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I have come to love and appreciate the unexpected nature of things.  I now relish the fact that I don’t know exactly what my life will look like six months from now, and I certainly have no idea what six years from now will hold for me.  I do everything I can to stay present in the moment and allow the random and serendipitous nature of life to remind me how delicate my existence is within the chaos, and allow that beautiful uncertainty to mold the landscape of my path.

But not in my twenties.

Nope.

In my twenties, I had an effing plan.  I knew what my life should look like, and I was going to wrangle life into acquiescing to my vision through sheer will and determination.

My list went a little like this:

1. Get my undergraduate degree with the exact balance of good grades and keg parties.

Check.

2. Get a boyfriend, who I can take pictures with wearing our college colors at sporting events, to blast all over Facebook and save for our eventual wedding montage.

Check.

3. Immediately attend graduate school for no reason other than being an overachieving, Type A control freak.

Check.

4a. Leave graduate school with an exact plan of action, in which my career mirrors everything I learned in the classroom.  The return on my educational investment will be realized through a long and lovely career in the field I chose at the wise old age of 18.  

4b. Live happily ever after.

Um. No.

In my mid-twenties, my wrestling match with controlling my life gave way to an unavoidable tornado of external factors that scooped me up from my job using my degree and plopped me down, back in my hometown.

It’s so interesting in retrospect to think about how terrified I was to let life happen.  I believed that with white enough knuckles, paired with blatant denial that there were things in life beyond my control,  I could flip the switch and somehow be more powerful than the unpredictable forces that swirl around us at any given moment. I viewed the unexpected as failure, and change as the enemy.

So, what happened?  How was I finally able to get past this little fantasy world I had created for myself?

I wish I could tell you about this perfect moment when I was sitting in a meadow, cool breeze blowing through my hair, and a simple yellow butterfly landed on my shoulder, and in a flash I was completely aware of the delicate and beautiful nature of life.

Wrong.

I got my heart broken. 

Not just like a little broken. I’m talking heart-smashed-with-a-hammer-and-put-in-the-blender broken.  This particular blender mix of broken heart is only achieved through by the Great Game Changer of Betrayal.

I don’t want to fixate on this, because it was this amazingly awful thing that happened to me that pried my (white-knuckled) fingers off my life.  This crazy pain literally forced me to view life in a completely different way and profoundly proved that I had no control over the people and the things around me, even the ones I trusted the most.

Now I didn’t come out the other side of Blender Heart Syndrome without help.  I had amazing friends and family. But most of all, I had Charlie.

Charlie was the therapist I decided to see in order to repair my Blender Heart Syndrome (which I HIGHLY recommend). Charlie dropped knowledge on me like it was his job . . . which, I guess, it technically was.

But here is the Charlie Knowledge Nugget that changed everything: when you are outcome-oriented you have your sights set on a particular ending.  This can be a career, a relationship, a personal vision of yourself. (For me, it was all of those things.) And you begin cherry-picking things in your life that fit this particular outcome.  You work exceptionally hard to produce this outcome like you would a term paper or school project, assuming that hard work will get you to your happy ending.

I was like, “Duh, Charlie.  Everyone knows that.”

But he continued, and this is where it gets really good. 

He said that when we are outcome-oriented, we turn off the emotional sensors that make us aware of the present moment.  We are so fixated on producing our vision that we ignore warning signs, or clues in the life that is actually happening, by keeping our heads in our imaginary future life.

Mind. Blown.

He finished by saying that the best careers, the happiest people, and the best relationships are born out of being process-oriented.  When we’re consumed with an outcome, we can get knocked on our asses because we haven’t actually been paying attention to our lives. But if we live in the process, we’re in the moment as it’s happening, in tune with what is going on around us and within us.

I can remember sitting in his office, transfixed, because this was me!  And in a few simple sentences, he was able to help me frame my Blender Heart Syndrome in a way that took me out of feeling like a victim and empowered me to be in charge of my life in a totally new way.

(Have I mentioned that I highly recommend seeing a therapist from time to time?!  They are SO SMART!)

So I started looking at my life and deciding what I did and did not want in it. 

I did a Life Spring Cleaning and Remodel that not only helped me re-evaluate my relationships and career, but also gave me the courage to move to Washington D.C., with no plan per se, but rather with a commitment that I was going to pay attention to the clues around me and make decisions that resonated with my gut. I was going to ignore this culturally created vision of what I should be doing, or that I should be married, or that I should use my degree.

I banished “shoulds” from my life and embraced the uncertainty.

To say my life is better is an understatement.  In the last year I have been happier and more fulfilled than in my entire previous life combined.  I have literally shocked myself with my abilities professionally, and the subsequent doors that have opened because I was willing to risk it and challenge myself.

Am I using my degree?

Nope.

Am I married with 2.5 kids, as was the plan?

Not even close.

But am I living my best life for me and the people in it?

Hell yes.

Here’s the kicker: all of this was possible without getting my heart put in a blender.  Charlie says that oftentimes, that type of trauma is what it takes to shake you out of your should-outcome-fantasy. But here’s my challenge to you. 

