Every week or two, my life coach and I catch up over Skype. She lives in San Francisco, so it’s usually a morning affair. Kelly Notaras was my mentor in Bali during the Writer’s Mastermind, and I honestly believe that one of the main reasons I was meant to go Bali when I did was to connect with her. Each session is an hour that leaves me feeling both clear and full at the same time. Her powerful questions and unwavering insights help me open doors to new ideas, fresh realizations, new perspectives. It’s an hour of ah-ha’s.
Our last session was no exception. I entered into the call thinking we would be continuing in a similar direction as we’d been journeying for a few weeks now – my career and desire to start my own business. It started off that way, yet slowly but surely she’s honed in on a word, heard a shiver of uncertainly in my voice, and pulled on a curious thread until we entered territory I hadn’t wanted to explore in some time. I was talking about a future event in my life where I’ve been holding a lot of fear. We dug deeper and deeper into the ‘why’ of the issue, until I heard myself saying, “I just don’t want to live my life pretending.”
Then she asked me, “When was the very first time you felt the need to pretend?”
It took forever, but slowly she helped me cast my mind back to the first time I had to pretend. I was three. In a beautiful process that I’ve found hard to describe, I actually spoke to ‘Little Me’, the three-year-old Kamina. I knelt down beside her, assuring her that she didn’t have to pretend anymore. That she had nothing to be afraid of. That she could be herself, fully and completely, and that everything would be okay. As I looked into her big eyes, I felt a deep connection to myself I’d never experienced before. I felt like a river had opened up between us. The way a river connects dripping mountain glaciers to the mouth of the ocean.
Why am I telling you this? Because a few nights ago, I was reminded again of how important it was for me to drop the mask I’ve retreated behind more than once, and embrace exactly who I am. To embrace authenticity. To stop feeling the need to pretend.
To simply be me.
This week, I had the pleasure, and privilege, to listen to Turia Pitt speak at a Flow Athletic event for #30daysCLEAN.
Inspirational speaker and mining engineer, Turia has led a life fueled by determination. It all started before her HSC’s, when a teacher told her she wasn’t smart enough to take the classes required to become an engineer. She proved him wrong by earning top scores in all her subjects. Turia challenged and trumped the world’s expectations by graduating from the UNSW with a double degree (with honors) in Mining Engineering and Science, going on to live out her dream career at the prestigious Argyle Diamond Mine.
But her biggest challenge arrived in 2011, when the catastrophic Kimberley bush fires nearly took her life. She was competing in the 100 km Kimberley Ultramarathon when the fire encroached upon her. The damage to her body was overwhelming. The athlete battled through a 2-month long coma and spent countless months recovering with over 100 operations and countless hours of physical therapy.
Doctors told her it would take 10 years to correct the damage to her face, and that she may never run again. Yet, only a few years on, she’s participated with Variety Cycle on a ride from Sydney to Uluru, walked a section of the Great Wall of China to raise money for the non-profit organisation Interplast, of whom she’s an Ambassador, and so much more.
“I think there’s a little piece inside of me which the fire didn’t get to,” she said in an interview last year. And when you meet her… WOW… it is absolutely incredible to witness how she’s emerged from such horror and pain with grace, humility and an unwavering passion for her life. And for the people she loves.
Her resilience, perseverance and eternal gratitude for her life is inspiring, captivating and contagious. She shared her story, raw and real, and left us with some truths to ponder. All with a side of humor (she’s very funny!).
1// Take off your mask. Turia wore a mask for two years to protect her face and help smooth out her scars. It also became a part of her – she felt naked without it. But when she finally took off the mask, she was finally able to simply… be. To step out into the world with dignity and pride. That night she invited us to take of our own mask. The one we hide behind in order to fit in, to make ourselves feel accepted, wanted, loved. The people who really matter will love you for exactly who you are. It’s that authenticity that people find irresistible. It’s that authenticity that will draw you towards the people and the ideas and the jobs and the connections that will truly transform your life. So be brave. Step up and own your ‘onlyness‘.
2// Use your imagination. Before the fire, Turia spent every possible hour surfing, running, hiking, moving her body. When she returned home from the hospital, it was extremely frustrating, and confusing, for her not to be able to do the things that had once taken so much of her life. Eventually, she turned to a past-time from her youth – her love of reading. Stories were her escape. Books transported her to a different world, forgetting about her pain for even just for a few hours, and ignited her imagination. Kick-start her innate creativity. So, take time out of your everyday reality and tap into that boundless, childlike imagination that we all have buried under expectation, duty and the stereotypes of adulthood. Play. Explore. Dance. Dream. And never give up on that dream.
3// Practice gratitude, every day. “You don’t have to wait for something bad to happen to make a change,” said Turia. She urges us to stop wasting our precious time complaining about what we don’t have, and start celebrating the things that we do have. To shift our focus from criticizing our thighs to thanking them for allowing to wander and explore our community, our city… the world. Run while you can. Dance because you can. Because we’re human, constantly changing, ever-aging and never stagnant. So seize today, and make it count. Let’s stop hating on our bodies and start thanking it for allowing us to do all this wonderful stuff. Give yourself a big hug. Go on. Give it a big squeeze.
Turia Pitt is a passionate Ambassador for Interplast, a not-for-profit organisation working to improve the quality of life for people in the Asia-Pacific region with disabilities as a result of congenital or acquired medical conditions such as cleft lip and palate or burn scar contractures. Get involved or find out more about Interplast.
How has Turia’s story touched you? What mask do you want to be rid of, and what will it mean for you? What can judgments and criticisms of your life and your body can you shed, and replace with love?
I’m so looking forward to hearing your input in the comments below!
With love and light,