Abiola Abrams is an award-winning author, advice columnist, motivational speaker, and certified life coach who has given her life-changing advice on networks from MTV and BET to the Discovery Channel and the BBC, as well as being a popular advice columnist for Essence and on sites like Match.com. Her book,The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love, won Best Self-Help Book at the African American Literary Awards. As what she calls the “Midwife for Your Inspired Life,” her online empowerment programs help women to answer and rock their callings, by turning self-love to self-launch. She is the founder of the women’s empowerment blog and web series on SacredBombshell.com and the podcast Spiritpreneur School, aka – yes – The Goddess Factory. (and yes, I know. She’s a master at naming things. Just you wait ’till you listen to the episode)
I LOVE each twist and turn of this conversation, talking everything from what to do when you feel like other people just don’t quite GET what you’re about yet and sticking to your guns when it seems like everyone else is getting ahead, to braking out of your comfort zone, to getting your voice heard even when other people are trying to manipulate it to their liking along the way. We also talk about being an extroverted introvert and getting swept up in the bigness of whatever’s going on around you, and whether you’re super extroverted or incredibly introverted, how to stay grounded AND enthusiastic even when life is demanding a lot of you (especially when things are really good and borderline overwhelming, which are the times that can sometimes throw us off the most if you’re anything like me).
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I’m always inspired by women who’ve done their own thing and forged their own path. Especially when they’re functioning on pure passion. And especially when they’ve left something familiar and safe to do so.
Tricia Huffman‘s been there…twice. First, leaving her secure office job to follow her passion of working in live music production – and second, leaving her successful music production job to follow her passion of living your best life. Neither of which, by the way, were kick-started by anything but pure heart and an unwavering belief in herself that she could.
Tricia wasn’t just a leader in her industry, she was one of the only women in her industry. By asking lots of questions, following her heart, and having a hunger to learn, Tricia went from selling shirts at the House Of Blues to literally running the show on tour for pretty much every big-name artist you’ve heard of…you name it, she’s worked with them. As a woman working in a male-dominated field, Tricia always made sure to stay down-to-earth, empathetic, and thirsty for knowledge. Six years and countless worldwide tours later, Tricia was successful, well-loved, and had created both career and community. On the outside, she was living the dream. And on the inside, she was loving it.
And then, something happened that changed her perspective: her father passed away suddenly.
After taking time off from the road to sit and reevaluate life, pursuing what made her healthy and happy, she realized that she had an intense pull to help others do the same. She wanted to do something more with her life: to help people live passionately and purposefully. She saw that everyone, including the people we think “have it all,” don’t feel fulfilled. She first created her “Joyology” to keep artists healthy, ground and inspired in body and mind while on tour.
People like Tricia inspire me because they are actual living proof that following your passion and sense of purpose always works the way it needs to – even if the vision morphs along the way. Now off the road and coaching others both one-on-one and in groups, she’s got a whole line of products to go with her biz, calledYour Joyologist, including a brand new beautiful app called – you guessed it – Own Your Awesome.
Tricia’s been in the business of real-deal feel-good since way before social media was a thing. And here’s what I love most about her: she’s all about the rogue affirmations. Most people in the feel-good biz will shower their people with “You Are Beautiful”s and “Abundance Is Yours”s and say see ya. But Tricia? She digs deeper.
While this coversation starts with a little bit of a venting session on both our parts, I decided to keep it in because I think it’s a GREAT example of productive venting, which is quite different from aimless complaining. Bitching about social media is becoming a “thing” ON social media (lol, the irony), however a lot of what I read simply talks about how annoying and tiring it all is…and places blame on everyone else for the rules we’re supposed to follow.
But really…who tells us we are “supposed” to follow them? Nope, no one but ourselves. Which leads me to my absolute FAVORITE part of this interview with Tricia: where we dive in and dig deep about how to distance ourselves from our need for validation, and how to take accountability and responsibility even when we feel something is entirely someone else’s fault. Tricia knows how it feels to be resistant, and she knows what it means to OWN YOUR AWESOME. But she didn’t get there without getting real with herself and examining what was actually getting in her way.
