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Transparency: Looking Straight into the Mirror

Not a Smudge or a streak. OR slouch or blemish. She reminded me of all the rules of perfect tidiness my mother instilled.

I had gravely undervalued myself for the position but it was fun in a different sort of way than the hospitality of a bike tour guide and I was making close to the same in salary with benefits instead of tips and a 1099. Mrs Byck had class from a Dutch heritage so was stern in training every gesture of a wedding planner for her winery.

I ran the events. From Brides to caterer and so on, they all came to me as the point person. While taking the lead, poised in control of every element coming together, seamlessly; touching up the MIRROR in the women's bathroom periodically was an absolute must. Top Priority to the point of absurdity.

My dedication to the job went far beyond the compensation as impressing Mrs Byck was a challenge that pushed me to shine brighter in the world. Those seemingly menial trips to the powder room, to clean up after other women, taught me humility, but also poise and confidence. You see, when dressed to serve at the Top of the House it's good to check your Smile every once in awhile to convey authenticity. When the mirror remained spotless the whole house reflects perfection. The off chance of sharing a smile with a guest only reinforces the control and professionalism for the entire facility. The confidence of my lead gave confidence to the entire event. I set the frequency... with an authentic smile.

The serendipity of when this enlightening shaped my development was magic as I had a strange relationship with mirrors as an adolescent. The way the false lighting made my hair such a bright red and pale freckled skin was not as neutral as all of the pretty girls on the dance squad. I felt so much bigger than all of them in the crowded locker room vanity. I could stand back behind them all and quickly check my hair with just a glance from the distance. The details I could see just fine in my tiny compact's mirror- never really in perspective, always in a rush, never satisfied. I definitely didn't know then that what made me unique made me stand out as a shining leader. I didn't see her in the mirror, yet.

I was a working girl at 13 so by the time my senior year rolled around I had saved enough for a trip to France, bought my own car, and clothes and was heading off to college independently. The job, that could have become my career, had I chosen to return home, was hand painting furniture. By this time, I had ranked up in process at my father's company as a key "employee", to do the finishing painting of thousands of one of a kind wood-burned Mirror frames. I had previously held the managing and training role of the wood burners, drawing in the initial designs to be painted. Most were much older than me as either college student "artists" or Indy artists that worked there for a paycheck to afford their creative lifestyle. I only held the drawing role during the Christmas rush once as my "style" didn't quite match the fast sketch of my dad's partner who did most of the drawing. Ironically though, I would correct much of that sloppiness in the wood-burning and refine the look of the pieces with paint so my hand, and time was better spent finishing the pieces. Hours and hours creating the frame for how wealthy children and house guests would see themselves in the mirror. My strokes would distract them from the details of looking deep into themselves. The works were all cluttered with meaningless words and phrases and icons that could be generalized for neutral buyers. Not too personal, though some custom. All of these mirrors, my hand created never saw my own reflection as the glass was added last, not by me.

To come full circle, I kept pedaling forward and did not return to the leadership possibility. I set down the wood burners for 20+ years and find acrylic paint toxic and plastic now. But for 10 years, I've carried around a full length mirror that I commissioned my brother to build. I always intended to wood burn and paint it for myself but it became a haunting unfinished project. Finally at 44, I did it. I wood burned it Beautiful then painted it the way I shine brightest by looking deep into myself each day, not distracted but focused. That is how I remain transparent and authentic as personal branding has prompted heavy filters limiting true community connections. I share this today to let the rawness empower a shift.

Marijke Byck (1933-2006) was just one of many mentors that I am grateful to have had support me in shining bright as I pedal forward empowering women to be authentic whiile integrating a bike into her lifestyle.

More to come as I regain my voice by sharing my Gratitudes over the next month here.

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