WANTcast 043: On Woke Wellness, Feminist Fitness, Having Hard Conversations, and The History of “Happiness” with Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

WANTcast 043: On Woke Wellness, Feminist Fitness, Having Hard Conversations, and The History of “Happiness” with Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

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Today’s guest is one of the coolest chicks I know (and you too, soon!), and a conversation that’s a LONG time coming: scholar/writer/teacher/activist Natalia Mehlman Petrzela.


natalia speaking on our how to activate your inner activist” panel in 2017

Natalia is a historian of contemporary American politics and culture and is currently writing a book on American fitness culture. She is the author of Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture, and the co-host of Past Present Podcast, a show that turns hindsight into foresight by examining what’s going on in America today through a historical lens. Natalia is Associate Professor of History at The New School, a co-founder of wellness education program Healthclass 2.0 and a Premiere Leader of intenSati, a fitness class that combines cardio with positive affirmations to make the ultimate uplifting workout. 

In this episode we talk about talking to kids about what’s going on in our country/world in an “appropriate” way, where our quest for happiness and “following your bliss” really came from and if it’s actually serving us, making wokeness more than a gimmick, locker room talk (no, not in THAT way), feminism/activism’s place in the wellness industry, and so, SO much more. 

WANT Natalia:

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Maybe the next phase of happiness + fulfilment is a more realistic assesment of it. - @nataliapetrzela Click To Tweet
What you do in the fitness studio is a low-stakes template for what you can do out in the world. - @nataliapetrzela Click To Tweet
Finish this sentence: I want to be strong SO THAT I CAN... Click To Tweet

Show Notes:
Past Present Podcast
Choose Love, Not Fear in 2013
How “Empowered” Speech About Your Body Might Mask The Same Old Issues
Derek Beres (introduced us!)
Gerren Liles (asked an awesome question!)
Photo cred: Elena Mudd


Like this episode? I’m so glad! Sign up for The (Good) Word, WANT’s weekly email group, at womenagainstnegativetalk.comleave a review on iTunes (the more reviews and five-stars, the more our message is spread), share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram (and tag Natalia and I so we can send you love!). Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!


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It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

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I woke up this morning with the kind of heartache I hadn’t felt in a very, very long time. Bigger than that one hour I had a mini meltdown when I moved. Bigger than packing up my things and saying see-you-soons. No, it was more akin to the type of heartache I used to feel in my teens and twenties, when the person I loved wasn’t the person I was with.

I missed the theatre.


Now, let me be clear: I love my life. L-O-V-E my life, all caps. I’m of firm belief that regret is a useless emotion other than its ability to steer us in the best direction when we ask ourselves if it has the possibility of popping up later. Every choice I’ve made is intentional, ever decision has been from the heart. I don’t do easy, after all. I do right.

And hey, I DID theatre! I lived that professional, unionized actor life. I committed my entire college education to it (*okay, not entire, I went to a liberl arts school which required tons of general education classes and became particularly enamoured with sociocultural anthropology but that’s beside the point). I had agents – multiple. I got to act on major television shows and do national commercials and be in both independent and major movies – and just before you call me out on the fact that theatre, not film, was my true love, I did that too. I talked and sang and laughed and cried on stages to audiences of 15 and of 500. I did it. I was there.

I have mega-talented friends in the theatre world, friends on Broadway and friends quite literally touring the world. And when I see their posts on Instagram or Facebook or hear about rehearsals, I often need to do a gut check: I LOVE their life, but do I wish it was mine as well? And the answer pretty much always is: no.

I didn’t veer away from theatre because “the rejection is so tough,” as many people assume when we talk about my Former Life. Nope, not at all. It’s that as I grew older and started to examine the type of life I wanted for myself – and the things that would give me the quality of that life; the things I was willing to sacrifice and the things I was willing to trade in place for the kind of stage career I’d always seen myself having (which, for me, lived on National Tours and in New York City) – well, I started to realize those things were actually my non-negotiables.

A lot of it came about after having controlled myself for so long: I realized I had within me a tendency to control and obsess, and while those things were fantastic when it came to memorizing lines or fleshing out a character, they worked waaaay against me when it came to the rest of my life. The control robbed me of my ME-ness.

