Christy Version 3.1 ~ What If Conference 2013 ~ Dominican Republic

I’ve been sitting here with the cursor blinking at me in this blog draft for the majority of the day. I open the tab, stare at the white space, and close it again. I can’t quite figure out how to start… and so I guess I’ll do as we learned last week – one step at a time. As long as you are taking a step – you are moving forward. No big leaps necessary, just one foot in front of the other – and so here I go…

I have had so many people ask me to explain What If to them. They’ll ask for a rundown of events, who spoke, what it was about, and why we are all so hyped up and crazy inspired upon our return home. They’ll say “Oh yeah, I feel that way when I travel too.” But that’s not it. We could have done this anywhere and it would have had the same result. What mattered was the PEOPLE. One of my fellow attendees said it was almost as if each one of us were cast for our role in this week. We were the perfect mixture of souls to spend this week together and each of us had something unique to bring to the table.

The part that hit me most of all was how open everyone was to one another. Sadly, in life, we become used to being closed off to others. We walk down the street and don’t acknowledge those passing. We meet someone, talk about the weather, ask them a bunch of mundane questions that we aren’t really listening to the answers to, and go on with our lives – worried about the next thing on our To-Do list, or complaining about something that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

But this time. This time it was different.

People peeled away the layers of protection we had built around ourselves so that others won’t see our true vulnerabilities and weakness, and were instead open, humble, honest, and raw. Each person I met felt like someone I’d known for years and years. We had meaningful conversations about our lives, our goals, our dreams, and our fears. We pushed one another to reach for them and know that we are all capable of making them a reality.

All of us were equals… whether Innovators/Speakers, Attendees, or Alumni… we all were on the same playing field, and each felt we had something to give and even more to learn.

It was a week of making myself uncomfortable. Of being more outgoing and less judgmental. Of having real conversations with people I’d only just met moments before. It was about asking myself really tough questions about my life, my business, and myself… challenging myself to think deeper about why I do and say the things I do. It was about forgetting about limiting beliefs I had been telling myself for so long – that I couldn’t do this, or that. It was about learning to appreciate each moment we are given in this life (even if that moment is waiting in a mile-long line at the world’s slowest post office, like I did yesterday).

It was about breathing in, and breathing out… about giving people the benefit of the doubt… about letting ourselves be vulnerable and open to others. It was about trust and beliefs… hopes and dreams. It was about tearing up our fears, crying with new friends, laughing and sharing and drinking margaritas on the beach as the sun set over fabulous conversations.

It was about asking What If?

What if I stopped telling myself I can’t make a life out of my dreams? What if I created healthy boundaries between my business and my personal life? What if I took a moment to think about why feelings of anger and frustration are bubbling up inside of me instead of just immediately snapping at those I love most? What if I believed in myself? What if we had kids? What if we bought a house? What if we didn’t? What if I found a studio space for my Beautiful Sessions? What if I inspired others by living a life full of joy and being present in each moment? What if being mindful, calm, and relaxed were options in my life? What if I let my anxiety go? What if I stopped comparing my work to others? What if I accepted the voice within me?

What if? 

I know it sounds so cliche to say – but I can honestly say that I came back a different person. When I stepped off that plane in Chicago I felt like layers of my old self had been peeled away and what was left was a more honest, real, and mindful version of myself.

Unfortunately though, keeping my old self at bay has not been as easy as I would like to pretend. There have been times since I arrived home that I have gotten unbelievably angry and snapped at James or Chloe for the silliest reasons. I felt the tightening in my chest and the frustration building – and instead of acknowledging it and stepping away to gather myself – I yelled, or stormed out of a room, or picked a fight. I’d love to pretend that it has been all roses and butterflies since arriving home, but it hasn’t. I have this place in my mind where I know I want to be, and sometimes I am there. But I still have this old version of myself fighting to get out…


Last night after SHARE group Lauren asked James if he thought I was a different person since I arrived home.

He took a moment to think about it and replied, “I think she’s conflicted. I can tell she wants to be better and be this new person, but her old ways still come out at times – and I can see it frustrates her. She’s more aware of it.”

Which I found sooo interesting… because lord knows I feel like I’m fighting with two versions of myself all the time since I got back… but I didn’t realize it was so obvious to James. (Although, I should know better – because James notices things about me that often times I don’t even realize myself.)

So I guess that is where I am, and it is hard to admit, if I’m being honest. Because it seems like everybody else who went to What If is in this new, better, more present, thoughtful place all the time… and I feel like I am there – sometimes – but not as much as I’d like to be (which is ALL the time). It has been a struggle for me and I know it will continue to be (which is why I already signed James & I up for What If 2014 – because I know I’ll need the refresher and that time away to reflect and grow even more).

I feel like I came back a new person… and I want to continue to be that person… but it is a process each moment of the day. However, I know the fact that I’m even AWARE of the difference in me is a step in the right direction. Because as we all learned last week – taking even the tiniest steps forward day by day is better than taking no steps at all.


(**Just a heads up that I didn’t carry my camera around with me except for the last day & about 2 seconds on the first day – so this post is a mix of iPhone photos & those from my ‘real’ camera.)



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Christy & James are Chicago based but happily travel anywhere in the world that beautiful love stories take them!