Hola gorgeous soul,
I am writing this sitting in my friend’s cafe, at the table adorned with brightly coloured glass tiled mosaic starfish. I helped her paint the legs bright umber one sunny afternoon.
Across from me, sitting at another sweet little table, is my Year 7 teacher Mrs Petersen.
She is retired now. 20 years on, she still looks exactly the same. Short brown hair. Stern but fair.
I am remembering a conversation she had with my mum one day as I stood beside them.
She wasn’t always filled with effusive, glittering words of praise, and yet she said:
“Leonie will go far one day. Maybe even be Prime Minister of Australia.”
And my mum laughed and said:
“I know. But let’s hope she’ll be better even than a politician.”
And their laughter tinkled together over my hair, onto the wooden floorboards, over the school’s verandah edge, down onto the green tracts of land.
For many years, I thought I would become Prime Minister.
Or at very least Mayor of our small home town.
I even used to caution family members against stupidity, when I was younger and obstinate:
“Don’t you do ANYTHING to embarrass me. I don’t want it on my personal record when I run for Mayor!”
I wanted to change the world.
I thought that would be the way to do it.
I ended up, somewhat by chance, somewhat by destiny,
working for one of the top executives of one of the largest Australian Government Departments.
I even spent time working for Ministers in Parliament House.
Some were decent, good men. Some were assholes.
I told a joke to the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
He was kind and had a craggy face. He was much more handsome in real life than any television shot of him revealed.
At 20, working in the executive offices, I met a woman who became a dear friend and mentor.
She reminds me of Mrs Petersen. Same brown hair, stern but fair. Wise and strong.
“I’m going to be Prime Minister of Australia” I tell her.
She studies me up and down.
She is war torn and weary from the effort of changing the world from within the bureaucratic system.
And she says
“Don’t do that Leonie. You are much too good for that. Change the world in a better way.”
I was still obstinate.
I studied Political Studies at Australian National University while I worked and become one of the top ranking first year studies in Economics.
I got four promotions in three years.
I was on my way.
And then one day, walking my familiar path between my office in plush executive land and my seat in the Economics class, I stopped.
I was in the middle of a park that lived between one of Canberra’s loop roads. No one knew of it except for lovers on secret trysts.
You could look out over Parliament House and the lake from up there.
The pine trees were tall and I was convinced there were faires around.
A big, deep realisation swelled over me, and almost brought me to my knees.
I stopped. I almost cried with longing.
“I’m not meant to be a public servant. I’m not meant to be Prime Minister of Australia. I am an artist. I am a Leonie. That is who I am meant to be. I need to change my life right NOW.”
I told my love the same thing that night.
The man who has always believed in me, unwaveringly.
I swapped all my classes at university for art history classes.
And I knew, without a doubt, I would one day make a living making my art, living my life as Leonie.
Changing the world in the way I was meant to.
I’ve always been an overachiever. Ambitious. Determined to succeed.
My brain would choose goals, and I would dutifully make them happen.
And yet it wasn’t my soul’s destiny.
I played. Experimented. Made art. Studied. Stopped studying.
Kept working. Tried new things. Got frustrated.
Wrote. Blogged. Ran retreats. Ran circles.
Taught tens of people at once.
Laughed as I ran hugging competitions at my work. Took glitter deep into the belly of the public service dragon.
Made mistakes. Grew a business. Got burnt out. Kept learning more business stuff.
Taught hundreds of people at once.
Got pregnant. Had a baby. Convinced my love to quit our jobs and move to tropical paradise.
Supported my family on an idea I had in a dream. Made a goddess business.
Taught thousands of people at once.
There is a tremendous power in letting go of old dreams.
Old goals. Old crap. Old stuff that no longer belongs to me.
I let go of who I was in order to be who I am.
One day, I will help a million people.
And I won’t do it being Prime Minister of Australia.
I’ll do it being Prime Minister of Leonie.
That’s what I was born to do.
That’s what we were all born to do.
Change the world OUR way.
P.S. My Year 7 teacher still has exactly the same belly laugh as she always have.
We never really change. We just become more of ourselves.
P.P.S. That public service mentor of mine? The one who reminded me of my teacher?
Not long after I left, she took her own leap of faith. She became a teacher.
I know utterly within my heart that that’s HER way of changing the world.
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