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  • Jacqui Chiari

The Whole-ish Truth

Updated: Feb 20

A few months ago, I wrote about why I started my business. While it was something I truly wanted to write about, part of my reason for writing it was business strategy. It's important for your audience and clients to understand your "why". As a new business owner, it's important to build trust with your audience. In general, the more trust and transparency you have, the more you will convert your audience into clients. And while I shared a lot in that earlier piece, there are still things I have not shared. And while, yes, I want to share these new pieces of myself in order to build trust (and hopefully attract new clients), this is 100% for me. Because I feel like I cannot move forward in my authentic and aligned business without doing so.


If you're in the Higher Ed Entrepreneur & Side Hustlers Facebook group, much of this will sound familiar, as it is essentially the written version of the Live I did on January 30, 2020.


So again, I will start with why. At its core, my "why" for starting a business is freedom. Specifically, financial and time freedom. As entrepreneurs, we get to opt out of traditional, capitalistic norms and practices that do not suit or serve us. I am opting out a traditional career. I do not believe I was built for the 9-5 office job. I can do it. I've been doing it for years. But that is not where I thrive.


I have always felt there was a different way of being, of existing in this world, outside of the 9-5 routine - the hustle - I just never knew what that was or how to do it until very recently. Now that I have found it, I can't see myself ever going back. I don't plan to job search ever again. Damn that feels good to say.


Essentially, I started my business because I want to live my life the way I want to live it. To have the time and energy to provide for myself and my family in the ways that are important to me. Without being completely and utterly drained in my mind and body. That's how I feel working in a 9-5 - physically and mentally drained. Through my business, I get to heal from that.


I started a spiritual organizing and sustainability coaching business because I have reaped the benefits of these practices in my own life. I know how life-changing it can be and I want to help others do the same. Through these practices, I have improved my mental health, reclaimed my precious time, and have exponentially more energy for the things I love to do. These practices hold a mirror to our lives, our habits, and our SHIT - both the internal and external materials and baggage we carry with us. This is healing work - it is messy and it is not easy to do on your own. That's where I come in.


And I walk alongside you in this healing, because I have done it myself and I'm still doing it. We are in it together. There is no judgement. And we learn to let go of perfectionism. We find beauty and joy in the process, the constant evolution.


And letting go of perfectionism is something I'm also learning to do in my business. Like I said, my business has been such an unexpected source of healing. More on this later.

So, how did I get here?


When I was writing the outline for my Facebook Live talking points, I first thought to start with talking about what happened in December 2018. Then I crossed that out. I had to go back before that. So I wrote, "May 2018" on the next line of my paper. But I ended up crossing that out too. So I finally settled on starting out with my college experience.


I attended the University of South Carolina from 2012 to 2016. I had what I describe as the quintessential college experience - I was an Orientation Leader, a Peer Leader, I worked on campus, I was on my sorority's Exec Board, a Panhellenic Recruitment Counselor, and I studied abroad - twice! To this day, I look back on my time in college and there is nothing I regret not doing, nothing I feel like I missed out on. Even still, there was this other side of the coin of those four years that consisted of immense amounts of undiagnosed and unrecognized anxiety and depression. From grades, to work, to personal struggles and heartbreak, I was anxious or depressed (or both) most of the time. Now, years later, I can finally see that I'd had anxiety since childhood, and just never realized it.


After graduating from USC, I went to grad school at Florida State University to earn my Master's in Higher Education. That was 2016 to 2018. Again, I had a great experience there, but it was incredibly challenging on my mental health. About a month and a half into my first semester, I was completely heartbroken. It destroyed me. So I went to counseling for the first time. Ever. As I continued counseling, I began taking anxiety medication. I still take it, and it has been a godsend. Throughout 2017, I continued to go to counseling on and off. I was using the FSU Counseling Center, and god bless them, but they are severely understaffed, so it was hard to get appointments sometimes. And I couldn't afford a private therapist. My anxiety flared up again a couple times that year, specifically when Daniel and I started dating. Everything was going so well that I was just waiting for it to all fall apart. So I was a complete mess the first few weeks of our relationship. As we can all see, I worked through that, and we're going strong over two years later. But I look back on that time and wish I'd just been more present and not so scared of it all ending as quickly as it had started - I think I would have enjoyed myself a lot more. But alas, that is my truth and I can't change the past.


