Appreciating My Own Skin November 29 2014

(As written for Identity Magazine, November 2014)

“If you were an animal, which animal would you be?”

That’s always been an easy question to answer as I have been a “chameleon” most of my 42 years.

I have always been great at blending in with my surroundings; amalgamating in all atmospheres, as changing circumstances dictate.  Reading that may make me sound phony and insincere, but I am neither.  I am always true to myself, even if parts of my personality may be muted at times.

Being a chameleon serves an important purpose, as I wear a multitude of hats on a daily basis.  As a Television Producer, I need to bond with my interview subjects, reporter, camera crew and editor, on a story-by-story basis.  As CEO of my running apparel company, JWalking Designs, I have to know how to talk fabrics, fit and fashion, even when they are seemingly foreign.  And as a volunteer marathon coach for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I literally run with people from all walks of life.  We share the common goal of training for an endurance event to help those enduring cancer, but sometimes little else.

In order to succeed in all of those endeavors – and in the entirety of life – I need to gain your trust.  Birds of a feather do flock together, and because I enjoy being a listener rather than a talker, I am often in-tune to things over which we can build a solid base.  My interest in you is truly genuine, and your allowing me into your world brings me comfort.

But as my blending began bleeding into all aspects of my life, I lost sight of my total, true self.  I could not keep up with the self-imposed demands of being all things for all people, and I had little energy to listen to my own voice.  I really felt lost.

Then, something happened that made me realize that shedding my camouflage was needed to completely live life.  It was the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line.  Running with pride and purpose in my historic hometown, the tragedy left me a mere mile short of completing my life-long dream, and in paralyzing fear that harm, or worse, had befallen my family.

Thankfully, my family, charity team and I were physically fine, but the experience changed me emotionally.  I saw first-hand that time is precious; why spend so much of it blending in and not standing out?

With that turn of the phrase, my entire outlook shifted.  I adopted a “Like me for me, or don’t; it’s okay” attitude.  I like to eat popcorn for dinner, out of a bowl roughly twice the size of my head, while watching “The Biggest Loser” on TV.  I need my dollar bills to all face the same way; my keys to be in the same place on the table every day; and my suitcase to be unpacked immediately after a trip.  Don’t like it?  It’s really okay with me.

I speak in my own voice and like what I hear.  I still yearn to be part of your world, but I prefer it to be more on my own terms.  I bond and build trust with others, but now do so by showing and shining on my own.  I am no longer fearful to share my story, and that has opened me up to endless opportunities, including lowering my self-built walls to let others inside.

My “aha” moment changed my life for the better.  I’d love to hear yours!