My mom never believed in the "yellow press", therefore, our household did not subscribe to the fashion or entertainment magazines such as Elle, Hello, Us Weekly or the like. She also didn't believe in activities that wouldn't serve a monumental purpose in life: instead of taking ballet lessons or learning to play an instrument, my sister and I were sent to study foreign languages: "You are not going to be dancing on the Champs Elysees to find out where the train station is..."
Still, those women's magazines always held a special allure for me. Ever since I was eight or nine and could read without difficulty, I searched for their inviting front covers buried below the black and white all-serious and boring daily newspapers atrociously named "Politika" (Politics) or "Borba" (Warfare). We would visit friends and while the moms were having coffee and chatting, I salaciously rummaged though piles of magazines I'd find in a rack. Even better was going to the hairdresser's with my mother as there was a myriad of choices for me to plow through.
Let me explain: I was actually not interested in fashion or celebrity gossip or the latest trends or recipes. I would always focus only on the regular two-page column, lodged somewhere towards the end just before the weekly horoscope. It used to be called "In Confidence" or "Tête–à–tête" - the Serbian version of "Dear Abby". This is where anonymous readers would send letters seeking advice on various topics. One was resentful of her successful sister. One was in love with her married boss while she was engaged to be married herself. One had a dark secret and was now wondering whether he should tell his grown-up children. These little snippets of everyday human drama that were life-altering for the senders but mere page-fillers for the magazine left a deep impression on me. What I equally loved reading were the answers of the in-house psychologists. I loved their cool-headedness and their dedication to getting to the truth, although sometimes neglectful of the outcome for the involved family members. Or bosses...
Many years later, relocating to Canada, I re-discovered my interest while waiting in doctor's offices, reading Mary Walsh's (Elle Canada) snappy, funny and sometimes down-right mocking and inappropriate responses to similar questions. Each time I read her answers my intrinsic sense of fairness got triggered. As a result the literary equivalent of the DIY child-psychologist awoke. I started thinking through then writing down what I thought the response should have been, both to solve the problem at hand, but also to honour the confessor for her or his bravery, always aiming to leave them better off then when they started. I never abused their vulnerability.
This quickly spilled over into my day-to-day life. Whether because my life up to that point resembled a conglomerate of all Danielle Steele's novels zipped up messily together or because of the sheer fact I never - no matter what - lost the essence of the "I-will-figure-this-shit-out" attitude, people - especially women - flocked to me. I started solving not only their marital problems (in-laws included), I helped them parent difficult teenagers, talk to the bossiest of bosses and even master on-line dating, all the while keeping their sanity. They actually got to know themselves better. They actually got to like themselves better. And along the way, I actually got to love myself for real and for the first time.
With that one unexpected visit of the West Nile Virus that left me very sick and in bed for six months, unsure if I would ever drive again let alone keep my job - I finally stumbled upon what I know is my true calling: I am a Life Coach.
It's been over seven years since I graduated from the outstanding and reputable CTI, but more than that, it's been over seven years since I fully accepted that it is my unique style of life coaching that makes me come alive. There is something both elevating and sacred in the connection that forms between me and my... friend. I know, I know - I am supposed to say "client" instead. This is a legitimate career I've been told. But somehow, that doesn't really work for me. I doubt it ever will.
I somehow feel - or rather I have this knowing this is my life's Work. Capital W. And other than twice when, not really thinking it through, I hastily agreed to do career coaching with 'climbing the corporate ladder' being the ultimate measure of the success we co-created -- I never charged a dollar.
How can I put a price on the electrifying experience of asking unusual yet thought-provoking questions and witnessing the answers appear? How much for a mind-blowing 90-minute power-walk session where meditating on our happy cells was a major part of it and led to a surge of happiness? How do I link my mortgage payments to the divine task of what I feel is the wings assembly project? How do I combat dependency if I am creating and expecting a steady revenue stream?
These last few weeks, all of these answers simply and effortlessly unfolded in front of me as I had the best time at work in a very long time. There is nothing like being excited, alert and engaged while conquering an area to which one feels deeply connected. For me, that is working in the field of diabetes care. Deciphering blood glucose readings, recognizing patterns, matching insulin time action profiles to daily routines, sports activities and food preferences - it is like playing a nerdy version of the pharmacist's sudoku and completing perfectly every single row and column. This week I felt very grateful, very chosen indeed.
And then on Tuesday night's "me time", I got to meet face to face with what I am truly the most passionate about: nine unbelievably brave young single moms and their wise counsellor who have decided it's time to reach for their wing assembly kit and kick off the preparation for the day they’ll be ready to fly. I dreamed of this kind of work for a very long time and it has just started to happen. In the sacred manner of co-creating, we laid down the ground rules, we bravely opened up the vaults of wishes and vulnerabilities, and we clicked and danced as if our lives depended on it.
What was it like? Pure magic! My reward for this volunteering? When leaving the group home where these extraordinary moms live with their children, I felt like the superhero who made it home for dinner. There was this clear sense of leaving the world last Tuesday quite a lot better than it was before. No need to be modest -- I got to witness my super-power. It is a gift.
As a woman, a life coach and a “friend like me” I love, LOVE decoding the mystery of feeling everything from loneliness and low self esteem to becoming my own best friend and stumbling on happiness much sooner than expected; becoming the sassy, confident, best version of myself in love with life, “channeling” all it takes to witness a profound spiritual experience while in this human body.
"Friend like me" stems from an old wish of my own: "I wish I had a friend like me, like I am today", when I was sorting through one very eventful decade starting in my mid-twenties, trying to make sense of my seemingly unfortunate events.
The time has come to pay it forward in the most meaningful way. I don't have any daughters so, twice a month for two hours at a time, I will be adopting nine and likely more!
How am I qualified, skeptics might ask? Occasionally I run into a psychologist who is beyond freaked out by the outstanding results life-coaching can produce, given that it is still an unregulated field.
Let me put you at ease. My education includes courses and credentials such as: street smarts-y-pants, heart-break recovery expert, master level of single mama-hood, black market navigation champion, civil war evader, immigrating 101, snow 101, shiksa no more, 4ever honeymoon, mothering teen-toddler-infant simultaneously.
It is like a blended B.Sc.Life, Masters and PhD with the medal of honour, made out of fairy dust & PlayDoh.
Let's play - it is Dear Abby with a Serbian accent!