Trends of 2017

This is not a post about business, tech, millennials, or vegan recipes. This is a post about trends in Rachel’s life over the past year. They won’t inform your investment decisions or tell you what flavor of Jeni’s Ice Cream best represents your life, it’s just a glimpse into one person’s tiny perspective in a world of 7.6 billion people. Pretty limited and probably pretty insignificant… could be fun, though.

1. Tacos

I ate a lot of tacos this year and I’m very happy with that habit. I hope I can stick to it.

2. Domination

This came out of those personality tests that people hate because they don’t want to be put in a box. Guess what kids, you’re already in a box – most of these are designed to help get you out of it. But I won’t get on, in, or anywhere near my soapbox.

The point I want to make here is that every test I’ve taken suggests that, if left unchecked, I may tend to occasionally sometimes become an insensitive and controlling asshole.

Enneagram… 8 (The Challenger)

Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive…but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating.

 – Enneagram Institute

Myers-Briggs… ENTJ (The Commander)

The underlying thought running through the ENTJ mind might be something like “I don’t care if you call me an insensitive b*****d, as long as I remain an efficient b*****d”.

 – 16 Personalities

DISC… very high D (The Eagle – as assigned by me)

A person with a D style is described as direct, demanding, forceful, strong willed, driven, and determined, fast-paced, and self-confident. They may be limited by lack of concern for others, impatience and open skepticism. They may fear being seen as vulnerable or being taken advantage of.

– DiSC Profile

The most interesting themes I’ve seen through all this self-evaluation are fear of vulnerability and access to anger. Not at all surprising, but interesting. More on those later.

3. Tension

Early last year I had lunch with a life coach. Now there are all sorts of these life coaches – some focused on fitness and nutrition, some focused on career advancement, others on relationships. This one was more of the hippie, we’re all connected, all part of the universe, that bug is probably your grandpa sort of life coach. Which means that (in true 8 fashion) it took about 60 seconds for my attention to drift from her description of my aura to her dangly amethyst earrings getting tangled around her crazy blonde curls.

She asked me to share a little about my life and as I sat there rambling, my ego convincing me there’s no way the two of us could possibly connect, she interrupted and said, “I’m seeing a theme.” Ecstatic to learn what my energy was telling her, I begged the question, “what’s that?”.

“You seem to insert yourself into places of tension.”

She didn’t have to say another word, I immediately recognized what she was talking about. I started trying to justify it, worried I was some sort of sadist or worse, that I cause the constant tension.

She interrupted again. She offered the analogy of a stringed instrument. Any stringed instrument requires tension to produce music.

I liked that. It justified my lifestyle and I was content to end there. She was not.

She suggested that tension is not enough. There is a precise amount of tension that has to be applied for the instrument to produce the appropriate sound. Strings often fall out of tune when they enter a new environment, or snap if the tension is too strong.

She tasked me with this:

Look beyond the tension to the resolution. If you can insert yourself into areas of tension, or create a healthy tension to bring two conflicting perspectives to an understanding, there is incredible potential for peacemaking.

I discovered an amazing joy in the practice of resolution. That singular moment that individuals with conflicting perspectives come to understand – not agree with – but understand each other. There’s a literal physical relaxation that happens but more importantly, there’s knowledge and wisdom gained. Ignorance and anger and self-absorption are defeated and a connection between two people strengthened, even if they do remain in opposition, staying in that healthy tension.

I think we work too hard to avoid tension. Avoiding it only results in our being overstretched and eventually snapped, forcing us to the painful process of being restrung. If we weren’t so fearful of places of tension, I think our lives would look very different.

4. Anger

I’ve always considered myself fairly anger-free. I don’t yell at people, I don’t get into fist fights, I’m pretty good at letting things roll off my back. But as I’ve been evaluating, I mentioned this to a friend, telling her it takes a lot to get me worked up or angry. Her response was “Rachel, it takes a lot for you to show any emotion.”

Gut. Check.

Journaling about it later, I realized I do get angry. And that anger impacts how I interact with people. And it needs dealt with. 

It also led me to look at my relationships with my closest friends, how much people know about what I’m really feeling, what I’ve felt or experienced in the past, or even in the present, and how it shapes who I am and how I view the world. The last sentence in that journal entry was, “Shit. I think I suck at vulnerability.”

