It was the one week that changed my life. I didn’t know this at the time but a pebble had been thrown into the open lake, instigating a ripple effect which would set the foundation for the rest of my life.
I think people romanticize the idea of epiphanies. Like it’s all about the sun piercing through the peeling away clouds. A sight revealing magical rainbows, prancing unicorns and shooting stars falling from the heavens. There’s an expectancy that the audience will stand up and erupt in applause as you walk on stage to accept your medallion. That the world will suddenly open its door before you and answer life’s problems.
Tell ’em they’re dreaming.
My ‘epiphany’ (which I only acknowledge in hindsight and even now, I don’t know if I want to label it as such) was one of the most rotten days of my life. The reality? These things happen gradually, painfully and ever so quietly. In my case, even those closest to me wouldn’t have hinted to what turmoil was raging on inside. Anyone who’s ever experienced anxiety, depression, or is an emotional introvert, would understand. It was a bittersweet concoction of emotional highs and lows, sweeping me into a whirlwind of uncertainty.
I had done everything I wasn’t suppose to do. Or so it seemed from the outside. From the inside, from within me, I was doing everything I was suppose to.
Within less than a week, I had quit my full-time job, boxed up my life and moved cities, in my sloppy fashion broken up with my ex, parted with my closest friends, colleagues and family, torn a relationship with my sister in half and attempted to dodgily sew it back up again and was one day away from embarking on an 8 month round-the-world world trip… and I hadn’t even packed. I should have been giddy with excitement like a little kid in a candy store. Except I wasn’t.
I was twenty-one years old. It was a Tuesday. I remember it vividly. The 30th of June, 2011 to be precise. My flight was at 6:10 am the following morning – Gold Coast, Australia to Osaka, Japan. As I sat there staring glassy-eyed at my backpack and clothes sprawled out on the floor, I felt a surreal emptiness sweep over me. My eyes were stained red, having cried three times already. It wasn’t even midday. A thought had crept into my mind from some dark shadow I didn’t even know was lurking inside me. It scared me. Big time.
I had traveled overseas before. I had even quit jobs in the past. I had experienced loss, heartbreak, emotional and mental torture. So how was this any different? I pleaded to myself to think twice.
What if …..?
From the outside, I’m sure people thought I had it all figured out. I was a borderline perfectionist, an A-student and a starry-eyed hopeful in a cruel world we’ve been taught is our enemy. I believed it too. Except it was in all my head. Just like a lot of people who share the same personality-type, we’re bloody good at convincing others to believe what we want them to believe. So that’s all I let them see. It’s only natural. We’re people-pleasers.
We’re taught that emotions are a bad thing. Ignore them and bury them. ‘Feelings‘ are only things the weak talk about. The world I grew up in had taught me that I was suppose to stick at a job even if it sucked my soul dry. A ‘career’ and a paycheck determines your worth and success. If you work hard, you get rewarded. Do not deviate from the footpath otherwise you will not pass ‘GO,’ you will not receive your $200 and a life of freedom come retirement. Your passion is a hobby, not something you pursue wholeheartedly. I was suppose to be in a long term relationship because otherwise, who was I? A single lady in this modern world is nobody without a ‘strong’ man supporting her. We’re pressured into a life a debt; succumbing to credit cards and mortgages as a false gateway to a life of freedom. My lifestyle was suppose to be full of ‘stuff’ to distract me from the meaningless that I surrounded myself with, leaving vacancy for addictions. I was suppose to look a certain way, act a certain way and do certain things.
In other words,
I was taught to live in the shadow of my own true identity.
We’re led to believe it’s actually not as horrible a place I’ve made it out to be. After all, you can probably think of a thousand worse places to be in. Softly and quietly, as the rabbit hole goes, the guilt and shame deepen.
But therein lies the problem.
We get conditioned.
Distracted by comfort, ignorant to what is going on around us, emotionally numb and stuck.
I certainly felt stagnant, conflicted, and like I wasn’t living to my full potential and making use of this fortunate position that I was blessed with. THIS riddled me with guilt and shame. At that moment in time, trapped in your own head is the worse possible place you can be.
The question remains. In the middle of this, how on earth did I manage to take a leap of faith into the unknown and get the hell out of that rabbit hole?
I was able to do this because there were others out there who had already paved the way for me to do so. When we are so stuck in our internal struggles, we forget to look up and out and around. We close ourselves off. We don’t talk. We don’t share. We no longer give. We shut down like a factory closing up business for the last time.
Except that it’s not our last time.
We often just don’t know who these people are or where to find to them.
