This Is What Happens When You Choose You

If you’ve ever felt like your life’s on autopilot or you can’t remember the last time you asked yourself what you want, this one’s for you.

Life moves fast. We get on the train and go from one stop to the next. We rarely ever stop to ask ourselves where we’re going or if our choices are actually our own.

I can pinpoint the moment this began in my own life to junior year when the pressure to pick the right college and a career path started piling on. Can anyone actually believe they expected 17- and 18-year-olds to know jack shit about their futures? Regardless, you follow the rules. You pick a major, a college and ride the wave. Eventually, it’s your senior year and now it’s time to find that dream job. Maybe you’re about 21 and you find the perfect fit right out of college. Maybe like the vast majority of us, your degree and university don’t help you find a job when you need it most. Meanwhile, your student debt looms over every passing day. By the time you do find a job, you’ve already given up on trying to reach for something that makes you happy or that at the very least challenges you intellectually and creatively — you’re desperate. You take what you can get. This is when you give up.

In my own experience, I bounced from one unfulfilling position to the next. It’s hard to believe you have any other choice as adult expenses and responsibilities accumulate. It’s all too easy to get sucked into the cycle even after you read all of the self-help blogs about traveling abroad and following your passions. Not all of us make enough money to eat, pray, love. Not everyone has the support to make their dreams come true at that time, and it starts to feel like the system is rigged against you.

Eventually, you reach a point where maybe you’re in your mid-twenties and you’re burned out and deeply unfulfilled. You don’t have any real reason for it because, hey, you have a job! You did everything right. You can afford all of the basic comforts of an “easy” life and you’re given the weekends to invest in your hobbies and the things you love. Why are you so depressed?

Let’s consider “The Great Resignation,” a name used to describe the millions of workers quitting their jobs after the COVID pandemic. Think about why this cultural shift is happening now. During the pandemic, all of us were affected differently. What we had in common was a collective introspection that forced us to rethink what actually mattered. When the stakes are this high, people remember what they want to live for. Turns out 40- to 60-hour weeks in an office doing something you’re not passionate about and having two days for yourself didn’t make the cut. It’s no wonder people started craving more.

The good news is that millions of people are using this shift as an opportunity to prioritize themselves for the first time in their lives. Whether it has to do with their relationships, work environment or location, people are shedding what no longer serves them and taking a leap of faith to find what does. For me, this meant saving enough money until I felt like I could take a break. I needed time to reassess what I actually wanted, time I didn’t have before. I asked myself questions I hadn’t been asked since I was a kid. What do I love to do? How do I want to spend my days? What actually matters to me?

It’s not easy to make this jump, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t work my fair share of unfulfilling jobs. While I no longer lean on my family for financial support, I do have a wonderful partner who’s been looking out for me during this shift as well. I fully recognize my privilege and the ways that I’m also putting myself at risk. Now that I’m taking this “work break,” my money is slowly draining. I can’t lie, though, I’m also the happiest I’ve been in a long time. With this new freedom, I started meditating again, working out, reading, writing for myself and prioritizing my artwork. I’ve started selling my paintings again and developed a new business plan for my Etsy shop. I’m working every day, but I’m doing it for myself and for the things I love. I forgot what that felt like. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced that feeling in my adult life so far. I’m not sure many of us ever do.

Choosing you in whatever way that manifests in your own life is scary, but it’s incredible too. I wish I could give every single person the same opportunity to stop the clock and make their own choices again, find ways to make that possible because I know how impossible it can feel. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re able to start making a plan that works for you. I hope you’re doing it in small ways every day, and I hope the tugging in your heart that craves more never fades away.

Listen to Yourself: On Achieving Self-Discipline

“The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.”

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When was the last time you sat in silence and felt yourself slip into nothing? Do you ever tune out the noise around you and pay attention to what happens next? If the answer is ‘yes’ and you’ve allowed yourself moments to stall out, this cryptic message taken from a fortune cookie might stir something inside you.

The more I write, the more the yin and yang of human existence comes up as a theme. It almost writes itself. It’s no surprise, as you can probably tell by my latest blog posts, that I’ve been struggling to find my place in the world after completing my education. It was all too cozy being intertwined in structured collegiate strings – classes, professors, friends, clubs, all keeping my mind and soul active. As I walked across the stage during graduation I felt the strings snap and release their hold on me. It took feeling the diploma in my hand, celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime achievement with my family and friends, and simultaneously suffering the grief brought on from losing the safest chapter of my life for me to understand life’s dark sense of humor. It’s a hard pill to swallow.