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In this episode of the WANTcast, one of our listeners asked to hear about how to make (and keep!) life goals that are realistic and are actually right for you, not just what looks or sounds good or “right.”
What’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another – and what’s unrealistic to one person might be more attainable for you than you think.
Some questions to ask yourself, some red flags to look out for, how to figure out goals that work for you, and yes – how to actually go about ACHIEVING them (no bs here, folks).
Liked this epiosde and everything WANT is throwing down? Be sure to head on over to the site and SUBSCRIBE to The GOOD Word, WANT’s monthly email love letter where you’ll get all the posts and pods delivered directly to your email doorstep, plus first dibs on events, workshops, and the stuff I’m WANTing that I think you’ll love too.
Also head on over to iTunes and subscribe to the show, and leave 5 stars and a review to spread the WANTcast love. I apprecite it more than you know.
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I woke up this morning with the kind of heartache I hadn’t felt in a very, very long time. Bigger than that one hour I had a mini meltdown when I moved. Bigger than packing up my things and saying see-you-soons. No, it was more akin to the type of heartache I used to feel in my teens and twenties, when the person I loved wasn’t the person I was with.
I missed the theatre.
Now, let me be clear: I love my life. L-O-V-E my life, all caps. I’m of firm belief that regret is a useless emotion other than its ability to steer us in the best direction when we ask ourselves if it has the possibility of popping up later. Every choice I’ve made is intentional, ever decision has been from the heart. I don’t do easy, after all. I do right.
And hey, I DID theatre! I lived that professional, unionized actor life. I committed my entire college education to it (*okay, not entire, I went to a liberl arts school which required tons of general education classes and became particularly enamoured with sociocultural anthropology but that’s beside the point). I had agents – multiple. I got to act on major television shows and do national commercials and be in both independent and major movies – and just before you call me out on the fact that theatre, not film, was my true love, I did that too. I talked and sang and laughed and cried on stages to audiences of 15 and of 500. I did it. I was there.
I have mega-talented friends in the theatre world, friends on Broadway and friends quite literally touring the world. And when I see their posts on Instagram or Facebook or hear about rehearsals, I often need to do a gut check: I LOVE their life, but do I wish it was mine as well? And the answer pretty much always is: no.
I didn’t veer away from theatre because “the rejection is so tough,” as many people assume when we talk about my Former Life. Nope, not at all. It’s that as I grew older and started to examine the type of life I wanted for myself –and the things that would give me the quality of that life; the things I was willing to sacrifice and the things I was willing to trade in place for the kind of stage career I’d always seen myself having (which, for me, lived on National Tours and in New York City) – well, I started to realize those things were actually my non-negotiables.
A lot of it came about after having controlled myself for so long: I realized I had within me a tendency to control and obsess, and while those things were fantastic when it came to memorizing lines or fleshing out a character, they worked waaaay against me when it came to the rest of my life. The control robbed me of my ME-ness.
I never acted to escape myself, always to explore myself. But the more I explored myself in a controlled environment the more unsafe I felt going there in my life outside a rehearsal room. Not to mention the paralyzing anxiety I’d get during almost all auditions – anxiety that stemmed from nowhere, anxiety that wasn’t tied to being scared (I wasn’t) but being liked. And no matter how much I prepped and no matter how much meditation I did beforehand to center myself and believe, truly believe, that no this was not an audition but a performance opportunity, and no they were not judging me and yes they were hoping I was their answer walking into the room…I would still get the shaking and throat closing and hands and feet going numb.
I tried everything. And 99% of the time, it didn’t work. So you’d think that when I nailed it, I would feel a sense of fulfilment and confidence. But when I did get the part, when the fleeting validation fled, the control would kick in. Very rarely did it feel joyful. I realized that the joy I thought I would feel when I got the thing was not the reality of the thing. What I was after was not what I was getting.
