The first time I met Michelle, it was because Toni sent me to her store, SoulTopia, to interview her and take photos. I was so nervous because usually, I conduct my interviews over the phone and through email. I Googled SoulTopia to gather as much intel as possible, but still, walking up to the store, I had a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
What if she can tell this is my first time doing anything like this?
What if she can tell I have no idea what I’m doing?
She was in a private reading with a client when I walked in, but her husband and assistant greeted me warmly and invited me to look around the store. I ran my hand over the rose quartz because a sign said it was for “calm.” When Michelle came out, she walked right up to me and gave me a hug, and with a flutter of energy she began showing me all the little areas of SoulTopia and what they were each for. She was beautiful, a statuesque blonde, but where that might usually intimidate me, I felt nothing but warmth and invitation coming from her. Each question I asked, she answered with deepest thought and passion. Later in the visit, she read my cards, and we did a crystal reading. Even though I’d always been interested in Tarot and crystals, I’d never had them read for me. I felt light and fresh on the inside afterward, all my nerves completely gone.
Just before I left, she said, “You know, I was so nervous about you coming here, but this has really been a lovely visit.”
I shared with her how nervous I’d been, and we both dissolved into laughter. It felt so good to admit it and just put it all out there. That’s when I knew Michelle would never be one to hide behind pretenses. She’s one of those people who exudes authenticity and self-confidence. She tells me she doesn’t always feel that way, but from the moment I met her to now, I’m consistently impressed with how true she is to herself and to her beliefs. I loved speaking with her this month and learning more about her journey to becoming who she is now.
Please enjoy my interview with our June Woman of the Month, Michelle Welch.
MB: To begin, give us a brief overview of who you are and the life you’ve lead so far.
MW: I grew up in Longview, Texas, which I consider to be East Texas. It’s close to Tyler. I was born and raised there and pretty much lived there until I went off to college. I went to Baylor for a semester, transferred to Texas A&M, and received a business degree. I then went to Baylor Law School and graduated at 24. As for my family, I have one brother who’s four years older than me. My parents are still married. They’re in their eighties.
MB: Could you describe the environment you grew up in?
MW: I grew up in a very conservative home. It was a wonderful home, wonderful parents, wonderful brother, and a pretty normal life…I guess, whatever normal is.
Who determines what normal is anyway? I’ll say this, with all respect to my parents, they cultivated a conservative environment with evangelical beliefs.
MB: Any hobbies or interests growing up?
MW: I played the piano. My mom was a piano teacher, and I was thinking about it the other day because I never regretted quitting until recently. I was really good at it. I have to work really hard at pretty much everything I do in life. I have a lot of drive, but I have to work at things. When it came to piano, I was naturally gifted. I remember competing and playing ten pieces when I was only four years old.
When I got a bit older, I quit piano to pursue tennis. I played tennis up until I graduated from high school and was captain of the tennis team. Instead of piano, I got into athletics, but again, I had to really, really work at it. Once I got into sixth or seventh grade, tennis consumed my life.
It’s funny. I said I would never regret quitting piano, and it’s not because I was naturally good at it. It’s just that desire to express myself. Now I would love to be able to sit down and play. I remember I would write music when I was younger. I’ve thought about playing again just to see if it’s like getting back on a bicycle. So maybe regret is the wrong word, but it’s been on my mind.
MB: You want that outlet again.
MW: Right. Sometimes when something is expected of you—and maybe this is my own personality quirk—but when something is expected of you and all of sudden somebody realizes you’re really good at that thing, it becomes a chore and not such a source of enjoyment. Maybe it was a lack of discipline on my part at that time, but it’s just one of those things that as you get older, you realize some people perhaps knew what was in your best interest. It’s really beautiful when your potential lines up with your passion, and luckily, that has happened for me now. My potential with what I do now lines up with my passion, and I don’t know that it did with piano at the time.
MB: On top of that, most kids are not naturally disciplined.
MW: Exactly. But parents and teachers can see and foster potential. On the other hand, I believe that each person has something they came to Earth to accomplish, a life purpose. I believe many parents push their own desires on their children when really the child inherently knows what they came here to accomplish. It’s tricky, but my parents ultimately knew I was happier playing tennis.
MB: When you were young, were you drawn to artistic things like the piano where you could express yourself and really explore your empathy or did you suppress it?
MW: In a way, both. Empathy is interesting work. Let me say this first. I expressed myself creatively in a lot of ways. I would write, draw, dance, act, and even make up skits, but my empathy was neither understood nor encouraged. This is not unusual. Most parents think empathic or intuitive children are overly sensitive. Well, guess what…they are! Now when someone tells me that I’m too sensitive, I politely say, “thank you.”
