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Carmel Indrawan on Passion and Profession

How old are you?

39, just around the corner from turning 40!

What do you do for a living, and what are the things that make you feel more alive?

I’m a story coach and advocate — a tiny girl with a big voice for stories.

After a 16-year corporate career in the beauty industry, I switched modes and connected the dots to open a new chapter for myself. I founded That One Little Dot as a way to fuel my two great loves: a professional passion to coach leaders to be the storytellers of today, and a personal purpose to inspire children to be the storytellers of tomorrow.

Savoring a good book, getting a message from my 5-year-old nephew, and having a fun chat with my husband — too many moments that make me feel more alive through these little highs of life.

I am most known for.. telling stories.

A lifetime of reading books, giving talks, and working in the communication field naturally led me towards a life centered around stories, and a genuine curiosity to see how far I could run with this idea.

The mission of That One Little Dot combines not just what I had learned from my career but also my passion projects as a writer, children’s teacher, former competitive public speaker, and current student of improv theatre.

I am most proud of... my bravery to choose a new path at this age — to add the word “entrepreneur” to my thirty something identity and launch something that encapsulated so much of my life. There’s a great level of vulnerability that comes with sharing your work and advocacy with others, whether it's a piece of content or a business you’ve created, and for which it takes real courage to show up every single day.

What do you think is the biggest challenge, and the best thing, about being your age?

Having lived through the discovery phase of my 20s and now wrapping up the last few months of my 30s, the challenge I feel (and have felt over the last few years leading up to this age) was entering the next decade with a clarity about how to pay it forward.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived in several countries and worked on incredible projects as a result of my upbringing and career, and feel a strong responsibility to step back and make sense of what it means to give back to a world that’s already given me so much. If all your dreams came true, would they just change you, or would they change the world — I love to constantly disrupt my life with this question as I enter my 40s.

The best thing about being my age is that you can ask these bigger questions, and that you can sit in the comfort (or discomfort) of asking them. I love these borrowed words: “the ability to ask beautiful questions shapes our identity as much as the answers themselves.”

There is a serenity that comes with being 39 where I now have greater trust in the timing and answers of my life: had I rushed certain questions, decisions, or life choices earlier on, I’m not sure I would come with as much knowledge and understanding as I do today. Trust is about knowing that what your heart aches for — professionally and personally — stays with you, it won’t escape just because we’ve taken detours in life.

How have you grown wiser in the past two years?

Hindsight is a great teacher, and in the last two years I’ve learned that life is less about being right and more about being curious — the thresholds of success that society sets disappear when we go down a different path, one that lets us appreciate the past but also moves us closer to our future.

Carving our own adventure will always find us existing within a liminal space of ‘no longer and not yet’ but the daily courage and curiosity it takes to accept this really forms so much of our identity. I’ve grown so wise living through the liminal space of the last two years, what I call 'experiencing the unfamiliar firsts before greeting the familiar seconds.' We can always connect the dots looking back; the real test is believing this moment is connecting you to another dot somewhere in the future.

What are the best pieces of life advice you have ever received?

When I started my corporate career fresh from university, my father (himself a product of the corporate world) told me how important it was to build a good name: don’t make compromises, keep to your word, and treat others well. Close to two decades later this is still one of the best pieces of advice I have received and lived out. Your 'name' is not just the title you carry and the projects you launch, but the way you make people feel, what you share, and what you leave behind as a legacy.

Quite recently this advice made more sense than ever to me: the importance of slowing down (physically and mentally). I had never taken a career break in 16 years, and only in the last two have I stopped to understand that there will be seasons in life. The achiever in me could not see the benefit of resting but I have realized that slowing down is a way to renew our vigor and creativity, a way to prepare us for the next phase.

The last advice was given to me by a wall. Yes, a literal wall. It was our last day walking the Camino de Santiago a few years ago and there in black graffiti someone had written, la vida es corta pero ancha (life is short but wide). The right message at the right time to remind me every now and then to fill this life with adventures that truly speak to me.

Who are the women you look up to and how have they helped shape your life?

One day we realize we’re all probably turning into our mothers — or at least in my case it certainly feels this way. And while teenage angst would have me rolling my eyes at this, the 39-year-old me is forever grateful if I do turn out to be just like my mother.

I am made up of tiny little lessons that I’ve picked up from her along the way and I hope I never get old enough to ask her for answers to the most random requests. I also stand on the shoulders of strong female figures in my family (from having mostly aunts and grandmothers on both my parents' sides) and that generous act in itself has shaped my life and my mindset towards being a shoulder to stand on for other girls.

She Talks Generations celebrates wisdom-sharing among women; and highlights the different perspectives and unique strengths that we bring to the table at every life stage.

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