Surrendering what no longer serves us, and tearing down the wall.

“Remember the emphasis on the heart. The mind lives in doubt and the heart lives in trust. When you trust, suddenly you become centered.” ~ Osho

I have trust issues. Big ones. I hate that I do and I wish that I didn’t, but I accept that it’s something I must work through, to let go of when the time is right, and to be honest with myself and others about.

I don’t remember exactly when or how these trust issues started, but throughout my adult life, inklings of unease have developed into exaggerated and obvious insecurity. I’ve been let down on many occasions, in some pretty powerful, scarring ways, and these situations have surely contributed to my current apprehensive state.

More than once, when I’ve given my heart to another, I have seen the things I cherished very deeply vanish, disappearing right before my eyes and horrified heart, left aghast and in awe of how quickly life can change. Things were ripped from my hands still holding tight to a future I’d dreamt about, to a person I’d selected for a partner, to a grand, great love…

I’ve also been let down by people who promised to help my dreams come true, or who committed to serving as copilot on an upcoming adventure, ensuring I wouldn’t have to face the unknown alone…

Following each disappointment, I molded together brick after brick, created with sticks of anger and stones of sadness and cement resent. I stacked these bricks on the wall surrounding my heart. I slowly and deliberately built a strong and unpenetrable fortress for one. And inside, there I was, making things happen for me, relying only on myself, ensuring that only I could be accountable for my successes or my failures.

 "...If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity, ... if you seek liberalization, ... open this gate. ... Tear down this wall." -- President Reagan to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, urging him to demolish the Berlin Wall.

“…If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity, … if you seek liberalization, … open this gate. … Tear down this wall.” — President Reagan to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, urging him to demolish the Berlin Wall.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had people in my inner circle, and of course there have always been people who I can rely on, who have always been there in times of crisis, who have always been more than willing to do anything I needed, literally giving me their last dime or shoes from their feet. But for the most part, because of my past experiences, I have maintained sole control and I haven’t expected anything, of anyone, as a means of preventing future letdowns.

This has got to change. I asked the Universe to give me softness just a few months ago, and I’m recognizing that I’m ready to draw this in. I’m ready to emerge from my closed-off castle and I’m ready to welcome in trust and faith.

It’s time to tear down this wall.

The mantra for this morning’s yoga class was, “I am open.” Our yoga teacher, a new dear friend of mine, encouraged us to not only be open to what we can draw into our lives, but also to what we can let go of… to surrender what is no longer serving us.

In past classes, this teacher has talked about how many of our responses — to events in our lives be they positive, negative, or indifferent — are often based on learned reactions from previous experiences, or may even be caused from the stuck energy residue (or toxic ama) in our cells and DNA, passed down from our ancestors. We can reset our response mechanisms, through yoga (practiced while focusing on the chakra system especially), meditation, and conscious effort.

This teacher encouraged us to breathe deeply and say the words “I am open” in our minds as we released the breath. Then, instead of immediately restating the mantra, to let ourselves be void of intentional thought and to see what naturally presents itself in our minds.

On the first release of “I am open,” the words “trust” and “faith” came into my thoughts. I knew right then, that yes, I am ready to let go of this protective barrier around myself and that I am ready to start fresh. I am ready to trust openly, without hesitation and doubt. I am ready to live freely, putting faith in the Universe to handle my hardships and to give and take away as needed. I am ready to release control…

It is time.

Today, I am tearing down the wall and I am emerging from my safe, isolated castle. I am facing the world with an army at my back instead of forcing myself to face the world alone, with only a trusted stallion at my side (whose name is Jax, by the way, and he’s the most loyal golden that ever existed ❤ ).

Doing this can do nothing but help me. Sure, I may face moments of disappointment in the future, but today is a fresh start, just like tomorrow will be, and the day after that. The people and situations in my current life have zero ties to experiences which burned me before, and it’s unnecessary for me to burden others, and limit my own opportunities, by carrying around this baggage. Enough is enough.

Today, I am surrendering what no longer serves me.

Today, I am surrendering my protective barrier of mistrust and isolation.

Today, I am surrendering to softness.

Today, I am…

Today, I am open.

I am ready to let go of this protective barrier around myself and that I am ready to start fresh. I am ready to trust openly, without hesitation and doubt. I am ready to live freely, putting faith in the Universe to handle my hardships and to give and take away as needed. I am ready to release control...

I am ready to let go of this protective barrier around myself and that I am ready to start fresh. I am ready to trust openly, without hesitation and doubt. I am ready to live freely, putting faith in the Universe to handle my hardships and to give and take away as needed. I am ready to release control…Today… I am. 

Letting go of defeat: 2 steps to regain your strength.

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” – Robert Green Ingersoll

I’ve faced defeat half a dozen times the past two weeks. Even one instance of this can knock me off my path completely, but over the past two weeks, I’ve done my best to dodge SIX deadly bullets. Six times in twice as many days I’ve experienced feelings of inadequacy and rejection so powerful and pointed toward the core of my being that I’ve been blown backward and forced to regroup… Dust the debris, shake my shoulders, and keep moving forward.

