My story of unwrapping the gifts inside of me

Virginia, Unwrapped

I would like to share my story—unwrapped, not from the end, but the beginning. There are a lot of people living wonderful lives with unlimited possibilities; they have unwrapped experiences, yet not all of them share it with the world and I believe that sharing our stories are of incredible importance to others because we all can grow from one another. I consider myself a teacher, yet a student every day.

I always wanted to live an unconventional life with freedom, beyond the conventions of society standards and what other people think. I strive for authentic living an expression. I always wanted to become an ambassador of freedom, being myself wherever I went. As a kid, one of the things that I hated the most were uniforms. I wore uniforms in the schools I went to until the University, and I disliked the societal need for uniformity that discourages people to be themselves and have clothing as a means of self-expression. I thought that when I was older, I was going to do whatever I wanted to, dress however I wanted to, only to realize that the corporate world was a form of school where a uniform was part of the etiquette. I started by wearing golden earrings and gold jackets with pants or feminine dresses, to wearing black jackets and black pants and white shirts to go along, to a point where I had 20 different types of black pants in my closet. What happened to my dislike of uniforms? What happened to the ultimate self-expression? I will say it: Distraction happened.

In some cases, I was working 60- to 80-hour weeks, travelling worldwide various weekends out of a month or bi-monthly. I was distracted with work, launching products worldwide with meetings at night, too distracted to pay attention to my deepest heart desires. I climbed the ladder of achievement and every day I was getting prepared for the next growth or leadership opportunity. At the beginning, the idea of achievement was like a gold mine. It was exciting to travel to places I have always loved and always will; traveling ignites in me the sense of curiosity and exploration I have always longed for.

Yet one day, travel started to feel longer—and a 24-hour flight soon felt like 48 hours, like being jet lagged and working continuously. I felt senseless, and this inner drive, this inner courage kept nagging at me, asking questions like:

*Do you want to live your life out of a suitcase?

*What do you want to travel with?

*If you were 90 years old and seeing yourself from a rocking chair, would your life look like this?

*Would you like to be pregnant and on a 24-hour plane ride?

As they became a closer reality, seeing the next positions on the ladder stop holding the meaning they used to, and seeing the personal compromises and personal sacrifices a lot of my co-workers had to make, started raising big questions for me. You know, my dad always worked such long hours and I realized early on the sacrifices that could happen along the way. He also was there for every birthday and kept his promises, which I admired then and I admire even more now.

I have an inner desire to live a life of meaning, of freedom, of purpose—yet I felt guilty for wanting more. I thought, wow you have a great career ahead of you, great experiences abroad, really great people you’re working with, and so many learning experiences along the way—and you love doing marketing, so why are you wanting more?

For many years, I silenced my inner desire to have a wider expression of my gift and my dreams, until mid-life. There is something about mid-life, and this was my opportunity to revisit my life, be grateful and to design the future of it. The nagging of meaning became more like a scream and I could no longer ignore it. It was time…this was my time to UNWRAP.

So how did unwrapping came to me? Well…I can tell you that I don’t believe in coincidences. I think the universe is magical and the magic is there available to us. One day I was walking that the street to having lunch as I was feeling this internal “scream, be free, make a difference, make meaning,” I prayed for a meaningful career. I entered a store near my office; you know, this store had been there for five years and until then I hadn’t noticed it. As I walked through it I met Vicki, the owner, and she told me the story of her store and how she helps women with human trafficking. How they made everything in India and she helps rehabilitate them. She told me how, when she started, she saw a TV documentary about the women in India and felt she was called to service and help the women. Her determination was so powerful and she touched my heart. I cried when I drove to work, told my husband the story, and to this day, I feel like crying again when I talk about it. You know, this story may seem so simple for you, but it is so profound to me, because that day I made the commitment I was going to use my GIFTs for service and for a higher purpose, and since that day my life has forever changed. Vicki showed me that once you know or are called to do something, you have to make a decision, a commitment of service to the cause or work, whatever it is. She showed me how our life is the creation of our choices and commitments, and how not to look the other way.

