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Deirdre Flynn is a friend of mine from my Corporate America days. She started as an Executive Assistant (like me!) at the same financial consulting company just a few weeks after me, and our former-actor ties bound us to each other quickly. Little did we know that we’d both have our sights set on Something More, and we’d give our notice within a week of each other. I asked Deirdre to be a Counselor for Career Camp (registration opens later this week for those on this list!), but first – here’s more of her story.
I’m standing over my apartment bathroom sink staring straight into my puffy, bloodshot and sleep deprived eyes. For the 4th, or is it 8th night, in a row I am keeping my bathroom mirror company as I look at my reflection and say “Something has got to change.”
It was late 2009 and I had been a proud New Yorker for close to ten years. I had arrived, starry-eyed, at the age of 18 and doggedly pursued being an actress despite not having any money, horrific audition experiences and going without medical insurance for most of my 20’s. The midnight breakdown in my bathroom was occurring years after the stars had left my eyes and in my third year of working in Corporate America, a place where I found myself far removed from who I was and what I was good at.
Unlike my previous jobs I held while pursuing acting, I loved the life this job afforded me in the sense I could live alone, I could take trips, and I could go to the doctor. I couldn’t go back to the hand to mouth acting life but I couldn’t stay in this place. For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what to do. I was spinning, I was lost and I was afraid from all the uncertainty. Knowing what I wanted had been a defining characteristic of mine. I felt as if I had changed from being fearless to fearful.
I decided that night I wasn’t going to live like this any longer.
I began eyeballing the rest of my life; what I could give to my life and what I want to do with it. I was praying and debating about going back to school to get a masters in Theatre Ed (summers off!) but that required two more years of Corporate America to afford the cost of school (boo). I questioned if I loved acting enough to go back to the lifestyle I previously had and found out the answer was ‘no’. I realized I wanted to teach, I wanted to travel, and I wanted to be engaged in and with my life. I loved New York yet there was a shift in our relationship. I began to feel as if I was staying in a relationship that was familiar, loved, and comfortable but, at this point, had gone as far it as it was going to go.
Then the way out came in the most unexpected package and at a time where I was most ready to take a leap of faith.
While writhing with boredom at my desk, not long after my bathroom one-on-one pow-pow, I received an email from my friend Rachel who had founded an organization in Thailand dedicated to preventing child exploitation in the sex trade. She needed someone who was willing to move there, create their volunteer program and teach students English. I felt as if I had been hit with a thunder bolt. I wrote back ‘yes’ and hit send before I allowed the “realistic” voices in my head to argue with my heart against the wisdom of going.
I fundraised $10,000 and quit my job 8 months after I received that email. I moved to Thailand for a year to work with The SOLD Project. I lived in the middle of a rice field, learned Thai, learned how to ride a motorbike and detoxed from a decade in New York. The bottom line of living was distilled down to its purest form – to give love and be loved. It changed my life.
I now see the yo-yo of creating my own path as a blessing. Twilight is a part of the journey. The unhappy tedium of the corporate job sharply outlined for me the non-negotiables. It illustrated the non-negotiables to me just as much as being broke and being an actor had revealed to me what I could and could not live with. Clarity is a rare and beautiful thing to be able to realize and explore. I have no doubts as to the priorities of my life and what I can do without.
I now live in Oklahoma City working as the Communications Director of End Sex Trafficking Day and working within the community to raise awareness of human trafficking. I live in a place I can afford to do what I love and be a nice person (here’s looking at your NYC). I am as happy as I have been. I can’t say I have it all figured out but that’s OK. Maybe you never do. Perhaps it’s what makes life an adventure and worth living. But I have learned to trust myself and this path. I know who I am and what I can do and I have found a place where I can use that for something bigger than myself.
I think my favorite quote sums it up: “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I ended up where was I meant to be”.
A former actress turned Corporate America moonlighter turned Anti- Human Trafficking advocate. A long time resident of New York City, she left the big city lights for Thailand to work with The SOLD Project. Deirdre now lives in Oklahoma City where she has been blogging and working with various anti -trafficking organizations raising awareness of sexual exploitation within the United States. Learn more about her leap at www.deirdreflynn.com or on Twitter @Dara_212