I last wrote about an instance where I didn’t get a job, and about how I recognized that the event was helping me learn patience, trust, and walking the talk I so openly write about. At the end of the post and at the end of the day, I was happy. I had recovered from the little defeat and hadn’t lost sight of my goal.

I then did this five more times. Each time became slightly more difficult than the time before as each event softly stabbed and scraped at the fresh layer of scar tissue being built upon the wound. I did my best to bear the pain and push through.

But, eventually, we all come to a point where we are defeated. We realize that those little cuts are plentiful and that we’re bleeding out. We’re no longer able to heal as we could if only one or two slices marked our skin…

Today, I arrived at this point.

Today, I felt defeated.

When we’ve experienced true, lasting, painful depression and sadness, we’re fearful of re-entering that space (despite knowing it will eventually go away) and we often develop strategies for staying positive and dealing with our dark sides. We try to be proactive about maintaining a positive mind.

Through my personal battles over the past eight years, I’ve developed a couple tactics that work well to banish the blues before they take control of my life, of THE LIFE I want to live.

1) A quick and easy way to deal with negative thoughts and feelings is to give ourselves a little pep talk. I count my blessings, remind myself of my talents and the goals I want to achieve, reflect on the experiences I’ve had, and tell myself that I am enough and that I have enough and that everything is just fine. I bring positivity into my life via a few moments of positive self-talk.

2) A more focused, purposeful way to let go of specific moments and to draw in positivity is by holding a simple fire ceremony to seal in your intentions. First write down the negative thoughts, feelings, or events on one sheet of paper and then write down positive affirmations or goals on another (these don’t have to be the rehashing of all bad things in our lives or recreations of our vision boards, but rather simple cues of the bad and the good). Then, burn the lists. Watch the flame devour your moments of defeat and watch the flame grow as it’s fueled by your positivity.

No matter how we choose to regain our strength when we’re feeling week, it’s important to first acknowledge our feelings and to let our bodies and minds fully express our emotions as to not create more toxicity within ourselves. Let yourself cry or scream when you’re sad and upset just like you *should* let yourself smile big and dance when you’re happy and excited! Let it all out, then do what you can to let go of defeat and regain your strength so you can keep moving forward.

Write it down then let it go. Fire is a powerful way of releasing negativity and drawing in strength.

Write it down then let it go. Fire is a powerful way of releasing negativity and drawing in strength.

After a particularly trying day (Christmas Eve of all days), I decided to hold my own little fire ceremony to release the recent string of defeats. I’ve cried more in the past two weeks than I have in the past three months combined and I do not want to let this sadness become a staple in my present reality — I’m positive and powerful and destined for great things as long as I stay focused on activities I love. I do not want to waste any time being stuck in sorrow caused by hearing “NO” too many times.

So tonight, I scribbled a few words about each of the six defeats on a purple post-it and set it aside. Then, I wrote dozens of affirmations on another post-it, filling up nearly every violet void with positive statements like “I am enough” and “I am responsible for my reactions” and “I am getting closer.”

I lit a candle and filled a small bowl with water (far too many house fires happen over the holidays and although I doubt many are caused by 20-somethings trying to create a sacred space for strengthening the spirit, I can’t be too careful).

I glanced over my defeat note, folded it in half, and held it above the flame. I watched as the sharpie chicken-scratch letters burned and charred then disappeared above the glass water dish. I let it go…

Then, I looked at the barely legible words on the second note, written on top of each other and numbering dozens more than the measly defeats. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, acknowledging the truth of the words I’d written. I folded the paper and held it above the flame. I watched as the flame took my thoughts — I felt strength in watching this natural force envelop my hopes, taking control of what I gave it, doing with it what it liked — I let it go…

This simple act had a powerful effect on my sense of center. I felt better, cleaner, lighter, and more confident in myself. No longer was my solar plexus chakra feeling powerless and defeated. I regained a bit of my pride, and my head felt more at ease and my heart felt full again.

I may have heard “NO” a few too many times lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ll always hear “NO,” and that doesn’t mean that “YES” isn’t on its way.

Good things will happen — until then and even after they do, I’ll keep moving forward. No matter what.

Patience, trust, and walking the talk.

“Sooo I’m being taught a lesson in patience, trust, and walking the talk.”

While solo dancing in my kitchen, confident and cool and so content with all the great things about to happen in my life, I waited for a pot of lentils to finish simmering on the stove top and the kale and spinach to wilt in the pan beside it. I smiled to myself, thinking that before long, I’d be offered a job paying nearly double what I make now… All my financial woes would be gone and I’d be on the path to having my student loans paid off by 30. Success and sweet, sweet freedom…

As my mukluks carried my spinning body across the linoleum floor, my phone vibrated. I glanced, assuming it was just another pre-Christmas email pleading for me to purchase half-priced presents from an online store halfway across the country…

Nope. Not that. It was… an email from someone I’d just interviewed with. All I could see in the notification bar was “I would like to thank you for taking the time…”

Heart. Dropped.”…taking the time” is never a good sign.