5. Vulnerability

636x460design_014I suck at vulnerability. I don’t know how to do it. Or really when to do it. Do I just drop my insecurity about being in a serious relationship because I’m too afraid to disrupt my fiercely independent lifestyle and that I might fall in love with someone who won’t let my dog sleep on the bed over tacos and margaritas? Why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good taco with personal insecurities?

Then I started reading.

Henry Cloud, Donald Miller, Thomas Merton, all the Bible guys, they all say the same thing… I need to risk being known or I will never love others well.

I’ve convinced myself that offering love to others is enough, investing in their lives, their suffering. Then Thomas Merton called me out…

When we love thus, our friends exist only in order that we may love them. In loving them, we seek to make pets of them, to keep them tame. Such love fears nothing more than the escape of the beloved. It requires his subjection because that is necessary for the nourishment of our own affections.

Selfish love often appears to be unselfish, because it is willing to make any concession to the beloved in order to keep him prisoner. But it is supreme selfishness to buy what is best in a person, his liberty, his integrity, his own autonomous dignity as a person, at the price of far lesser goods. Such selfishness is all the more abominable when it takes a complacent pleasure in its concessions, deluded that they are all acts of selfess chartiy.

– Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island

We can’t possibly love well and only give, we have to be willing to receive.

The gift of love is the gift of the power and the capcity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.

– Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island

I don’t want to confuse love or vulnerability with intimacy. While I believe intimacy is an experience that should only be shared with a select few, vulnerability is a posture that we should all work to assume. It’s a willingness to let others see our own humanity in all its beauty and all its ugly.

But let’s be real, the reason most of us have vulnerability issues is because people are assholes. They judge and humiliate and manipulate, they use our vulnerability to their own advantage. But that’s why it’s a risk. And while I’ve been perfectly content to avoid any sort of emotional pain or inconvenience, I have to trust all of these brilliant minds, loving people, and dear friends when they all tell me that the reward far outweighs emotional trauma I might experience in making my dog sleep on the floor.


So there you have it, my 2017. Full of tension, anger, domination, and tacos. I’m going into 2018 with the goal of increased vulnerability. Which means an equal increase in margaritas. Have a drink with me?






Dating Ducking Sucks Sometimes

Yep, it’s another dating post. You’ve probably seen a dozen today so I’ll get to the point… dating is hard.

I’ve always struggled with the head / heart balance – do I follow my heart and jump in? Do I evaluate the situation and make an educated decision? Am I a romantic? Am I needy? Am I awesome? Am I a rigid bitch? I still don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know that one thing has been consistently true:

My gut is always more accurate than my heart or my head.

I had been dating a Bumble Bee for several weeks. He’s a great guy – he was new to Nashville, intelligent, respectful, cute little southern accent, weirdly obsessed with ducks – but since the beginning, I’ve felt like he just wasn’t that into it. In fact, just before our first date, he was taking forever to respond and kept delaying getting there, so I finally texted him “Hey, it doesn’t seem like you’re really that into this, so I’m gonna go hang with the girls. Have a great night!”

04e3848f5294ad9b6b4aa92f47e5fa159e20cd3419252dd817380faebbf3ce85He ended up being right outside and we had a fun first date. But that interaction kept happening in various forms over the next several weeks. I’d always question his interest and he’d always insist that he wanted to continue.

My gut would twist: He’s not invested in this in the way that you need or deserve.

But the two popular voices are the head and the heart – those are what you’re supposed to listen to.

My head would try to reason: He’s a workaholic, he travels a lot, you knew this going into it. It’s not his fault if you can’t handle that.

My heart would make excuses: You always pluck the seed before giving it a chance to grow, try to be more open to someone liking you. Give him a chance.

Two months in, I finally cracked. After 2.5 weeks of no face time, I sent the ultimatum text (yes, texts aren’t the best medium for the conversation, but this guy had my head in a weird state):

“Oh man, Bumble Bee, you’re killin me with this on and off stuff! I just need to know where your head is at. If you don’t have time to get together (or don’t want to) just tell me and I’ll bow out gracefully.”

No response.

Next morning, annoyed and trying to distract myself, I started scrolling through Instagram. You already know where this is going. There’s the post – an adorable picture of him and his ex, captioned with how much he misses the weather and duck hunting in Oklahoma.

My gut immediately responded: Haha I was right!

