Your freedom is always there; it’s always just a choice away.
It’s a choice disguised in different jobs, different scenarios, different ways of seeing the world
In working clothes, in workout clothes, in the people you’re with and the hours you spend plowing or sauntering or dragging through your day; it’s all your choice…
Your freedom is unstoppable, un-steal-able, unshakable and unmovable. It’s that thing you carry around with you in your pocket, that little gem or stone or twig you found outside that bends in a funny way that you look at or touch and remember, Yep, this is who I am, This is what I stand for.
It’s about inspiration; it’s about being inspired where-ever you go. It’s about relying on no one but yourself to create this for you, relying on yourself to Be the change and Be the moment and Be that person who doesn’t just sit in fear waiting for someone else to make the move.
It’s about every place being a possible home, every person being a possible vessel, and every dollar being trivial if every possible moment is monumental.
It’s about knowing your value and trusting that value in a way even the harshest of words or coldest of beings or darkest-most-gloom-filled-mornings-that-last-through-3-p-m-and-beyond could not shift.
It’s about knowing your thoughts, knowing your heart, and knowing that no one knows you better than you know yourself. You have the final say, you have the last word, you have the brilliant ideas and YOU have the voice that matters.
It’s about what you love being a part of you at all times.
In all ways, in all days.
Life is yours for the taking if you know what to ask.
Is this real?
Is this true?
Is this fear speaking, or is it faith?
You get to decide what is real, you get to decide what is true.
YOU get to choose, the fear or the faith.
You get the wild. You get the free. You get the You.
It’s about the way the darkest darks lead to the brightest lights, the storm and the sunshine, the flowers and the weeds.
It’s about how one cannot exist without the other.
There is no right time. It’s all the right time.
It’s about happy.
It’s about now.
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If you’ve been following along, you know that about seven months ago I moved to New York City with my partner Jeremy. I’d lived in Los Angeles my entire life – entire life – so the shift brought up all sorts of emotions (you can read about some of them here and here). About two weeks before we left, I started to get a little bit anxious. Being the calming force that he is, he mentioned to me that we should probably plan for at least 2 to 3 big freak out moments in the first few months. Cool. Okay. Permission to lose it. I can do that.
Fast forward to now, and while I’ve definitely had my own one-off moments of spontaneously crying or stressing out, I hadn’t sat down and really allowed myself to digest the big change. What more, it wasn’t until last week that both of us sat down, frazzled, and realized that neither one of us had truly taking the time to digest the enormous change that we had just made.
I think that, for me personally, I pride myself on being resilient. Change the schedule of a day I’ve planned out and I’ll break out in anxious trembling, but when it comes to big changes, failures, or loss, I put myself in a leadership position and warrior on.
Is my resilience helpful? For sure. Is it a defense mechanism? Sometimes. I have a tendency to take my penchant for resilience for granted – and because of that, I sometimes downplay huge moments and transitions in my life that are completely worthy of a good old-fashioned freak out. I don’t allow myself to lose it because I know the challenge, feeling, etc is not only surmountable, but I “know” in my logical brain how to surmount it. But just because you know how to navigate the waters doesn’t mean it’s meant to be a smooth ride.
So here’s what we did: we scheduled a two to three hour block last weekend and decided we were going to go somewhere, get a nice warm cocktail (because it’s cold outside) (you don’t have to get a cocktail if you don’t drink or that’s not your thing but it felt kind of cozy) – and have a planned freak-out.
At first I thought we were going to sit and, for lack of a better term, vent about whatever we wanted or were worried about and allow ourselves space to stress out, cry, and react however we wanted to in a safe environment. But being the left-brainer he is, Jeremy devised an exercise to provide some structure to the situation (so we didn’t, you know, leave even more crazed than we began).
We ended up spending about three hours on the exercise total. And I’ve got to say it was one of the most cathartic, helpful, impactful exercises I maybe have ever done.
Going through – or just went through – a major transition? Had a stressful year? Life just feeling like a roller coaster? You might be in need of a planned freak-out, too. A note: Something that’s important when you’re planning your freak-out moment is that you allow yourself the time and space to let anything that bubbles up bubble up judgment-free. I’m not just talking about if you do this exercise with someone else – you’ve got to commit to be judgment-free with yourself and create your own safe space to feel. Trust that you’re going to get to a positive, proactive place eventually in this exercise. But it might not happen right off the bat. And that is FINE.
