Why Stuffing Yourself Inside a Life That Isn't Truly Yours Is NOT The Way to Go

*In my best Sophia Petrillo voice*

Picture it. Waco, Texas. 2000. A young LaTisha Cotto is determining where she wants to go to college. She has received several offers from prominent institutions across the United States of America. Some of these colleges are located in her home state of Texas and others in places like Boston, Memphis and Atlanta. Where should she go? Which college will she pick?

If we were really watching a TV show, this is where the episode would end. Gotta love a good cliffhanger.

I’ll tell you that I took my talents to metropolitan Atlanta, honey. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it almost didn’t happen.

I had actually decided to go to Texas A&M and was even assigned a roommate named Julie. I figured they had a great business program and I wouldn’t be as tempted to lose myself in partying like I potentially could in Austin. Gotta love the rationale of a senior in high school.

At the very last minute, I was awarded a full scholarship to Agnes Scott College, a premier women’s liberal arts college in Decatur.

“Did they say full scholarship? Show me the money. I’m so there.”

However, my decision wasn’t well-received by some of my family members, specifically my grandmother. She wanted to know why I wasn’t going to stay in Waco and go to Baylor. At the time, she had picked out her Baylor Grandma bumper sticker and she was driving a green and gold van. “Why would you ever want to leave me and your family?”

If you know my Grandma, you know she can lay on that Latina mom guilt with the absolute best of them.

I’m not knocking Baylor or any of the fine institutions in Texas. I just really wanted to get out of state and experience something different.

However, I love my Grandma and, yes, she did get in my head. I started second-guessing my decision. I was filled with fear at all of the things that could happen to me far away from my family.

The person who actually helped me make a decision on my own was Mama Terry. Throughout the process, she was super supportive and never said where she’d like to see me go. She wanted it to be my choice. The conversation that proved to be the tipping point was one where I was voicing all of my fears to her.

Me: “Mom, what if I get into a wreck? What do I do?” Her: “Tish, you could always go to Baylor and live with Grandma.”

Me: “Mom, what if I get robbed? What do I do?” Her: “Tish, you could always go to Baylor and live with Grandma.”

Me: “Mom, what if I get hurt or really sick and have to go to the hospital? What do I do?” Her: “Tish, you could always go to Baylor and live with Grandma.”

Me: “Mom, what if I fail my classes and lose my scholarship?” Her: “Tish, you could always go to Baylor and live with Grandma.”

Me: “Mom, what if there’s a terrible snow storm and I get stuck at the airport over the holidays?” Her: “Tish, you could always go to Baylor and live with Grandma.”

Me: “Mom, what if I run out of money? What do I do?” Her: “Tish, you could always go to Baylor and live with Grandma.”

We did this for about a good ten minutes. I mean, I really voiced every single fear I had and her answer was always the same.

“Tish, you could always go to Baylor and live with Grandma.”

Finally, she said, “Tish, I’m not going to tell you what to do. This is your decision. I’ll just say you can’t let fear rule your life.”

At the time, it was the hardest decision I had ever made -- to leave everything I had ever known, my support system, my beloved state, and venture off into the unknown. Part of me wanted to stay put, but the Archer in me pointed her arrow and ran straight towards that scary unknown full speed ahead.

Again, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I learned to stand on my own two feet, to make decisions using my intuition, to explore who I was and what I believed outside of life as I had known it. I learned how to meet new people who were totally different than me and to honor them, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with their viewpoints. I was surrounded by brilliant women who used their voice and their minds and I learned to use mine. It was amazing. I also met some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life, who are the sisters I never had.

While I’m sure that I would’ve done just fine at Baylor or A&M, it would not have been my decision and could have set off a chain of decisions that didn’t reflect who I truly was. Sure, I would’ve been safe and supported and mitigated any downside associated with going to college.

I could have chosen to fear the unknown and let others decide for me. However, I realized that, while I could look at the unknown as scary, I could also look at it as the place where something even more amazing the known could occur. I chose to believe that God had gifted me with my very own GPS system and that it would guide me to where I needed to go.

I’m not going to lie -- it wasn’t easy. I was homesick pretty much every day I was in college (and even after I graduated and moved to Miami). I love my family and it was hard being away from Mama Terry. I cried a lot. 

However, I knew that I was honoring my intuition and honing my decision making skills. My adult self is grateful that my younger self chose to go down this path.

Listen. I get it -- you want to make people happy.

If they’re anything like my Grandma, they have a specific idea of how you should live your life. And they’re super vocal about it. “Go to college. Become a lawyer. Make over $100,000 a year. Get married. Have kids.”

That’s all fine and good, but what if your heart is urging you to paint? Or to be an actress?

Does your voice not count just as much? Don’t you deserve to be happy, too?

I want you to consider that stuffing yourself into a life that isn’t really one that you’ve chosen honors no one and does a huge disservice to the inner brilliance that you have been gifted with.

Think about it.

What if Beyoncé had become an Accountant? Or Steve Jobs had become a car salesman? Or if any other amazingly gifted person had chosen to ignore their heart’s calling and become something that they aren’t?

We tend to think of life as a “one and done” scenario. Every decision is final and cannot be reversed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Had I gone to Agnes Scott and it not worked out, I could have gone to Baylor. No big deal. Had it not worked out in the Latin music business, I could’ve gotten a job as a consultant. The options are endless.

The same goes for you. If you make a change and it doesn’t work out, you can pivot, course correct, change direction, etc. I love that saying, “If you don’t like where you are, change it. You’re not a tree.” As Russell Simmons said, “There's that simple analogy of, you find yourself on train going the wrong way, you get up, go on the other side and go the other way.”

Honey Bunny, you are here to share your brilliance with the world. I truly believe that everyone is a genius in his or her own way and it’s up to each person to discover what that genius is and share it with the world.

If you’re not where you want to be right now, make a plan and execute it. You can work with a life coach or ask one of your best friends to be your accountability partner. Don’t stay stuck in a life that doesn’t light you up.

It takes courage, faith, determination, and consistency. You can do this.

Also, it doesn't matter how old you are, either. You can be 28 or 68. As long you're breathing and your heart is beating, there is always an opportunity to be proactive and co-create your life with the Universe. It's time to believe in yourself and to trust God.

The truth is that one day you will die. What a travesty it would be to not live a life that is authentically yours because of what others say you should do or because you’re scared. You deserve more than surviving. You deserve to thrive.

You are brilliant and you can figure out the details. It’s time to trust that.

Now it’s your turn. Comment below and tell me about the hidden dreams you’ve always had that you’ve never honored (no matter how big or small, unrealistic, etc).

I’m cheering for you. Like it’s Orientation week and you’re a Superstar.

From the Front Row,


P/S I'm up to something major. Want to find out more about it when the time is right? Of course you do! CLICK HERE.