I’m right a lot, and while I love to be right, I wasn’t as excited about this one. I felt like an idiot. Mostly because my gut told me on the very first date exactly what was going on, and reminded me regularly in the time following.

So what is it that makes us betray our gut – the thing that’s almost always right?

Culture tells us constantly not to hope, not to expect too much from anyone, not to trust anyone but yourself, not to let anyone have power over your thoughts and feelings. You don’t need no man, boy bye, bitch you flawless. Hope opens the door to vulnerability, to pain. If you let them cause you pain, you’re weak.

But being vulnerable is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’m terrible at it. It takes 10 times the strength for me to open up to someone than to keep my heart to myself, and it only grows more difficult the more I do it.

But I look at the friendships that I have that are absolutely incredible because of the vulnerability I can share in them and it’s so worth it. Because while all the brokenness and selfishness and Bumble Bees in the world might continue to hurt and disappoint me, the relationships that I can be vulnerable in are the ones that allow me to heal. They keep my heart soft and my soul full.

So I’m not going to close up, I’m not going to refuse to trust. I’m going to learn. Learn to recognize what I want in a relationship, learn to recognize what others want in theirs, and learn to trust my gut.

I Cried On My 27th Birthday

On May 12th, 2016, I turned 27 years old and I cried. I’m not an emotional person. Or at least I don’t express emotion often. But I did on May 12th for a few key reasons:


I imagine I don’t need to do much explaining on this one. Sometimes a woman’s body just says “Hey… let’s get the-fury-of-hell angry that someone had the gall to leave a pop bottle in your yard and then bawl uncontrollably about what a terrible person you are for having so much hate for someone you don’t even know.” Sounds reasonable.

I’m still a child who needs mommy and daddy.

I tend to feel a bit guilty for leaving northeastern Ohio, and while it’s rare, I do get homesick at times. I love the idea of taking the kids that I don’t have yet to Sunday brunch at Grandpas, making Christmas cookies with Grandma, or punching my sister when she teaches them how to put me in an arm bar.

But that’s not what made me cry. I cried reading their birthday cards and hearing them talk about how proud they are of me. They’ve worked so hard to love and support me in all I am doing and hope to do in the future. I don’t think any of us would be happy if I gave that up.

People believe in me, even when I’m being stupid.

I recently sat down and made a list of what I know to be strengths of mine, and I realized that somewhere along the way, I had given up just about every one of them. I don’t play music anymore, I’ve avoided leadership roles, a barely write a few blog posts a year… There are all sorts of terrible reasons and excuses I could offer, but my 27th birthday was an incredibly humbling reminder that wasting the gifts you’re given is purely selfish and cowardly. And that I have amazing friends who will give me a beautiful slap in the face to bring me back into focus. image_1463149838556

[What did that slap of love look like? Well part of it was a free recording session and this nifty little page:]

Papas are precious.

My papa (grandpa) was diagnosed with cancer a while back and this week, I found out it’s returned. He’s decided not to fight it. He’s 80 years old, loves people better than anyone I know, and has no interest in delaying his face-to-face with the Father he’s devoted his life to. Logically, there’s nothing sad about that at all, but I will miss him terribly.

I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

I mean, who does at 27? My driver’s side mirror is duct taped to my door, I started budgeting only to find that I spend more money on my dog’s “needs” each month than I do my own, I wear Bruce Springsteen t-shirts to work, and I haven’t gone to the doctor, to any doctor, in 3 years.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 6.37.58 PM

But hey… I’m healthy, I can put food on the table and in the dog bowl, everyone loves Springsteen, and the duct tape is black and totally blends into my black car. You can’t even tell from a few feet back. So I think I’m doing alright. I can be wise and ridiculous at the same time. If anything, my life is too together. Too regimented, too safe, too old. I’m a kid with no ties, few responsibilities, and a whole lotta world in front of me.

So, if anyone wants to be wisely ridiculous with me, please reply below with your recommendations.

Let’s enjoy my 27th year of life together.

I’m Going Back

Sorry mom, I’m not moving back home. This is a different kind of back. It’s a perspective change, a different mental state, a repentance, label it what you will. The point is my head and heart are in a place I don’t want them to be, so I’m going back to move forward.

