As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me for the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For November 2021, the quote was “Broken crayons still color.”
As a kid, the 64-count crayon box with the sharpener in the back was the ultimate. The precise points. The colors. The endless artistic possibilities. It was all about the variety.
Inevitably over time favorite crayons got worn down. The paper was ripped down for sharpening. And eventually, snap!, a break. Over time the pristine set would look rather worn out. A hodgepodge of points, partially wrapped nubs, and naked bits. As I thought about the crayons, I remembered the feeling of wanting to replace the colorful nubs with pristine new ones as if they colored better.
Quotes I wrote down throughout the month included:
- “It comes from the inside out”
- “Dedication to finding happiness every damn day”
- “People inspire people and become part of their DNA”
- “Make a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait patiently”
- “In a world of Barbies, everyone needs a Joan Jett”
- “Spark energy”
- “Frientor – friend + mentor”
- “The celebration of personal expression”
- “Love defies all science and reason”
- “Systematize serendipity”
- “Constantly seek adventure and magic”
- “A truth was unlocked in me and I couldn’t wait to live it out”
- “The punctuation of one’s truth”
- “Courage to reveal your true voice”
As I reviewed the quotes I jotted down throughout November, what stood out was the focus on people and having the space to be ourselves in a joyful way.
As I think about the people in my life who mean the most – from family and friends to close teammates and mentors, it’s those who display the wear and tear of life that I gravitate to. Those who expose their torn wrappers and broken bits. Those who are authentic and own all of who they are – and what it took to get where they are and who they are.
Yet for so long at work, I tried to be the pristine crayon. My wrapper a black suit and sensible pumps. But over time, the energy to appear “put together” kept me detached. Detached as a leader setting a false expectation for my team of what was needed to succeed. Detached from my clients due to my internal pressure to show I had all the answers. Detached from deeper relationships as I hid my torn wrapper. Detached from who I was at the core.
I think these quotes also reinforced my personal and professional work centered on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Reading Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race” and Arthur Wood’s “Hiring for Diversity: The Guide to Building an Inclusive and Equitable Organization” this month reminded me how I felt bound up focused on my wrapper and challenged my habitual thinking/actions that prevented others from making their mark. For me, it means pausing to ask: Am I acting/thinking on auto pilot? How can I encourage individuality? Who else can I invite? Are my words welcoming? Do my actions align to my intent? What am I overlooking due to my color and background? The authors made it clear just how much better we are together when we have variety.
My journey to be more accepting of myself and others has been colorful. I quit a fast-track job. I defined and redefined boundaries. I put vulnerability ahead of image. I said “yes, and” more. I screwed up, owned it, and learned. I won awards and lost big deals. I danced at team parties. I said no. I sent thank you notes. I took medical leave twice. I shared my power with others. I asked questions – a lot of questions. I knitted. Basically, I surrounded myself with others who were also vibrantly tattered building a compassionate network… and together we helped change the world. Seriously.
But most importantly, before I could do all of that, I first accepted my path wasn’t the “standard” way and proceeded forward with more bounce in my step coloring outside of the lines.