I hurriedly opened the email, only to find out the job I had locked down in my head only days before was no longer an option. They’d offered the position to someone else.

I collapsed on the floor in front of the oven. I was in disbelief. What?! That’s just. What?! I wasn’t prepared for this. NOT getting the job wasn’t a possibility in my mind… I’d banked on this turning out.

As tears slowly dripped from my eyes and onto my cheeks and neck, the greens started to sizzle and burn in the pan. This was not supposed to happen, I thought. But there it was. Black on white, pixel on pixel, “thanks for taking the time…”

I let myself cry. I was going to be late for work and those lentils weren’t going to be eaten. But this girl, this confident and cool and so content girl, needed a moment to cry…

During the past several weeks I’ve been taking a mantra and meditation class at my yoga school. Numerous times, I’ve heard the phrase “think of what you want, then let it go.” I’ve learned it’s best not to get attached to outcomes, but rather to understand the significance or motivation behind what it is we want and ask for that instead. For instance, instead of saying “I want X job,” we should think about the full reasons for why we want X job. What will X job bring into our lives? What are our motivations for wanting X job? We may realize the job itself isn’t the goal, but rather the goal is having more money to pay for something, or to build our skills in an area, or to simply get closer to a career we want.

For the job I thought I really wanted, the core motivation was really that I hope to be financially free. Soon. The job itself was of less importance in this particular circumstance. I needed to say “I want to be financially free,” instead of “I want X job.” Manifestation works with the bigger picture, not details usually (except for that Canadian surfer on the beach in Nicaragua… lol).

I’ve learned how to live on little, and I know there’s more to life than working solely for a paycheck. In my heart I know, for me, I can do much greater things for this world if I’m not bound by “having” to work. I have student loan debt that will plague my indefinite future (currently I’m guessing for at least 7 or so years if I continue paying my current amount), and because I’m not one to completely disregard my obligations and societal responsibilities, I know that I will continue finding ways to pay this off until it’s gone.

So, my heart was a bit broken to find out I didn’t get the job (despite being fully qualified, per the followup-feedback email I received — TIP to all those millenials and young professionals reading this — ALWAYS follow up after getting turned down. Ask for feedback. If they provide reasons, you can build and grow and better prepare for something else, and if they don’t you’re no worse off than before.).

In my head I was a bit confused. I didn’t understand why the Universe would present me with a perfectly good opportunity that would help me become financially free pretty quickly, only to have it NOT turn out as I thought it should. What!? I provided GREAT clips, I am FULLY qualified, and I had the best, COULDN’T-HAVE-BEEN-BETTER interview, but you DON’T want me to work there? Universe, this isn’t working for me… Come on…

Wait a second, I realized, who am I to say that job didn’t “work out”? Oh, so I didn’t immediately get hired? Which means that I don’t have to leave a city that I love and a job that I like to work in a city I don’t really love doing something that may only fulfill me a little bit, to get a bigger paycheck that in my heart I know doesn’t matter all that much?

Ok, Universe, I see what you did there… You made me grateful for everything I currently have. You made me actually kind of grateful it didn’t “work out” like I thought it would.

Points for you, Universe. You win.

Then, after I put back on my cloak of gratitude (Rumi was really such a genius), I started thinking about what else this event was teaching me.

Patience.
What is it that I want? I want to be financially free. I know in my heart I am not destined to be bound by money. But, I do know for whatever reason, I am bound a bit now and that for whatever reason, it’s probably a good thing. Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” So, I can wait. I have to wait. And that’s ok. I have patience that in time, when the time is right, I’ll be free from debt.

Trust.
Who runs this place, anyway? Yeah… It’s not me. It’s not you. It’s someone or something greater than any of us can conceive of and it’s someone or something who knows what to do. It’s not my will that’s going to make things happen. I’m done trying to think I know what’s best… trying to plan my life away. I’ve given in to forces bigger than myself and I trust that everything — good, bad, beautiful, painful, exciting, dull — is making my life more complex and as perfect as it should be. And, because this particular job didn’t seal my fate for the indefinite future, the unknown is still an option. And, who is to say this “setback” wasn’t really a trail marker leading me to somewhere AMAZING. An AMAZING door to opportunity just around the bend 🙂

Walking the talk.
What do I hope to accomplish in my life? I want to inspire people to live happier, positive lives while living the happiest, most positive life I can! I try to provide ideas for how we can do this, emphasizing acceptance and compassion and fun and bravery. Well, if I’m not living my advice, I’m a phony. I have to heed my own advice and just let it be. Everything that is, is just fine. Each situation we find ourselves in is an opportunity to learn a lesson and to spread knowledge and joy! No wasting any more moments feeling unnecessarily sad. Enough. I choose bliss.

