For quite a while now, the dawn of a new year has been a contemplative time for me. Foregoing the usual parties and hullabaloo in favor of a peaceful new year with doggo, means I never have the requisite hangover on January 1st, and I feel a little more centered as a new chapter begins.
On this day five years ago, I was saying one last goodbye to my life in Seattle before I boarded a one-way flight to Vallarta. I just didn’t want any part of the life I was living there, anymore. I didn’t want to work at the big tech company, I didn’t want to live in the cold climate, I didn’t want the constant depression I felt there. Life had “pushed me from the nest”, in a way… I fell through a bunch of cracks as soon as I left my cushy tech job – the one I didn’t want – so I was looking at a total restructure of my life. Close to the same time, I’d been offered a writing job in Vallarta. This was my chance. If I was looking at burning my whole life to the ground and starting over, it was going to be on my terms. I finally had a win and I leveraged it. I bought that one-way ticket and I have never once regretted it.
It was one of the only times that I’d flatly refused to go along with where life was taking me. I just wasn’t playing anymore. I couldn’t. Nothing about that life suited me, and I was tired of pretending it did. So I sold everything and I left and it was probably the single best thing I have ever done for myself.
One year ago on this day, I was in the midst of another big transition. Another beautiful gift from life. I had left my business partnership a few months previous, and had the rare opportunity to step back and really think about what I wanted to do. It was one of the most fruitful times of my life. Though I was doing a lot of soul searching, and my life was very peaceful and quiet, it was loaded with questions and uncomfortable in its expansiveness. The possibilities were endless, and that freaked me out as much as being stuck. Why did it freak me out so badly? It took me a while to see that it was because I’d never had the time and space to step back from everything, with basic needs met and bills paid, and ask myself how I honestly wished to spend my days. What I wished to contribute to the world, instead of the things I was required to give. My penance. The cost of being alive.
I had never had the space. I had never asked myself what would truly make me feel free. Space in and of itself doesn’t make us feel free, but the space to create and do something meaningful with our lives… now we’re talking. I had been in a constant state of reaction my entire life. I left home very young, and I was always running, trying to keep up. There was never any time to ask what I wanted, and I guessed that was just my lot in life. I looked around and saw the same situation for a lot of my peers: Always on the edge, just a paycheck or two away from financial ruin, working jobs we hated, that didn’t suit us, that lined other people’s pockets, so we could all tow that line of false security. The one that would fail as soon as we left the job we hated anyway.
This whole last year has been a process of really asking what I want from now… and now… and now… and how I can act in this space now. Not react… just act. I’ve been getting really good at spotting all the ways that I have been reactive in life. Spoiler alert: It’s all the time. Fight or flight, always. Constantly. I’ve been running to pay the bills, to prove something, to get a new job because surprise, I hate mine, or running for the sake of running because runners accomplish things, right? Well, runners who ask tough questions and then take action… they accomplish things. It’s in the tough questions, and living your answers, that you accomplish the things. Running for the sake of running is just cardio, man.
Thankfully, it turns out I’ve never been too far from what I need to feel free. I have spent the last year building a life that is totally mine. It’s not someone else’s company, it’s not an expensive life that requires a large paycheck, it’s not a lot of stuff that keeps me anchored in a place I am not comfortable. What makes me feel truly free right now, is the lightness of simplicity. With a simpler life where I’m not always in fight or flight freakout mode, over the last 5 years I have paid off my American-sized debt. I have built a business that pays me well and is something I actually want to do. I feel no burnout at all. Almost every day is a good one. I am eating better than I ever have, because I am actually asking myself what I want to eat. It turns out I don’t really want restaurant food all the time. Turns out that’s a reward for my burnout, a way I help myself feel less bad.
The last year has been a process of stripping away all the things that don’t serve me in life, and holding them up for examination piece by piece. Keeping the things that really speak to me, or look good on me, or excite me, or whatever… and just letting go of the rest. This includes people. I don’t have the space in my life for some of the people I’ve let hang around. Things that don’t feel right, probably aren’t, and I have spent far too much time being less than discerning in this area. As soon as I gave myself permission to ask “do I even want this?” I saw it in little pockets everywhere: The answer was often “no”, and yet I still clung to that thing or person, for whatever reason. Maybe you do this too.
On this New Year’s morning, I feel genuine excitement for what’s to come. 2020. It’s got a nice symmetry to it, don’t you think? It suggests a clarity of vision, a sharpening of focus. I feel this coming on strongly for myself. I never knew the value of taking a step back and asking what I want, how I feel called to contribute in life, and sticking with the plan. It never occurred to me that I could, or should.
I see now that I’ve never really been excited for what’s to come, and that makes me a little sad. Sure I’ve been excited for a vacation, or an event, but I’ve never been excited just because life is good, because I feel like I can finally breathe. I’m excited because I have everything I need, and nothing I don’t. This is the life I’m putting together consciously, and it feels good to do that for once. A lot less angsty. It feels like it’s working, instead of being held together by wire, duct tape and sheer hope.
My wish for you is that your life feels like it’s working too, and if it doesn’t feel that way, you’ll stop and ask what you need to thrive here. The answer you give is the key to everything. That’s your power. It took me way too long to see that.
Happy New Year.
Sponsor my work for just $4.99! Your monthly sponsorship allows The Changing Room to be a resource for people who are making big changes in their lives. With your donation I can make more inspiring videos, write more meaningful blogs, and learn more about self-care so I can share with you in kind. Together we can do great things, and your presence here matters. Thank you. Become a Patron!