I’ve had a rough few weeks, particularly with work. I’ve been overwhelmed, stressed out, annoyed, and my way to cope with these things is to isolate. I cut off everything around me to dig deeper into the very things that are stressing me out. Luckily, I have some smart people in my life who have helped me realize a few things:

1. I have no sense of rhythm.

As a musician, I’ve always been painfully aware of my lack of rhythm. I have to play with others who have strong rhythm to keep me on track, or completely by myself so it just doesn’t matter. What I didn’t realize until very recently, is that I have pretty poor rhythm in my life as a whole. I drive forward until my strength is depleted and I’m shot back down, rather than a gentle swing between action and rest. Like the chaos of a roller coaster instead of the steady beat of a pendulum.

2. ENTJs are not very good at relationships.

I call myself a people person. I like people for the most part. I just don’t always have the patience to deal with their feelings. So when there are lots of feelings happening, my response is either to 1) tell them to grow a pair and move on, or 2) leave the room. People don’t respond to either very well. A56777932.jpgnd even worse, sometimes I really struggle to care that they don’t respond well.

There’s a personality site that articulates it perfectly: “The underlying thought running through the ENTJ mind might be something like ‘I don’t care if you call me an insensitive b*****d, as long as I remain an efficient b*****d’.”

The problem here is that, again, I end up in isolation, disconnecting myself from the people around me. As someone who genuinely cares for people and wants to have positive impact, isolation is not an option.

3. I need help.

This one scares me a bit because I’m usually unaware of it. I’ll apologize for setting a mug down on a coworker’s desk so I can open the conference room door, never considering that I  might simply ask the coworker to open the door for me. Or I’ll dig myself into a rut trying to accomplish something I’ve convinced myself I should know how to do, rather than stepping back to consider I actually have no idea what I’m doing.

4. I need to shift focus.

I love my job. These issues aren’t job issues, they’re Rachel issues. The focus of every aspect of my life for the past three weeks has been my to-do list. I wake up in the morning and before even getting out of bed, I check my calendar to see what meetings I have for the day. From there, I feed the dog and start going through the list of things I have on my plate. I figure out what shirt I’m going to wear with the same jeans I wore yesterday and I start narrowing my list to what has to be accomplished today. Then, I brush my teeth and decide what between-meeting windows each task will fit into. Finally, I go to work, add more to my to-do list, check a few things off, sleep, and repeat.

My joy and satisfaction are dangerously low.

I don’t take the time to see how our new hires are acclimating. I don’t take the time to teach and refine the content writer I’m supposed to be leading. I avoid my boss in the attempt to avoid more to-dos. I grunt a “hello” and “goodnight” to my roommate as I get home each night. I struggle to connect to my neighborhood kiddos when I actually manage to spend time with them. And my poor dog has not had a good cuddle in far too long.

I’ve disconnected from the only thing that I truly care about: people (and my dog).

5. The only thing I truly care about is people.

There’s part of me that likes to believe that I don’t need people. I don’t need your help, your love, your approval, your support. But we simply weren’t created to live in isolation. We are communal beings on every level, dependent on each other for survival, for joy, for  truth, for growth, for rest.

I need to pour into you and I need you to pour into me. That’s the only way we’ll be remotely happy in this ridiculous world. I miss my people. I miss serving you. I miss challenging you. I miss seeing you discover and tap into passion. I miss helping you wrestle with truth. I miss you. So I’m going back and we’re moving forward.

Please Stop Calling Me Brave


Well, we’re in!

We have two full-grown women living in this tiny house with two cats and a 70lb dog. And the smallest bathroom I’ve ever seen in my life.

But my piano fits in the living room!

It’s funny–since I moved in, I’ve just wanted to invite people over every day. I’m usually the type that likes to come home and talk to my dog and no one else. But there’s something about this place that makes me want people walking through it day in and day out. And no, it’s not because I’m afraid of the ghetto. It’s actually very quiet aside from the trains (which I LOVE by the way, they’re huge and powerful and awesome).

I keep hearing things like “you all are so brave” or “you’re an idiot, you’re going to be shot if you get home after dark.” I think you all would be very disappointed in how not-scary this neighborhood is. We haven’t heard any gunshots, no screaming matches, the loudest ruckus I hear is Percy shouting “Good Morning Miss Rachel, How are you today?! I do hope you have a lovely day!” as he’s crossing the street to take care of our next-door neighbor.