Our "setbacks" may really be trail markers leading to somewhere AMAZING. Keep going...

Our “setbacks” may really be trail markers leading to somewhere AMAZING. Keep going…

After I gave myself a few minutes to cry on that kitchen floor and release the excitement and attachment I’d built up around the job, I came to some pretty powerful revelations and had to text my best friend the news.

“Sooo I’m being taught a lesson in patience, trust, and walking the talk. They went with someone else.” I wrote.

Her response? “Well that’s a bummer. I wonder what’s coming down the pipe for you now :)”

What perfect, honest, real, useful thoughts. Basically, 1)Tough shit, little girl. 2) Chin up and get excited for what’s next!

So, here I am again. Happy, grateful, and with more possibilities than *I thought* I had just days ago. No worries. No complaints. Life. Is. Good.

Thanks, Universe. For NOT giving me the job. You’re the best.

Tie-dye leggings and gray dress slacks. A note on bending before breaking.

Today, I’m wearing gray dress slacks I put in a box destined for Goodwill just one year ago. I’m pairing these pants with a black sweater and a pair of modest ballet flats.

And a pair of multicolored tye-dye leggings.

Before I quit my job last fall, I decided I’d had it with business attire. Never again would I wear dress pants to work each day! Pencil skirts and cardigans? Go to hell. “I don’t want to work at any company that won’t let me dress in a t-shirt and flip flops!,” I said defiantly when my mom questioned why I was getting rid of my professional clothing.

Well, maybe this happened by mistake or maybe on purpose (her purpose, not mine), but many of these business pieces weren’t stuck with little blue and green tags and sold to someone who needed a cheap option or someone who wanted to be hip by buying used… Instead, the boxes and bags overflowing with khakis and cable-knit were stacked alongside my distressed denim and concert tees. Now I’m wearing these clothes again. They surely have proven useful, and saved me loads of moolah.

I’ve grown through my 20-something freak out, and I’ve learned that having a nice stable job that asks you to look polished and neat each day isn’t so bad after all. Actually, it’s quite nice not having to decide whether or not my over-sized tank, skinny jeans, and moccasins are appropriate (sometimes yes, most times no… not in the newsroom at least). I enjoy that a little bit of decision making is taken care of simply because I have to build an outfit using “business casual” attire. Black pants? Check. Simple sweater? Check. Nude flats? Check. Done and done.

However, what I HAVE learned is that even though I’m not getting the chance to “express myself” as freely as I could by wearing clothes appropriate for interacting with editors each evening (although, many of my coworkers totally dig this Bonnaroo tee-wearing boho chick and would welcome the change of pace), I’m still able to integrate bits of my personality into my fabric and accessory selections. A printed cami. Multicolored Mayan loafers. Leggings and boots and a way-too-baggy sweater. Black on black on black on black. Things that are “appropriate” but are still me. Bending inside the limits, bending to conform just a bit…

At my last office job, I think part of the reason I BROKE like I did was because I didn’t consider how to remain stable while BENDING… I looked at my situation as an ice block that I had to remain frozen inside of, rather than looking at it as something that could melt and conform to my natural shape a bit better. I could have sought out more opportunities to express myself, in areas like creative design tasks or writing for example. Or I could have accepted my professional job as it was, and expressed myself more freely in my downtime. However, I decided I was stuck and I had to break free.

Now I know, learning to bend rather than break is so important.

Learn how to bend the rules, and when you can't, still be YOU underneath ;)

Learn how to bend the rules, and when you can’t, still be YOU underneath.

But even in my current job there are some days, like today, when I decide to go the very traditional route of wearing black on gray. But, I’m still me and I’m still making it a point to make the child inside happy, the one insisting she wear striped socks over argyle tights with a polka-dot sweater (I just reunited with a younger me who lives on the Oregon coast), even if the expression has to be underneath my varying shades of K. No one knows I’m wearing neon pink and yellow tye-dye leggings but me, and I’m the only person needing to be impressed sometimes 🙂

I’ve now learned how to bend and compromise in so many areas of my life. Doing so prevents many headaches and helps keep the peace. In the workplace, and in my heart.

Be thankful, no matter what.

“There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” – Unknown

Homeless Portland man holds sign this morning that  reads, "SMILE! If I can smile, so can you!"

Homeless Portland man holds sign this morning that reads, “SMILE! If I can smile, so can you!”

While traveling in Guatemala this spring I met with a female mystic who told my friend and I the ancient Mayan creation story. She said there were multiple cycles of creation and destruction, and it wasn’t until humans were able to give thanks that the destruction stopped. Until people felt gratitude in their hearts and began acknowledging their blessings, life couldn’t prosper and humanity wouldn’t survive.