In May 2018, I graduated from FSU and started my first full-time job five days later, almost 400 miles away. Looking back, I took that job because I had such low self-esteem, such imposter syndrome, that I did not believe I could get another job, let alone a job in the functional area I was actually passionate about. Even still, I wouldn't trade the year I had in this job. Not only did I meet some amazing people who grew to be lifelong friends (I just got the Save the Date for one of their weddings, and most of them will sure as hell get invited to mine), but it's also where I became Kona's mom. And he is worth everything I struggled through that year.


By late October 2018 (just over 6 months into my job), I told my supervisor I would begin job searching in January. Then on December 14, I traveled home to New Jersey to say goodbye to our family dog, Adi. She had been sick with cancer for a long time, and it progressed to the point she could barely walk. Her quality of life was non-existent, and it was no longer fair to keep her around. The next day, my family surrounded our sweet girl, only nine years and seven months old (to the day), as she took her last breaths in this life. She left us far too soon, but the love she gave while she was here was more than a dozen humans give in their lifetimes.


Not only did losing Adi completely destroy me, but I was wracked with guilt that I had spent so much of her life away from home - in college, in grad school, working. I left for college when she was three years old, and then only saw her when I was home for breaks. I'm still working on forgiving myself for that. But I think I'm redeeming myself at least a little bit with Kona. He's mine, for the rest of his life. And I'll never leave him.


An interesting side note - a friend of mine recently told me that when we got together for dinner over those 2018 holidays, I told her that if I wasn't in student affairs, I would be a personal organizer. I have absolutely no recollection of saying this. But I trust her.


When I returned to work in early January, I was deeply depressed. The culmination of losing Adi, being in a job that was making me miserable, and going on month nine of being long distance with Daniel, all pulled me into the darkest place I'd ever been. So I called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I called because I was scared, and I didn't want to do what I was thinking about doing. But also because I didn't have access to any other mental health services at the time. When you call NSPL, they connect you with the nearest call center based on your area code. So even though I was living in South Carolina, I was connected with someone in Westfield, New Jersey - the town over from where I grew up. I don't remember the name of the man I spoke with, but he 100% saved my life. He told me it was okay for me to be so sad about Adi. He helped me remember all the people who I love, and who love me and count on me. Even though I'd never met him, he was familiar. He reminded me of home. I am forever grateful to him, more than I can ever say.


Pretty soon after that, I started counseling on Better Help, which I would absolutely recommend, especially if you live in a remote/rural/small town area, generally don't have easy access to in-person mental health services, or plan to move soon. These were all true for me, so Better Help gave me access to a counselor in a larger city 45 minutes away from where I lived, gave me more access to their time with messaging between sessions, and I qualified for a discount because of my income. I also knew I was planning to move in a few months, so I could keep the same counselor even though I was relocating - which otherwise would have caused even more anxiety.


I also started training for a 5k. I used the app Couch to 5k and it completely changed the way I felt about running and exercising. I used to only run on a treadmill and never worked out in the mornings. With Couch to 5k, I grew to love running outside (fresh air!) AND in the mornings (get it over with!). Would definitely recommend using the app.


The third thing I did during this time is probably one of the most important things I did last year. I watched "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo" on Netflix. Not only was it pure, wholesome entertainment (not to mention, I am a sucker for a good home "before and after"), but it inspired me to do the KonMari Method in my home.

So I started on January 22, and listened to Marie Kondo's first book on audio, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, while I tidied. The book acted as my very own coach, which provided guidance, accountability, and company through the tidying process, as I lived alone at the time.


Before I started actually tidying, I took the time to set my intentions for tidying up. Per Marie's recommendation, I came up with five "whys" for embarking on my tidying journey. For each reason, I asked myself "why?" three more times. To really get to the root - the essence - of my intention. A few months ago, I went back and looked at what I'd written, and incredibly, each of those intentions had manifested themselves in my life, and continue to.


I finished tidying on February 18. As Marie promised, the process was life-changing and the transformation was magical. As I prepared for my Live a few weeks ago, I went back through my various photos and Instagram stories from the process and it sparked joy all over again to see the incredible transformation that took place in my home.


