Monday, October 1, 2012

Lonely At The Top? Look Down.

It took me 30 some-odd years to learn one of my greatest lessons yet.  Lucky for you, I am a better sharer than my kids.

Baking soda to clean crayon off the wall…  Cooking spray to safeguard plastics from tomato sauce stain…  Play-doh to pick up tiny shards of broken glass…  All true, but this is bigger.

(OK, any more buildup and you’ll be expecting a map to the fountain of youth, so here goes.)

Creativity can die of starvation.  Thankfully, I have learned to feed mine as often as I feed my two toddlers.  Unfortunately, all three are picky eaters. 

I needed the perfect recipe, and discovered the Step Up Women’s Network as an important ingredient.  In short, the organization is a non-profit built to ignite women and girls to fulfill their potential through mentoring programs for under-resourced teens and professional (and personal) development for women.

Last week I attended a Step Up event entitled “View From The Top”.  The panelists, each leaders in their own profession, fielded questions from moderator, television host and incredi-stylist Alison Deyette (who I loved long before she gave me this phone case as personal party favor):

(Yes, I've got The Fever)
After a brief welcome from a high school senior who credits the Step Up After-School program for helping her overcome her fear of public speaking, and I rub the chills on my arm, Alison begins.

I expected to feel as I did hearing the Valedictorian speak at my college graduation- like I had reached some level of success, but was being reminded how someone else did it better.  I couldn’t have been more wrong (which may explain why I was not Valedictorian myself).

These women spoke of their struggles and mistakes, their fears and failures.

(L to R: Deyette, Martin, Miller, Tochterman, Cha Cutler)
Fashion designer Nony Tochterman spoke not only of the first time her work appeared in Vogue Magazine (the September issue, to boot), but also of the time she spilled hot coffee all over the dress of her model about to hit the runway.

Gwen Miller, EVP at City National Bank, admitted to the challenges of being a parent of two teenagers while working a high-pressure, full-time job.  “The weekends are all about my family.  It may be a smaller percentage of my time, but it’s all I’ve got”.  An audible sigh filled the room.

Jane Cha Cutler, EVP at Full Picture & Executive Producer of Project Runway, shared the story of her own Jerry McGuire moment, having packed up her cubicle to chase a dream.  Shortly after, the Weinstein Company expressed to her their interest in producing a show about models.  “That’s been done”, Jane said, as she took a risk in suggesting a show about fashion designers instead.  Their response?  “No one wants to watch people sew”.  Tell that to her Emmys.

Kellie Martin, who I remember most from the early 90’s hit “Life Goes On”, referred briefly to her roles on ER and Army Wives.  Her focus, though, was way more upon the challenges of her newest role as an Entrepreneur of Romp, an online store featuring children’s toys without plastics or electronics.  Still, her most inspiring share was to come.

When asked to name her greatest goal, Martin proudly stated her commitment to increasing awareness of autoimmune disease.  This cause is close to Kellie’s heart, as she lost her sister to Lupus at only 19.  It is close to mine, as I have Lupus as well.  After the panel ended, Kellie and I spoke at length about our missions like close friends.

I have never been in a sorority.  I was never a cheerleader, and my college did not have a Greek system.  I don’t drink martinis nightly with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, and I don’t read the Twilight books.

I am, however, a part of a large sisterhood that encourages and inspires me.  I thank Step Up for that.

Want to learn more about the Step Up Mentoring Program?  Here's a recap of my experience.