We live in a world full of entitlement. Yes, we sometimes have to work hard, but there is always an expectation that we’ll be given what we want and need. Life is pretty easy, let’s be real. The vast majority of us in this country don’t have to worry about where our next meal will come from, where we’ll sleep tonight, of if somebody will love us. We’re spoiled. We’re LUCKY.

However, a big problem in this country is gratitude. We’re a take-take-take society, and we rarely give back, let alone give thanks for the blessings in our lives.

No matter if things are going great or if things are pretty rough, there is always something to be thankful for. For one, the fact that we’re breathing and that we’re alive and able to face another day (and therefore, that there is always a chance that today may be the day things get better). For two, the fact that we’ve had both good and bad experiences in life which gave us tools to improve our situations and those of others. For three, that the sun rises and sets each day, always reminding us that there are new beginnings and that we can wipe away the failures from our past and start fresh.

The past few months I’ve made it a point to give thanks before bed each night. I take a few moments to quiet my mind and thank god for the blessings I have and for all the opportunities I’ve been given. Nothing ever seems that bad if I remind myself to be thankful.

If each of us filled our hearts with gratitude and love, this world might not be so tough…

And remember, gratitude grows from gratitude. Give it a shot ❤

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”

– Denis Waitley

Four birthday wishes

Today, I turn 27.

On my walk home from work, with Mother Nature in her glory (wind howling, snow racing across the pavement and icy white lawns, the last bundles of leaves still clinging to trees cracking and crunching against each other), tonight I thought of some things I hope to draw into my life. A few birthday wishes for the year…

I have a list of goals I want to accomplish too, things from developing a daily meditation practice and sponging up less of other people’s problems, to paying down my student loans and remembering names (I promise I’m not as rude as I sometimes seem – my memory is just awful!). However, I hope the wishes I developed this evening will subtly morph me into a better person, transforming me into a better me, and bringing me closer to my natural, most complete self. Which hey, has got to be a pretty great thing right?

Here they are.

1) LOVE – I want to love myself, and be in love with myself.

For so many years I’ve let myself be my own worst enemy instead of my biggest fan. Judging, nit-picking, self-destructing… This year, I want to love myself like I love my best friends. I want to respect my body and mind, my wants and needs, and I want to have fun and ENJOY the time I spend with me. “They say” you can’t really love another until you love yourself. I’m not 100% in agreement with this statement, but I know I’ll love another better if I first love and like myself.

2) BRAVERY – I want to be bold and have the courage to take chances.

I’ve always been pretty adventurous, but I’m rarely overly brave with regard to trusting my gut and putting logic to rest in favor of faith. This year, I want to unabashedly run after the things I want, that I feel to be right, that may be scary or unknown but that, if I can muster the courage to take the first step, may help me get to where I need to go.

3) VOICE – I want to speak up, asserting my turn to talk and tell my truths.

Most of my relationships have been 70/30 — I listen more than speak, I sit shotgun more than drive, etc. I’m an empathetic person who wants to soothe and comfort others, always putting my thoughts and feelings aside in exchange for hearing another reveal those very same things, in their very own voice. But this year, I want to speak up and turn the tables and make sure my voice is heard clearly in every situation. In friendships, in initial encounters, in my career. In everything.

4) SOFTNESS – I want to soften my heart and release control.

For at least the past 10 years, I have maintained sole control over my happiness. Even when making plans or daydreaming about the future with another, at some space within myself I never fully bought what we were selling. I was never fully able to trust another person with my future and my happiness. Even on the surface level, with common events, I’ve kept walls up around my heart, always on edge, quick to leap from a situation when the potential for disappointment crept in. This year, I want to soften and allow others in, if they deserve my heart space. I want to make plans that I intend to keep. I want to fully wander into an unknown with another at my side… If and when the time is right.

I’ve asked the Universe to help bring this all into my life. I know she’ll do her part and we’ll work on me together.

I’m a happy birthday girl! 27 is bound to be the best year yet — cheers and positivity to all!

I survived! 11 Life lessons learned during a quarter-life crisis

I’m turning 27 in a few days and, I’ll be honest, I think I went through this crisis nearly all 20-somethings are going through, have survived, or are just about to start.

I didn’t realize it, but a few months after I turned 25 I started to experience symptoms now labeled as the “Quarter-Life Crisis” which are secretly or not-so-secretly devouring the souls of 20-somethings across the country. This enigma is now plastered all over the internet (on Huffington Post, there are 26,900 posts tagged “quarter-life crisis” alone!), but when I was starting to experience it, I hadn’t a clue others were going through the same thing.

I don’t know why exactly it is happening, but it is, and hey, so be it.

Regardless, at 25, all I knew was that I was unhappy and I was searching for something more, something greater than what I was experiencing… My job was good, my friends were good, my income was good… Life. was. good. But, I just couldn’t shake the desire to rip my hair out and run free, starting with quitting my job and moving to the jungle 🙂

Just days after I turned 26, I did just that.