I mentioned earlier that tidying had various positive impacts on my life, from mental health, to having more time and energy for the things I love, and completely shifting a lot of my habits and perspectives. But tidying wasn't the only thing that helped lift me up out of that deep, dark place I'd been in the month before. I continued counseling consistently for six months, and making the decision to put a pause on that was so scary. I knew how much better I was doing and how far I'd come in those six months, but I was afraid that without my counselor, I would end up right back where I'd been in January. But I took that leap of faith, and it turned out okay. Better than okay, honestly. I got a handle on being a dog mom (that shit is hard). And finally, I left my job for a new one in a new city, so Daniel and I moved in together, which has made all the difference in the world. So, yes, tidying played a huge role in helping me turn my life around, but it wasn't the only thing that made an impact. The last thing I want for anyone to take away from this is that they can tidy their home, and forego professional mental health care. At best, do both. At the very, absolute least - get your mental health care FIRST, if you are able to. Then we can talk about tidying, or whatever else you want to do.


Earlier I mentioned that tidying completely shifted a lot of my habits and perspectives - not only on how I tidied my home and other spaces, but how I brought new things into my home. It started in late summer/early fall last year when, funnily enough, I needed new mascara. For some reason, something clicked as I tossed the old tube in the trash, wondering for the first time what impact that plastic would have on the environment. Wondering how long it would be sitting in a landfill, knowing it would be here long after my own body had decomposed. Why did I feel entitled to leave it behind after I'd gone? Truth is, I'd never thought about it. And now that I had, I didn't feel entitled to. So I began searching for a zero-waste mascara. After some Googling and reading reviews, I settled on Elate Cosmetics - which not only had the best ingredients and was the most affordable, but their packaging was the lowest waste with everything being compostable or recyclable (and I ended up LOVING the mascara!!). And then it just snowballed from there. What now influences my daily decisions are questions like:


- How am I spending my money? I've always thought about this because I'm a frugal person, but now I think about how I'm spending my money in a way that aligns with my values.


- What sparks joy for me beyond the surface-level product? Sure - any drug store mascara will probably make me happy because it's going to make my eyelashes look great. But beyond that - What are the ingredients? Is it tested on animals? What materials is it made from? What is the packaging like? What is the environmental impact of production and shipping? What's its end of life? Who made it? How are they treated and paid? What are the company's values, ethics, and culture? It's a lot to think about, but it's becoming the norm for businesses to tell us all these things before we even have time to ask them. These are the businesses that will survive through this shift we're currently experiencing in our society (read: Country Crock now offers plant based butter while major dairy corporations are filing for bankruptcy 🙃).


- Is there something I already have at home I can use instead of buying it? The "use what you have" mentality has been drilled into me since childhood. As the child of Cuban immigrants who grew up poor, we used what we had because it meant spending less money on frivolous things we didn't need, as well as honoring the creativity and resourcefulness on which Cubans greatly pride themselves. The other day I joked with Daniel that I didn't really need our Swiffer Wet Jet because I could just use an old broomstick with an old t-shirt attached to the end of it. Classic Cuban cleaning tool. It's also why you'll rarely see me throw away food. And if I do, I compost it. While I will always hold this mentality dear, I know it came from a place of scarcity - of fear that money would run out, that food would run out. That there wouldn't be enough, for everyone, tomorrow. And my parents and grandparents had a right to be scared, for so many reasons. But I am learning to heal that ancestral trauma and shift my reason for using what I have. Shifting to a reason of abundance, of caring for our planet. Wanting to leave this planet more abundant and healthier than I found it. Knowing I am abundant and live an abundant, beautiful, blessed life without all my material possessions.


- If I do need to buy something, is there a low- or zero-waste option? When it comes to pretty much anything but food and personal care items, I look at secondhand options first. Pretty much every material thing we could need or want already exists in the physical world. There is very little need to buy anything brand new these days. When we do need to buy new things, we can look at products that are sustainable, eco-friendly, and ethical.


- And finally, do I really need this thing at all? This goes back to the "use what you have" philosophy but takes it a step further to say, "make do, or do without." This can be really challenging for a lot of folks. Mentality-wise, it can be difficult to give something up that we really love. I think I used the example of Cheetos in my Live. So if you just fuckin' love Cheetos and haven't gone a day without eating them since you could chew solid food, then it's going to be pretty damn hard to give up Cheetos cold turkey. And you don't necessarily have to. You can TerraCycle your chip bags (and other hard to recycle materials). But that isn't always accessible or affordable. And who's to say that you - one person - eating a bag of Cheetos, is destroying the planet. No one is - one person didn't cause the climate crisis, so it's not one person's responsibility to solve it. But that's where we run into trouble. Because if we absolve ourselves of responsibility as individuals, then everyone else will. And if you think about it in the grand scheme of things, everyone has their "Cheetos" - whatever their favorite wasteful thing may be - but, if we stick with the Cheetos metaphor, that's almost 8 BILLION BAGS OF CHEETOS. HOLY SHIT.


