By Frayn Masters | 3/8/2022
“My life is a giant experiment and experimenting is just another form of play. I am the person that I am today because I experimented. I asked questions and I went about the business of figuring out how to answer them. Even if I didn't get direct answers. I went about the business of figuring it out.”
Lindsey Murphy says she’s always been a people person. That makes sense, since pretty much from the moment she landed in Portland in 2013 she’s been a major asset and force in the community. She’s known around town for her YouTube presence as “Crazy Aunt Lindsey,’” hosting TEDx, being named 40 under 40 in Portland Business Journal, and through her numerous speaking engagements. She carries herself with a confidence that draws in anyone around her.
“I've always been curious,” she says. “I've always asked a lot of questions. I've always found language to emote and express and understand.” As an eight year old, she watched her mom command a boardroom full of older white men as their assistant. At that moment, Lindsey saw her mom in a new way and decided right then she wanted to be this version of her: a serious business lady.
And she did become one. The transformation came fast, and it came with the debilitating inner turmoil only imposter syndrome can bring. Being in her sunny presence, having seen her slay on stage, and about town, it’s a surprise that she would suffer from such a thing. It is not a surprise that she embraced the pain. Pain which would eventually bring her to a different place. The knowledge she gained since that early rise – about her own mental and physical wellness – gave her a new definition of what it means to be that serious business lady. Taking all she’s learned through healing herself and healing ancestral wounds has led to her new exciting venture, Inside:Out, a workshop dedicated to emotional processing, physical health, rest, and allowing the fullness of one's beauty to bloom from the inside out.
Lindsey is the seventh generation of her family to be raised in the same house in her hometown of Morristown, New Jersey. “We’ve been here since before America was America, as both Black people and also with my grandmother coming down off of Ramapo mountain, as Indigenous Americans.” She describes Morristown fondly as rich in diversity of race, religion, income, and in just about every way. She grew up around everyone.
Her dad was born in the 1930s during the Jim Crow era. He left school by necessity before learning to read and became an inventive cook at home and carpenter. She saw him building their new family home. “I watched the seed of an idea flourish and the planks of wood and cinder blocks become a home,” she says on his influence, “It gave me an understanding that things take time. Planting the seeds and watching them grow.”
Her mom— a fifth generation teen mom— attended high school and some college courses with one of Lindsey’s older siblings on her hip while in the workforce. She landed in work as an executive assistant paralegal at a large pharmaceutical company that eventually became Pfizer. Her parents inevitably became planners; practical and tactical people mixed with a whole lot of creative vision - traits that Lindsey says were passed on to her. But perhaps their biggest influence was the way they positioned her to manage her own curiosity.
“I watched the seed of an idea flourish and the planks of wood and cinder blocks become a home... It gave me an understanding that things take time. Planting the seeds and watching them grow.”
Lindsey’s parents taught her that the answers to her endless stream of questions existed somewhere, and she learned that it was her job to find them. In her quest to find answers, she turned to the numerous books, encyclopedias, and thick Bibles that were all over her house. You can see this influence play out in the way she approaches teaching children about science in her “Crazy Aunt Lindsey” series, and, she says, in just about everything she does, including Inside:Out.
At 19, her unique set of interpersonal and communication skills were getting noticed, and she was recruited to work for MTV Networks in 2005 to help build video on demand (which, by the way, did not yet exist). From there she moved to a tech startup, then transferred to a major ad agency as an executive assistant in the new business department, and from there was recruited to develop new business for a digital marketing company. Her rise put her at the forefront of nearly every tech evolution of the early 2000s.
She was 25 years old, working her way ever closer to “serious business lady” status day by day in New York City. Dream apartment? Check. Great job? Check. Lindsey excelled at everything she touched.
Then, out of nowhere, she woke up inside an existential crisis. For the first time ever, she could not and did want to get out of bed.
It was the same morning she was set to make a big presentation, the culmination of a year’s work. She’d been so proud of the work she’d done on it. But there she was, frozen inside the beautiful sheets she’d dreamed of owning. She did the only thing she could muster in the moment: she called the guy that recruited her to say, “You're gonna have to land this plane, because I can't get out of bed.” She stayed there for two weeks.
During the days, Lindsey was suffering from steep anxiety and depression. Every night around 9PM, she hit the 24-hour convenience store at a nearby strip mall. Leaning against a rack of Hostess donuts, she’d have meaningful conversations about Bollywood, Black culture, God, family, goals, and dreams with the ever-shifting crew of aspiring doctors and grad students who worked the night shift. But, then, the day would arrive again. And the cycle would repeat.
Lindsey wears our Imber ring, Ignis ring, Sano ring, Uusi hoops and Sirocco necklace. Shop Lindsey’s look.
