“V,” a lovely former co-worker whom I worked with for over a decade, recently sent me a private message on Facebook. Both of us have since moved on from our previously employer. In V’s case, she saw an opportunity and embraced change by quitting her job for a better one. In my case, I was desperate for change at the same time as I was terrified of it, which left me paralyzed and stuck in the status quo until I was ultimately laid off in 2009. I haven’t seen V in over five years. In her Facebook message, she told me that these days I seem “free.”
She had no idea how much her simple adjective of “free” would mean to me. The day before she sent me this message, I had unearthed a card that my sister Betsy sent me in 2001. The cover of the card made it clear that she saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself: my terror of living an authentic life because I feared others would look at my path as the wrong way. Betsy wrote the following in the card:
“You remind me of a caged bird. Some birds can happily spend their lives singing from that cage, but not you – you were meant to fly.”
I got misty-eyed when I read my sister’s old card, realizing how prophetic her words were a full nine years before I finally hit rock bottom in 2010 and, out of desperation, climbed in my car with Yoda to drive into the unknown with the hope that I would finally learn to fly free.
Over the past few years I’ve been a fledgling, slowly opening that bird cage door, spreading my wings and attempting flight. Like every young bird, I’ve fallen to the ground quite a few times and have had to hop back to the nest to start flight school all over again. But I’ve kept trying, in spite of the fact that it would be much easier (and lucrative) to fall back into the habits of my old life. It was probably about the time that I met Cowboy Wade and vowed to embrace life with an authentic cowgirl spirit that I first started to learn to fly. Each time I make a choice in life that embraces my authenticity, I believe my wings grow stronger.
So I agree with Betsy and V, I was meant to fly free. But I’m not special. I don’t think any birds can happily spend their lives singing from behind the bars of a bird cage. I think everyone is meant to fly free. That includes you, your kids, your colleagues, your friends and your neighbors. So open that cage door, fluff your feathers, and take a leap of faith.
When you take your first wing flaps and start to realize you are riding the thermals as you soar through the sky, sing to yourself the quote on the cover of Betsy’s card:
Some people will say that you are going the wrong way, when it is simply a way of your own.
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