I couldn’t look the other way anymore; I couldn’t pretend working in corporate was living my GIFT to the fullest. I knew I aspired to transform, to be a changemaker, and I knew I had a responsibility for all of the opportunities that life has granted to me at such young age. It was time for courage, time for change.

Yet I was stubborn and didn’t make the change; I kept rationalizing around all the investment I had put into my career and how would it would impact my team if I left. And one day, I went on a crazy rampage of self-help books, motivational music and I still couldn’t believe it—when I was at the cash register, I was wondering when I was going to read all of these books!

It was close to July 4th and there was a block party; I fell at a neighbor’s house and messed up my ankle, then had to go to the ER and work from home for various months until I could drive again. Yes, I know…sometimes you have to learn by falling; because I was too stubborn to listen while standing, I guess I need it a touch of humility. It is amazing how many more hours on the day I had without a million meetings and a two-hour commute per day. I started to reunite with myself, with my inner peace, and felt my awakening beginning. At this time, what once held so much value to me, simply didn’t anymore: External praise and pleasing others started losing validity, and my inner heart desire to start my own career happened.

I then subscribed myself to go to a retreat with Sunday Larsen, a woman who has forever changed my life. She has been a coach, mentor and friend—and I clearly remember one conversation with her when she said, “You know, doors open, but sometimes just for a period of time.” This was a reminder that timing is also important and that we can’t live pretending there will be always opportunities without really holding the real value for the preciousness of open doors in our lives. As I reunited with myself, I became freer, more confident, more aware every day. I decided it was time to let go of corporate and my old life.

Luckily or unluckily, some changes in the company made my life even more difficult at work—which really helped me in moving forward, since otherwise the guilt of leaving my team at that time behind would have been too much. It was time to be me, to be FRESH, to be real, to renew—and I just couldn’t do it confined in the uniform of corporate life. Leaving corporate was hard, I felt really sad leaving a lot of great friends behind and missed the international friends whom I really loved; yet I knew my heart will always be with people I love and cherish. It was time to let go of the ones that I didn’t, and those who had come to teach me the lessons I needed to learn at that time.

I started my company and as I did, I went through and unwrapping period, a transformation, an unwrapping that was like the shedding of a butterfly, little by little:

-Unwrapping my corporate life, letting go of clothes that I wore that didn’t feel real to me.

-Unwrapping my identity around what I do vs. who I am, and feeling free to be me everywhere I go was an enlivening experience.

-Letting go of the attachment to people I used to work with.

-Finding new ways to enjoy life, like walking in trails. Finding my own meditation processes.

-Dealing with my own fears of imperfection that usually came as procrastination.

As I let go, as I left my guilt behind, as I opened my heart to new opportunities, there was a sense of expansion, of renewal, of peace I can’t explain; a place of “free at last,” yet of unlimited responsibility to be the own author of my life. I couldn’t blame anyone else for my successes or failures, now I was the only one accountable for them.

I learned that I was stuck to the idea that my gift was marketing. For so long, I was trying to build a life around being a marketer for big companies and launching products, and while I love transforming products to reality and launching them, my full gift wasn’t marketing, it is transformation; it is seeing a vision and making it come true, seeing women expand and find their true potential, seeing business owners who are changemakers change the world with PR, marketing and stories, that can touch lives and the many lives of others.

It was magical when I realized my gift was transformation; it was like a veil in front of my eyes been removed and suddenly hundreds of opportunities came available to me: Innovation, renewal, personal and business transformation, changemaking business, conscious marketing. Oh, so many ways I could employ my gift, live it and share it with the world, I didn’t know where to make it available.

Making my gift come true has been one of the most growth-filled experiences of my life. It has changed how I see the world and others, and it makes me so grateful for the companions I have had along my side who have made my dreams come true—from divine support to designers, creatives, editors and my beautiful coach. A gift team that believes in me, no matter how crazy my ideas can be, and that powers my vision.

With support like this, you are sure that you are not alone.