April 1, 2021
If you are ready to be wrapped up in the warmest, most loving hug of your life AND YET given a shove of encouragement and truth… wow okay wow. Listen to today’s show.
Today we have the INCREDIBLE honor of talking to one of the most incredible women.
Author, speaker, and podcast host, Mary Marantz, grew up in a single-wide trailer in rural West Virginia. The first of her immediate family to go to college, she went on to earn a law degree from the nation’s top-ranked law school, Yale. After ditching six-figure-salary law firm offers in London and New York, she started a business with her husband, Justin. Together they have built a successful online education platform for creative entrepreneurs. She is also the host of the highly ranked and popular podcast The Mary Marantz Show. Mary released her first book, “Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful,” in September. She lives in an 1880s fixer-upper by the sea in New Haven, Connecticut, with her husband, Justin, and their two very fluffy golden retrievers, Goodspeed and Atticus.
GOSH, we have so many things to say about today’s interview, but if you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong somewhere because of dirt in your past or where you grew up, or that you have to hide parts of your story to fit in… this show is gonna wreck you in all the best ways.
Today we talk to Mary about her story growing up in the dirt of West Virginia, how our experiences as a child have such an impact on us as adults, struggling with imposter syndrome and encouragement in how to overcome it, and how to handle feeling like you’re “betraying” your past or upbringing by chasing “more.”
The 30,000-foot elevator pitch version was, Mary was born and raised in a trailer on a top of a mountain in rural West Virginia. Her dad was a logger, her mom cleaned houses, and her grandfather was a coal miner. She comes from a long line of West Virginia stock like that. Fast forward she was an only child and the first one in her family to go to college. She ended up getting into Yale for Law School, which is quite the jump from one generation.
After three years of law school and she had two law firms offering her a job; one in London and the other in New York. At that point, she had met her husband Justin, who was a photographer, and they had to decide if Mary wanted to spend 100 hours a week trying to go from junior associate, to associate to partner in a law firm and never see him or did they want to start building this photography business side by side. They had no money or clue what they were doing, but at least they’d be able to witness life together and spend that time together. They made that leap in 2006, did 15 years of that, and then she officially retired from that to become a full-time author when she signed her book contract for five books.
The first interesting thing to know is that the trailer on the cover of her book is the actual trailer she grew up in. Justin took the photo that is on the cover the first time she took him home to meet her family.
When they announced the title and did the cover reveal, people just saw the trailer and saw the word dirt. There were a lot of people who were suspicious about calling a book dirt. Was Mary going to dish all the dirt, sling the mud about how it was like growing up in that trailer and that hometown? Tell all the juicy gossip?
For Mary what her book stands for is this anthem, a siren call she wants people to hear, of these muddy parts of your story that you have spent years hiding. She never talked about this in the photography industry. The very first time she talked about it at their speaking events, where she shared about the girl from the trailer, there ended up being a line out the ballroom and down the hallway to talk to her after. To the point, the hotel security had to come break it up after two to three hours. People came up to her saying, “I was the girl in the trailer, I was the one who grew up that way and didn’t think anyone could know or they wouldn’t accept me”.
This book becomes this anthem for the muddiest parts of your story you’re hiding away, that you think you have to find to fit into the room, sit at the tables, or be the most put-together women in the room, those things are your superpower. When you start leaning into the vulnerability, when you start leaning into the mud that you came from that is what’s going to make you interesting. A journey of making peace with your past.
The personality types that we get are not who we are hard-wired to be, it’s not like this is the natural manifestation of how God created you, the numbers we get are the masks we put on in childhood. When we start to be aware of our childhood external world, something tells us this is who we are to be worthy of love.
Mary’s was seeing how people responded to her getting straight A’s. We start to learn that’s who we have to be for the rest of our lives to be worthy of love.
These things that happened to us in childhood, whether you had a more extreme childhood like trailer to Yale law, all of us have experienced a time in our childhood when we start to see the world and think that’s how I create my worth. These can be very extreme. For Mary, her mom left when she was nine, so she started to believe that without ever understanding it, to be somebody worthy of having the people you love stay you have to go out and do these incredible things in your life. Everything she set out to do was to prove her mom wrong because the biggest fear was what if she was right? She wasn’t worth somebody to stay for.
Everything in her life was about defeating that fear, providing proof for the contrary, look she did this and that so she must have been a person worth staying for. Rather than being a virtue of a daughter worth staying for.
It’s almost kind of helpful to think about it in reverse. What is something you do now, what is an Enneagram type that you have, what is a way you feel like the world is loving you whether that is saying you are so easy to get along with or you’re so much fun? Then try to trace that back to the first time you were getting that message when you were little.
Yale is the number one Law school in the country. It is kind of the equivalent of higher education of getting a golden ticket into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory because thousands and thousands of people apply and they only take about 190 people per class. What’s interesting is since it is such a sought-after and coveted spot and everybody who is applying at that level is incredibly qualified, but the admissions people start to look for people who can bring something different to the table. It’s to the point where enough people sit in that auditorium on the first day of class fully believing that it is a mistake and is going to get corrected any second. They actually address it in orientation. They say, “You were chosen on purpose for a purpose”.
Mary remembers listening to that and still thinking “yeah everyone but me”. She couldn’t see herself fitting in there.
