowning for a long time - carried only by the high of random wins without a sense of where I was headed.
"So, what happens when you get the investment?" he asked. And..... I didn't know. I didn't have an answer. Because, he was right. I had no interest in all the things that came after the investment was reached (and, to his point, that would only be just the super high-stakes beginning).
I was done.
I didn't know what would come next, but I knew at my core that I couldn't keep up the charade anymore. Most of my world would see it as failure. At my core, I knew it was the only way I would survive.
I fell apart on that mentorship call a few days later. I performed my heart out at that pitch presentation but it was an act - one I cared nothing about anymore. All I could see as I looked around this world of tech I'd submerged myself in was stoic, heartless, borderline cruel, un-human and inauthentic pursuit of proof of worth.
I was done pursuing proof of worth.
I had worth. I knew I had worth. And I knew, in that moment, I didn't need a 7+ figure investment to prove it.
Call it a gut-knowing. Call it an unignorable feeling. Call it divine timing or universal guidance. It was the moment in a toxic relationship when you look at the reality as a whole and say, "I can't anymore. I'm done."
And I was.