October 2011: I’m 23 years old. I graduated college in December 2010 and spent from then until last July working one or two days each week at my college dive bar. After that, I stopped working all together. My new girlfriend broke up with me, crushing my spirit in the process. I recently moved off my ex’s couch and into a tiny, low-rent apartment in Cambridge. I started my job search and am painstakingly attempting to put my heart back together, but I party too much and sleep too little.
I know I could use some help, but I’m pessimistic that anyone, let alone an outsider, can motivate me. Although I’m unimpressed and fairly sure this will be a waste of time, I’ve agreed to see a life coach.
Enter Rachel O’h-Uiginn, 27, owner and founder of Undercurrent Coaching. At 24 years old, she was laid off from her job and spent two and a half years unemployed, temping at Harvard to pay the bills. She chose coaching school (the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching) over grad school and now runs her own business while maintaining two high-profile, full-time roles at Harvard and the New Leaders Council of Boston.
She’d been through some of the same dilemmas I was facing, but it was still impossible for me to believe she knew something I didn’t. I walked into a Davis Square café, grumpy, hungover, and ready to judge and talk down to the “Millennial guru.”
Alas, O’h-Uiginn proved me wrong. She was sweet and normal, professional and polite. So I stopped showing my teeth and opened up to the idea that maybe this relationship could be beneficial. I swallowed my pride, heard her story, and began to tell mine. She didn’t laugh, and she didn’t make me feel young and stupid -- she just nodded and listened, like everything I was going through was normal, and she understood. My heartbeat slowed, and I got comfortable getting into detail. And for the first time in a long time, I asked for help.
O’h-Uiginn has a way of talking to you that makes you feel like you’re the one coming up with all the right answers…and it’s amazing. I found myself aware of the things that bring me down. I could see my own worst enemy in myself and fight back. She gave me back my zeal to succeed, and our first meeting left me feeling positive, inspired, and excited about life -- I was ready to make changes! I had planned to head home and watch T.V., play with my dog, and maybe eat some junk food, but instead, I cleaned my entire house, went grocery shopping and made dinner, and researched new jobs and volunteer opportunities.
Have you ever noticed how many times you say the word “should”? No? Neither did I, but O’h-Uiginn pointed out that I use it a lot. As “homework,” I was to mentally flag or physically write down every time I caught myself using that word. Although I never actually caught myself using the word that week, I was hyper aware of the idea behind it: If I was using the word “should,” I wasn’t using more positive words like “will” or “can.” It’s an excellent example of how these sessions were really getting into my head, promoting me to do more but not resent what I don’t do.
That same week, I also had to build my own “board”: Like I was a company, I needed to have people hold me accountable, advise me, or just back me up. Calling my closest friends to help with this project made me feel less alone. Maybe it was sort of stupid, but I was really trying to take this life coaching business seriously, and the more I did these small steps, the more I was taking large ones on my own.
The major benefit of working with O’h-Uiginn was having a non-biased, non-therapist person to bounce ideas off of and talk to. I considered her an auto-sort for all my thoughts and issues. Thanks to her, I realized that I can’t control everything and that what I do today makes me who I am tomorrow, so I have to focus on the present. Most importantly, my friends are not responsible for motivating me and making me feel better -- although they are helpful. The main responsibility lies within myself.
Therapy can be overwhelming, too strict, and too formal. Undercurrent isn’t like that. Whether you need a little extra push, aren’t sure what to do next, or just need something positive in your life, O’h-Uiginn can help. After just one 45-minute session, I felt better. After all three sessions (the “Millennial Package”) as part of my experiment, I’m eager to continue working with O’h-Uiginn. I like how I feel after we talk, and I like how I want to do something to accomplish my life goals when I walk away. Her coaching makes a difference to people who are indifferent.
November 2011: I’m 23 years old, single, and actively mingling. I live in Cambridge and do freelance work, filling in as a bartender to pay my bills. I have goals, and I’m working towards achieving them. I go out with friends, dance, and party, but I stay home, read, and journal, too. I’m still pessimistic, but I’m aware of it and try to catch myself when I’m negative. I have a life coach named Rachel, and I’m so glad I wasted my time.
Photo of Rachel O’h-Uiginn courtesy of Undercurrent Coaching
About Charlotte -- I am a private person with a demanding social life. I am interested in people and their lives. I hope to take something from everyone I meet and incorporate it into myself, and I love fresh perspectives. Twitter: @GuppBoston.
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