Her biggest regret looking back on Law school is not holding all her classmates at arm’s length. She went into that room expecting to be rejected so she rejected them first. That’s a dangerous way to go through life if you don’t catch it. You assume you don’t belong with them, so you give them reasons to keep you at a distance. Whether that is you judging them or having sandpaper edges because you want to be rough around the edges so when they reject you it doesn’t hurt as bad.
She wasn’t mean to anybody but she was too cool for school. It was not a good attitude, the truth of the matter is she went to school with some pretty awesome people who are doing incredible things in the world and they are helping people and fighting for rights. They have all grown up to be people that are doing everything they can to leave the world a little better. If she could go back and spend more time with them, just enjoying them, she would.
There is a very cool parallel of telling stories, between Mary story and her dad’s story. The book itself is divided into two parts: the girl in the trailer and the girl after the trailer. A lot of the wounds that get opened up in part one get stitched back together in part two and have full circle moments.
Her dad was twelve years old when he went to work in the woods. He grew up in grandma Goldie’s house, Mary’s trailer she grew up in was hauled in on an 18-wheeler and was dropped in on the back part of her grandma’s property so her dad and she grew up on the same plot of land. Her grandma’s house was fifty paces away, it was right there. They grew up going to the same grade school that had five rooms and every two grades had to be combined into one room to make it work. Went to the same Sunday school and were setting out on the very same parallel trajectory but he came in and said “I was never really given the choice to go to college, men usually went to work in the mines”. There was this powerful situation where his uncle gets trapped in the mine and to him getting to work outside as a logger and seeing blue skies was his version of getting out. But for Mary he truly wanted her to have the opportunity to go to school if she wanted to.
He started bringing home workbooks when she was four years old so that she could get ready for kindergarten because nobody prepared him and he got laughed at when he went and felt dumb. The idea was you would get the workbook of the grade that your child was about to go into but he was not big on the expectations of kindergarten. So we moved from kindergarten to first grade to second and once she finished a workbook he would get the next level up. So when Mary started kindergarten she was at a sixth-grade reading and fifth-grade math level.
Words either have the power to speak life or speak death. We also have to think about what kind of life we are thinking. There is something to be said when we are speaking to ourselves or our kids, that we believe they are gifted but if it doesn’t work out they are still loved. We believe they are a hard worker but if you go through a whole season where you just want to rest, you are loved. These can be true of you and even if you don’t feel like that on your day you are no more worthy of that love. We have to start from a place where you are already loved and worthy, and the ultimate sacrifice is already made.
Photographer was never really her identity, she knew she wanted to write since she was five. She also knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur when she was little. Was always interested in photography but always saw it as this thing that Justin and her were going to do for a while before she got into the real work she was called to do.
At five years old she remembers driving past the birthplace of Pearl Buck and distinctly remembers God saying “You are going to be a writer and you’re going to write stories about West Virginia to bring honor as Pearl Buck did”. That has been the path all along, but a mix of Mary not feeling there yet but also a good example of God’s timing being perfect. If Mary tried to write her book any other time it would have ended up being a much more bitter, angrier version of the story. God knew she needed time to soften her heart and to have grace settle in.
God spoke to Mary in the yard at a young age and He said “One day this story is going to make sense, I am going to put words to it, you’ll see and then your story won’t be wasted”.
There can be betrayals on multiple levels. Allow yourself to get the words on the page and say what you would say if nobody was going to read the words. Let that draft be for you. It might be the very first time you are saying the words that it happened. Then give yourself time, more than 24hours, and then say what does this story look like from their perspective? Through God’s eyes? There is a great writing adage that says, “Versions of your story should go through true, truer and truest”. True is how you remember things to be, there is value there, it’s how you saw it. Truer is when you start to understand how it looked from other people’s perspectives. Truest is what God says about your story in light of all that.
It can feel like a betrayal to say these things happened out loud. People could be mad at you before they ever read a word, there might be some people that walk away from you because you did it. The people who mattered to Mary, her mom, and dad, the biggest thing she prayed over the book and hoped for was her family to be healed and closer together because of it. She is here to tell us between drafts one and two and the conversations she had with them, they are closer than they have ever been.
When it comes to the people who matter, tell the story that matters and be obedient to God with the story He is asking you to tell. He will help you figure what is in and what is out. Your story through the lens of grace. You can still talk about hard things, still, tell the truth about things, but people will be able to tell when it is coming from a place of grace and not revenge.
Some people are not going to change their minds, and you’re just going to have to say, “I know I was being obedient to what I was asked to write about and being obedient to the life I am being asked to lead and if you have a problem with that, take it up with God”.
It can feel like a betrayal to tell your story, to leave a place, but only you get to say what’s happening between you and the place. If you still love that place and still call it home, that’s between you and the place. If you still love those people and you’ve done right by them, that’s between you and the people. Everybody else’s opinion is going to have to fall away.
It’s something that every single one of us should spend some time digging into. One of the things that started to help Mary and see them as something to accept is when you honor the gift, you honor the giver. There’s a gap between when you show up and then there is something else.
There are these gaps in your life that you can’t take credit for. It is a gift. When you honor that gift you honor the giver.
There are so many people listening right now who are sitting on their gifts, spending more time thinking about how they are not worthy of the things they want to go do, instead of thinking about all the people who are not being served and helped while they are sitting on that gift.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
Whether you’re coming to an in-person workshop, joining our online course, or soaking up all the strategies via this blog or our podcast, we’re STOKED you’re here + can’t wait to see you out there kicking butt.
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