We are told as kids, as teenagers with big-ass dreams, that there are people who give up and there are people who keep going. We’re told that’s it; that it’s easy to choose a different path but it’s right to stick the course. That those with a calling are supposed to follow it through, no holds barred, through the fire and sleet and make their way to the other side. The people who keep going are the people who reap the rewards, and the people who veer off track get zilch.
What if those aren’t the only two options, though?
And what if… what if… what is supposed to be the right choice is really the easy one, and the choice that to others would seem a cinch is actually the hardest and rightest?
It would have been easy for me to stick with theatre, with the career path I paved for myself. It would have been easy to stay with the familiar loops, goals, dreams, aspirations, patterns with the justification that this was the life I had set out to build for myself. But was it really right? And moreover…was it all really that mutually exclusive, a definitive hard start and stop?
I think back on my time pursuing a career I don’t currently have – really-truly-seriously pursuing it – and I realize it only truly spans a decade. Sure, a decade is a lot….but is it? My life and professionalism started to truly take shape when I started voice lessons at 14, tenaciously pursuing education and opportunities that would support my growth into the woman I wanted to be in the world, then booking my first work at 18, then booking my first union show at 20, then getting an agent and building my resume and doing all things from modeling swimwear to playing a tween to filming a scene with Jessica Biel that left me with bruises on my arms (story for another day, but if you’re curious check out the Deleted Scenes from the movie Valentines Day. yep, #itme) to singing backup vocals on a Miley Cyrus karaoke track to investigating alongside Batman for a film I still to this day get really creepy messages from comic-and-cosplay-obsessed guys about. I did it all. It was a weird, wonderful, wacky experience – until I realized I’d grown into a person very different from the one I thought I was going to be at that point in her life. All in a span of ten measley blip-of-time years.
Yeah, I dabbled in acting work after the age of 24, but it was almost always at the request of a friend-of-friend who knew me from such-and-such and very rarely did I even enjoy the experience. I kept trying to test myself, trying to see if what I’d had was what I’d been longing for. It wasn’t.
Sometimes I wonder if I am trying to convince myself otherwise. That I really should be singing onstage, that I really should be pursuing the magic-of-the-theatre…but that’s not my life now, so I better be happy with what I’ve got.
But here’s the thing…I AM. I am happy. I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but And. And for me I choose to look at how I can accomplish the EXACT things I loved about working in the theatre WITHIN the life I lead and person I am today.
Just because we feel a sense of joy from one thing doesn’t mean we’re immune to feeling the absence of another. Just because we strive for the look of one thing doesn’t mean we can’t wonder if we’re missing out on the feel of the other.
But my recent revelation is: We can always go back. We can always veer the course, because we have PROOF we’ve done it before. We can always do everything from test the waters to fully cannonball-dive in. Will I ever go back to theatre? Who knows. But it’s not unthinkable, I know that. In the here and now, I know I am after a FEELING in my life, I am after the accomplishment of the actualization of myThrough Line: using my unique, authentic voice to help and inspire others find their own. What that looks like now might look entirely different 10 years from now. Nothing is ever off the table.
Cheryl Strayed has a wonderful quote that says:
“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us.”
We can ache for the dream of what we think one life COULD be like, but the reality is that its rarely what we envision it to be verbatim. There is always some caveat. Always something that made it the sister life, not ours.
But I think…I really, truly think…that if we pinpoint what exactly we value most, and go after that, the aspects of the sister life that WERE meant to be ours will come sailing into the port. Which aspects? TBD. We must only stay open. And make the right choices instead of the easy ones.
Sometimes I look back at the kid I used to be, and I wonder if she’s gotten everthing she’s wanted. But then I realize how absurd that thought is… Gotten. Happened. Done. To question if she’s ALREADY gotten everything she’s wanted, like it’s been so long.
Of course she hasn’t. Because she’s only just gotten started.
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MY RELATIONSHIP with journaling was very “friends with benefits” for most of my life: oft ignored but always there when I needed it most. Most of the time, I completely ignored my grandmother’s advice to document momentous occasions, as exemplified by the three-line entry about my 13th birthday in my 1999 journal (the third sentence being “I’ll come back to this later”).
