Honestly, if you would have told my middle school self that I would grow up to be a life coach/business owner, my middle school self would run away because I NEVER TALKED TO STRANGERS (Kindergarten Cop reference, for all of my 90s kids out there). All joking aside though, I really didn't think I would be where I am today. People constantly told me I was too sensitive and since I was petite (still am), people assumed I was weak.
Most people assume since I'm a positive person, that I haven't known difficulties or haven't experienced struggle, but you know what they say about assuming. Everyone goes through their own challenges growing up and I've certainly had my fair share. Ask me about it sometime; I'm an open book. Though, as much as those difficulties shaped me, so did the good ones. I grew up loving school and dreamed I would be a teacher someday, which did end up happening.
But even though I loved teaching, there was still something missing.
In sharing some of the most memorable, and frankly, unconventional experiences that I've had, I hope to change the way people approach the way they live their lives. Society tells us the path is straightforward, but we all know that's a lie. My story has many starting points, but there's one that stands out in particular: It's when I earned a D in my English class senior year and wasn't able to go to a four-year college.
Intuition leads you to the opportunities that will help form you into who you're meant to be.
You read that right. We all have moments that define our character and that was mine. There are times when life will throw you a curveball and you're going to have to decide what the hell to do. I could have begged the teacher to give me a better grade, but that was the first lesson I had in not playing a victim in my own life. I earned that sh**; I deserved it. Instead of asking myself how that happened, I asked myself, "Well, what now?"
Pay attention to the synchronicities in life; they're the ones guiding you in the right direction.
The year before, a group had done a workshop at my school. Knowing I wasn't going to be attending college full-time, I decided to audition for it. The fall after my senior year, I joined the non-profit performing group called The Young Americans. For three years, I traveled around the country performing and promoting music education. During my time with the group, I taught 10,000+ kids in 17 states, ages 5-18 years old, and performed for over 100,000 people. I did two national outreach tours and a summer theater up in Traverse City, Michigan. It was the most transformative period of my life.
Being in a group that is made of people from all over the U.S. and travels to all parts of the world makes you open your eyes at the age of 17. Despite growing up in multi-cultural communities around southern California (and being Mexican-American), nothing opened my eyes as much as touring the country with the YAs. It's where I learned first hand what Brené Brown said is the first element of true belonging, "People are hard to hate close up. Move in".
It's something that I wish more people in the U.S. could experience to build up their empathy a bit.
We need it.
After leaving the group, I spent the next twelve years gaining confidence through different leadership experiences. I'm not going to waste time jotting it all down here. That's what my LinkedIn is for. What I will talk about (forever, if you let me) is my experience of living and teaching in Spain.
After earning my Masters in Teaching, I applied to the U.S. Department of State's Fulbright program in Spain. Out of 535 applicants, 61 people received a Fulbright grant. One of those people was me. That was the year where the seed was planted: that my classroom could be beyond the four walls of the room I taught in. I was a teacher and counselor not only to my students, but to my younger Fulbright colleagues too. After what I consider the best year of my life, I moved back to LA where I began teaching middle school history at an all-girls school. This is where it all came full circle.
All of my past experiences had been preparing me to be a life coach.
I didn't know it then, but when I began teaching at the all-girls school, those girls would give me the missing piece that I needed to make the leap into life coaching. The thing about teaching middle school is that you have to be real with them. Teaching those girls made me the best, most authentic version of myself. It was that experience that strengthened my natural ability to cultivate community & build relationships.
Was I scared to make that big of a change? You bet your ass I was! But if there's one thing that I took away from those earlier years, it's that you can't listen to anyone else when making major decisions like that. When I decided to join the performing group, my parents discouraged me. When I wanted to move to Spain for the first time, my now ex-boyfriend discouraged me. When I said I wanted to teach teenagers, a friend of mine said, "Are you sure? They're going to eat you alive!" Had I listened, I wouldn't be where I am today.
Seriously. Adults are THE WORST.
You know what my students said when I told them I was leaving teaching to be a life coach? They said, "Awww we're going to miss you!!" [There were lots of sad faces.] "But that's the perfect job for you, Ms. Otero! I mean, if you can coach us, you can coach ANYONE".
Kids are cool.
I'm on a mission to guide people to live more meaningful and intentional lives.
As a millennial, I know that we want our lives to mean something, to make every day count. We want to surround ourselves with soul friends, have fulfilling jobs, and have partners that can hold their own. Many of us also want to make a change in the world. Most of all, we want to do it on our own terms, but one of the hardest things in life is learning to trust our own intuition.
Today, I am focused on two things: helping people look inward to connect to themselves and helping them make deeper connections to the world around them. Together, we can start simplifying things in our own lives, so we can focus compassionate changemaking. Sometimes, us millennials just need a little bit of direction.
Well, don't worry... I've got the compass :)