Categories
empowerment self discovery

The Day I Found My Freedom

I’ll never forget the feeling I had that March afternoon in San Francisco.

I was just dropped off at SFO, heading to my gate for my return flight to Michigan.  Tears in my eyes, I got out my phone to call my parents.

“I don’t want to go back,” I declared. “I’m going to call off the wedding.”

It was 2008, and I had been engaged for exactly seven months.  Although the engagement was quick, and I thought I was happy at the time, it didn’t take long for me to see the reality before my very eyes.

The day in, the day out.  The daily traffic into my corporate job.  Coming home to the same routine, every day, to the same person- at 23 years old.

I knew it wasn’t the life for me.  Two years earlier I had plans to move to New York City as soon as I graduated.  I didn’t expect to meet someone later that year, on my 22nd birthday on December 22nd, who would swoop me off to Kauai for Valentine’s Day and move me into their beautiful suburban house once I finished college.  I’ve always been a big believer in signs, so I thought, “maybe I’m not supposed to go to New York after all.”  There had to be a bigger reason for meeting this person on such a significant day to me.

Back in 2006, my partying was getting out of control despite my grand plans for finishing school and heading to the city.  At the time, it seemed like he was an angel saving me from myself.

I would later learn no one could save me but me.

When I told my father, he thought I was insane.  Of course, any father wants their daughter be taken care of and to have a good life.  A good life to me looked a bit different than my parents’ view, though.

The day before my flight, my half sister (who worked in SF at the time) and I talked about my relationship and my goals for life.  Before I even realized it, she knew the marriage wouldn’t work.  She challenged my views and helped me realize I should take some time to reconsider.  She helped me think differently about what I really wanted- because for over a year, someone else was trying to make all my decisions for me.

Little Italy, 2008

As the plane took off, I thought about how I would wait a couple of weeks before telling my fiancé that I didn’t want to get married.  I thought about what types of jobs I could apply to in San Francisco, where I would live, and who I could become.  I day dreamed of freedom, making new friends, and exploring the magical, quirky sights of the city.  My gut told me moving was the right thing to do- and from the moment my fiancé greeted me at the gate, I knew it was over.

I didn’t wait two weeks.

I told him right away.

Of course, he tried to convince me it was a phase and how my sister was envious of me. He attempted to tell me I didn’t know what I was doing and how I was meant to be with him. All of his efforts to control me- from my diet to physical activities to what I wore- filled my brain, and I no longer felt sorry for him.

I began to have a deeper compassion for myself.

For the next week I stayed on a friend’s couch, who took a day off work with me to pack up my things.  I left my princess cut diamond on the dresser, leaving behind all the furniture I helped buy with my graduation money.  No physical object was worth sacrificing my dreams- or my future.

Who knows what would have happened had I not taken that trip to see my sister in 2008. Perhaps the wedding would have happened, and maybe I would be divorced now.  We will never know.  However, despite the judgment I received from others, I knew deep in my heart that I was making the right choice.  I knew, at 23, that I didn’t want to take the easy way out and allow the wrong man to take care of me.  I simply refused to do that.

I would have to spread my wings and fly.

I would have to make mistakes on my own.

I would somehow, someway, succeed- and despite the failures, I would learn from them- because I finally had my freedom.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I do know I will never have to mourn the chances I didn’t take.  It’s been nearly 12 years since I took the leap, quit my job, and blindly moved to an apartment on California and Commonwealth Avenue.  Over the course of those 12 years, I’ve lived in a dozen more apartments, several other cities, and did eventually move to New York…

All because I chose freedom.

Categories
empowerment self discovery

Free to Be: Going On Your Own Path

There comes a day when you stop letting the outside world trick you into thinking there is only one way to life, security, happiness, and success.

~

A lovely friend of mine, a neurologist in Cambridge, described the city perfectly to me once:

“Cambridge: where everyone thinks they’re a ‘renegade.'”

I had only been in Boston for a few months, so I hadn’t yet gotten an impression of the people or the culture.  However, I liked this idea, and I certainly loved Cambridge.

Although I used to wish I had taken a traditional path (or at least a “laid out” one) I realize now through listening to others that it wouldn’t have been right for me.  I have spent the past 11 years trying to “fit” the mold; city to city, job to job, relationship to relationship.  It was a struggle trying to fit this square peg in a round hole.