Do it on your own terms.

 You literally have NO idea what you are capable of.

So get to it.

Tara Sampson started out, as most do, with the intention using her Master’s degree in her career. She was initially successful in this effort working as a Child Life Specialist at the MUSC Children’s Hospital in Charleston, SC. After a few years, she left the gorgeous coastal town to return to Gainesville, FL where she serendipitously fell in love with the fitness industry while working in management with Gainesville Health & Fitness, and left the tangible application of her Master’s degree in the past. After four years in Gainesville, it was time to switch it up. Tara rented out her home, sold her furniture and moved a carload of her belongings to Washington, DC for a fresh start. This start began in the basement of her cousin’s home with his cat named Stinky, but quickly turned into her own apartment and a position as General Manager for VIDA Fitness. Through her time in the health care and fitness industries, Tara developed a passion for pushing boundaries in health and redefining proactive and preventative health care. Most recently Tara was offered a chance to join One Medical Group, an amazing start-up literally transforming the delivery of health care. Tara is now the Regional VP: Enterprise for One Medical in DC, and uses her diverse background in health care spectrum to integrate the One Medical vision into the DC community. Oh yeah…she also has this blog highlighting her generalized awkwardness specifically in relation to dating: www.redefinesingle.blogspot.com. Her sister has endearingly renamed the blog, “Tara Will Be Single Forever Due To Oversharing On The Internet.” read more about
  • http://www.coloredgirlconfidential.com/ LC | Colored Girl Confidential

    Loved this!

    • Tara Sampson

      Thank you so much! It’s always amazing to write about something that feels so specific to me, and have it resonate with others! I’m so happy you enjoyed it!!

  • sheneeee

    OMG. THIS JUST BROKE MY WORLD OPEN.

    thank youuuu

    • Tara Sampson

      Your response seriously MOVED me! Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond in such a powerful way!

  • klever

    can you elaborate on what it means to be more process oriented?

    • Tara Sampson

      For me being process oriented means staying really focused on how things in the present moment are making me feel. If a friendship is causing me anxiety I address it immediately to clear the anxiety from my life as opposed to in the past where I would just assume it would figure itself out to avoid the conflict. By looking ahead to the future (a future I constructed with all sorts of “should’s”) I was not at all paying attention to what was happening in my present-moment-life…which, when you think about it, is really all we have! So I listen to my gut, pay attention to the details and clues of things happening around me, and do all I can to make decisions based on those things and not my vision of the future, or my hope that things will just magically turn out the way I want them to. The magic is in the process…and the outcomes from living that way have quite literally changed my life.

      I hope this helps! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you want to continue the discussion!

      Thanks so much for reading my little piece and taking the time to reply.

  • Mindy Miller

    Tara my friend, you have a gift with words! Keep writing :)

    • Tara Sampson

      Thanks, Mindy!! You know I will!!

  • Gilda

    Such a blessing for you to learn this sooner rather than later. I still don’t “get it” with many more years on earth than you but I understand it in my head. You explain it perfectly, I just need the remedial class! Thank you for sharing this insight!

    • Tara Sampson

      Thank you for reading it and for such kind words!

  • Quazi Sabir

    A truly refreshing read among so many crappy blogs.Likle the term : Process Oriented! I live my life based on this philosphy!! why plan and fret over what will happen after 10 years?? Make the most out of your present situation; even the troubles you are going through gives you enough reason to look forward!! and yes, you are so true, you cannot have a master plan as you dont have control over people around you! you cannot plan for accidents or unexpected events!! For example: i accidentally came across this article and this gave me a lot of confidence to stick to my philosophy!! Great job Tara!

    • Tara Sampson

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m so glad you accidentally stumbled upon this little essay, and that you took the time to write! Thank you again for the feedback!!

  • http://essenceofstrength.blogspot.com Essence of Strength

    Moving from an outcome-oriented to a process-oriented perspective is a challenging road for us Type As. The most important thing is to listen to and believe yourself. By remaining authentic to who you really are, your process will lead you to the proper outcome. Your story is a powerful example of that.

    • Tara Sampson

      Thank you so much! I agree, listening to your gut can sometimes at odds with listening to your Type A, but once you figure it out it is truly a game changer!!

  • The Book Wheel

    Thank you so much for sharing this! It really resonated with me and I appreciate you opening up!

    • Tara Sampson

      I’m so glad it resonated. It’s always so interesting to have what you think is a uniquely personal experience, and then have it make sense to so many others. It is a supremely cool and humbling thing! Thanks so much for taking the time to give your feedback!

  • Giselle Jones

    Loved this one. I need to focus on the process rather than the end. Well said. I struggle with this but this has been a big aha moment. I definitely hit the reset button this week. Thank you for the insight.

    • Tara Sampson

      I love aha moments that press the reset button!! It means so much to hear that my aha moments (aha moment credit goes to Charlie) press the reset button for others too!

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