But the empathy part of it and being empathic really manifested itself more like this. I would walk into a room and I literally could feel…it wasn’t paranoia, but it could sometimes feel like that because I had no one to explain it to me. I would walk into the room and I could not read minds necessarily, but I felt the emotions of everyone in the room, and I mean it. Really feel them. I could pick up on that. I would think, “Courtney feels a little off,” but I would take that as “Courtney doesn’t like me,” as opposed to realizing something might be going on with Courtney or Courtney is having a bad day.
I would take it personally, and I see that now with many of the people who come to my classes. I also see it with many younger pre-teens and teens in the store. They get a lot of anxiety because they don’t know what to do with all the emotions they feel. They don’t realize those feelings aren’t their own. Imagine walking into a place where there are a whole lot of people and you’re picking up on everyone’s emotions and you don’t realize those aren’t your emotions necessarily. Those are the emotions of Susie and Bob and Joe, but you don’t realize that. You just feel sad or angry or depressed. People with this type of sensitivity need to learn to differentiate between what is and isn’t theirs. Now I’m able to help people understand that this is a gift, not a curse. I also help parents understand this in their children, which is very rewarding.
MB: Yeah, that totally makes sense.
MW: Everyone is welcome in my store. Every belief is welcome. That’s important to me because I felt misunderstood when I was growing up. I did not feel that I could authentically express myself because no one understood. When you literally can sense things about other people or know things they have gone through or may go through, it’s difficult to reconcile that with religious beliefs which teach it as sinful. There have always been things I just knew.
When I was younger, I wouldn’t necessarily go up and say it to someone, but it was constant, this knowing. I had nobody to explain all these things to me or explain what it was to be an empath or what it was to be an intuitive and have precognitive abilities.
So yes, I had to stifle it, very much so. It was not acceptable and it was a lonely feeling.
MB: I’m interested in this idea of stifling our empathy. How did you deal with it? I know you said it was hard and you misinterpreted what those feelings meant, but I’d love to know a little bit more about those experiences for you.
MW: Originally, I talked a lot. I would walk up to somebody, as kids do, and say, “You don’t need to be sad. Things will work out.” Or, “Your daughter is still with you.” It was pure authenticity. But then this authenticity was conditioned out of me, like it is with most children, but especially with intuitives. I call it conditioned beliefs. We are conditioned with so many things in life. I became conditioned to not express or relay all of the information I received intuitively.
So the outlet I had was religion. I threw myself into religious dogma which is very different than a relationship with Christ or a higher power. Over the years, “religion” wasn’t working for me anymore, and I began to realize some of those beliefs did not jive with what I knew personally of Christ. It really hit me when my oldest son came out as gay. I had one of those “crises of belief” moments where I looked at all that I believed and I said, “Okay, my son is so brave for accepting his authentic self, but I’ve not been true about who I am, either.” My son has the boldness to say, “This is really who I am.” All the while, I felt I wasn’t being true about who I was. I thought, I’m just playing a part here and I’ve been playing a part for a long time. People will probably wonder and judge whether I am a Christ follower. Absolutely! It’s my views on religion that have evolved.
Our earthly self thinks it knows more than our spiritual, higher self. But if we look at it, which one knows more? It’s our higher self, really, and it probably knows more of the big picture than what we’re experiencing here on this earthly planet. To me, we have it backward to think our logical self would know more than our intuitive, higher self.
MB: You’re talking about conditioned thinking, and that is a big part of fitting in with the rest of society. I don’t know if we should call them rules, but we follow a set of behaviors, social mores, that allow us to interact with people. If we go around with our higher selves all the time, people are probably going to get tired of it after a while.
MW: Exactly. We’re here for a purpose and we’re here to interact with our fellow man, observe our fellow man, and love our fellow man. We want to be grounded. We don’t want to be up in our higher selves all the time. But we can be both grounded and connected to spiritual things at the same time. We can remember who and what we are and what we came to accomplish on this planet by choosing to be present in both the earthly and spiritual planes.
An example from when I was a full-time lawyer, before I really reconnected, there were times when I would pick a jury. The whole time I would think, “Wow. I’m really smart. I’m really good at this.” That was my intuition kicking in. That was my higher self. That was me using those abilities to go, “Okay. I’m sensing this about this prospective juror.” Throughout the selection process, I wouldn’t discount those thoughts or say to myself, “You’re just imagining that.” I listened to myself because I thought I was intelligent and logical. Yet when we realize it’s a gut instinct, a knowing, an ability to discern, why do we perceive it as less valid just because it comes from our higher thinking? Why is that? It’s an old paradigm of thinking. Now I welcome my intuitive abilities as more than valid.