I never acted to escape myself, always to explore myself. But the more I explored myself in a controlled environment the more unsafe I felt going there in my life outside a rehearsal room. Not to mention the paralyzing anxiety I’d get during almost all auditions – anxiety that stemmed from nowhere, anxiety that wasn’t tied to being scared (I wasn’t) but being liked. And no matter how much I prepped and no matter how much meditation I did beforehand to center myself and believe, truly believe, that no this was not an audition but a performance opportunity, and no they were not judging me and yes they were hoping I was their answer walking into the room…I would still get the shaking and throat closing and hands and feet going numb.

I tried everything. And 99% of the time, it didn’t work. So you’d think that when I nailed it, I would feel a sense of fulfilment and confidence. But when I did get the part, when the fleeting validation fled, the control would kick in. Very rarely did it feel joyful. I realized that the joy I thought I would feel when I got the thing was not the reality of the thing. What I was after was not what I was getting.

It's not easy, but it's right. Click To Tweet

We are told as kids, as teenagers with big-ass dreams, that there are people who give up and there are people who keep going. We’re told that’s it; that it’s easy to choose a different path but it’s right to stick the course. That those with a calling are supposed to follow it through, no holds barred, through the fire and sleet and make their way to the other side. The people who keep going are the people who reap the rewards, and the people who veer off track get zilch.

What if those aren’t the only two options, though?
And what if… what if… what is supposed to be the right choice is really the easy one, and the choice that to others would seem a cinch is actually the hardest and rightest?

It would have been easy for me to stick with theatre, with the career path I paved for myself. It would have been easy to stay with the familiar loops, goals, dreams, aspirations, patterns with the justification that this was the life I had set out to build for myself. But was it really right? And moreover…was it all really that mutually exclusive, a definitive hard start and stop?

I think back on my time pursuing a career I don’t currently have – really-truly-seriously pursuing it – and I realize it only truly spans a decade. Sure, a decade is a lot….but is it? My life and professionalism started to truly take shape when I started voice lessons at 14, tenaciously pursuing education and opportunities that would support my growth into the woman I wanted to be in the world, then booking my first work at 18, then booking my first union show at 20, then getting an agent and building my resume and doing all things from modeling swimwear to playing a tween to filming a scene with Jessica Biel that left me with bruises on my arms (story for another day, but if you’re curious check out the Deleted Scenes from the movie Valentines Day. yep, #itme) to singing backup vocals on a Miley Cyrus karaoke track to investigating alongside Batman for a film I still to this day get really creepy messages from comic-and-cosplay-obsessed guys about. I did it all. It was a weird, wonderful, wacky experience – until I realized I’d grown into a person very different from the one I thought I was going to be at that point in her life. All in a span of ten measley blip-of-time years.

Yeah, I dabbled in acting work after the age of 24, but it was almost always at the request of a friend-of-friend who knew me from such-and-such and very rarely did I even enjoy the experience. I kept trying to test myself, trying to see if what I’d had was what I’d been longing for. It wasn’t.

I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but AND. Click To Tweet

Sometimes I wonder if I am trying to convince myself otherwise. That I really should be singing onstage, that I really should be pursuing the magic-of-the-theatre…but that’s not my life now, so I better be happy with what I’ve got.

But here’s the thing…I AM. I am happy. I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but And. And for me I choose to look at how I can accomplish the EXACT things I loved about working in the theatre WITHIN the life I lead and person I am today.

Just because we feel a sense of joy from one thing doesn’t mean we’re immune to feeling the absence of another. Just because we strive for the look of one thing doesn’t mean we can’t wonder if we’re missing out on the feel of the other.

But my recent revelation is: We can always go back. We can always veer the course, because we have PROOF we’ve done it before. We can always do everything from test the waters to fully cannonball-dive in. Will I ever go back to theatre? Who knows. But it’s not unthinkable, I know that. In the here and now, I know I am after a FEELING in my life, I am after the accomplishment of the actualization of my Through Line: using my unique, authentic voice to help and inspire others find their own. What that looks like now might look entirely different 10 years from now. Nothing is ever off the table.

Cheryl Strayed has a wonderful quote that says:

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us.”

We can ache for the dream of what we think one life COULD be like, but the reality is that its rarely what we envision it to be verbatim. There is always some caveat. Always something that made it the sister life, not ours.

But I think…I really, truly think…that if we pinpoint what exactly we value most, and go after that, the aspects of the sister life that WERE meant to be ours will come sailing into the port. Which aspects? TBD. We must only stay open. And make the right choices instead of the easy ones.


