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Saturday, September 21, 2013

LA-versary :: Guest Post by Shanley Knox of Voyem

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I read somewhere that if you climb up high - on a roof or tree, for instance, your heart expands.

I believe in shakras - all this energy running up and down my body and affecting the way I breathe and live and love - my brothers, my work, myself.

"Stretch out," my friend's reading out loud to me out of yoga instruction for dummies. "Bridge pose makes you open up. You're all closed off. Put your heart out there. Up. Pull in with your ass, push up with your belly."

I do, later, on the plank wood floor of my apartment.

As a social entrepreneur I tell a continuing story. The right combination of visual assets and words can change a life entirely. More than one. I know that.

The story weaves activity together like a tapestry covered in coffee stains and scribbled out ideas. I'm bootstrapping, I'm pitching, I'm managing, I'm learning. Or maybe that's what it is all the time: 100% learning. No, 95.

Ive learned vast amounts over the past three years: a lot about people, a lot about being what my mom calls, "scrappy." I've learned a lot about hustling, about sales, about the way a start up can rise and fall in your heart so many times you get sea sick inside.

I've learned a lot about Africa.

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They say the more you know the more you know you don't know. That's been true for me. All the learning and finding what I didn't learn brought me to an impasse in the closed off place, stretched out on my own floor in a shitty Brooklyn neighborhood I could hardly afford. I wondered about the why behind all my experience. It's not just about the cause, you know. Not just about all the people you work with when you're a social entrepreneur. It's about you - your skin, your heart, your breath, your mind. You are the driving force behind all the bending toward sustainability.

That's exactly what it's like, too: bending. Africa already has a form - culture, custom, business, history. Shaping a new enterprise in all that already shaped up history is what I imagine it must be like to try and bend one of those great big metal horses I used to pass on the street in Portland. I was living in a one bedroom just over the Washington bridge. When I drove into town I used to picture myself pulling, then pushing, then climbing on the top of one of those great big pink metal horses with a sledge hammer and shaping it into something less awfully awkward.

I don't know why I thought about it. But I did.

Maybe anything can take you over the way an enterprise in Uganda has taken me. You must be in danger of it every time you give your heart away - to a project or a creation or a feat, or a person, even. I guess any time that you give your absolute all, your 150%, you're in danger of death by disappointment, death by never meeting your own, vast, expectations - trying to bend something that doesn't exactly want to give way to your heave ho, push and pull - getting gripped up by a story that pushes you into a narrative you didn't expect. Maybe that's the goal anyways.

"Your greatest asset is time," a woman in the space tells me. "Use it as wisely as you can. Don't put it in the wrong places on this journey."

Then she told me only I knew what the wrong place was. As an entrepreneur, I was the boss of where things headed. I called good enough. Not good enough. Right. Wrong.

One of the most healing resolutions of my journey was just that: it matters most what I think. Even if no one else was good with it, if I could get okay with myself, then I was doing pretty fucking good.

I stretched out on my floor, the day that washed over me. I wanted to open my own heart for my own life. After that, I stood in front of my full length mirror in the Brooklyn bedroom in the crappy neighborhood I could hardly afford, and I accepted myself. I accepted my tired. I accepted my defeated feelings. I accepted my skinny and my wish it were a little skinnier, my small boobs and my chipped nail polish. I accepted my fear and my worry, my over the top personality and my panic attacks at innoportune times. I accepted my budget and my barely being able to afford my rent. I accepted my start up not being where I wanted it to. And, then, I accepted all the things that had gotten me there. My risks, my stick to it ness - the years I moved to new cities by myself, the times I said no. The times I said yes.

I took a bow, just for myself. For my own, private performance in my own, scary, big, little, hard, tolerable, magical, sometimes wild life. And I thanked myself for it.

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I started over, then, with a little bit more of an open heart - if not for all the work of shaping of a social enterprise in Africa...the shaping of a fuller spirit inside of myself.

(Doesn't Shanley have such a way with words? She is an incredible writer and a huge inspiration for me. I'm addicted to her blog, Voyem; be sure to stop by over there and say hello. Thanks, Shan, for sharing your life with us! Come back tomorrow for a beautiful giveaway from her awesome company, Nakate Project. She'll be offering up a promo code too! In the meantime, you can view my other LA-versary posts and guest posts if you'd like. Thanks for all of your love and support this month! You guys are truly great!)
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