However, I didn’t do it recklessly — I’d spent months saving and selling my things, weaning my body off prescription drugs, going to therapy, and tying up loose ends and breaking up with my boyfriend (a couple times). I was doing what any responsible, young professional would do while secretly FREAKING THE FUCK OUT.  I was scared — I didn’t know really why I was doing what I was doing, but I knew I had to do something. I seemed calm and collected enough, and could very eloquently tell you why this was a good decision for my future (“learning natural ways of caring for cows and taking care of jungle plants will look great on my design resume!” yeah…).

Despite having a semblance of a “plan” (Costa Rican permaculture farm where I would blog about learning to be a “good person”, about figuring out my purpose and how to take care of myself and the environment better, followed by a move to the Pacific Northwest where I would surround myself with “good people” and get to work on living my purpose), I really had no clue what was waiting for me.

Regardless, in the middle of my crisis, I took off.

Over the past year, this 27th year of my life, I lived in the Costa Rican jungle and worked on the farm (where I did surround myself with “good people”, and I did kind-of-sorta figure out my purpose and how to take care of myself and the environment better), but then I changed course and traveled to Nicaragua and Guatemala and dove into yoga and spirituality, and then (long story short), I came back to Michigan, moved to the ever-hip Royal Oak for a month and nannied for a rich suburban-Detroit family with twin boys (weird life choice on my part), then moved myself to a big farmhouse outside of Traverse City and worked at a winery for a month (good intentions, bad execution), and then, I took a safe, career-style job with Traverse City’s newspaper (where I’m still working) and I recently moved downtown next to a local food co-op.

Life. Is. Good.

I can honestly say that I think (and hope!) my quarter-life crisis is over and that I’ve survived. More than that, I’ve grown and I’ve learned many things that I hope to keep with me as personal truths for as long as I live.

This year wasn’t easy, though. The 27th year of my life was probably the most difficult year I’ve ever had. But, I’m grateful for it. Through this year, filled with sky-high mountains and extremely low valleys (literally and figuratively), I’ve learned many valuable lessons. I want to share each of them with you so that regardless of your stage in life, regardless if you’ve ever experienced a life crisis or not, maybe these lessons will resonate and you’ll decide to incorporate an idea or two into your lives. And maybe, just maybe, we will all have better, richer lives because of them.

Life is AMAZING. And full of lessons. Here are eleven from my very own quarter-life crisis.

11 Life Lessons from my 27th Year

1) Stop asking for your purpose in life.

Let go of figuring out what you should do and just do the things that make you truly happy — THAT is your purpose. Things that bring you bliss will help spark your inner fire and will guide you closer to your dharma, your unique path in life that will enrich this world.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been asking God, and anyone who I trust enough to really listen, what I should be doing with my life. “What is my purpose?” “What is my gift?” “What am I being called to do?” These phrases have been written countless times in every journal I’ve owned, and if God has a catalog of my prayers somewhere I’m sure this is a theme that repeats itself more than any other.  This was one of the first lessons I learned after turning 26 and, although I’ve asked for my purpose again since coming to this realization, I am BEYOND GRATEFUL that I now know this to be a truth for my life.

When I decided to move to the farm pre-Portland, I told myself I’d use this disconnect from the first world to really, really focus on what my purpose is in life. Four months away? Easy peasy. I’ll figure it out then I’ll move to the west coast with a clear vision for my life and I’ll relentlessly go for it, whatever that purpose is. And I’ll never have to ask “what should I do?” again!

Well… I moved to the farm and spent a couple weeks asking myself, god, the trees, the waterfalls, the animals, and probably hinted at it to every person I met. It was obvious this was my goal.

But then, during an amazing massage session one night, it came to me. Clear as my best friend’s voice.

“Stop asking! Just do! Do what makes you happy. THAT is your purpose. Now go.”

And wow, what peace came with that revelation. I realized that the things I genuinely love to do and that make me happy ARE helping the planet and her people, and for now at least, that is purpose enough. So, I’ve stopped asking and I’m making an intentional effort each day to do things that bring me joy and fill my cup. I’m done with should. For now 🙂

2) Don’t be them. Be you.

You can never be anyone else but yourself, who YOU really are. You’ll always be disappointed and unhappy if you keep comparing yourself to others, envying the attributes of others, and trying to be anyone but yourself. Each of us are blessed with our own unique strengths, with gifts that only WE can share, and loves and likes tailored to our own special being.

And, let’s be real, we’re each pretty awesome. So, enough wishing you were anything other than YOU. And… JUST BE YOU!

I think I did a number on my self-confidence through years of trying to be like others. For whatever reason, until late this year, who I was just wasn’t enough. I wasn’t preppy enough, or pretty enough, or graceful enough, or yogi-enough, or hippie-enough, or tough enough, or brave enough, or travelled enough or… the list goes on. Every time I entered a new social situation, I immediately compared myself to everyone in the room. And then, I’d judge myself. “Oh no, I don’t have the right clothes, or I don’t know enough about x and y to be here,” etc. Silly things. We each have a right to be wherever we are, and we are PERFECT just the way we are, and, always, we HAVE ENOUGH and we ARE ENOUGH. And that’s all the matters.

So, let it go and just be yourself. All of yourself. Live you as BOLD as you can!

3) Let your voice speak the loudest!

Everyone has an opinion of who you are and what you should do and why, but really, the ONLY opinion that has any weight on these issues is YOURS. Only you know just who you really are (and if you don’t, take some time for you and make it a goal to figure it out — I’m still learning each day), and ultimately only you have to live with your decisions.

So, starting today, MAKE YOURSELF PROUD.

Most people are only trying to help by offering advice and, like I said above and many times before, it’s normal to want direction and sometimes getting it from others is easier than getting it from ourselves. But really, our hearts know just what to do, so listen. And then do. And it’s ok to tell the other voices, “Thanks but no thanks. I got this.”

I have so many people in my life, most of whom I love, who like to tell me what I should do — this past year was filled with this. I’ve gotten everything from “you should take yoga teacher training right now” and “just don’t pay off your student loans — live here in the jungle instead!,” to “you’re meant to be a writer, so just start writing your book” and “I know in my heart you need to be a missionary — you need to go to seminary school.”

All of these may be great options for somebody, but for ME, for my life right now, none of these are what I should be doing. Only I can decide that. So thanks, but no thanks.

4) Choose to be choosey.

This is YOUR life so live it how YOU want to. If it makes you feel good, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Simple. Choose how you spend your time, with whom you spend it with (even if that person is YOURSELF more often than not), what you wear, what you eat, how to exercise, where to live, etc. The list goes on and on, but ultimately, each day we’re faced with choices and if we’re not choosing for ourselves, who is?

I have wasted so much of my life trying to make others happy or going with the flow, sometimes to appease others and sometimes because I couldn’t decide on a better option so why not? Well, this year, I’ve learned to take a step back and ask if something will enrich my life before making a decision. This is a newer one for me, but so far, the quality of my life has increased and I’m more focused on what I want. I also feel more at peace knowing the decisions I’m making are getting me closer to where I want to be.

5) Move! Physical motion is magic.

Our bodies aren’t meant to be sedentary. We have muscles and joints, we’re flexible, we’re strong — we’re ALIVE! The health of our bodies and minds is directly connected and we must make sure to take care of each. For our bodies, the best thing we can do is move. Walking, running, dancing, yoga, swimming… It doesn’t matter the activity, it only matters that we move.

If you’re feeling down, try going for a walk and let yourself be IN that walk. Be present while moving your body and you’ll be amazed how quickly your mood may change. It’s magic.

I am a dancer by nature. I love to move my body, to twirl and twist and leap. Yeah, maybe I’m too old to dance like a toddler in a tutu, but you know what? It makes me happy and I love it, so I’m going to continue doing it until I stop loving it. When I dance or practice yoga or swim, I feel my body releasing tension and I feel light and free! I’m just that little bit closer to the highest version of myself because I’m putting my body to work in a way that brings me bliss.

6) Spend time outside. Every day.

We’re part of the natural world and, to connect more with ourselves, we need to spend time IN the natural world. Be outside, observe the plants and animals, hear the wind in the trees and water lapping on a shoreline, smell the flowers or hayfields, feel tree bark with your fingers or grass between your toes… Just BE outside. This world is pretty amazing, and observing the natural way of things can help put our lives into perspective and calm our overactive, production-focused minds.

I’ve spent a lot of time outside this past year which helped me reconnect with this fact I’ve always known — nature is where we belong. I’m so thankful for Costa Rica and the farm which kept me immersed in nature all day every day for three months, but I’m also grateful for the big lonely house in northern Michigan and its couple hundred acres of woods and fields, and for the beautiful bodies of water in and around this state, and for the trails and hills and trees constantly calling, inviting us to visit. Whenever I find I’m agitated, stressed, heavy, or just off, I’ve learned that if I can drop everything and go outside, I feel better.

7) Listen to your body.

If we listen to our bodies — to our energy levels, to our cravings, to our aches and pains — we’ll gain a lot of insight into what we need. If we honor the body’s intuition we’ll feel better and reclaim balance within. Sometimes we need to take a day off. Sometimes we need some extra protein or water or fruit. Sometimes the way we’ve been exercising isn’t right or we need to adjust our posture. If we listen, we’ll know.

We push ourselves so much, often to unhealthy extremes, and this is only going to wear us down. On the other hand, many of us don’t push ourselves enough. We need to rest, but we also need to recognize that we may have more energy than normal so we should use it!

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to always do as much as I can — I’m a hardworking American girl who can do anything I put my mind to, at any time, right? Well sure. But really, why is this “achievement” important? If my body is tired, then hey, I’m going to take a break and relax. And, if my body is craving sweets (which it does, all the time), this signals to me an imbalance either in my nutrition or in the way my body is processing food. I’m only just starting to tap into my body’s callings, but it’s really fascinating how much I’ve learned already. So… take an evaluation of your body and see what’s speaking to you. Then do what you can to help it out.