Sometimes I look back at the kid I used to be, and I wonder if she’s gotten everthing she’s wanted. But then I realize how absurd that thought is… Gotten. Happened. Done. To question if she’s ALREADY gotten everything she’s wanted, like it’s been so long.

Of course she hasn’t. Because she’s only just gotten started.

photo: krista ashley

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WANTcast 041: On Conquering Change (When You Don’t Like Change) + Making Wellness Intersectional with Katie Dalebout

WANTcast 041: On Conquering Change (When You Don’t Like Change) + Making Wellness Intersectional with Katie Dalebout

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We’re back in action, baby!! I can’t think of a better guest to kick off Season Three (which, by the way, will be 20 episodes and now run every other week instead of every three weeks) than author and host Katie Dalebout.

katie dalebout women against negative talk wantcast

Katie is the host of the Let It Out Podcast and the author of Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling (Hay House 2016). Katie is a writer and podcast host focusing on self-care, self-awareness, and self-expression for the greater good. Through her speaking and writing, she aims to help people develop a positive image of their bodies by embracing their creativity and personality outside of their physicality.

In this episode, Katie and I talk about major transitions, navigating change (when you don’t have a high threshold for change – and GUESS WHAT? Neither Katie or I do!), moving across the country and what it’s taught us, why constant growth and goal-chasing isn’t always a good thing, the value in doing what doesn’t feel like yourself, and so much more (including a topic I was really excited to dive into with her: INTERSECTIONAL WELLNESS).


WANT Katie:
Listen in iTunes || Support the pod by shopping on Amazon

Show Notes:
Katie Dalebout

Let It Out podcast
Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling
The GOOD Fest
The Dreams We Woke Up From: Navigating transitions on WANT

Photos by Abbey Moore

Like this episode? I’m so glad! Sign up for The (Good) Word, WANT’s weekly email group, at womenagainstnegativetalk.comleave a review on iTunes (the more reviews and five-stars, the more our message is spread), share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram (and tag Katie and I so we can send you love!). Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!


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Shift Your Self-Talk: Defining Your Through Line.

Shift Your Self-Talk: Defining Your Through Line.

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What is the common theme in everything you love? What is the common goal in everything you do?

Those, my friends, are the building blocks of your THROUGH LINE.


We’re all equipped with a through line; something we’re wonderful at and are meant  to give to the world. And while some people might suggest mantras or affirmations, it’s my firm belief that you can’t shift your self-talk without finding your through line first.

Negative self-talk might sometimes seem like it pops up out of nowhere, but when you boil it down to basics, it’s simply filler for uncertainty in purpose and imbalances in your mind, body and soul. 
With confidence in your purpose or through line, there’s less of the negative talk that we use to sabotage ourselves.

We cannot succeed if we do not love what we DO – or if what we do does not fit into the big picture. Once we find our through line and shift our actions to deliver that through line, long-term success is inevitable.

Notice the little things that fulfill you. Not necessarily the tasks themselves, but the meaning behind those tasks. Not so much the superficial What, but the hidden Why.

Notice the little things that fulfill you. Not the superficial WHAT, but the hidden WHY. Click To Tweet

You might have one through line or a couple. Here are two (and-a-half steps) to help you find yours:

STEP 1: MAKE A LIST OF EVERYTHING YOU LOVE TO DO OR EXPERIENCE. I MEAN EVERYTHING. The things that you seem to get absorbed by and fill you up from the inside out. Don’t worry about cohesiveness, list as many actions, experiences, and instances as you can think of. Cooking dinner, one-on-one time with friends, business strategy, binging on horror movies – it’s all fair game.

STEP 2: CAN YOU FIND A COMMON THEME IN THE MAJORITY OF YOUR ANSWERS? Try to find a mode and an output. Maybe not all the things you listed out fit together, but I’ll bet good money on the fact that a lot of them DO. Look beyond the obvious – the fact that you love to bake and you love to have spontaneous dance parties might seem unrelated, but when you dig deeper you might realize what you actually love is the act of creating something that brightens up someone else’s day. You love to bake – but when you’re sharing your treats with friends. You love to have spontaneous dance parties because it makes your husband or boyfriend or kid or dog even fill up with joy and laughter. There’s where your talents lie. That is your through line.

Here’s the optional half-step, if you’re feeling curious: just for kicks, make another list of everything you excel at. No need to hold back here – remember, confidence is not synonymous with narcissism or vanity.

Now highlight the things that you can recognize your through line in.

Does this list seem familiar? It should. Many of the things we love to do are the things we have a natural knack for.

Pretty cool, huh? These places are where you shine the brightest.


Need an example? Here’s what the first two steps of my exercise looks like:

Step 1: I love writing, interviewing others, singing, people watching, unfiltered and authentic conversations, listening to podcasts, music, running, teaching fitness classes, taking fitness classes, pretty much exercise of all kinds, yoga classes, acting, photography, singing and dancing at concerts, laughing out loud at movies, spending time with my family and soul-friends, reading non-fiction books or books written in the first person, public speaking, taking small chances, painting, drawing, playing board games that may or may not bring out my inner competitive Monica Gellar (where you at, Settlers of Catan).

Step 2: In most all of the things I love, I can see that my through line is using my unique voice to its fullest to help others find theirs.

But wait…how does this connect to playing Settlers of Catan or singing and dancing during Beyoncé’s Formation tour???

It goes back to my yoga practice, actually. I realized a long time ago that we learn best not from textbooks or bulletpointed protocols, but from each other. I used to practice amongst handstand junkies and power posers, and noticed that the people around them would get frustrated when they couldn’t get upside down. So I did an experiment: what would happen if I took Child’s Pose, a “resting” pose, in the classes where people were doing handstands, and I tried the more physically challenging poses even if I fell flat on my face in the classes where people shied away from things if they didn’t look perfect?

Lo and behold, people started taking Child’s Pose instead of forcing themselves into handstands, and playfully experimenting when the teacher offered up a variation on the familiar. Because I gave myself permission to publicly do what worked for ME, others started to give themselves permission to do the same. 

I see my “voice” not only in talking or singing to teaching, but in writing, drawing – movement even. I get bored or frustrated when I am required to do things exactly like someone else. I love listening to podcasts and reading non-fiction or books written in the first person because they spark a discussion inside my head; I can almost hear my voice chiming in with the author or speaker. I love taking those discussions out into the “real world” and making my community like my very own unofficial book club or listening group. Learning new information isn’t enough for me: I get high off of learning it, translating it, and discussing it in a broader yet at the same time more personal context. If I look closely, everything I love has my through line of “using my unique voice to its fullest to help others do the same” running through it. I stand for love – of others and yourself.

Whenever I feel discontent or useless or squashed down and dull, I ask myself…”Katie, are you using your unique voice right now and is it resonating with the best parts of others?” If the answer is no, even if I can’t fully escape the scenario that’s bringing me down, I divert my attention and place myself in a scenario in which I CAN use my though line to its fullest potential, however big or small that might look from the outside.


It’s easy to talk negatively about ourselves when we’re in those bang-your-head-against-the-wall scenarios. And we’ve all got to deal with those throughout our lives no matter what. Sometimes, things just don’t gel. But now that you know your through line, you can invest your time a bit more wisely. Go back and look at your list, see if you can identify a nuance of your through line, or a whole other through line altogether, that exists in your current situation…and try again. Trial and error is part of the deal. It’s all about changing up the approach. 

I’m not saying that once you figure out how or where you shine the brightest, you’ll always be shiny and sparkly. Life would be boring and useless without mistakes and missteps and those moments we feel the lowest of our lows. But if you’re strategically placing yourself in scenarios in which you can use your through line – whether it be with a new group of friends, a new relationship, a new job or simply a potential hobby you’re taking up – you’ll also feel those highest highs a whole lot higher. Your life will feel a whole lot more cohesive, and you’ll feel your purpose from the inside out.

WANT Yourself Action Plan:

In the comments section below, tell me what your through line is. How do you use it on a regular basis? Did you have an aha! moment that helped you realize what you were meant to give to the world?

Be as specific as possible – this is not an easy exercise, and your insight and experience might be exactly what someone else needs to read to realize the power they have within themselves.

WANT is a testament to the power of our pragmatically positive voice as a community and the impact we can have if we band together. Go for it, WANT peeps…

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a different version of this post originally appeared back in 2015 on WANT. see it here 

Twelve Goals, One Year: How To Conquer One ‘Resolution’ A Month in 2018

Twelve Goals, One Year: How To Conquer One ‘Resolution’ A Month in 2018

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We’re all set with the best of intentions come January, etching lofty goals into our journals to carry with us into spring, summer, fall, and winter. But let’s be honest with ourselves for a sec: the end of Resolution Season finds us loosening our wallets, dipping into the cookie jar, forgetting to say “thank you,” and foregoing the gym for just one more rerun of Friends on the couch. The idea of what our lives “should” look like and how our goals “should” play out gets us all tied up in knots we scramble to untangle come January 1st of the next New Year.