Here’s how we planned our planned freak-out:
• Get a notebook. Any notebook will do. Preferably one that won’t end up at the bottom of your backpack or purse or below your bed under the receipts from last year. Open up a spread of two pages. On one side, write THINGS I HATE (*you know how I feel about the word hate). On the other side, write down THINGS I DISLIKE. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and go.
We originally set the timer for 15 minutes, but realized that not only did we need extra time at the beginning to sit and mull over what it is we actually disliked and hated, but once we got into the zone, the words just flowed. With a planned freak-out, it’s important to recognize and accept that not everything is going to come to you right away. Whether you’ve been suppressing feelings, there’s shame involved, or you’ve just been accepting vague truths as THE truths, this might take a while.
• Now that you’ve got your two lists, draw a line underneath or flip to the next page. Write in bold letters: SO WHAT YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?
(After you’re done, I suggest taking a walk to clear your brain. Grab a coffee. Sit in the park. Go pet a dog. Do something to press your internal “reset” button.)
• Once you’re ready, open up your notebook again to a new spread of pages. On one side, write THINGS I LOVE. On the other side, write down THINGS I LIKE. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and go.
• And then, yes, once you’re done, write at the bottom: SO WHAT YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?
What I found interesting was that when I started writing my lists, I could see very clear themes.
Some things I wrote under HATE: Feeling ineffective and insuffient. Feeling like “just another so-and-so” – not feeling unique in any way. Societal pressures on women and how they affect me negatively. Holding myself back because of money when I’m feeling financially strapped. Waiting for situations, people, etc to be “ready” – aka waiting for permission – before I take action. Loneliness.
Some things I wrote under DISLIKE: Feeling like I can’t help the people I love when they need help. Feeling like a child. Low work structure and routine. Not making more money when I feel financially strapped. Looking and waiting for opportunities to come to me instead of just going for them myself.
Self-suppression, low structure, stagnation, and disconnection were at the root of most all of my problems, “hates,” and dislikes.
Some things I wrote under LOVE: Love and gratitude. Coffee time in the morning with Jeremy. Walking around and exploring. Helping people feel proud of themselves. Working out for my own enjoyment and strength. Actively listening, and being outspoken when I truly have something to say. Singing loudly. Great conversations. Feeling proud of my appearance and presence. Feeling loved and safe and trusted.
Some things I wrote under LIKE: Good sleep. Good hair days. Dressing in dark clothes. Getting paid to write. Running. Yoga. Putting together the podcast. Holding hands. Hugs. Kisses. Massages. Structure.
Self-expression, definition, progress (personal or professional), and connection were at the root of most all my likes, loves, and happiness.
And when I started to write my second list of “To-Do About Its” and realized I could just refer to the To-Dos on the prior page, I could see one more pattern: that honestly, stepping up, “living UP” (kind of like leveling up or leaning in), and self-assertion were at the root of most everything I could do to feel the way I wanted to feel.
It’s only been a few days, but I feel completely refreshed after our planned freak-out. No, this is not the end. Yes, I’m already planning on allowing myself this time again in six months (or sooner if needed). But the biggest takeaway for me is that sometimes I need to break down in order to build up stronger than before. And planning that – allowing myself the time and space to just sit with all my highs and lows simultaneously – prevents shame or guilt from getting in the way.
Resilience is a strength for sure, but just because you’re able to tough things out or go with the flow doesn’t mean you need to pretend it’s easy. You cannot truly live into your high highs if you ignore your low lows – and if you look close enough, you’ll see the extremes are directly related.
WANT YOURSELF: If you’re like me and need a good old fashioned freak-out, block off a few hours in your calendar and when the day comes, get to writing. I’d love to hear what comes up for you. Do you see patterns? Difficult realizations? Stuff coming up you didn’t expect was even there? I’d love to hear in the comments.
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This weekend, I went home to Los Angeles for the very first time since I’d moved to New York. Driving through the city in the daylight, I was immediately reminded of how MASSIVE Los Angeles is – not massive like New York is, in stature and borderline-overwhelming energy, but spread out and spread thin like a sheet of sprinkle-cookie dough rolled out a little bit too many times. Smoothed over, thinned out, and just the right amount of variety to make it interesting. It all seems familiar and slightly askew at the same time. I open Waze for the first time since leaving, because if you don’t own a car in NYC this app is useless. An hour and a half from LAX to the Valley. There it is. I remember now.
