The beauty of the seeking is that, it is within this space that we find ourselves
My life has been anything, but linear. In fact, it has been more like a ride down a coastal mountain road, eyes closed, hair flying, arms extended; exhilarating at times and terrifying at others. When I was fifteen, I was discovered by a modeling agent and was plucked out of the comfort of a sedate life in the suburbs – and dropped into the fast-paced, high stakes world of the fashion industry.
And life continued on like this for years, almost as if set on autopilot, through enormous highs and lows, marriages to famous and infamous men – until it all fell apart one day in an unsalvageable way. No matter how I scrambled to put the pieces of a broken life back together, there was no possibility of re-assemblage. Life as I had known it had slipped right through my hands.
On February 5, 2003, a federal judge signed an order to have my then-husband carted away from his Madison Avenue office in handcuffs for security fraud, and to seize all of our assets – everything. That story played out in the media like a fairytale gone horribly wrong. He ultimately received a 13 1⁄2 year prison sentence and I was left to move home with my parents to figure out how I was going to raise a toddler on my own. It was time to lean in, to really lean in.
Don’t get me wrong, I was already woman-hear-me-roar. I had gone back to college, I had a degree, I had my own business. However, I was about to embark upon the true journey of my life, leaning into my authentic power, and I was a reluctant passenger.
It didn’t happen over night. In fact, it was more like a decade of spiritual hibernation before I was ready to shed my chrysalis and step into my own metamorphosis. Determined not to settle for a sad story, I kept seeking and reaching, willing to try anything. The beauty of the seeking is that, it is within this space that we find ourselves – not the labels we pin on ourselves. It is within this place of humbling grace that we reconnect to our dreams, our passions and our mission in this life.
I realized the way out of my sad story was in taking ownership of my role in it. By asking myself what part had I played in the choices I had made that led to here, I uncovered the power to choose my future. I learned (albeit the hard way) that I could write the next chapter and in doing so, I would become accountable for all the pieces of my life. Today this message is my mantra. I am deeply passionate about moving into my life’s work, to inspire and empower other women to pick back up, dust off and carry on...to lean in and watch the magic unfold.
A Marine on how she learned to sit at the table.
Gunnery Sergeant JoAnna Mendoza
United States Marine Corps
A student realizes that if she wants to advocate for others, she must first learn to advocate for herself.
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities