Travelling Writer, New York City
My choice for the next WOW Woman feature was confirmed after Nova completely rejected my format of Q/A. And I loved that (secretly I did, because I still would like to keep the Q/A going forward). But for a reason that will become evident below she wasn't feeling very much ready for the WOW unveiling. I begged to differ indeed. My actual convincing words to her were: "I saw that you're a. doing it your way, b. the only way you know how, c. you're not perfect, you're searching for love and dream career, you're a great writer, you're fearless in terms of travelling... you're doing something about pushing forward, learning (about self and the world), travelling as a female (big one that I think/hope/wish more women did) and most importantly going for it (whatever it is). That to me is WOW!" With that, pretty amazing and absolutely fun Nova's piece, her way.
Wowing Your Toughest Critic
Here is a running list of feedback I’ve received in the past few weeks:
This is the most frivolous piece of writing the world has ever seen… and that includes the feature NYT Magazine did last year about hats.
You’re a fraud. I don’t know who gave you this job, but someone is probably going to take it back any day now.
You’re gaining weight at record speed. That has nothing to do with anything, but I wanted to sound the alarm anyway.
Of course, those statements didn’t come from my colleagues or my clients. They were things I told myself about myself. What can I say, I’m really good at pep talks.
The sad part is, I’m hardly the only woman who has this inner dialogue. Many of my friends and co-workers have admitted to having similar thoughts. In fact, if I had a nickel for every time one of them got excited to learn there’s a name for this struggle – the Imposter Syndrome – I wouldn’t need a job in the first place.
As women, we are often our own toughest critic. We’ve been told that we must be smart, beautiful, kind, and funny – and we need to be them all at once. We should have a lifetime to-do list includes climbing the corporate ladder, raising a perfect family, decorating a three-bedroom home, and earning a front-row spot at advanced yoga. Even if society doesn’t require us to check all those boxes, the expectation is that we should at least be trying. Or, perhaps more accurately, there’s something wrong with us if we aren’t.
Well I’m not trying. I stopped a while ago – in February 2016, to be exact, when I came to the realization that I had no interest in a typical career, a traditional family, or spending my life savings on a pint-sized Manhattan apartment. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things or the people who want them – it’s just that none of them were of real value to me.
Instead, I decided to blow my would-be down payment on a condo on a year-long trip around the world. I quit my corporate marketing job, gave away all my belongings and booked a series of one-way plane tickets. My plan was to go on safari in South Africa and learn to surf in Indonesia, and write a book about all my adventures in between.
But we all know what they say about plans. By the time I whittled my life down to three boxes and was just a few weeks away from take off, my employer made an offer I couldn’t refuse: a remote position as a content creator. I could keep my income, travel as planned, and write for a living. I tried to find a catch, but there was none. For the first time in my life, things were falling into place – assuming you consider living out of a suitcase and arguing in broken French with a customs official to be “falling into place.” (Which I do.)
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been to twenty countries spanning five continents. I’ve had a few moments of doubt, but for the most part, the good of these past nine months has far outweighed the bad. In fact, it’s been the best, most interesting year of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not for an office in the C-Suite. Not for a condo on 5th Avenue. Not for a million dollar wedding and a designer nursery.
And yet, when Olga asked me to tell my story as part of her “WOW Women” series, I declined. As happy as I am with my choices, I still feel a long way from accomplished. What business do I have passing myself off as a “WOW Woman,” when I’m not yet impressed with myself?
I told her that when I actually had the stuff to “wow” her audience – specifically, when I finish my book or make strides with my blog, or even get published somewhere decent – I’ll happily complete her Q&A. Until then, I’d rather not flaunt my non-accomplishments.
Olga begged to differ. She wrote: “I didn't pick you because you're flying around the world and posting glam pics. No, I saw that you're a) doing it your way, b) the only way you know how, c) you're not perfect... but you're doing something to push forward… That to me is WOW!”
I had to admit that she had a point. My life might still be a work in progress, but I’ve made significant changes to try and make it better. That might not feel very “wow” when I’m sitting around eating a poached egg in Cairns, Australia and typing up notes about the bush turkey who breaks into my treehouse every morning, but it is. Because living on my own terms – whatever those terms are and however grand or basic they may be – is a wow moment. A little one, at least.
Since I’m still working towards the big one, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being unimpressed with myself. To have a goal is to have work to do. But just because there are things I still want to achieve, that doesn’t negate all that I’ve already done.
Once in a while, we all need a reminder of that from someone else. It’s hard to wow ourselves, so we need to wow each other. And I can thank Olga for that.
You can follow Nova’s travels on her blog, Advice I Needed Yesterday, and Instagram account.