8) Prioritize your pleasure points.

What brings you joy? Think about it. Write it down. A few things that REALLY make you happy. Then, make it a priority to incorporate these things into your life and into your daily routine. Each day, don’t go to bed unless you can say you’ve done at least ONE thing that gives you pleasure. Make it happen and trust me, you’ll feel better.

A friend of mine shared this with me a few months ago and ever since, I can honestly say I’ve made sure to include at least one of my pleasure points into my day, EVERY SINGLE DAY. And, I’m a pretty happy gal these days. My happiness has always been important to me, but what really makes me happy? Until recently I knew somethings did and somethings didn’t, but until I thought about it with the goal of identifying actual topics or activities, I couldn’t tell you. Now, I know, and my things are written on little colored notes next to my alarm clock. Each night I see them and each night I can go to bed at peace knowing I’ve done something intentional for my happiness that day.

(Curious what my five pleasure points are? I have five that I can, without a doubt, rely on to bring me joy. 1- Nature. 2- Yoga. 3- Creation (writing, cooking, art, etc.). 4- Sweat (vigorous exercise of some sort). 5- Travel (discovering a new place even if that’s in my home city).)

9) Make peace with your past.

Guilt gets you nowhere, and regret and shame are big roadblocks to self-love and living fully. This is a tough one, but it really is important to accept your decisions, regardless of outcome, and move on.

There are many things in my past I’m not proud of — many times I did the wrong thing, let something go on for far too long, made a decision with costly consequences, and many times I probably sacrificed too much or gave too little. Today, I am thankful I can say, I’ve accepted each event for what it was and I’ve moved on.

And, I’ll be honest, I feel a lot lighter and much more at peace with my present because of this.

10) Happiness happens but so does pain.

Everything is cyclical and our moods are not exempt from this truth. Regardless of circumstance, we will experience bliss, but we will also experience sadness. We can try to contain feelings we enjoy but no matter what, emotions are fleeting and every day will not be a good day. However, there is peace in this truth because, just as happiness fades, so does sadness.

We must be cautious not to get attached to one emotion because although we love feeling pleasure, we must remember there is something so raw, so human and beautiful, about feeling pain. There’s no way around our emotions, and the only thing we can do is just let them be.

I experienced so many highs and lows this past year. I even journaled about what nirvana and enlightenment may feel like because, at one point in the jungle, I could truly say I’d never been happier! It was like a took a bliss pill and was in the middle of a high lasting several weeks straight — happiness without any effort. No sadness or worry or anxiety or pain. Just joy.

But then, sure enough, a mere month or two later I lay face down in a field, sobbing, asking for some relief from the pain and sadness I was feeling. Asking for a way out of the dark place I’d gotten to. I spent days confused, sometimes openly lost and sometimes outwardly collected, while torn and writhing with pain inside.

Regardless of emotion, I can now say I’m grateful for the act of feeling and for the assurance that after every gloomy day or week or month, a good one is sure to come.

11) Manifestation works! 

Think of what you want to happen, what you really want to bring into your life, and ta-da! There it is! Maybe this is mystical stuff and too much for many of us to believe but hey, it seems to work!

I don’t remember exactly when I was enlightened on the power of manifestation but I do remember first putting it into practice this past spring. It sounds silly but so be it, I’m still a 20-something. I was in Nicaragua spending a few days on the beach with my girl friends and I decided that night I wanted to meet a tall, attractive, surfer boy who would sweep me off my feet and treat me sweet all night. I planted the idea in my brain, and then I envisioned and believed it would happen.

Then, I’m not even kidding, a few hours later just as my friends and I were about to leave the the bar and head back to our hostel for the night, up walks a tall, GORGEOUS, Canadian surfer (yeah… God makes these apparently), who says, “Como estas, señorita?,” to which I reply excitedly, “Estoy bien! Y tu?” He tilted his head and said with a half-smile, “Yeah I don’t speak Spanish. Would you like to dance?” And then, we spent the rest of the evening dancing, drinking, laughing, and loving. It was exactly what I wanted.

Each time since, whenever I’ve been able to verbalize exactly what I want and actually start to see it in my mind, IT HAS HAPPENED. Craziness I know. But wow. From people I’ve wanted to meet, to a job I wanted to get, to a place I wanted to live… It’s all happened.

So, dream! Dream big dreams, little dreams, whatever. Just start thinking of what you really want to bring into your life and get practicing — let me know how it turns out for you 🙂

All of these lessons symbolize my 27th year. Thank you for being part of my journey, and here’s to turning 27! Cheers.

Below are some shots of me at 26, doing my thing and learning some lessons. Most smiles genuine 😉 And my oh my, what a year it’s been.

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