Lindsey says, ten years on, she looks back on moments like this and is able to see the spiritual journey she was on, often portrayed as a person bathed in light on the top of a purple mountain, or on a sandy beach with the sun in their face.
The truth is, sometimes finding your purpose might include finding relief from your jangly nerves by making a single new choice, or talking over the hum of a Slurpee machine with strangers.
It is a curious thing how we can see something we want, really work hard for it, get it, and still think that we are somehow not worthy of it. “There are these big things that I'm able to get myself into, and because I feel like I'm faking, because I feel like an imposter, because I feel like no one actually likes me, because I feel like I shouldn't be there, everybody is going to figure it out,” she says, about the flip side to what she pictured as her own success.
That long-ago morning of her big presentation sent Lindsey into what she describes as an “accidental introspection mode. I just looked at my life.” She lay there in that fancy and fabulous apartment that felt empty, and she felt empty. She achieved what she, as a little girl, had seen in her mom, but was no longer even close to her mom. Her dad, whom she’d remained closer to, had passed. She was bereft of any close relationships. The exterior told a different story than the interior.
A recalibration – a slowing down – followed. She moved to Montclair, New Jersey, and guesthouse surfed while she figured out what came next. She credits an incredible community of women – including executives, housewives, and multiple degreed women – who have shown up in every step of her life. She was part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program and is still in contact with her Big Sister match, Melissa, 30 years later. Her friend group was older, momming hard, and deep into their professional careers.
That community took Lindsey under their wing. They laid out baby-sitting jobs with their kids to get her through. They said, “Here's a spreadsheet of your [babysitting] schedule. Here is a key to a car and a key to the pool house. Figure it out. You got three months, we'll give you $500 a month to take care of our kids and just do whatever you got to do.”
During the 18 months that Lindsey spent providing childcare, she was no ordinary babysitter. She passed on her curiosity and turned the smallest moments into improvisational joy feasts. The kids called her Aunt Lindsey which, due to all her antics, naturally shifted to Crazy Aunt Lindsey.
But before long, the tech world came calling again, and in the late aughts Lindesy was recruited to help launch a product with XBOX. At her going away party, a parent said, “Hey, ever heard of YouTube?” Lindsey nodded a slightly patronizing yes. He went on, “You should put some videos up there of the activities you make up for the kids to watch. We’re gonna miss you.”
Lindsey clocked that idea. YouTube was newer at the time - the wild west of content of all stripes and qualities - so for the moment she brushed it off. But eighteen months later, once again pondering her life while watching a sunrise, she decided to go for it.
After wrangling the help of an old Nickelodeon buddy — editing was not a compatible task with her ADHD and would cause another frozen moment — she made some videos that, to her surprise, actually looked like a real show. She emailed them to her mom friends and she was back up and running in the babysitting gig. Now she was making more videos with the kids, evolving from “Stuff with Crazy Aunt Lindsey” to “The Fab Lab.”
Over the years, “The Fab Lab” has served her well, growing beyond anything she expected it to, with 170,000 views and counting. But, to bring in something new, she says, the old thing has to released to make room for new growth. “I’m ready to let go of a version of myself I no longer am. I’m ready to do something new that’s a part of who I’ve become. Something more from my heart and to birth more joy.” (But don’t worry!! Because of a little thing called the internet, “Crazy Aunt Lindsey” lives forever on [YouTube]. Your kids and YOU will love it.)
So, after 11 years as the incredible force behind “Crazy Aunt Lindsey,” Lindsey is seeing 2022 bear her new fruits. During that initial big panic attack years ago, the idea was planted that sometimes outside success doesn't provide inside validation.
“For 10 years, I lived from the outside in and it didn't work. And now I live from the inside out, and it is everything. And people are longing to know how to do it.”
“I have a saying,” she says, ‘The outside world is merely a reflection of what your inside world is.’ It's not the other way around. I was taking the traditional, stereotypical, systematized approach of outside in: salary equals worth, partner equals validation and valuation, kids equal fulfillment, or whatever it is.” She’s speaking of the workshops, workbooks, and consulting that makes up Inside:Out, her new venture. “For 10 years, I lived from the outside in and it didn't work. And now I live from the inside out, and it is everything. And people are longing to know how to do it.”
Lindsey has learned that she consistently gets where she sets out to go - but now she’s paying more attention to how and if her goals truly align with what makes her life feel full. Through trial and error, she was able to balance her mind and see more clearly what her gifts could offer the world, while also balancing her body (including clearing up a significant skin issue that her doctor said was basically incurable). Reaching this zenith also brought in something else Lindsey didn’t see coming – a partner that lives in the same joyful realm – and in October of 2021 the couple became engaged. After years of internal and external work, Lindsey is sharing with the world how she got herself into this new place.