I feel older in LA than when I left, and it’s not just because I celebrated my 30th birthday one month ago. I have this feeling in my gut that something is off, something has changed…something isn’t what it used to be. Are the buildings a fresh color? Is that construction on the ever-elusive cross-city Metro line finally completed? Has the drought gotten better, or worse? In no part of my mind do I think I am the thing that’s changed. I try and remember what the billboards looked like the day I left.
I surprise one of my best friends on the way home and she cries a little. I almost fall asleep in the car (don’t worry, I’m not driving). I reach my parents’ house, the house I grew up in, and I try to remember if there were always that many cars and if there was always that much road separating me from them. It seems like so much now.
I notice things I didn’t before while I’m home. The way the streets curve. The smell of the backyard in the morning. The distance. Oh my goodness, the distance. Has LA always been this spread out and spread thin? Walking from the gym’s parking garage into the doors even seems extraneous, like, why is it all that far apart? Why do I see less people in a mile here than I do in a block in the West Village? It’s so sparse. They must all be on the freeway.
I have a strange urge to stay put while I’m in town. Which, for me, isn’t normal. I remember wanting to get away, get away, get away when I was here before. Or rather, explore explore explore. Hiking the canyons. Driving to the beach. Organizing my day so it flowed seamlessly, like a roadmap, from my bed to the street and back to my bed again by the end of the night. Fitting as much in as you can at once. Out all day then back. Because anyone in LA knows that if you come home in the middle of the day, there’s very little chance you’ll be going back out again. It’s one or the other. I feel inclined this time to stay close to home.
It’s not that I don’t want to see people. It’s just that I am slowly trying to navigate myself here again. People told me before I left that I wouldn’t be able to come back unchanged and I start to believe them for the first time. How is it I can feel like the same person but so different all at once? Why is it that I can’t pinpoint what’s changed? I scan the buildings and the billboards and look for a sign they’ve shifted since I was last there.
I drive through The Valley and give J a tour of my childhood (for those not familiar with LA: the San Fernando Valley, aka the place Cher goes to that house party in Clueless, aka “over the hill,” aka the region where Encino Man takes place). That’s where I took art classes, that’s where my elementary school was. I drive from one end of the Valley to the other and for a good few blocks in Tarzana and Reseda I try and remember if it always looked this way. More of it looks like a relic of the past than I remember. I try and decide if was built that way and I’m just noticing now or what. I settle on believing that that’s it. I can’t really start to grasp the difference and so I try to ignore it…
And then I put on my dress I brought for my cousin’s wedding and I feel really, truly beautiful. But it’s not an external type of beauty, even though the dress is killer and my date’s a knockout. It’s a confidence I haven’t registered till now, and a change in posture I haven’t thought about. Maybe it’s because I’m not in a car all of the time anymore? Maybe it’s because I’m not constantly going somewhere – because I can go home any time I want? I exclaim to J on the way to the venue “I feel GREAT!” and I struggle to verbalize why so I say maybe it’s the dress and maybe it’s the confidence.
But I know it’s not the dress. As I hug-attack my aunts and uncles and cousins, and tell people I haven’t seen in years that I’ve moved to New York, and I watch their expressions tell me that that was not the answer they were expecting when asking What’s New With You, I know there is now a Thing that separates me from them. My entire life up until now has felt like such a shared experience. We’re all from the same place, we all know the same parts, we’re all up to date with the same people. Even the old friends, they’re in on it too. And talking to them I realize I feel as if I’m back from a secret journey only I know about. Trying to explain it is both weird and comforting at the same time. Like, I still don’t quite feel like an adult and that’s okay because I truly believe that’s the hallmark of a true adult, but I feel like a grown-up for the first time ever. And I realize they’ve been on their own journey too, and even though I know the places and parts and people, I am NOT here and the space HAS changed and the buildings HAVE been painted and old things HAVE closed and new things HAVE opened and I can’t go share in someone else’s life’s setting by just driving a few freeway exits away any time I choose. Theirs is theirs and mine is mine, we’re separate but equal. I finally feel what’s shifted, and it’s the complete ownership of my own story.
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I didn’t know what I would do. I didn’t know where I would be. But I knew, in my heart, I was here to make a difference. And to me, there was no better indication that you’d “made it” than seeing your name beside 29 other change-makers who were yet to hit the 1/3rd of life mark.
If I’m being honest, I really wanted to be a 25 under 25. THIS would have really been making it, I thought. Some people have quarter-life crises. I’ll have a quarter-life celebration instead!