I had simply assumed by speaking with her, the grounded and successful woman she is, that she must have had an easier path than mine. That things came naturally to her.  That she followed her heart when making her career choice.  However, upon knowing her better, I learned that it wasn’t her choice to become a doctor; it was her father’s.

I met this woman April of 2017, and she played an instrumental role helping me learn I am enough.  She said to me, over and over, that I am fine just as I am.

I didn’t realize what she meant until now.

As my life came together, fell apart, and came back together time and time again back in the summer of 2017, my friend Nicoline (who I just visited in NYC) also reminded me of how strong I am.  Although I felt hopeless at times, she saw the light in me.  She recognized my strengths.  She helped me see my own light; and in turn, I have been able to do the same for her.

It’s interesting how we can get down on ourselves so easily, yet we are much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

Now, let’s go back to the idea of a “renegade.”

This made me laugh.

However, much of our society blindly follows the unwritten rules the “patriarchy” laid out years ago, without question.

I can’t imagine living an existence where I don’t question these rules.

As I began to step into my authentic self, I stood up to “the man.” I have ignored their sexist comments. I have ignored people telling me I can’t do things. I have been independent.

Perhaps this does make me a “renegade.”

Over the years I thought about what society wanted me to do; or at least, what those around me expected.  I thought that if I got an advanced degree, a certain job, or had impressive credentials, I would please others.

But why did I care about pleasing the patriarchy?

I wasn’t pleasing myself.

As I have let the ideas of what other people “expect” from me, I realize that I wasn’t doing anyone any good.  I wasn’t happy in relationships or jobs where I couldn’t be myself.  I wasn’t succeeding in roles that didn’t align with my talents.  I felt anxiety in environments I forced myself to be in.

As my spiritual practice and confidence grows, the more I realize that manmade rules are simply tricks to give others power.

We have all the power we need within ourselves.

The more fearlessly honest I am, the more gifts have appeared in my life.  I’ve been published in places I never dreamed to see my work, I’ve received heartfelt letters from readers who didn’t know who else to turn to, and I’ve gotten the opportunity (and blessing) to find inner peace, joy, and empowerment through my authenticity.

I used to water down my personality to “fit in.”  That didn’t serve anyone.  Today, I refuse to play a role in society; I will live my truth.

I came to this earth for a reason; and that reason wasn’t to follow the patriarchy, let someone scare me into doing things their way, or let others take my power.

My reason was to help others realize they, too, can fearlessly spread their wings and fly.

So, that is what I will continue to do. ✨

Categories
conscious living empowerment

Purpose Over Popularity

We can’t please everyone, can we?

While running errands over the weekend I passed one of best things about Central Square- Graffiti Alley.  Although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s some of my favorite street art in the city.  Every time I walk through the magical rainbow covered walls, I notice something new.  What did this mean to the artist?  What were they thinking?

Then, as I reflected on purpose and meaning, I stumbled on this message today:

Purpose Over Popularity

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose.  To me, purpose doesn’t have to be something grand or extravagant, but it has to be meaningful.

Purpose is what fills your soul and makes your day worthwhile.  Purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning.

Graffiti Alley made me think about my own purpose- speaking to others through my own writing and art.  It’s only natural for any writer or artist to fear rejection, criticism, or naysayers- however, the purpose of my work is to connect with those who understand. 

Art tells a story, whether it’s a mural or a song.  Although not everyone will understand the work an artist shares with the world, the art can have immense meaning; meaning that is unique to each individual.

Each time I receive an email from a person who relates to my struggles, has walked in my shoes, or needs someone to vent to, I am both overjoyed and humbled.  Connecting with others on a deeper level means everything to me.  From being a young girl who was bullied in school to someone who can be the voice to stand up for others, I wouldn’t want to be liked by everyone.

I would rather connect with one person on a meaningful level than 100 people for something shallow.

So, the next time I walk through Graffiti Alley, I’ll ponder the thought that went into each splatter of paint, brush stroke, and word.  We may not understand the meaning that went into the art, but remember: it could mean the world to someone.

Categories
empowerment self discovery

Dream Big, Darling

As 2017 comes to a close, I’ve smudged away old regrets, lost dreams, and looked toward everything the future has to offer.  I’m ready to take on 2018… are you?