I’m not trying to minimize the danger that often comes with a culture of poverty. I acknowledge that we need to be smart, that there are people around us who would steal my things if I had anything worth stealing, or would love a chance at that cute little white girl. I mean come on, I’m hot stuff. But, that was true of the campus at Ohio University, too. And OU didn’t have Miss Brown.

The first time we met Miss Brown, she said “people might mess with your house, I’m not good at yellin, but I’m good at shootin’ em.” I have to be honest, I think I’d enjoy seeing little Miss Brown, no teeth and in her nightgown (the only thing I’ve ever seen her wear), step out on her stoop with a 45. The truth is, if someone uninvited walked up to my door, there’s not a person on our block who wouldn’t interfere.

It sparks joy to be sure, but it also makes me angry. Most people I know look at Jackson Courts and see a dark and broken place. I have something for you to consider:

In the past 6 years, I’ve lived in 9 different places. 9 different apartments/houses in 9 different communities, with 9 different groups of neighbors. I can’t tell you the name of a single neighbor–until house number 9. I never had neighbors greet me in the morning. I never had them welcome me into their home. They were strangers to me, and I was a stranger to them. You want to talk about darkness? Brokenness? My complete disregard for the people in need around me – that’s darkness. My unwillingness to help someone in need because I don’t want to step out of my world of comfort and privilege – that’s brokenness.

These people don’t need me. They don’t need Deb. They’ve been quite content without us day to day, they’ve faced hardship and challenges that I couldn’t imagine. I’m the new kid on the block, they’re letting me into their community, offering me support and protection. They’ve invited me into their family and haven’t asked a thing in return. If that’s broken, I’m damn glad I’m a part of it.

All in all, I’m happy with my move to 908. Yes, it’s a neighborhood of poverty. Yes, I can’t walk in my back yard barefoot until we get all the glass and concrete cleaned out. Yes, the door is an ugly color. You might think I’m crazy or brave or stupid, but my commute is 40 minutes shorter and I can watch trains, so I’d say it’s a pretty good decision.

High Heels, Harleys, and Sexual Frustration

I’ve been a little frustrated lately. I’m reaching that age–ladies, you know the one–there’s a great internal war going on. One side demands that I dominate the world as a bold and capable woman, the other insists that I get married and make beautiful babies that grow up to dominate the world as bold and capable men or women.

This debate makes it nearly impossible for me to date. Each side is afraid to commit to dating a man who might pull me to the other side, and so I go back and forth, trying to figure out what “my type” is.

Liberal or conservative? Spontaneous or stable? Wildly adventurous or deeply rooted? Harley or crotch rocket? Ok, so we all know my answer to that one, but trying to figure out what kind of men I’m attracted to is like trying to figure out what pair of heels to wear. There is an absurd number of them, all completely different, the pair I want to wear doesn’t at all match the outfit I want to wear, and if I’m being completely honest, I don’t want to wear shoes in the first place! So what’s a girl to do?

And then I actually have to walk in them–all day, step by step, over and over again. It’s a lot of pressure trying to convince a guy that he should keep going on dates over and over again! And friend, I don’t know how well you know me, but there is one key thing that regularly interrupts this date sequence for me: sex.

I make men wait.

And wait.

And wait.

FYI – men suck at waiting.

After being continuously rejected over the sex factor, it’s impossible not to doubt myself. It’s the 21st century. Sex is na20150208-230259-82979574.jpgtural. There are studies that prove it’s good for your health for Pete’s sake! Why am I letting good and beautiful men get away over something as simple as sex?!

My little sister called me last weekend. Actually, she texted me “Rach :(” which sent me into an immediate panic. Assuming my whole family just died, I called her.

Her boyfriend broke up with her unexpectedly. I could tell she was crushed and confused, but listening to her tell me the heartbreaking details, I was beaming. I mean glowing smile from ear to ear, there might have been tears of joy at one point.

My sister is an amazing woman. She’s been through a lot of really unfair shit in her life and somehow still has a heart of gold, ridiculously gentle and sweet. She gives her love so freely to anyone who needs it. Unfortunately, she developed a bad habit, I think around 12 or 13, maybe earlier. She started defining her worth in others’ desire for her love, particularly in men’s desire for her love.

She’s handed pieces of her heart to people who didn’t know how to protect it and she’s suffered greatly for it.

On the phone that day, she started recounting her typical arguments with her boyfriend, which had recently grown increasingly common. She told him that she wouldn’t move in with him, that his grabbing her ass in public made her uncomfortable and insecure, that she didn’t want to sit around while he got high with his buddies, that she wanted conversation and time together instead of jumping to sex at every available opportunity.

