Harnessing your life isn’t about holding yourself back and be waiting for a magical shortcut. It’s about striving, taking a leap of faith (if not many) and a spark of inspiration. Because, as the author Joseph Campbell once said “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging”. Here’s why.
The first time we met was on a dance floor. Both not in the best of places in our lives but on the right floor that night to just let it all out. Laughter made us click with one another. Hardships, overcoming and real care for one another still make us friends, almost fifteen years later.
As I look back at the path our lives have taken, there’s a thread in hers that I’m most familiar with: taking a leap of faith once your imagination has been lighten up. This is the main trait of those who prefer to strive instead of holding back, in order to thrive. This also makes for interesting and inspiring characters. Let them be Greater than nature or not.
In Miss Ginibean’s case, as I like to call her, I’ve only came aware of that thread this past spring. She had just graduated with honors (and a grant) from a very selective training program in wine waiting.
FROM MODELING TO WINE-WAITING
After a few years of travelling for modeling she came back to town. College became her new stage. There were no clear direction then of where she wanted to be, where she could foresee herself later. When we met, after her degree, she was one a few employees at a clothing store. Life was good, in some way. No “extras”, just “oks” in fact. Friends to see, places to be, a roof over her head and meals every day.
From one store she went to work to another, then another. Moving out of her folks’ place, in between. Searching for something to be, for a drive, as I started to hear from her. Making ends meet wasn’t always easy but, with a little help, she managed to still be on her own. After a few months, something better had to be, though. We weren’t going dancing that much anymore. Still, we’d meet for a meal or to share a bottle of wine. Statements she’d make – like “I need more revenues” and “I don’t know what I really want to do in life, there are so many interesting things” – started coming more often to my ears. When different signs showed her that the clothing industry had somehow given her all it could, she asked for advice and made some research for an exit door. Massage therapy it would be! At least until the initial hype dissipated. “It just wasn’t for me”, as she later said.
She still had to make a living. “Maybe I could give a shot at waiting in bars or restaurants!? Friends of mine are already doing it!” There was this new restaurant opening downtown. She got the job. Waiting tables it would be!
Because the place was relatively small, she was able to learn the nuts, bolts and perks of waiting tables. A little harder than selling a skirt or a jacket but still, there were skills she could use to get by. She also got into learning all things related to meals and menu preparation. The chef being of a great help with that. As it turned out, she became very good at her job. Enough to make some people jealous but she found something she liked; learning and sharing knowledge about wine with people. As a bonus, she met a guy. Even though everything wasn’t perfect, there were more “extras” than just “oks” in her life now.
Because it wasn’t always a full-time schedule, she managed to head back to the country. To her ex-grandpa’s now-her parent’s house. A place where the land, opened on the river, gave her almost all she wanted in fresh quality fruits, veggies and moments. “It wasn’t just long enough” as she used to say, once back in town. Almost like the jobs themselves. A business closing, another opening, another job. A change of mind, a change in ownership, some broken promises and, again, another set of dead ends. Another set of jobs. The fun of doing something she somehow liked never lasted. Hopping from one job to another had its toll. Leaving the boyfriend too. We could still manage to have our share of fun but it wasn’t the same. Something deeper was going on. It almost felt like a status quo; her going round and round in circles to find a drive, while trying to cope with and make the best out of what was thrown at her, figuratively speaking. Wine was still there though. She had grown to become familiar with it, actually. Like an accountant with numbers or a woodworker with wood species. Selling Chardonnay or Pinot by the glass had become her way to make a living.
Yet, about two years ago, things started to change. A few things went out the window and a different set of priorities appeared. Better food, less booze, more gym. Her smile got brighter. She still juggled with which path she wanted to follow but she had taken some options off the board by now. The best of those left actually came to me as a curve ball. “Hey! Guess what? I’ve applied to the wine waiting program at the Hospitality and Tourism Institute and I’ve been accepted. I’m starting next September! Isn’t it great?!”