But really…if I’m being TRULY honest…I was really hoping that by some miraculous turn of events…I’d beat ’em all to the punch and score a 20 under 20 spot. THESE were the “fresh-faced youth” that were “changing the world;” the ones I knew would be leaders that lasted my lifetime. I remember being at sleep-away camp when I was 11 years old, and literally tripping over a copy of my bunkmate’s Teen Magazine. I looked down and locked eyes with the cover stars, the “Teens To Watch.” I’ll be like them one day, I told myself…
I think all ambitious kids do it. Probably moreso if they’re a creative of some sort. I was an early bloomer in a lot of ways. I was drawing faces and shapes before most of my friends could hold a crayon. I devoured books and educational cassette/video tapes, which got me enunciating eloquently before I even knew what either of those words meant. I instinctively looked inward instead of facing outward, and I had a habit of self-examining even when it was scary to do so.
But when it came to stereotypical “success”…I don’t know. Most of my life, success had always been defined as being “the best” fill-in-the-blank. The best artist, the best singer, the best actress, the best daughter, the best partner, the best friend, the best at life. There were only two kinds of people – the prodigies and then everyone else. If you’re not striving to be a wunderkind, the world asked me, then what was the hell are you even doing?
And so being successful, for me, became more about being liked than being myself. I tied my worth to my praise, and my praise to my victories, and my victories to my worth, and back around again. If I could only make one of those Under lists, I thought, I would have concrete proof I’d “made it.”
Welp, I’m one day away from 30, and I’m not on any under-30 list. I’ve passed through 25, 20, and teendom, and in no age range or scenario have I ever been touted by anyone as someone “To Watch.” I’m yet to know the feeling of a global pedestal, and if Oprah or Forbes hasn’t called by now, there’s not a good chance they’re gonna show up in the next 24 hours.
What I’ve gotten in the last thirty years, though, is way better than my name on some list of people roughly around my own age (and the subsequent pressure you inevitably feel to maintain that “buzz” as you move from Person To Watch to actually being watched). I’ve built a person. A living, breathing, beautiful, flawed, brilliant, WHOLE person. Instead of being caught up in accomplishments, I’ve built a solid base of fulfillment. My refusal to conform to what might be normal – everything from career plans to dating – has brought me the kind of success you can’t see. The kind of success that stops me in my tracks and makes me think, “Holy crap, how did I even get here?” That sort of success isn’t tied to a paycheck, a person, or a nod of approval. It’s the kind of success that only I really truly know, because it’s the feeling of knowing myself on such a deep level that I know I can weather both the highest highs and the lowest lows.
That’s not to say entering my Third Decade comes without butterflies, though. I remember when I was ending my freshman year of high school, I feared entering into my sophomore year and blending into the crowd. I was known as one of the “cool” freshmen (read: not-actually-stereotypically-cool-in-the-way-freshmen-think-they’re-cool) in the theatre clique, and feared that my unexpectedness was what made me exciting. Without being known for being way more “mature” than a normal ninth grader, what was I?
Now, the same types of fears bubble up – I’m just more mindful about how I approach them. My ties to the idea of “youth” are not so much linked to the aging process as to whether or not I’m still…cringe…special. Almost all my close friends are a good five to fifteen years older than I am. I’ve been told my entire life that I’m an old soul and so much more mature “for my age.” So what happens now? What if I blend in? What am I if I’m no longer an exception to the rule?
I’ll tell you what I am. I am not held back, that’s what I am. I am not using my age as a crutch or as a reason someone else should like me. I know now I can fill that head-and-heart space with something much more productive to love about myself. I am not my age, I am my soul. I am not an exception, I am my own rule.
I might not be leaving my twenties on any fancy-schmancy list, but honestly, I don’t care anymore. I don’t need a list to approve of my trajectory, and I don’t need to feed into the idea that in order to be Great, I need to be The Best. Because really, there is no “Best.” And as Sarah Robb O’Hagan brilliantly states in this video, this sort of “Participation Award” culture of awarding greatness by decade creates a false notion that there IS actually a Best and that Best is on a timeline, one that’s becoming increasingly shorter.
I want to live on my own timeline. And I want to live the life that’s the Best for me. End of story.