Yet when I go back and read my old journals, as sporadically tended to as they were, I realize I honestly have not changed much throughout my lifetime. The slightly crinkled pages are filled with emotion – poetry, questions, lists and pep talks – heart opening and heartbreaking all at once.
And reviews of musicals. So many reviews of musicals.
As young as preschool, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up. We learn to identify with a singular profession: a doctor, a singer, a teacher, a lawyer. With all these abstract feelings floating around in our still-developing brains, we are asked to define ourselves based on our hobbies and what sounds right. As we grow into young adults, we’re encouraged to find extracurricular activities that are assumed to match our professional aspirations of choice. We write yearbook messages under the assumption that there will always be next year. We map out our lives in ten-year-plans and envision our friendships as everlasting.
I grew up listening to tape cassettes of Phantom Of The Opera in my car seat. I taught myself how to play the showstopper from Cats on my tiny Casio keyboard in first grade. When I was about twelve years old, I developed a love affair with shows like Rent and Les Miserables, and for the first time in my life I realized I was not like other kids my age. While my peers were attending the latest boy band and girl group concerts, I was marveling at the thespian greats like Colm Wilkinson and Bernadette Peters.
This, I told myself, was not normal.
And so I hid my love for musical theatre in my journals, and later on online message boards (way before it was considered safe or even socially acceptable to develop internet-based friendships [which is kinda funny, as I now have many dear friends and a bone a fide HUSBAND who I met through the interwebs]). I was convinced I’d be winning a Tony by age 27, and that the friends of my childhood who were drifting in all different directions would miraculously come back together one day to work through life together. That my first love and I would get married and do the whole picket-fence thing. I was convinced I knew the length of the path.
And then came the growth and expansion of real life. Things became complicated and convoluted: here I was, someone who had defined herself by these external passions and visions for so long, and they no longer felt right. My interests began to broaden and my friend circle began to expand. I developed passions I never knew of and feelings I’d never accessed, and for the first time I realized I was so much more than I’d ever thought I could be.
It begged the question – was nothing up until now valid? The opened doors of the present were liberating but the loyalty to the past was almost paralyzing.
Moving past the visions and dreams created by our former selves can feel like losing a lover. The first time I thought that acting might not be the sole career through which I wanted to give myself to the world, my eyes stayed red for days from crying. The first time I realized I was unclear as to whether I wanted children or not, I had a breakdown. The first time I found a soulmate-friend outside my comfort zone of shared upbringing, I felt like I was cheating on my entire past. At the time, it felt like a breakup. At the time, it felt like a loss.
How strange, as each thing that triggered a sense of loss or wrongdoing was actually a door opening and showing me to my true self. Although, come to think of it, I’ve realized that most people get stuck in that space of confusing actualization for accusation…so maybe the fact that it felt so wrong wasn’t as abnormal as I thought…
Our visions and goals are always in flux. One is not better or worse than the other, they’re just different. Hanging onto past goals and ideas of what we “should” do can screw us up in the long run and put self actualization on standby. Who we are in one season in our lives is neither the end-all-be-all nor invalid. It’s a fragment, a small yet important page in the story of who we are meant to be.
It can feel scary to move forward beyond your former self, but there’s no reason to mourn.
Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are.
You are more than that thing your former self aspired towards. You are more than the ideas your ten-year plan expressed, you are more than the connections you made long ago. And yet these are a part of you. Each is a path, an integral part of the roadmap that is your life’s purpose. Who are we to say we know what our journey will look like a decade from now or if we’ll feel the same way we do at this point in time? The important thing is to feel deeply and express authentically during every step of the way.
Had I never wanted to act, I would have never learned to perceive the world around me in such great detail with such empathy. Had I never felt so much passion for something so different than my peers, I would have never known what it is to pour my soul onto a page. Had I never envisioned my life the way I thought it would look by now, I would have never met some of the most influential players in my life’s journey. I am still that same girl who wrote musical theatre reviews in her journal and thought her elementary school buddies would be bridesmaids at her wedding.