To avoid those tangles and kick 2018 off on the right foot, why not rethink the way we make our resolutions? All month long I’ll be diving in and digging deep on strategies to set your year ablaze – because no one success strategy works for everyone.


I once read that when adopting a newer, healthier lifestyle (whether that means losing extra inches, lowering inflammation in your body, gaining muscle, or raising your body weight to a level at which it can function with energy and ease), it takes something like four weeks for you to feel a difference, eight for your friends to take notice…and twelve for acquaintance and strangers to start asking questions.

Okay, so maybe I read it on the ever-prestigious scientific journal that is Pinterest…but I love the picture it paints of slow and steady change, moment by moment. Sure, you can have an end result in mind. But most of the time, when we’re so tightly tied to one specific end result, we miss out on all the other great things that happen along the way.

This year, try adopting one new habit per month and just see where it takes you. If the Pinterest scientists are correct, you’ll start to feel a shift about a month into your journey. If it’s working for you, great! If it’s not, let it go – no guilt.

Your goals might seem simple or minute – how can making your bed every morning really contribute to the quality of your life?! – but each singular goal reached will inform the definition of what it means to live well for you, to be your best self twelve months out of the year.

Another bonus? Just one habit per month prevents you from getting too overwhelmed with tasks and to-dos – and helps you pay attention to what’s really going on as a result of the change you’ve vowed to make. I can sometimes (read: all the times) get overly excited about the idea of making big shifts all at once. It’s exciting. And distracting. One per month (or one habit + one tangible to-do item if you’re feeling ambitious) helps me focus my energy on that single thing instead of spreading myself thin in 12 different areas of my life.


Get out your notebooks, clear off your chalkboard, and start to outline one goal, big or small, for each month. Here are some suggestions to get you started:


Instead of making a goal to exercise five times a week or fit in breakfast, start from the ground up – literally. Waking up early, studies have shown, can super-charge your entire day and actually allow you the time to make healthy living seem more accessible. I get it, we all have the same 24 hours in the day, blah blah…but sometimes, even a smidge extra time can make a huge difference. What might seem like sixty measly extra minutes allows time for exercise, hobbies, meditation, strategic thinking, or just easing into your day at your own pace (sounds nice, huh?). Already wake up early? Try hitting the sack one hour earlier. Start with 15 minutes earlier during week one, increase to 30 during week two, 45 during week three – and by the end of the month, you’ll be logging an extra hour.

READ: Is Sleep More Important Than Nutrition, Exercise, and Mindfulness? by Lindsay Kellner, mbg

Whether it’s telling your significant other how much he or she means to you or simply asking the bank teller how their day is going, there are a zillion ways to express love. Pick up a piece of trash off the sidewalk. Let the car next to you into your lane in crowded traffic. Call your grandma. These gestures, both big and small, not only help others feel good or make the world be a nicer place to live – they contribute to your own self-confidence and sense of abundant love.

READ: Love And The Whole Spectrum

Spring cleaning season is here! Before you overhaul your closet or clean out that dresser drawer, set the stage for a tidy space from the second you get up. Making your bed every morning only takes a few extra minutes, but can set the stage for an orderly room, home, and mindset.

READ: A Non-Exhaustive List Of Things To Do When Life Seems Hard

Taxes on your mind? Do double resolution duty this month by making healthier choices and making a dent in your savings. Even if you only pack a lunch two times a week, you’re still saving in the long run – plus, you’re connecting with what goes into your body and where it comes from.

READ: Let’s Talk About Cents, Baby

April showers bring May flowers…and greens! Whether you opt for smoothies or juice, getting in a good dose of greens first thing in the morning sets you up for a healthy day ahead. Even if you mindlessly or emotionally nosh later in the day or “accidentally” skip your afternoon spin class (been there, done that), the beauty of going green first thing in the A.M. is that you know you’ve given yourself a hefty dose of vitamins and nutrients no matter what the day has in store.

