“Finding the Guts to Change”
“My Gutsy Story®”-Donna Friess
One of the truly gutsiest things I have ever done was become brave enough to give up my college teaching career after 45 years. Across the years, when I asked my colleagues if there was life outside the hallowed walls of my college, Cypress College, they thought I was kidding and laughed at me, but I wasn’t kidding. I knew my life worked. I adored the students and they adored me, but the 75 mile-a -day commute was getting to seem longer with each passing decade. One year, far past when I was eligible for retirement, I got up my courage during our summer vacation at Catalina. I promised myself that for sure in September I would turn in my retirement papers for the next year. Then one day I was on the swim float in Avalon harbor getting ready to dive when I noticed a little blonde six year-old boy standing next to me. I saw him gulp a huge breath of air. He was scared to dive in, to swim into shore. He squared his shoulders, took another big inhale. I could feel his fear. As I watched him tears sprang to my eyes. Suddenly I could see him ten or so years in the future, gulping air, squaring his shoulders as he plunged in to give his speech in my public speaking class. The tears streamed down my face and my stomach knotted. In that instant I knew that I could not give up my eager, scared-to-death students. By the time I got to shore I decided against retirement. Clearly I did not have the guts, I was not ready to leave the students.
More busy happy years passed in the classroom, but the drive got longer, and if I were truthful, I was getting tired. There were other things I wanted to do; more travel, maybe paint, write. I had taught so long that retirement pay would be significantly more than I was taking home as I qualified for longevity bonuses and more, still I did not have the guts for it.
Finally in the summer of 2009 my husband said, “I think you are missing the boat here. I think you should pay attention to you writing.” It was a flashpoint for me. I saw a way to reinvent myself. I felt excited as I thought, Maybe there is life outside of my classroom.
I was stuck in my good old way of living my life, and it was now time to get brave enough to reinvent myself. Perhaps an element of empowerment is having the ability to adapt to life, to reinvent oneself. Joan Rivers was a master at reinventing herself. Last year’s media coverage surrounding her death illustrated her genius. Imagine going from stand-up comedy, to late night host, to the Red Carpet , to Fashionista and more. At the time of her death she was working on a new show. Imagine she stayed in the spot light for decades because she kept evolving and changing.
So how do we get unstuck? The answer must be to live mindfully. These days I see how we are living our lives as our creative challenge. When I finally found the courage to change my ways I found a new way to live life, an exciting robust way. I have been out of the classroom for four years now, however, people have not quit laughing at me! When I say, “and I was so worried about a different kind of life…” They can’t stop laughing for they know that it is a big huge world filled with unlimited opportunity if we have the guts to grab hold and look at the wonder of it all.
We cannot not change. We age. Life moves forward. Albert Einstein liked to talk about how important imagination and creativity are. I like to think of my life as my canvas, and the way I am living it, as my creative endeavor. The world out there is just waiting for you. What more do you want to do? What more do you want to be? I’d love to hear about it. Right now, though I might be out on the trail with my three Golden Retrievers or at my desk writing my next novel.
Psychologist Donna L. Friess, Ph.D., is a life coaching, grief counselor, and author. She is an advocate for children’s rights, currently serving on a U.S. Justice Department Office for Victims of Crime Consortium. As a best selling author she has written seven books. With appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and others, her award winning autobiography Cry the Darkness has been published in seven languages. Donna’s debut novel The Unraveling of Shelby Forrest is now available at Amazon.com. www.drdonnafriess.com.
SONIA MARSH SAYS: Donna is the real “Gutsy” woman of today. She is a rocket on a mission, helping everyone she meets along her path. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in her coaching “women in transition,” as I went through my own divorce process. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more energetic and enthusiastic woman who is a role model for all of us. I’m reading her novel (see below,) and recommend it to my fellow writers and readers.
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