In the meantime, I have learned a few things to get me started…
30 Lessons In 30 Years: A Non-Exhaustive List
1) ASK FOR HELP, and take people up on their offers when they offer to help. I’ve learned that if I don’t know how to do something…it’s not that I WON’T do it, but I get tripped up over not knowing HOW to execute, it’s that I move SO slow. There’s a difference between moving slow and being cautious, and moving slow out of fear. I move slow out of fear. I finally came to terms with my natural way of being, but instead of sulking about it, I now immediately do something to counteract it. Now I know that just because my default is to act one way (slow, fearful, solo), doesn’t mean I need to make a drastic change to move forward in work or life…I just need to ask for help when I’m feeling on shaky ground.
2) In the words of the musical Rent, FORGET REGRET. Regret is a useless – and fabricated – emotion. How absolutely freeing it feels to live without regrets. Regret, to me, is a byproduct of a forgiveness and empathy deficit. When you’re able to forgive and have empathy for others, you’re able to learn forgiveness and empathy for yourself (and vice versa). You realize you were making the best choice you could in the circumstance you were in. LISTEN: On Listening As Service With Ben Mathes
3) If you own or lease a car, know the dates and costs to anticipate. Smog checks (your DMV renewal will have a notification on it – all you need to do is find a gas station or service outpost that says “Smog Check” and they’ll know what to do), drivers license renewal, car payments, and if you’re leasing, disposition fee. Knowing these won’t make the costs go away, but they WILL make you a lot less surprised when they pop up (and provide a little more impetus to keep some “shit happens” money lying around).
5) Keep a journal. A written, pen-to-paper journal. Write notes back and forth with your friends, and save them when you can. They’re like relics of who you once were and how you came to be.
6) Friendships are born EVERYWHERE. Don’t worry about so much about making your closest friends in your age group, career field, school, what-have-you. Community can come from ANYWHERE. And also, It’s okay not to have a stereotypical “best” friend – or a lot of friends. You will find your people, but only if you’re committed to being your own “person” above all else (instead of trying to fit in with someone else). READ: Being Afraid Of The Friends That You Need
7) Be kind to people – all people. Or at the very least, empathize, because we’re all human. Cynicism, backstabbing, manipulating, and just plain making fun of others are all things that get under my skin. I’ve been on the receiving end of all four, and more. It was hard to be kind sometimes. But kindness has always gotten me farther – and doesn’t leave me with that sick feeling in my stomach that I’m sending out negative energy to someone else in this world. Pettiness and negativity fester in the body, and letting them live out in the world is very different than letting them GO. You can be kind to people while still being firm, direct, and self-protective. Kindness is only a liability when it’s an excuse to not stand up for yourself. Saying no and being kind are not mutually exclusive. Speaking up and being kind are not mutually exclusive.
8) You can appreciate the advice of those you love without feeling like you should (or NEED to) take it. The people you love want what’s best for you. And what’s best for you is usually the least risk-averse option. Or maybe it’s not the least risky, but it’s the option they’d do in your position. Or maybe they wouldn’t do it per se, but it will lead you to be the person THEY want you to be. It could be a parent or a romantic partner. What is right for someone else isn’t always right for you, and vice versa. That doesn’t mean either option is “wrong.”
9) “Vulnerability” is your greatest asset. Show your entire self to the world.
10) The reality of the situation at hand is different than the emotions you associate with it. Feel it all, but learn to separate the two.
11) Learn to listen to your body, even when it would be easier to listen to a friend, or magazine article, or even a doctor. Tapping into how my body feels has been one of my biggest successes of my life so far. Your body never lies.
13) Read things that make your brain flex, listen to music that makes your heart hurt, watch films that make you think deeply. It’s exercise for your soul.
14) Love is so much more complicated than it seems. Surface level compatibility is awesome, calling you out on your shit should be a given. You want someone who is in the ring with you no matter what – sans jealousy, codependency, or worst of all, conditions.
15) In the words of Michael Pollan, “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The only modification I have to this is…don’t let society tell you what is too little or too much. Our bodies are ALL different – different activity levels, physiological make-up, etc. – so we all need different amounts of energy to live our lives. READ: Defining Diet On Your Own Terms
17) It’s okay to not want to let go, or be scared to let go – but don’t be so scared of the unknown and the other side of letting go that you DON’T let go. Just because you’ve invested in something for a really long time doesn’t mean you’re indebted to it.
18) Be proactive, not reactive.
19) We all learn the same lessons, just not at the same times.
20) Family, blood AND chosen, are the most important. What constitutes family? They’ve got your back no matter what (and you’ve got theirs).
21) The hardest (and scariest) things to do are usually the right ones.