LISTEN: My New Roots’ Sarah Britton on the WANTcast

Most cities hold at least one 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or “fun run” throughout the summer months, which means June is the perfect time to start training! Warm (but not sweltering) temps allow for exercise outdoors if you’re into it – otherwise start your running routine at your local gym. Slowly increase your distance or speed goals with each workout, and alternate between long, moderate-paced running days and short, quick sprinting days. Not into organized races or the early wake-up call that goes with them? Set a date to run your own personal race: determine the day, time, location, and distance, then plan a fun reward for yourself after. Get a friend in on the action for extra motivation!

READ: 5 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Exercise, No Matter How You Feel

Summer months are all about playfulness and make us think of long days at summer camp and hobbies. As adults, we don’t have things like school and clubs to connect us or parents to schedule play dates. Community, however, is often the missing link when it comes to our day to day fulfillment – and it’s up to us to find the places . Whether it’s a yoga class or the comments section of a blog, make it a goal to frequent a place or space that you feel allows you to be completely yourself. You’ll find that just like in romantic relationships, the right people will seem to fall into your life when you’re simply busy with the interests you love – when you’re busy being you.

READ: Making Friends As An Adult

Green cauliflower? Okra? Gooseberries? There’s a slew of seasonal produce available, year-round…yet most of us only skim the surface when it comes to variety. Visit your local farmer’s market, check out the selection, and find one fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried. Whether you choose to cook an elaborate dish or go raw, you’ll expand your palate, net more nutrients, and have at least a few new healthy options come August 31st. Check out One Part Plant for all the planty resources you’ll ever need.

LISTEN: Jessica Murnane of One Part Plant and Know Your Endo on the WANTcast

September is National Yoga Month, so use this time to get flowing. Ask around or call your local studios/gyms to help pick a practice that’s right for you (my friend Megan wrote an awesome guide here), and pop into a class nearby (many studios offer deals or specials during this month). Sure, this is an exercise-related goal and your overall fitness will probably improve – but more than anything, you’ll be building community, soothing stress, and giving yourself a fresh new perspective on the year. Yoga’s awesome like that.

READ: My Advanced Practice

October is about all things scary – but we’re not really into the whole haunted house, “trick or treat” thing. Take this spooky month in a new direction by vowing to conquer one (or a few!) of your fears at least once a week. The fears could be ones that affect your every-day life or are seemingly trivial. Terrified of public speaking? Add your voice to the mix in each of your weekly work meetings. Afraid of heights? Find a cool restaurant on a rooftop to visit. Whatever it is, commit to facing the fear once a week and watch your confidence skyrocket.

READ: How To Tackle Your Ghost Worries

Spring cleaning is a thing of the past – but what about Fall Freedom? Clearing your space of what does not serve you, you don’t like, or you’ve simply outgrown is like telling the universe you’ve made room and are game for whatever it has in store. Instead of trashing your old goods or stuffing your worn clothes into the nearest dumpster, find an organization near you that donates 100% of its goods to those in need (or Google a cause close to your heart that might need your help). You’ll be doing good and feeling great – and making someone else feel the same.

READ: How To Activate Your Inner Activist

What worked this year? What could be improved upon? Were there certain moments, people, events, or feelings that stuck with you? Create a conscious game plan for improvement and forward motion right now. No need to rush the process or make snap decisions. Use the entire month to take a look at your life as it is, right in that very second, and refocus your energy on making a positive shift towards the person you know you want to be. At the end of this year, make December 2018 your month of renewal instead of January 2019, so that once the confetti bursts at midnight, you’ll already have hit the ground running.

LISTEN: Thinking Out Loud: On Functioning Under F*ck-It, Micro vs Macro, Other People’s Trauma, Running Toward Real Life, and More

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The Artist Formerly Known As Me: On Living In Flux.

The Artist Formerly Known As Me: On Living In Flux.

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MY RELATIONSHIP with journaling was very “friends with benefits” for most of my life: oft ignored but always there when I needed it most. Most of the time, I completely ignored my grandmother’s advice to document momentous occasions, as exemplified by the three-line entry about my 13th birthday in my 1999 journal (the third sentence being “I’ll come back to this later”).

Yet when I go back and read my old journals, as sporadically tended to as they were, I realize I honestly have not changed much throughout my lifetime. The slightly crinkled pages are filled with emotion – poetry, questions, lists and pep talks – heart opening and heartbreaking all at once.

And reviews of musicals. So many reviews of musicals.

As young as preschool, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up. We learn to identify with a singular profession: a doctor, a singer, a teacher, a lawyer. With all these abstract feelings floating around in our still-developing brains, we are asked to define ourselves based on our hobbies and what sounds right. As we grow into young adults, we’re encouraged to find extracurricular activities that are assumed to match our professional aspirations of choice. We write yearbook messages under the assumption that there will always be next year. We map out our lives in ten-year-plans and envision our friendships as everlasting.