Ultimately, I can't force you to do anything. And this effort is collective. As consumers, we need to make better choices. But the companies who produce what we consume also need to provide us with the products to make those better choices. Because only a handful of companies contribute to a major percentage of all carbon emissions. And again, it's good business for them if they adapt to the changing demands of consumers. That's just plain old common sense.


Not only is it difficult to change our mindset and habits, but sometimes making the sustainable choice just isn't accessible - whether it's because of where we live, the actual or perceived cost (going zero-waste will actually save you money in some areas, but the perception is that everything about sustainability is expensive so people don't even bother to try), and the time it takes to have this lifestyle. I went food shopping and meal prepped pretty much all day this past Sunday. I went to three different grocery stores (Fresh Market, Walmart Neighborhood Market, and Bay Naturals) - which took me two hours. And then I meal prepped several batches of steamed broccoli, homemade applesauce, vegetable broth with scraps from the broccoli and apples, marinated chicken, and made homemade rosewater and several mason jars of cashew milk. I also made cashew pulp pancakes and actually cooked the chicken on Monday night. Factoring in the clean up and preparing lunches and coffee for the next day, it took me several hours to do all this. I was pretty beat by the time I finished up, but I really enjoy the process for lots of reasons, mostly because it allows me to really slow down and be present. Again, this time is not always accessible to everyone (even me at times!) but if you're looking for a way to bring some slowness into your life and let go of the hustle, going zero-waste is a sure-fire way to do this.

So that brings us to September 2019.


Around this time, I was really struggling with my finances. I've struggled with finances for a long time, but I was finally reaching my boiling point. I was so frustrated, and I was coming from a place of lifelong scarcity in terms of my mindset. A lifetime of guilt and fear and trauma around money was coming to a head. At the same time, I had been seeing Kayley Robsham and my friend Jane Rodriguez talking and posting about the upcoming cohort of SA Pro to CEO. I was intrigued, but I did not feel ready mentally, let alone financially. It took me about 24 hours of talking with Jane and mulling it over to finally say, "Fuck it!" and apply for the program. And I was able to work out a payment plan with Kayley, which eased a lot of my anxiety around making the investment.


As a side note, and life lesson in general - don't wait until you "feel ready" to do something. You will never feel 100% ready. Take risks. Take leaps of faith. Lean into the unknown, and trust. That's when all the best stuff in life happens.


Joining SA Pro to CEO was one of the best decision I've ever made. It has allowed me to heal so much of my anxiety around my money mindset and self-doubt in starting my business. It has propelled me so much further and faster in my business (and in life) than I would have on my own. It led me to a business coach who continues to support me, hold space for me, and cheer me on in my entrepreneurship journey.


In the five months since I decided to become and entrepreneur, I have launched my own company and feel like there is nothing but goodness and abundance on the horizon. Five months y'all. Six months ago, I didn't think this would be a reality for five, ten, even twenty YEARS. In moments of reflection, I am overcome with a mixture of excitement, disbelief, awe, and gratitude. I just have this overwhelming feeling that the world is at my fingertips, it's all mine for the taking (in the best, least selfish way possible). I've felt this way before, but never like this.

I originally titled this post, "The Whole Truth."


After some thinking, I felt that title was no longer completely honest, ironically enough. While I shared so much this time around, there are still some things I'm not ready to share about myself. I will, in due time. But I'm still figuring out some parts of who I am. So I don't know what I don't know. Ya know?


If you made it this far, THANK YOU. I absolutely love writing, and it allows me to process experiences fully and completely. So this blog is a form of self-care for me. I hope reading it is a form of self-care for you, too. Whatever your reason for being here, thank you for being here. Your support means more to me than I'll ever be able to tell you. And I'm so excited to continue sharing this journey with you. That's all for now.


Stay Wandering,


jacqui












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