I sat there in awe as my baby sister taught me what it means to be a woman of value. How to demand respect. How to believe in the value of the individual and of intimacy. And then to have the strength to maintain the standards based on those beliefs, despite the awful ridicule and rejection it brings from the world.

Prude, naive, ignorant, judgmental, self-righteous, “a fucking waste of time,” I’ve heard it all. It’s lonely and disheartening, over and over and over again. But there was something so beautiful about my sister demanding more for herself. There was something so beautiful about her rejection of what the world told her to be.

I realize now what that something so beautiful is – it’s truth.

It doesn’t really matter what stereotype the men I date fall under. It doesn’t matter if I spend the next 10 years conquering the world or spend next summer on my honeymoon. (Like next next summer obviously, next summer would be ridiculous.) What matters is that in whatever company or situation I find myself in, I know the truth of who I am. Because if I lose sight of truth, I become who the world wants me to be and my value is diminished to the latest trend or cultural norm.

I’m too good for that.

I will live my life in strength and in love. I’ll conquer whatever part of the world I’m exploring at the moment and I’ll marry a man who seeks truth because that’s who I am.

And that man better be in damn good shape, all this pent up sexual frustration has to go somewhere.

Status Update (Ya, Another One of Those New Year Posts)

Happy New Year!

I’m not at all prepared for a new year. I don’t have any resolutions or big life goals. I don’t have an exhilarating feeling of renewal and opportunity. I don’t even have one of those things that you blow on where the little paper tube unrolls and makes a dying squeaky toy sound.

I do have a new dart board; that’s pretty exciting.

A lot has changed in the past few months, and if I really sit down and think about it, these changes have some significant implications for the coming year. So I thought I’d ramble about them a bit..

My Big Six of 2015

1. Fear is Stupid

It’s amazing that we are all so limited by fear when we are all so capable of amazing things. We have different fears that manifest in different ways, limiting our ability to understand others’ fears and their manifestations. We create a great big mess for each other, but are too afraid to be vulnerable enough to clean it up.

My fears are pretty easy to identify. Or at least I thought they were until I started actually telling people what they are. The general reaction is genuine surprise. People are surprised that my confidence is accompanied by fear of failure. ee32d794963183999cf0199638430990They’re surprised that though I believe I’m a woman worth catching, no man would want to catch me. They’re surprised that despite my bold pursuit of greatness and my childlike love for life, I am crippled by the fear of disappointing the people who love me.

These fears then send me into an awful state of laziness and I do nothing for fear of doing something disappointing.

The goofy thing of it all is that if we could just step forward in spite of our fears, we’d probably end up a lot closer to the awesome people we so desperately long to be.

2. I Live With A Female

I live in a little two-bedroom apartment with a wonderful little lady named Haley. I don’t know her at all, we met on the day she moved in, but she’s wonderful and our dogs are best friends.

Now I didn’t realize this until just a few weeks ago, but I haven’t lived with just females in almost four years. My past five living situations (I’ll just roll past how ridiculous it is that I’ve lived in five different places in four years…) have included men. A couple gay, a couple straight, an occasional woman mixed in, but always men.

I don’t have anything significant to say about this, just an interesting observation. I’ll let you know if I have some sort magnificent revelation about my inner woman.

3. Goodbye Camel, Hello Fox

I moved to Nashville after being offered a job at cj Advertising, a full-service agency serving personal injury attorneys. It had its ups and downs, I could list the good things or rant about the bad, but instead I’ll just acknowledge that I learned a lot, loved the beer camels, met some wonderful people, and I’m glad to be gone.

One day as I was standing at my desk, I got a phone call.

“Hey Rach, I have a series of questions I want you to answer, they’re all yes or no so that no one around you will get suspicious.”

I was immediately annoyed. I was in the middle of something, but it was a friend and I’m a good friend so I listened.

Me: “Hey Colton, I’m great, thanks for asking! How are you?”

Colton: “I’m good. Are you happy at your job?”

Me: “Am I happy…”

Colton: “Ya, just generally speaking, are you satisfied, do you feel like you’re accomplishing all you could accomplish, [insert 10 minutes of asking the same question in different ways]?”

Me: “No.”