26) When it comes to your career, do you. If you want to switch jobs, cool. If you like working in an office, cool. If you work better from home, cool. If you’re someone who thrives off of multiple odd jobs for maximum happiness, amazing. There is no one archetype for professional (or personal) success.
27) You don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. Do what’s right for you. And just because someone else is doing it (and you’re not) is not a reflection on your worth as a human being.
28) Don’t drastically change something about yourself to follow a trend. Physical or otherwise. Very thankful for my thick eyebrows now, but I wasn’t in 1998.
30) Your life is not a clock to beat. Remember those game shows where participants would have to rush through a maze while there was a clock counting down the seconds in the background? Way too many of us live our lives that way. Everyone is on their own unique path. Just because your friends are getting married or having babies or are CEOs of their businesses DOESN’T mean you have to “keep up” by checking off those boxes yourself. When you honor your own timeline and move forward fearlessly on that path, your life opens up in ways you’d never ever expect.
WANT Yourself: Which one of these lessons resonated with you the most?
If you’re over 30, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
And under-30s…what’s the ONE thing you want to work on the most in this decade you’re in?
Shoot me a comment below – I’ll consider it my birthday present :) I love you all.
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Another day at the gym, another chance to fit in some resistance work. It was crowded on the floor, the weight rack reminding me of the produce shelves at Trader Joe’s Chelsea on Sunday evenings: picked over, plowed through, only a few choices left now that the “good ones” were gone. I was left with my own personal equivalent of bruised-up apples and overripe bananas and strange veggie combos that no one else wants to cook.
In fitness – specifically, resistance training – there are two main schools of thought: you lift light with high reps, or you lift heavy with less reps. For me, someone once told me along the way that lifting lower weights until fatigue was the way to go. Eight-to-ten-pounders it was, then. No more, rarely less. It maintains “lean muscle,” I was told. It burns what you don’t want and keeps what you do.
Which technique was actually “better” or not is besides the point. If I’m being honest with myself (which I always try to do), I stuck with the advice I did because it was easy. I knew exactly what to expect. It was familiar. And even when I felt myself getting stronger, which I did every now and again, I shied away from the larger weights not because I feared I wouldn’t get “results” – but because I was scared I would be disappointed with myself if I couldn’t lift them to begin with.
Sighing at the lack of ten-pounders on the rack, I picked up the only option under sixty pounds available: 17.5. I had to look down to make sure I’d grabbed the right one. It can’t be, I thought. Why did I think this would be so insurmountably heavy?
We live within an epidemic of underestimating our strength. In this world, it’s become easy to be angry, easier to be cruel, even easier to be simply “nice,” than it is to speak up and live out.
Is it that we are culturally shamed into not showing strength? “Speaking up” is having a moment, thank goodness, but we’ve still got a long way to go until voicing our hearts is seen as a sign of courage, not a scarlet letter of deficiency. Is it we view the idea of “living the dream” as just that – a silly, unattainable dream that’s unworthy of a fight or our courage? Or is it that there’s so much else that’s a distraction in this world, too much else that’s over-stimulating and overpoweringly strong, that to add even an ounce of strength to the mix is almost too overwhelming to bear?
The majority of our environment is artificial; banking on our arousal to keep us engaged. Oh look, a fancy restaurant! Oh look, a sample sale! Oh look! An ad telling me I must not be good enough as I am because I definitely need that cream to do away with my shortcomings! It might be fun (no hate; not knocking it till I try it), but even the new Pokémon GO iPhone game thing is worth questioning. What does it say about us that the game begins with a reminder to “stay alert” — not while we quench a thirst for information or knowledge, but feed a hunger to “catch” imaginary creatures, ps — lest we should bump into a light post, or a person, or a moving car, or an assailant? (this article on Forbes does a good job of summing up my feelings on that one – on the other hand, this one does a nice job of expressing how it might be able to help folks with depression, but it’s more about actually getting people outside than it is about what people do once they’re there.)
All any of this means is that when we get the chance to make our own decisions and decipher our own feelings, we’re way less likely to go for anything other than the easy way out. After all, the world is constantly coaxing us to spend our energy elsewhere. We will never cease to be tempted by the ease of the moment until we start investing in what it means to explore our own strength.
The true work doesn’t come in the ease and the fallback, it comes in the unfamiliar and the spaces outside of comfort zones:
Growth, whether it’s muscles or mindset, comes when you move forward fearlessly and pick up that weight, and maybe one day are surprised by the fact that picking it up wasn’t all as hard as you’d worked it up to be.
