For me, 2017 has been a year I couldn’t have imagined. I moved out on my own, where I battled spiders and re-moved all of my stuff to a new unit. That first apartment was also the start of the first few months where I really got depressed. You would think that having your own space would be the highlight of the year, but for me, it became a time where I had too much time. In that void, I faced being alone. When you’re with other people in a house or apartment, you eventually face your own loneliness, but you get easily distracted by your people. They pull you out of that trench in which you find yourself, and you never quite get stuck long enough to process through what bothers you. I had that – my parents and friends and constant busyness at home kept me from exploring my own loneliness. It wasn’t until I moved out and started living alone that I had to face that, and I had no distractions anymore. It was just me in my new apartment, with all of this freedom that I didn’t know how to enjoy. And so I spent the next few months moving past old trauma, allowing it to painfully teach me what it’s like to be with myself. I didn’t know what Home felt like, or what it should feel like when you’re finally responsible for yourself and your belongings and survival. And I had to pull myself up by my weak roots to finally move into Unit #2 and create an environment that would remind me (and still does) that this is where I belong. If you’re familiar with chakras and energy points, this is the Root – the first chakra. Since last Thanksgiving, I’ve been working on this bad boy, literally building myself from the ground up.
I didn’t have an easy childhood. It’s one part of my life that I feel like my friends and students and readers don’t know anything about. When I moved out, I had to create boundaries to separate what I’ve blindly adopted as a way to live and think, and what I truly believed in and what felt right to me. A lot of what I used in my life to carry me forward came from my parents and their fears, and the fears of their parents and so on. I grew up too quickly under circumstances that were truly draining on a young child, especially an empath who didn’t know she was one. So, many of the decisions I made during the time when I lived at home were based on other people’s opinions and experiences, and I somehow wove myself into that fabric, instead of choosing to start my own. You can imagine how scary it was for me then, to move out on my own and discard that family chain and choose to lead my own life, which has always been so vastly different from my family unit.
This move brought me into 2017, and I believe it rippled an incredible heap of changes for me. Not only was I pushing through every single day to learn more about myself, I became stronger because I didn’t have a choice anymore. Changes at work left me to step up to the plate and become someone who took charge, even when I didn’t know what that meant. It’s something my therapist would come to remind me, time and time again – you don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step. So I became more vocal in my work and how I interacted with my colleagues and bosses. And while I was voicing my opinions in how to make work more effective, I was also voicing my boundaries. I found myself saying “No” more often, and it was because I finally started being honest in how I communicate. More importantly, I started voicing what was important to me and what wasn’t. I can’t tell you how many people you end up pissing off when you start being honest, but if there’s a piece of advice here that I can offer, it’s this – piss them off, anyway. If you want honesty in the world, let it start with you.
When I started pushing away projects and ideas and people who meant nothing to me, other weird stuff started happening. I realized I didn’t like what I was doing. I realized my job was just a job, and that I had a ridiculous pile of opportunities to do something else that made me incredibly happy. In yoga, we throw the word “dharma” around a lot. Dharma means purpose. It’s the age-old question – “why am I here?” I truly never gave this word a lot of attention, and I thought that my purpose was going to be too complicated to even begin to analyze. I’m often reminded of an incredible friend who often suggests that if we just let the path of life unfold, we’ll be taken to where we need to go. For me, though, something shifted in this year alone that helped me touch the tip of my dharma, even if for just a moment. The truth is, I can’t tell you word for word what my dharma is in this life. I can’t put it into words or slap a definition on it; all I know is that I’m here to help heal this world, and I know it with every fiber of my being. So I guess you can say 2017 has been a year of waking up.
Once I gave in to this purpose of mine, everything else that was too small started to fall away – worries about money, jobs, stuff, drama, other people’s drama. In comparison to what I felt in my heart was my mission, these small, mundane things lost all control over me. There have been many times this year where I have fallen off the wagon of practicing yoga or working out or eating well. I’ve caved in many times to drink and smoke, and I’ve stepped back into old habits that I know do nothing good for me. I’ve come upon old friends and family whose attitudes never changed, and whose same attitudes used to cripple my self-confidence. Now? Now, things are different because I am. I know myself so ridiculously well that the strength and awareness I’ve cultivated can never be pierced again by someone’s mean words or ill-hearted manners. It’s like I’ve picked myself up from the ruins of other people’s perceptions and placed myself up on a throne, where I can see across the horizon and know that I am on my way. It’s what I wish for everyone – to be able to feel, if not clearly see, your path forward and embrace it.
This year gave me the world, literally. If it wasn’t for Nepal and Mexico and LA and Chicago and everywhere in-between, I wouldn’t be sure that I could take risks and change course. People always talk about following your dreams, and I finally did. No one mentioned how scary that would be in and of itself, but it is damn well worth it. Every step of the way. My dream has always been to travel. I remember making lists of destinations all over the world, and then waiting for a friend or family member to go with me. Now, the idea of going on my own is empowering. When I know I want something and I’m scared to do it, I can remind myself that the fear is something I create. So if I can create fear, I can also create joy. And that’s when I pack my bags and go. I don’t wait around anymore. Life is too short to wait for someone else, even yourself.
The world has given me more than I can thank it for. When I came home from Nepal, I didn’t know how to place myself back into the routine I had before the trip. Every simple gesture of normalcy felt somehow insignificant, like I had bigger and better things to do with my time. Nepal opened up a new chapter for me that gave me the push that I needed. Soon after, I started to push myself into the directions that used to scary me. I started making plans that scared me, but that I knew I always wanted to follow through with. I realized that my dharma has always been this – to so strongly believe in what I am gifted to do, and then go do it. And little by little, I started giving myself permission to dream. I didn’t need to stay in this little town; I didn’t need to stay in this job; I didn’t need to live the secure life that my parents preached. I didn’t need to do anything just because it’s been proven time and time again that this is what women in my age group typically do.
I have plans. Dreams. And each one is scarier than the next. Each one forces me to take a risk, be seen, step out and open up that yoga studio or go back to school and apply for that job I know I’m not qualified for. Each risk forces me to pack up my bags and leave what I know for something totally wild and new. And the best part is that I know I’ll be OK, wherever I end up.
I’m on my way.
I’ve woken up to my potential, my purpose, and my power. How I express that is through my words. How I feel that is through my practice. How I love that is by never looking back.