And yet here I am, no Tony award in sight, surrounded by friends from all stages of life, connected to my past but fully invested in my present. My bridesmaids represented all stages of my life thus far, not just one. I look toward the future not with a predictive eye but an openness to the expansion I know I will experience. I have not broken up with my past visions, I have let them morph and blossom. I have not buried my former self, I have let her come alive into the now.
We cannot possibly know what our story will look like in ten years – or even two. Our passions might shift, our dreams might change shape. Our circles of friendship might evolve and our opinions of what we want will most certainly move with time.
Yet through each season, each shift, each page turn, there is one thing that’s certain: we will be so much more.
WANT Yourself: Do your current passions and visions match the ones you’ve had throughout your life? Have you ever felt scared to embark on a new path, in fear of abandoning your former self – and if so, how did you learn to embrace the path you’re on? Leave a message in the comments – your story might just be what someone else in our community needs to hear.
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Seven years ago, I was going through a huge life shift. Or, rather, I was about to go through a huge life shift – I just didn’t know it yet.
I had just moved to Venice Beach, gotten a steady job at one of my favorite fitness studios, finally gotten over a rough breakup, and was starting to feel more like myself than ever. I was starting to realize that maybe the life I’d planned out for myself wasn’t the life I was really supposed to lead…and instead of being scary, that glimmer of a thought was actually starting to feel freeing. Basically, all of my channels were open for change – I just didn’t know what was coming next.
It was also around this time I started running. Every week, I’d lace up my New Balances and drive to the long stretch of grass along Ocean Avenue and just go. I’d call them my thinking runs: the time that was just for me, where I could zone out and tune into what my heart was really saying.
One day before a thinking run, I was looking for a way to tune into the radio show I’d been listening to on my drive over (I miss the car radio in NYC!) and came across these new things called “podcasts.” My first observation? There weren’t a lot of female hosts. Finally, I found one. The Goddess Factory by Abiola Abrams. Looked promising. I could get down with goddess talk.
Well, I ended up becoming HOOKED. I found Abiola’s enthusiastic yet no-bs outlook on life just the type of inspiration I needed. It felt like she wasn’t just talking directly TO me, but like she was a friend who was giving me permission to be as passionate, deep, silly, funny, and BIG as I wanted to be. It was just what I needed to catapult me into the next stage of my life, which ultimately, has led me right here. It sounds kinda cheesy to say I couldn’t have done it without her, but honestly – I couldn’t have done it without her.
Abiola Abrams is an award-winning author, advice columnist, motivational speaker, and certified life coach who has given her life-changing advice on networks from MTV and BET to the Discovery Channel and the BBC, as well as being a popular advice columnist for Essence and on sites like Match.com. Her bookThe Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Lovewon Best Self-Help Book at the African American Literary Awards. As what she calls the “Midwife for Your Inspired Life,” her online empowerment programs help women to answer and rock their callings, by turning self-love to self-launch. She is the founder of the women’s empowerment blog and web series on SacredBombshell.com and the podcast Spiritpreneur School, aka – yes – The Goddess Factory. (and yes, I know. She’s a master at naming things. Just you wait ’till you listen to the episode)
I LOVE each twist and turn of this conversation, talking everything from what to do when you feel like other people just don’t quite GET what you’re about yet and sticking to your guns when it seems like everyone else is getting ahead, to getting your voice heard even when other people are trying to manipulate it to their liking along the way. We also talk about being an extroverted introvert and getting swept up in the bigness of whatever’s going on around you, and whether you’re super extroverted or incredibly introverted, how to stay grounded AND enthusiastic even when life is demanding a lot of you (especially when things are really good and borderline overwhelming, which are the times that can sometimes throw us off the most if you’re anything like me).
We seriously could have talked for ages – you’ll hear, her energy and genuine enthusiasm are infectious. Make sure you download this one everywhere you listen to podcasts, because you’re gonna wanna go back and re-listen later. I know I will.
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