Fitness, to me, is not about a number of reps. It’s not about the perfect lunge, and it’s certainly not about the number of calories burnt per minute. Fitness is about realizing you’re stronger than you thought, you’re tougher than you realized, and you’re way more intricate than you ever could imagine. Fitness is about realizing that it’s okay to be both strong and soft, determined and delicate, in the gym and out of the gym – because life asks of you everything the gym does and more. Lifting a weight over and over might look impressive from the outside (how does she do so many reps?!), but you’re ultimately just waiting for the inevitable fatigue.
Choosing the safe bet – the anger, the fear, the perfunctory cheeriness, the popular viewpoint – might be easier to choose and more readily accepted from the outside, but ultimately, it’ll get old.
But choosing the more mindful option? The one that presents challenges no one can see? Now that is something. Now THAT is strength. It’s not about the way it looks, it’s about the way it feels.
And so picking up a seventeen-point-five pound weight, it meant so much more to me in that moment than just a few extra units of heavy metal. It made me ask: Where am I not upping the weight in my own life? Where am I settling for the ease, over and over again until I fatigue? And in what parts of my life am I not facing my own true strength?
I am not perfect. I stay silent when I long to speak up. I cower in the face of fear. I shrink myself to make others feel comfortable, and I overextend myself to protect others instead of protecting myself. I feel rage-bubbles bubble up inside, and I smile a sweet smile even when I’m betrayed. But I always go back and I pick up the weight, and remind myself that every ounce of metal and every moment of equanimity counts when it comes to building myself up into the woman I strive to be. When it comes to building the world into the world I want to see. We’ve got to start somewhere, and we can’t discount the power we have as individuals to shift the landscape.
So go ahead. Pick up the dumbbell and lift the weight. You might be surprised at the strength you’ve built – and the power that’s been locked inside, waiting for you to use it.
WANT Yourself: In the comments below, tell me one way you’ve impressed yourself with your own strength. Doesn’t matter what it is – all acts of strength are HUGE in the WANT playbook.
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There isn’t much more of an emotional experience for me than driving through Downtown Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley then back again; a route I know all too well yet still find so much nuance and newness in.
It’s the path from the place I live now back to the place I grew up in, from the future to back to the past and all the moments in between – both places that hold so much of my history but so much of my current hustle as well. The appointments. The auditions. The schools. The snacks. The boyfriends, the best friends, the strip malls where I learned to drive and the high rises I still look up at with awe. I cross “over the hill” into “The Val” and I’m instantly transported into the person I’ve always been. It’s all there, the same yet so different. My heart caves at the “For Lease” signs and expands with the familiar neon lights. Each block holds a memory, each zip code a sense of déjà vu.
The nostalgia eats me alive.
You know those dreams you have where you’re in a place, but it seems slightly “off?” Maybe it’s supposed to be your middle school homeroom, but your cousins are there and the blackboard is white. Or you’re walking down the grocery aisle, then suddenly it morphs into a pet shop where the Fuji apples used to be.
Having lived in the city I grew up in for my entire existence, that’s what my life has always seemed like to me – and the feeling I get when I drive down Ventura Boulevard. Morphing without warning, shifting without reason. I cannot tell if yesterday was yesterday or if it was two decades ago. If the block to my right has always been there or if it’s reconstructed out of an old orange grove. The past seems more like last night’s dream than a distant memory: it’s all where I left it, yet things are just…different.
As I prepare for a move across the country to a city I adore, I cannot help but sit and stare out the window a little bit longer than usual and breathe a bit deeper (when the city smog lets me). I think about change, I think about transitions, I think about how our lives are nothing more than a story playing itself out – which is really something, if you think about it hard enough.
This “City Of Angles” is my safety blanket in a way I can’t express. Sure, the space is familiar, but it’s more of the energy within that space that keeps me feeling safe. The feeling she, L.A, brings me…it’s less of a “home” feeling and more of an extension of myself. The twisted freeways, the blue and green signs and the busy off-ramps. The movie theater I got my first kiss, the beach where I fell in love. This city tells the story that made me…well…ME.
Why is it that our biggest moments on the inside are sometimes the smallest on the outside – and vice versa? Why is it we’re told it’s the opposite that must be true? We make movies and build holidays around this stuff, but the people who know better can see the meat is really within the minutia. Yes, our turning points sometimes come in the I Dos and the contracts and the big old forks in the road – but more often than not, those are just an external manifestation of a hundred huge micro-moments when we made a shift or stood our ground for the first time over and over again.