“CLEAR EYES, FULL HEART…”
There was a spark in her eyes and a conviction in her voice I hadn’t witnessed before. Maybe she really had found something that gave her the drive she had sought for so long. Maybe… but time would tell, I thought. Time did tell in fact. She scaled back her living expenses, took less work shifts at the bar, ate even better than before, found her way to a local pool and, more importantly, put her nose in all the books she had to read and wine glasses she could sniff and taste. The gear shift was hard. Very hard actually. Doubts, fears, sleepless nights. It soon paid-off though. As for her first test, she got a mark higher than most students in her class.
For the eighteen months that followed, she kept pushing. Eating, reading, sniffing, tasting, writing, working, sleeping, repeat. Like if her mantra was “Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose”. Up to that day when, at the bar she worked, she told me about the last semester’s work she had submitted a few days earlier. The magic wasn’t in the vineyard she had to imagine or its region or the wine it would produce. The magic was in the back story, the spark that inspired her to make all those choices: her grandpa. The one she learned to know, as a kid, every time she went to that country house now owned by her parents. Agronomist by trade, I understood that he somehow taught and instilled in her the importance of the land, of responsible farming, and the benefits it could provide her, as well as to others. Those benefits being the fresh quality fruits, veggies and moments (with other people) she was often talking about when coming back from a trip there.
Her grandpa had long past away when I first met her, almost fifteen years ago. Yet, when she told me about that semester’s work, I understood how powerful these memories of her grandpa were. Enough to light up his grand-daughter’s imagination, so she decided to take that leap of faith and apply to this wine waiting program. Enough to inspire her in finding a way to overcome the hardships that came along such training program. So, once the program would be completed, she could help others have their load of quality moments to share with others. All that while enjoying what the land had best to offer them. Let the land be Bourgogne, Tuscany, Oregon or any other wine region. What mattered most was having access to these moments, and in Miss Ginibean’s mind, wine was the best channel possible for it.
The hours and efforts she put in that semester’s work and the final exam were well rewarded. As in both cases, she hit the highest marks in her class. Her teachers were so impressed by her overall performance during the eighteen months training that when came graduation time, she was given a diploma “with honors”. Atop of that, she was awarded a grant to help her in a wine-related business project she had submitted to the Institute. “Not bad for someone who has not studied full time in almost twenty years and had to work at the same time to complete this training!” as she told me afterward.
IN THE END…
For her to have completed the training is an accomplishment in itself. The “honors” and the grant are invaluable extras to it. The most interesting element of this eighteen months journey though is that spark she found in the memories she had of her grandpa. A spark that somehow changed her mindset. Because of the inspiration it brought (for making her take that leap of faith) and provided (during the training), as I mentioned.
Still today, when we talk about what we’re both up to, I understand that in choosing wine waiting, she didn’t only find another way to make a living – as modeling, selling clothes or waiting tables had been. She really found the drive she had sought during all those years. More importantly, she uncovered something that finally gave her the power to harness her life. “At last, things are more clear in my head. I know where I’m going now…”
Because in the end, when you look back at History, this is what makes the difference between those who prefer to strive instead of holding themselves back, in order to thrive: that desire to harness our lives. (Something that usually translates in having more influence on a life’s direction and its outcomes than being at the mercy of the blowing winds and things happening.) So you can fulfill yourself.
Making that transition, from desire to reality, might come with its curves and dead-ends, like Miss Ginibean encountered. Yet, in every striver’s story it’s possible to trace back one (if not many) spark of inspiration. Let it be a person, an event or even an object.
Just like in Miss Ginibean’s case, a spark sheds some light on an option or a solution path she had not seen or considered before. In return, it helped her stop going round and round in circles, made her take a leap of faith (in the direction shown by the dire-spark) and finally get beyond the problem she had been struggling with.
For Amelia Earhart, that spark was her first flight ever – as a passenger on an airplane. [link 1] For the Wright Brothers, it was a flying toy their father had given them on his return from a business trip. [link 2] For Steve Wozniak, the first of many sparks was the main character of a kids’ book series. [link 3] For Miss Ginibean, it was her grandpa.
What is the one spark that inspired you the most to strive so you could thrive? What happened afterward?