He spent the next 45 minutes telling me about something he wanted to do with some company and a possible position that didn’t actually exist yet but might exist and that I might be a good candidate and that it was all top secret.

I hung up the phone and laughed as I told my coworker about how crazy my friends are.

After a few other conversations, an interview, and about a week on the new job, I finally figured out what it was he was trying to communicate.

I am now a proud employee of FoxFuel Creative, LLC. A strategic digital agency in Nashville, TN, founded by three brilliant men, one of which is my friend and boss, Colton Mulligan.

4. The Lady in the Fox Den

Did I mention that it’s me and a bunch of dudes?

10377237_10205479861856601_6851326808687808052_nFoxFuel has five employees, four of which are men. I love them all, they’re crazy brilliant and kind men who care about other people. Also, they’re men.

I’ve never had trouble being “a woman in a man’s world”, I can hold my own pretty well. But I have to admit, this little chapter is a bit more challenging. I’m wrestling through this internal battle of being gentle and compassionate and being a feminist. I know the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but it’s a tough balance to build. Two character traits of mine make it particularly difficult: I tend to take on the weight of others, and I have an innate ability to see the heart behind someone’s actions, which is what I then base my own actions on.

These are both wonderful and awful traits to have. They’re particularly difficult to manage in the business world because I’m a woman surrounded by men who equate meekness with weakness and submission with surrender. I’m quite confident that many have doubted me, have discredited me, have ignored me entirely.And while they can’t understand why I care more about them as individuals than I ever will about their profit, I’m also confident that in time, I will earn the respect and trust of my coworkers and clients.

Because ultimately, the next big thing always ends up the last old thing, and the greatest victory is shadowed by the smallest failure. The only consistent and unwavering truth in any field is that we need each other. From the blue collar mechanic to the 1% CEO, without other people, you have nothing.

5. But Really, My View of Men Sucks

Right before the whole fox thing popped up, I realized that I have a pretty terrible view of men. Which is funny because I like men. I tend to get along with men better than women and I like that I don’t have to talk about my feelings or body image or The Bachelor.

It may be more accurate to say that I have a terrible view of what my role is as a woman in relation to men. I’m a motivator, a rock, the elephant that carries the world. I carry the weight of others without reservation.

The problem is that I’m a really tiny elephant and I’m really bad at balancing an entire globe on my back.

6. The Peach Inside

Once I got past the elephant thing, I started asking other people who I am. Their responses were encouraging, flattering, ego-boosting, and all those warm fuzzies you expect. However, I have friends who are just as blunt and bull-shit-intolerant as I am.

There was one warning that I received from every individual I asked in one form or another: I am a soft fuzzy peachy person, until you reach the core.

I will give anyone almost all of me. Sweet and nourishing, tender and pleasant. But there is something in the pit of me that is hard and jagged. It’s not bitter or dangerous, but it is a fortress. It grew and hardened through life’s challenges and for a time, it was necessary in order to protect what is held within it. It didn’t seem to have an impact, I could keep it hidden beneath the luscious fruit with no real consequence, and I succeeded in sustaining others for quite some time.

In 2014, I ran out of fruit. The tender skin torn away, the sweet nectar depleted. My hardened core was left exposed. I couldn’t hide the anger and bitterness I held for people in the church. I couldn’t hide the guard and resistance that I built from my family’s destruction. I couldn’t hide the little hermit cave I built with weird scary things hanging at the entrance of my heart to deter anyone who might find it. I was terrified, humiliated, ashamed that I couldn’t offer more. And then I discovered people.

These people aren’t here to ask me for more. They aren’t here to ridicule my pit or tell me how to hide it. They don’t give a damn about the pit. They want to release what it holds inside.

Inside? I’ve been so focused on the pit, that I forgot what it was there to protect.

dscn0636There’s something amazing in that pit. A seed that at one time was small and vulnerable and needed protected. And now, it waits. Ready to grow and bloom, creating not just one little peach, but a magnificent tree that produces life season after season. That provides protection in the hurt of the world and sustenance in a starving culture.

I have life within me and yes, it is vulnerable, and yes it is small, but if I can just have the courage to break away the pit and face the sun, I will become a new fortress.

No longer sustained by my own fruit, this fortress will be a temple. A place of everlasting hope, life, and love.

And yes, you are invited to sit in the shade of my branches, but know that I won’t let you stay there–you have your own fortress to build.