Terrie Williams comes to Langston Hughes library

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After having everyone arrange their chairs in a semicircle, Williams forsook the lectern and sat on the edge of the stage in the beautiful library’s second floor auditorium.

“Podiums are usually security blankets for me. I like to have something to hold on to with notes and things like that, but I feel comfortable sitting on the stage,” she said.

She then spoke about the burdens of being in business and of life in general. She was — and still is — a social worker who counseled terminally ill patients and their families until it became too much.

Besides, she wanted to make as much money in this lifetime as she legally could.

So she started the Terrie Williams agency 15 years ago and has represented just about everybody who’s anybody, from Eddie Murphy to Janet Jackson to Stephen King and NBA stars.

Ironically, she was at the top of her game when she realized she was crumbling inside. One day when she went to an awards program she started crying and couldn’t stop. “I was completely overwhelmed. I had no time for myself,” she said.

The pressure of acting as if everything was fine was intolerable, and she went to a therapist.

“It’s hard to ask for help when everyone else comes to you. It was very difficult to ask for help. I felt that I needed to make some changes in my life,” she said.

“A Plentiful Harvest” is about those changes. It’s a very personal work. “I really put myself on the front page,” she said. “It was difficult to write about, it’s harder to talk about, but it’s worse than not saying anything at all.” She added that she's “Learning Terrie” now.

Williams went on to share a few other things she’d learned.

“You literally can’t help anybody unless you help yourself first,” she explained, giving an analogy to flying in a plane. When you’re on a plane and the oxygen mask comes down you have to put your mask on first before you help anyone else, she said.

“Butterflies in the stomach mean you’re ready to take your game to the next level,” she said.

“Thank God, because it means you’re challenging yourself,” she added, and recalled the ordeal of redecorating her apartment. It took six uncomfortable months, but it was worth it.

Williams also started the Stay Strong Foundation so she could work with and mentor young people.

“When you’re empty inside you do things that reflect that,” she said. Williams, for example, hasn’t worn pantyhose for 20 years, but would buy it without using it and give it away, until she learned better. “You just do dumb [stuff] when you’re spiritually empty,” she said. You also have to have reasonable measuring sticks for your successes, she added.

Williams had everyone introduce themselves and talk about their passions and challenges. Her friend and co-worker, Tracy, tearfully recalled her slow recovery from a failed marriage. Another friend, Zoe, spoke of being burnt out after years of community service. Williams’ former mail carrier, Sarge, talked about being at loose ends after taking an early retirement from the post office during the anthrax scare.

Others spoke of quitting dissatisfying jobs, the challenges of raising teenagers, aging, being stuck and not knowing where to go, illness, God and unfinished houses that the owner likes anyway.

“The power is in you to do anything you want to do,” said Williams — an idea she has kept throughout her life and tries to spreads to everybody she meets.

Updated 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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