We feel it’s the big things that are supposed to define us: our extracurriculars, our SATs, our college major, our career choice, the person we marry, the life we have – ergo, the legacy we leave. But in actuality, our legacy is everything in between. It’s the play you saw at five years old that stirred something in your heart. It’s the tears you cried after the SATs but dried three minutes later because you had to show up for a team you couldn’t let down no matter your personal struggles. It’s the teacher that made you think outside of the box or called you out on your shit or was the first one to identify your fearlessness (even before you believed it yourself). It’s the kisses in the movie theatres and the times you said no when the easy option was to say yes. It’s the pivots you made when your heart felt that something wasn’t right, and the beelines you made when it knew everything was. The big moments are easy for others to understand, and they’re clear ways to designate your chapters. But the only person that matters when it comes to actually reading your story is YOU.
Navigating transitions hasn’t ever really been my strong suit. I was born into a sea of nostalgia, a family of collectors and traditions and story upon story told over and over. And they’re all in Los Angeles, all amidst its familiar streets. Those boulevards have been like talismans to me my entire life, signifying good luck or a safety net around the corner.
It’s so easy to blur my story with the ones of my community – it all seems the same sometimes. In the past I’ve felt an obligation to turn the pages for others, to modify my story to fit the narrative that surrounds me. My legacy is easiest to understand when others get it, I’ve thought. It’s where I derive my importance and my worth. In the ease. In the fact that I can live this dream of past moments without ever fully waking. I can know each step of the way.
And so a part of me raises her eyebrow at the fact that I feel so ready. I should be frantic, I should be mourning. I should be soaking in every single moment and wondering/worrying how I will fare. It’s unknown, after all. And I know my relationship with the unknown.
But I do. I feel so ready. And I think it’s because I am always celebrating and mourning simultaneously. I am constantly soaking in each moment like it’s the last, treating what I see as final. Like it’s the last time my eyes ever will transfix on the slow-moving clouds, or the shadows on the buildings, or the way the same hawk lands in the very same place outside my window each season. I notice the little things that remind me of myself, the constants that have painted the backdrop and nuance in my story for so long. I’ve collected moments and made each hour a tradition. It’s not morbid or morose, it’s just this immense gratitude and awareness that it’s all something that will feel like a dream I woke up from not too far off in the future.
I wonder if that’s the secret to navigating transitions. To notice the moments before you realize they were moments. To speak with intention in each sentence you make.
I look around at Los Angeles and I wonder what the future holds for our relationship. Will she still feel like an extension of myself once I come back to visit? Will my memory of her be something I can’t quite pinpoint when I’m trying to describe her to others, decades in the future, ones who might only know a watered-down version in the future, a half-magical version of her greatness? I know my version isn’t her pinnacle of awesomeness per se, but it sure as hell has been a great one to me.
We all have a place we call home, or at least a vision of a place we’ve once called home. And when we stray from that familiar safe haven, it’s easy to succumb to the idea that we SHOULD be thrown for a loop. That we’re about to wake. What happens then, we wonder? Will I fade into the darkness, too? If I am not my surroundings and I am not my talismans…then who am I?
As I sit here now, in the soon-to-be-morning darkness on my soon-to-be-sold couch in my soon-to-be-old home, I know that my present will soon be that dream I woke up from. I cry at the loss that hasn’t even happened, and I cry for the ones who might never know L.A.’s true heart. I wince at the thought of anyone trying to change her, to alter her, to shape her into their idealized Mecca. Because what I see now is perfection, her dirty streets and dilapidated shops, the creatives walking with the corporates and the homeless laughing with the hipsters. I want to save her charm, bottle it up or trap it in a snow globe. It’s where I fell deeply in love over and over again, the place that takes my breath away no matter how shitty the day has been. She is my friend, lover, teacher, mentor. She is family who I don’t always agree with but love down to the core.
But maybe that is the true beauty of it all. We all get to choose the magic we see and the dreams we wake up from. No version is better or worse, we just decide where our incarnation and perception fits into the mix. We can mourn the change and the loss or we can celebrate the ever-evolving dream that’s always in motion. It’s all there, things are just different. We can choose whether our transitions mean hard starts and stops, or if they just mean we’re in the midst of our story – an ever-morphing dream we’ve never really needed to wake up from.
I choose to celebrate. And I choose to keep dreaming.