I grew up listening to tape cassettes of Phantom Of The Opera in my car seat. I taught myself how to play the showstopper from Cats on my tiny Casio keyboard in first grade. When I was about twelve years old, I developed a love affair with shows like Rent and Les Miserables, and for the first time in my life I realized I was not like other kids my age. While my peers were attending the latest boy band and girl group concerts, I was marveling at the thespian greats like Colm Wilkinson and Bernadette Peters.

This, I told myself, was not normal.

And so I hid my love for musical theatre in my journals, and later on online message boards (way before it was considered safe or even socially acceptable to develop internet-based friendships [which is kinda funny, as I now have many dear friends and a bone a fide HUSBAND who I met through the interwebs]). 

I was convinced I’d be winning a Tony by age 27, and that the friends of my childhood who were drifting in all different directions would miraculously come back together one day to work through life together. That my first love and I would get married and do the whole picket-fence thing. I was convinced I knew the length of the path.

And then came the growth and expansion of real life. Things became complicated and convoluted: here I was, someone who had defined herself by these external passions and visions for so long, and they no longer felt right. My interests began to broaden and my friend circle began to expand. I developed passions I never knew of and feelings I’d never accessed, and for the first time I realized I was so much more than I’d ever thought I could be.

It begged the question – was nothing up until now valid? The opened doors of the present were liberating but the loyalty to the past was almost paralyzing.

Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are. Click To Tweet

Moving past the visions and dreams created by our former selves can feel like losing a lover. The first time I thought that acting might not be the sole career through which I wanted to give myself to the world, my eyes stayed red for days from crying. The first time I realized I was unclear as to whether I wanted children or not, I had a breakdown. The first time I found a soulmate-friend outside my comfort zone of shared upbringing, I felt like I was cheating on my entire past. At the time, it felt like a breakup. At the time, it felt like a loss.

How strange, as each thing that triggered a sense of loss or wrongdoing was actually a door opening and showing me to my true self. Although, come to think of it, I’ve realized that most people get stuck in that space of confusing actualization for accusation…so maybe the fact that it felt so wrong wasn’t as abnormal as I thought…

Our visions and goals are always in flux. One is not better or worse than the other, they’re just different. Hanging onto past goals and ideas of what we “should” do can screw us up in the long run and put self actualization on standby. Who we are in one season in our lives is neither the end-all-be-all nor invalid. It’s a fragment, a small yet important page in the story of who we are meant to be.

It can feel scary to move forward beyond your former self, but there’s no reason to mourn.

Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are.

You are more than that thing your former self aspired towards. You are more than the ideas your ten-year plan expressed, you are more than the connections you made long ago. And yet these are a part of you. Each is a path, an integral part of the roadmap that is your life’s purpose. Who are we to say we know what our journey will look like a decade from now or if we’ll feel the same way we do at this point in time? The important thing is to feel deeply and express authentically during every step of the way.

Had I never wanted to act, I would have never learned to perceive the world around me in such great detail with such empathy. Had I never felt so much passion for something so different than my peers, I would have never known what it is to pour my soul onto a page. Had I never envisioned my life the way I thought it would look by now, I would have never met some of the most influential players in my life’s journey. I am still that same girl who wrote musical theatre reviews in her journal and thought her elementary school buddies would be bridesmaids at her wedding.

And yet here I am, no Tony award in sight, surrounded by friends from all stages of life, connected to my past but fully invested in my present. My bridesmaids represented all stages of my life thus far, not just one. I look toward the future not with a predictive eye but an openness to the expansion I know I will experience. I have not broken up with my past visions, I have let them morph and blossom. I have not buried my former self, I have let her come alive into the now.

We cannot possibly know what our story will look like in ten years – or even two. Our passions might shift, our dreams might change shape. Our circles of friendship might evolve and our opinions of what we want will most certainly move with time.

Yet through each season, each shift, each page turn, there is one thing that’s certain: we will be so much more.


WANT Yourself:
Do your current passions and visions match the ones you’ve had throughout your life? Have you ever felt scared to embark on a new path, in fear of abandoning your former self – and if so, how did you learn to embrace the path you’re on? Leave a message in the comments – your story might just be what someone else in our community needs to hear.

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