in good company

It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote my last post and I would like to think it was for good reason. These last two months have been filled with new adventures. I moved to a new state, kicked off another semester of teaching for Eastern University and spent time with some amazing women. Early in September I met with a group of women who are part of a Mastermind Group that is led by my brilliant friend (and former boss) Desiree Adaway.

The purpose of the Mastermind Group is not only to receive leadership coaching from Desiree, but also to support each other in attaining our goals, no matter what they are. The group I am part of is all female and our needs range from wanting to branch out into a new career, trying to recruit new customers for our current businesses or simply making time to take care of ourselves, because as women we are not always great at putting our needs first.

We met in Asheville for a weekend retreat and I have to admit I was a little apprehensive. Even though our group had virtually met through a couple of webinars and various conversations in our private Facebook group, I didn’t know what it would be like to meet face-to-face. For some reason I had this idea that all of the women in the group would be miles ahead of me in identifying and attaining their goals. I also didn’t know what they would expect from me in terms of support.

As we started to meet that Friday afternoon I was surprised at how comfortable I instantly became with the group. These women were so genuine. One of the initial discussions we had was around what we considered to be non-negotiables and one of the women let us know that using the F-word (which she called F-bomb) was something she was not willing to give up and it was at that moment that I knew this group was for me. Throughout the weekend we shared, were vulnerable, questioned each other, pushed each other, shed a few tears and danced like nobody was watching (or at least we tried to…baby steps).

I have to say I was surprised at how much I liked these women. Usually after a weekend retreat my introversion would be kicking in at full force and I would be exhausted, but I left Asheville feeling energized and ready for what was next to come. I’m not sure how Desiree did it; how she managed to assemble this group of women that were able to get along so well, because as someone who has led teams of volunteers I know first hand that this is not an easy thing to do. I am certain Desiree has a secret formula for this, even though she denies that she does – you’re not fooling me Adaway!

It wasn’t just my comfortability with these women that made me like them but a number of other things. It was their courage, creativity, sassiness and even, sometimes, their humility. For example, one of these women was a graduate from Harvard, but failed to highlight that with all of us in our initial conversations. Why? I have no idea. If it was me I’d be sharing this factoid with every introduction I made. She talked about reforming the education system in her community with so much passion that her eyes welled up, however, she had not taken action on her ideas because of the doubt that plagues us all – the uncertainty of rocking the boat and the consequences of doing that. It was amazing to me that even this genius woman was hesitant to make her voice heard. It also made me think about all of those other brilliant women out there who have thoughts and ideas on how to make the world better but don’t know they can have their own Desiree (or even this Desiree) and Mastermind group to coach them on. Because sometimes we need this. We need each other’s support and fearlessness.

I’m not sure if I’m putting out some kind of vibe into the universe that is asking to surround me with amazing women, but earlier this month I also traveled to Prince Edward Island, Canada, and spent a week building a Habitat for Humanity home with a group of women from all over the U.S., and even one Canadian.

Again, before arriving in PEI I was apprehensive about whether this group of women was going to get along. Group dynamics can be a tricky thing. Everyone comes with their own expectations and motivations and it doesn’t take much to create a dynamic that is almost unbearable for everyone. Sometimes it only takes one person’s bad attitude to ruin the experience for everyone else. Fortunately, the week proved to be so much a success that on the morning we were to depart and go home there were many sad faces and a few tears which is usually the sign of a good trip.

Throughout the week we helped build a house which will soon be purchased by a woman who will be living there with her four children all under the age of five (yikes). As we tackled numerous framing tasks we all got a chance to challenge ourselves, bond, crack a few jokes and even learn the electric slide. A personal triumph for me was that I got on the roof for the first time and spent an afternoon nailing down sheathing. In the past I had always avoided this task because of this little fear of heights I have but I decided to eff my fear and get the hell up there – knowing I could always come down if my knees really started shaking. By the end of the day I felt like a total badass, I think I even had an annoying swagger to my walk, which also could have been a result of the heavy Canadian steel-toed boots we were required to wear by law.

On the roof! I'm in the pink hard hat. Photo by Kathy Guilbealt
On the roof! I’m in the pink hard hat. Photo by Kathy Guilbealt

Although the roof could have easily been my favorite part of the week, what actually wound up being my favorite part was during one of the break times when the mother we were building for brought one of her sons who started roaming the yard (away from the construction area) looking for caterpillars. I kept thinking about how that boy will be moving from the cramped space he is living in now to this amazing yard where he will have so many adventures. He will find endless caterpillars, make mud pies, catch fire flies, build snow forts, play tag – the possibilities are endless. This home we were hammering away at will help shape the type of person he grows up to be.

Photo by Kristin Lash
Photo by Kristin Lash

I have come away from these recent adventures feeling hopeful. Feeling pride. Reaffirming that women are everything I have grown up knowing. They are strength. They are limitless. They are catalysts for change. They are anything they want to be – maybe even a little nasty (?).