Slowly after this shift, I began to look to myself for guidance. The discipline came to me in “the emptiness of everything” — from the moments when I had let my life become cyclical, structureless, and empty. By that I mean, clarity would find its way to me when I was stuck.

When I was a freshman in college, I developed a hip fracture from a combination of dancing for 10+ years of my life and gaining a drastic amount of weight too quickly. I had to drop out of school for a semester to live at home and keep the weight off my legs. Though this could have easily been the worst time in my life, the solitude and quiet gave me time to get to know myself again, to let my mind wander, and to make plans for a better future. It was in those few months that I dedicated time to this blog, wrote poetry every day, painted again for the first time in years, took care of my body, and got accepted into Salem State University where I would eventually complete my education.

I often look back at this time and use it as fuel when life feels uninspiring again. I remember the yin and yang and that I am solely responsible for pulling myself out of the hole, for bringing passion back into my routine. We tend to move so quickly all the time, always set to autopilot at work and in our relationships. It’s easy to lose yourself if you’re not paying attention to the voices and urges inside you. I had to learn that the hard way. I now make time for myself a priority.

When I graduated I let the ensuing emptiness consume me by neglecting the things I loved to do most of all. I stopped writing and felt the strain of that on my entire body. Nothing was expected of me anymore, no schedules were put in place to keep me in line. It was on me.

I’m writing this because I wish it had been available to me around the time my life shifted drastically and I couldn’t keep up. I’m writing this to remind everyone that “the greatest medicine” in life is you. It’s remembering to read, write, think, sit with yourself and feed your intellect, even if no one is expecting that of you.

It’s ironic how much we hate going to classes, dread doing a homework assignment, and can’t stand being graded constantly throughout the majority of our lives, but feel dependent on it all when it’s gone. Most people won’t admit it, but the void is there.

Long story short, sometimes a fortune cookie from last night’s take-out can lead to an epiphany — but only if you give yourself the time necessary to reflect. Though I don’t have anything figured out yet and feel stuck quite often, I am steadily emerging from the fog. Adulthood is intimidating and isolating, but it won’t overpower you if you fight back. Listen to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s My “Personal Legend”?

I’m currently reading this book called “Like the Flowing River” by Paulo Coelho. I found it it in a box of things my parents had stored away in the office.  It was an old gift to my dad from a friend of his that had been gathering dust for years.

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At first, when I started reading the first two chapters, I wasn’t immediately hooked. I forced myself to keep reading only because I trusted our family friend’s taste. I’m glad I kept reading. Each chapter of the book is comprised of a short story that contains an overall message which tends to be inspiring or motivating in some way.

One chapter in particular about the “importance” of a college degree stuck out to me. Coelho writes that often people attend university because,

“…someone, at a time when universities were important, said that, in order to rise in the world, you had to have a degree. And thus the world was deprived of some excellent gardeners, bakers, antique dealers, sculptors, and writers.”

He then alludes to a famous Robert Frost quotation:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Coelho makes an interesting point that “we each of us have our own personal legend to fulfill.” In fact, this notion seems to be one of the primary themes in his writing. He purposefully inspires the reader to ask herself “What is the meaning of my life?”

Though I respect this belief, I find it irritating constantly hearing this from people who already have it all “figured out”. There are fortunate people in this world who know early on what their “personal legend” is. They barely struggle to find it at all. Those of us who are still searching have a hard time knowing where to begin.

It would be lovely to follow Coelho’s advice and to simply stop everything in order to fully devote myself to my passion. What happens when you don’t know what your calling is yet? Where are the books that guide the indecisive, the Renaissance men and women, to their specific path? I have yet to find and read those. I refuse to accept we’re simply lost. There’s a path for us too but it’s difficult to find.

I honestly don’t know what my life’s work will be. I find utter satisfaction and passion in various things. For instance, lately I’ve devoted a great deal of my time to artistic expression. I’ve been falling in love with art again. Upon showing my friends and family the artwork I’ve created, many of them said something along the lines of “Why didn’t you go to art school?”

Sometimes I feel like I am wasting my time at university, just going through the typical life path motions. I believe that being busy isn’t necessarily a good thing if it means I’m just avoiding figuring out what it is I truly want in life.

I wish I had less questions and more answers.

You

Let me ponder your silhouette

all that was yours alone, which now is ours

Stand before me in the flesh

with wine lips, trembling, whispering professions

of eternity

A glance from your eyes overshadows the mundane

The only perspective that matters

You.

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