Everything is illuminated by the light of the past.
— Jonathan Safran Foer

Like a lot of people, my junior year of high school was kinda rough. Without sharing details, my family was going through some pretty intense times and as a seventeen year old who struggled with instability is was a lot to take in. That spring I hobbled my way through varsity softball, it was like my brain was in a cloud. I loved to play and I wasn't all that bad, I had made varsity as a freshman and did pretty well my first few years. But junior year I played like a different person, doubting myself at every turn, making silly mistakes, and it didn't help that the newly hired coach saw me as a weak link. Instead of coming alongside me and trusting that I was capable of playing at that level, she always pulled me the second she thought I was wavering. I'm not saying that I wanted to be coddled, I just wanted to feel like I belonged, like I had made the team for a reason. At the end of the season she took me aside and told me that there was always next year and hopefully I wouldn't be carrying around the 'emotional crutch' that had plagued me that season. It was the cherry that topped my proverbial crappy junior year of high school.

Now I can look back as an adult and see how wrong that was, I'm still angry for 17 year old me. I got kicked while I was down and it was honestly wrong. I've experienced something similar in my adult life when I asked for a raise at a job. I had been moved into a manager position but was still making what everyone else made. While I loved the extra responsibility, I felt justified in asking for a raise. In all the jobs I've had, it's the only time I had ever asked for one. I didn't set an amount but I researched what other companies paid people in my position and presented that information as a basis. Well, not only was I rejected but I was also told that if I couldn't handle what I was doing my title would be taken away. I felt so belittled and insignificant. Yes, there were many other people that could have done my job but isn't retention, having loyal employees, and respecting those employees important? I learned so much from that experience. Not even just about my current employers, but about how I was hoping to treat my future employees. I understand that raises are not always possible but open communication and showing appreciation for your employees goes such a long way!

In both of these circumstances my coach and my boss had zero confidence in my ability to get the job done. Which to be quite honest is a bunch of bullshit. It shouldn't be a matter of 'gaining' confidence, that's a fleeting expectation that has no real definitive goal. Confidence should be given from the moment of relational inception and taken from and added to based off of experiences. It should not be something we lord over people, but rather something we use to strengthen one another. Walking alongside people the past few years and watching them grow into who they were made to be, people embracing who they are, and finally being fully aware of their capabilities... it is something to be celebrated. As a society we spend so much time tearing people down, seeing their faults and exploiting them, passing judgement as if we have no faults of our own. Could you imagine how much more we would accomplish if we focused on what others are capable of? If we didn't hold people's failures against them but rather saw it as a building block of success? We are imperfect people and we need to acknowledge when someone is going through something, when someone asks for help, when someone is struggling. And we need to be confident in them when they aren't capable of being confident in themselves, to show them the endless potential we see in them, and to carry them if they can't pickup their feet. 

I'm not saying that I deserved a spot on the roster, but I did deserve acknowledgement and compassion for dealing with things beyond my control. I deserved someone at least speaking with me. It's funny how now, at 31, I can look back at my coach who was maybe 23 at the time and recognize how hard it must have been to handle me. People often retreat from 'sticky' situations and I refuse to hold that against her. And I can also acknowledge how much that year shaped me as an adult and a leader. Sometimes it takes being treated like that to give a reason behind why you wouldn't want to treat others that way. The same can be said for my situation with my boss in my mid twenties. I would have been okay with a 'no' if it had been handled in a different way. But instead I was belittled and told in a nonverbal way how insignificant I was, how easily replaceable I was. In hindsight I'm so glad that I experienced it because I think that it has made me a better boss now. In no way am I claiming to be perfect, I have misstepped time and time again, but at least I can look back on my past experiences and see how I wish that I would have been treated. My thirteen employees can hopefully benefit from the positive and negative experiences I've had throughout my life. 

My greatest gift to them, to my family, to my friends, is trusting them. To know that they are capable, to know that they have it within them to accomplish big things. I can and will always instill confidence in others. Unless something goes horribly wrong and I need to pull back for the safety of myself and my loved one, I will choose to trust those around me. To see the best in them. And even at their worst of times know that they can still pull out of it, even if I have to move on, I will hope and pray that they will succeed. 

Forever your cheerleader, Annie 💕