• Claudia DiMartino

FREE TO BE ME


Recently, I went a preview screening of the upcoming film, POMS, starring Diane Keaton. I have to say that I laughed so hard I was crying. There are so many funny and touching moments.

It’s the story of Martha, who is dying. She’s lived in the same New York apartment for 46 years and moves to a retirement community in Georgia.

Of course, she wants to die in peace; but that’s challenging given Southern hospitality and the array of characters that live in the community.

It’s an active community with over 100 clubs available for the choosing. Since Martha is not interested in any one of them, she decides to start a cheerleading club. She always wanted to be a cheerleader; and this is her chance to live her dream.

Martha needs to recruit at least seven members for the club to be considered viable by the community board.

Of course, everyone in the community thinks she’s crazy; and her members are so nervous about what others think of them.

As Martha was encouraging the other women, one of her lines inspired me; and I needed to write it down.

“We’re always so worried about what others think of us.

What really matters is what we think about ourselves."

THE POWER OF THE TONGUE

I have yet to meet someone who has not been affected by what people have said to them over the years. That’s including myself.

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!!!

I have always been a competitive person; but in a healthy way. I’ve always believed in doing my job with excellence and that would lead to promotion. I don’t believe in backstabbing others to get ahead.

Unfortunately, this mindset did not bode well for me in corporate America.

I worked much of my marketing career in NYC; and, there were times, I was told I wasn’t aggressive enough. UGH!

After being laid off, I was offered a wonderful career opportunity in Memphis, TN. I relocated; and within my first month on the job, I was told I was too aggressive. HUH?

What prompted this observation?

We were in New York City for a meeting with our advertising agency. I was happy to be in my home town, even though it was for a short business trip.

We all went out to dinner; and I was enjoying the conversation and the laughter. When we were finished, we needed to get a cab to return to the hotel.

Since this was my town, I new how to hail a cab.

I fearlessly stepped into the street and got a cab to stop. No problem!

Would you believe that my hearty laughter at dinner and my hailing the cab were the infractions that painted me as “too aggressive”.

Oy Vey!

I took note; and after a few months, I went from being “too aggressive” to being “assertive”, which was much more acceptable in the gentile South.

In both the laughter and the cab scenarios, I was just being me.

I can only say one thing:

Words have power!

I’ve learned that people often form opinions of others out of the way they view life. If one doesn’t fit into the expected mold, then one just isn’t good enough.

Over time, often a lifetime, we believe what others say about us. For myself, I’ve spent too many years listening to what other people had to say about me.

BREAK OFF THE SHACKLES

I feel like I spent my whole life in handcuffs shackled to the prison of trying to be what others wanted me to be.

I had to come to a place to say ENOUGH!

I’ve had to learn that death and life are in the power of the tongue.

I had to make a life changing decision.

I spent too many years speaking the negative words others spoke over me. This started at an early age.

Growing up Italian-Catholic in Brooklyn, NY was the feeding ground for negative thinking.

Think of every stereotype you can…YES!

I grew up in an extended family which included my mother, my grandmother and my aunt.

I often said, “if my mother had a positive thought, she’d have a brain cramp.” My grandmother was no better. She was tough as nails; and disobedience was not an option. One look said it all.

My mother learned from my grandmother. She would hit first and ask questions later. MAYBE!

I learned early to keep my mouth shut and do what I was told.

This was so contrary to my nature. My grandmother always called me a “ruffiana”…a free spirit.

Unfortunately, with all the discipline and negativity, I was not allowed to fly.

Since I was four years old, I wanted to be an actress. I would escape by pretending to be characters from movies and TV shows. I would make up my own stories and play them out.

But, acting was not responsible. In my mother’s words, “How are you going to put food on the table.”

I did the responsible thing and went to college, then got my MBA and climbed the corporate ladder, all the while feeling insecure and like I didn’t fit in.

I didn’t!

After a 22-year marketing career sullied with layoffs and being told I wasn’t good enough, I walked out two months after 9/11.

I didn’t know what was next. I just new things had to change.

This is when I started to focus on what God said about me; and I started to…

I started to believe in myself and what was right for me.

I put one foot in front of the other and pursued my childhood dream of acting.

I often say, “Just put a script in my hand; and I’m the happiest person in the world.”

FREE TO BE ME

Throughout this journey…

I discovered that I like myself.

I discovered my laughter is infectious and I should not be embarrassed by it.

I discovered that who I am is OKAY!

I discovered the “ruffiana” within.

I discovered I can fly.

I discovered I’m free to be me!

I discovered…

I discovered…it’s never too late to go after your dreams

Claudia DiMartino

#family #italianamerican #powerofwords #livemydreams #believeinyourself #career

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