I often look back over these past few months and wonder about how I got here. Specifically I relive that moment when I decided to leave an unhappy job and head out to find my purpose, my passion and the authentic me. Looking back on it, the entire thing seems a bit crazy. I had no new job, no new position and no real direction as to where I wanted to go. All I knew was that I had to take a leap and do something different.
Latorie Walker did the same thing. After missing a year when her son made straight As in school, she realized that she could never get that time back, and that she had missed it because she was working. Not building something, not creating something, but working for someone else and surrendering her freedom in the process. She was compromising on things she never wanted to compromise on. Latorie's journey as an entrepreneur began.
She tells me that what allowed us to make the decisions we made, to make those changes in our lives, is that we weren't afraid to fly.
Listening to Latorie tell her story is incredible. She is a woman of great drive and intelligence, a mother who definitively chose motherhood and a passionate builder of businesses. As she walks me through the building of her business, a couple of lessons resonate strongly through her words. It is not just enough to not be afraid to fly, you also have to be ready to learn while you are falling. When you are in the midst of what seems like the scariest moment of your life, you have to learn and keep going. It is a test of faith, maybe the ultimate test of faith.
There is more to it than just being brave, just confronting your fear. No, for Latorie it was also a true measure of faith, and acceptance of what was presented to her and a conscious decision to move forward with it. As a result she has tripled the size of her organization, Aspire Early Learning Academy LLC, in 6 years, with plans to add a fourth location this year. She has also been named one of the Top Ten Women for the American Business Women's Association for 2019.
If I were to just cite her achievements and accolades there would be no more room for our conversation, that is the level of achievement this amazing woman has hit.
But Latorie is so much more than accolades, so much more than an award or a level of business development. There is a genuinely loving energy that radiates from her, in her attentive gaze and her warm smile. As we share our stories she is totally present, there in this moment, absorbing as much from my story as I am from hers. We talk about business and making the jump, but we also talk of life and struggles, of our individual superpowers and our weaknesses as well.
As we share more, expose our vulnerabilities to each other, we talk about how we, as people, tend to stay guarded for fear we will be attacked. How we present an image of ourselves instead of the authentically wonderful people we are because we don't want to be hurt. For all of the practicality in being guarded, there is also so much tragedy in how we often suffer without anyone around us knowing, solely so we will not be hurt more. Sharing our stories and vulnerabilities with each other does not leave Latorie or myself open to attack though, rather it builds a bond of trust between the two of us. We are people. We both have baggage and we are both beautiful because we have given each other the opportunity to be so.
Latorie talks about her accomplishments, I talk about mine, and we laugh about the people who have doubted us in our journeys. I joke about people who would spend more time with their sports teams than cheering on those in their real life who have a dream or are doing something. We talk about how sad it is to prioritize something entertaining, yet ultimately trivial, above the lives of those we love. I ask Latorie what she has coming up in the new year and she is generous enough to tell me. I smile and tell her how exciting that is and how happy I am for her, then we both smile.
We share a moment of happiness because these things she is doing is something to truly be happy for, because in a world where we want everyone to win we should celebrate those same victories.
We talk about relationships, about the people in our lives and how everything has seasons. I tell Latorie about people who have come and gone in my life, some by events or accidents and others by the sheer nature of the world to move from one season to another and leave things in the transition. To me this is a sad thing, and I have often had to talk myself through these seasons, something I still works on.
Then Latorie tells me about trees.
She tells me about how some people will be our roots, they will ground us and be there forever. When our trees fall, as they all will one day, the roots will still be there. They are steadfast and true, even if we disagree or argue. Other people in our lives are leaves. They are beautiful and wonderful but, ultimately, they are only there for a season or two before it is time to move on. This is no reason to be mad at or hurt by them, it is in the nature of leaves to move on when their season has ended. All we can do is appreciate their beauty for the time they are there, enjoy the sun passing through them, their shelter from the rain, and then allow them to float on in the fall breeze.
We will always have our roots.
As we pack up to walk down a rainy street in Park Circle, I look at the trees a little more closely. Today I met with an incredible business woman, a knowledgeable leader and a phenomenal mother. She is, as so many have been, a custodian of lessons for those who take the time to listen. From her I learned a great deal, but the trees will never be the same, and neither shall I.
Favorite Dinosaur: T Rex
Why: Because of their strength, they are so strong it looks like they are floating when they walk.