MB: There’s this discussion about the two ways that we think, fast and slow. The fast is the intuition that you’re talking about, just a gut instinct that people use, and then the slow is where we actually take the time to think through every possibility and really take in all angles of a situation to make a decision.
MW: I believe we can get analysis paralysis by overthinking a situation and forgetting what our gut tells us. I know that every single time I go against my intuition, my journey is not as smooth as it could have been if I had listened. It depends on the person and if they have remembered how to tap into their intuition and to trust it. If we really believe we are from a higher power and connected to that higher power, then why would our higher self not have more knowledge? Why are we, especially women, constantly barraged with fear that our intuitive self is not enough? I believe meditation helps us break through into even higher thinking, and decisions can be made quickly because we have turned off the mind chatter that keeps us disconnected.
MB: I guess I’m having a hard time figuring out the balance between the two.
MW: You don’t want to rationalize or filter the messages you receive. I’m not an advocate of that. For somebody like me who is an intuitive, if you came to me with a question and I said, “Let me get back to you,” that typically would not be the way I would deliver a message. Because then that would be my intellect getting involved instead of the pure message from Source or Spirit.
There’s free will and things can change, so I like to talk about, “This is what it looks like if you take this path. This is what it looks like if you’re going to take this path. Here’s what I’ve seen. The energy is this right now, because everything is energy. This is what’s going on right now, but if you don’t like how this is going or how I see this may turn out, let’s look at some other alternatives and what else you can do to course correct.”
Again, you have to tell people in the beginning that there is free will, but at the same time I’m not going to tell people, “Now, you have free will, so you’re going to need a reading every single day.” That’s ridiculous and unethical because people need to learn to tap into their own intuition. My whole goal is to help people learn to watch for themselves and learn to help themselves, not to be dependent upon me or anyone who works at my store.
MB: I think that view and that approach has really set you apart—in my eyes at least—from a lot of the negative connotations that come with Tarot readings or crystal readings.
MW: That’s why I do it. I take it very seriously. Ethics are the most highly validating thing for me—integrity, ethics, and confidentiality. Those three things are very important to me. Or I wouldn’t be doing this.
It’s very important to me. In my store, if I see or hear of anybody not keeping the highest of ethical standards, they’re not going to be invited back. I recently had a reader who wanted to work one of my events complain to me that I was the hardest place in town to get a position with as a reader. I answered with a resounding, “Thank you!”
I started thinking about this when I first came up with the idea for my store. I knew I needed to have a clear set of ethics and standards in place. Within any trade, within any business, including the law, you can have ethical people practicing and you can have unethical people practicing. Whether there’s a board that’s supposed to keep them ethical or not, it’s still true, and you have people who have high standards and people who don’t, and I want to be one that has the highest standards.
MB: I was telling someone about you and your store, but I know that when I say, “She does readings,” there’s all this stuff that will pop up in their mind. You explained it way better.
MW: Well, it’s still hard for me sometimes due to my conditioned beliefs. I still sometimes stumble over my words. Even though I completely believe in what I’m doing, it’s difficult, especially with people who have strong, judgmental opinions.
A lot of times people immediately think, “Okay, it’s fraudulent. It’s fake. They’re a fake. They’re low-class.” Whatever. I don’t know. Whatever you might think. They may think we’re all con artists, or they may think it’s sinful. There are all kinds of things they can think about it.
Then on top of that, I’m a lawyer. A lot of people don’t feel good about that profession either. Then you throw out there that I’m an Aggie and I’m blonde. A psychic intuitive, blonde, lawyer Aggie—forget about it! But that’s fine because I believe in what I’m doing. That’s why with our store, I like the word holistic, because I believe it’s a holistic approach to life. The best thing I can think to call it right now is a holistic approach to living because it’s your mind, it’s your body, it’s your spirit, it’s your emotions, it’s everything.
We provide help for all of that, but it never takes the place of anything else. It doesn’t take the place of someone’s church or their doctor or a psychologist or their financial advisor. I’d never say that. But do I believe in it? Absolutely or I wouldn’t have put my neck on the line for it. I really want people to see you can be professional in this business. My mission is that through my work and my store there will be sophistication with a twist in the metaphysical community. My store exudes that by being professional, cute, upbeat, fun, and fresh. It’s SoulTopia and I’m just the same person I’ve always been. The difference is that I am living more authentically.
Be sure to stop by next week for Part II of our enlightening interview with Michelle Welch.