It’s easy to dwell on the past, old mistakes, or missed opportunities.  For years I didn’t even realize I was settling for less!  Instead of following my heart, I listened to the opinions of people who weren’t in alignment with me, questioned my abilities, or stayed quiet in fear of being misunderstood.  It took several years, a lot of lessons, and some encouragement to discover I didn’t need to believe in anything but myself. 

I hid my talents and creativity for years because I was afraid of being criticized.  It didn’t even occur to me that I may get positive feedback!  As a child, any recognition wasn’t worth the hurtful things I may have heard (keyword: may).  At seven years old I wrote and illustrated an entire collection of children’s stories called “Suey and Friends.”  Suey was a chipmunk who went on all sorts of adventures with her crew.  Each character had a unique personality, often based on dreams I had or friends of my own.  My mom still has those old pieces of paper somewhere back in Michigan… she believed in me and encouraged me to continue creating.  Although it was just a hobby to me, she always insisted we send them to agents or publishers.  Being the shy and insecure girl I was, I never agreed to it.

It’s been 25 years since my last Suey story, but if there’s one takeaway from this all, it’s that life is too short to hold back.

Today I would rather be criticized than miss an opportunity.

2018 is right around the corner, and I’m ready to take on the next steps of my life- whatever they may be.  2017 was an amazing year to focus on myself, develop a solid foundation, and decide what I truly wanted.  Big dreams no longer scare me, and hard work has become second nature.  The key to hard work is to follow your heart and do something you love.

Since moving on from Suey and friends, there’s a long list of things I have done as a middle finger to the people who hurt or second guessed me.  Although I didn’t do anything deliberately mean, I did my best to succeed, stand out, or surpass any doubts or negativity they threw my way.  I called off my engagement with a controlling engineer and moved to San Francisco, started a style blog in my hometown of people who bullied me, and pursued a marketing career in New York.  Things definitely didn’t go as planned, but that’s okay.  Although I am glad the anger and pain inspired my creativity, I learned one important lesson:

You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone but you.

When your intentions are pure, everything falls in place.  My life often fell apart because it wasn’t acting in alignment with my soul: I was simply doing things out of ego.  I no longer hold those old resentments or fear… and I can thank my spiritual practice and support system for giving me the strength to live my life with more love and compassion.

As you reflect on your goals for the future, remember to follow your heart; it will certainly take you a lot further than acting on ego or fear.  When you set your mind to it, you can have anything you want out of this crazy and beautiful life.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.

Categories
empowerment self discovery

Keep Doing You

Lately I have been seeing a lot of propaganda online about what is on trend, what not to wear and worse, what men want you to do and how they want you to look.  From how to act to what to shave, I have begun holding silly resentments at those articles and the people who wrote them.  At the risk of sounded bitter or jaded, I’ve got to say- who cares “what men want?”

I would rather be alone forever than change for someone else.

This is probably why I have been single for nearly three years; I am quite stubborn and fiercely independent.  I’ll run away when things don’t work out instead of staying in an unhappy relationship.  Appropriately, my editor at Thought Catalog wrote this article that popped up in my Facebook feed, which couldn’t be more perfect for today’s sentiments.

I have dabbled with dating apps while living in Boston, only to have a few dry conversations and less-than-stellar dates.  Nothing has stuck… not even a good laugh or a friendship.  It’s always the same thing- “how do you like Boston?” “What do you do for work?” “You seem to move a lot.” “Do you ever take off your sunglasses?”

Stop.  Better yet, I need to stop.

I’ve felt judged and belittled, which is all on me.  This certainly isn’t a period of my life where my stress level can tolerate dating, what others think of me or the “big picture.”  I need to focus on myself and the now.

I’ve repeatedly thought, “maybe this time will be different,” hoping to find a diamond in the rough.  Dating used to come naturally for me, but at 30-something I continually find disappointment.  It’s just not time yet.  I’ve run back to unhealthy past relationships because I know what I’m going to get, which just fuels the insanity.

After talking with a good friend on Sunday about our shenanigans, we came to the conclusion that we both just need to focus on ourselves.  Old traumas are brought to the forefront when I meet people who try and change me for their own fancy, something I didn’t really acknowledge until this past spring.  While it would be nice to have a buddy to do things with, explore the east coast, drink coffee with in the morning and talk to at night, I have plenty on my plate to keep my life full.

Until the day I do meet my best friend who compliments my life, not try to change it, I’ll continue to focus on myself, my career, my friendships, and my oversized sunglasses.