What really sucks, is that often those closest to you – the ones who love you the deepest, who care about you so intensely that they just want to be the ones to help you – it’s painful to admit, but it’s not always them you can hear this message from. It’s not to say they can’t but even within my own family (the people who I share genetics with!), I struggled to relate to at times. I had hopes and dreams I couldn’t articulate and held so close to my heart that I felt, if I dare spoke about them, I feared being misunderstood and shut down. But while I saw snippets of people living the very life many can only dream of, it was still a blurry picture in my head about the life I wanted to lead. I knew I had to expand my horizons.
Many only ever dream of travelling, doing work that they love, actually using their unique skills and talents to help others, doing inspiring work that not only fulfills them internally but also fulfills a huge need in the world around them. Something that actually makes a difference. But it’s those dreams that will forever tear you up inside if you don’t do anything to quench them.
I didn’t want to be one of those people. I didn’t want to just dream.
I wanted to be someone who actually lived her dreams.
Rewind back to the restless night before my flight. It’s probably the one time in life I can thank God for my stubbornness. Or maybe it wasn’t me at all. As the sun broke, my mother and I were in the car driving to the airport. The craziest thing EVER happened. A rainbow stretched across the sky. I choked. What on planet earth was going on? I think I was being told that everything would be okay.
Looks like I got my rainbow after all.
And there in that car, right beside me, I saw the woman who had been one of my greatest cheerleaders in a whole new light. Here I was, going off into a ‘nomansland’ of the unknown, and she was probably packing it too. I had never asked her how I could support her. So focused on my own conflict, I rarely acknowledged her.
So I did.
And I turned into another blubbering mess all over again.
I think those who love you get it. Because even within them there’s an internal struggle. To accept that things are what they are doesn’t diminish who we are as people or the role we play in each other’s lives. They may not be able to fulfill every emotional demand and nor can I possibly be that for someone else, but they are there. And without them, I wouldn’t have what I have. I wouldn’t be who I am. And sometimes we just need to say it out loud.
As I sat on the plane tucked into the confines of cattle class, I remember a feeling that I don’t think I’ve ever felt with such intensity before.
Relief followed by a teeny, tiny, itty, bitty smidgen of clarity.
Not clarity in the sense that I knew exactly what I was doing. I mean… I had known for a while in my head what I was doing, but this is far from knowing what you are doing in your heart. That day though, there was a brief moment that the two aligned. It’s a different kind of knowing. A faith of sorts. That’s where I believe the ‘epiphany’ peaked. It was the eye of the storm. My heart eased, my mind quietened, I fell into a deep, groggy sleep that I didn’t wake from until we prepared for landing.
And that NEVER happens to me on flights.
When we place so much pressure on ourselves; on an event, an idea, a relationship, a job – it can literally take a single straw to break, not only the camel’s back, but cause your whole freaking world to come crashing down like the tower of Babel. Each of those areas in my life, I placed such huge emphasis on as being the underpinning reason for my existence, it was pain-staking to let them go. They formed my identity because I hadn’t yet discovered who I was and what I had to offer the world. Combine them all together and try and flush them down the loo… and yeah, sh!t is gonna hit fan.
When I started this blog, I did so to hold myself accountable to this new lifestyle. The one that deeply resonated with my values about being mindful, conscious of what was happening around me, and helping to create the world that I wanted to live in and contribute to. It has been one amazing journey – it still is! I’m far from perfect but I learn new things EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It’s also been a gateway to a network of inspiring people who I didn’t even know existed. Some of whom I can now even call ‘friends’. Then there’s the readers. YOU! Some of you who have poured out your heart to me and expressed amazement that there are other’s out there with hope and this crazy vision for a better world; dabbling, experimenting, giving it a freaking go, to do things… differently. Feeling comforted that they weren’t... alone.
A lot of what I have shared has been about the external changes. Swapping and shifting the things around me. I thought that by changing these things, I could alter and influence a better world. And to an extent, they did. In fact, I believe they were crucial in creating a strong foundation for my life; freeing up energy, money and time, so I could do the other meaningful things in my life. Allowing me to give back to the world in different ways.
But through this journey, I have shed little light on the attitudes, beliefs and values that all stem from the inside. The kind that really impact the long term, sustainable changes in our lives. The kind of changes that influence the behaviors and the habits. The ones that I’m really passionate about.
This is why I’m sharing this story of me and that flight. Sure, it’s not an inspiring story about saving the Amazon rainforest, feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, transforming the global food system or hell, even doing something that’s remotely ‘eco-friendly’ ( I mean, HELLOOOO carbon footprint little miss jet-setter). But guess what? The world is made up of individuals like you and me experiencing these internal transformations on a daily basis. From there, that’s where the freaking awesome, world changing, butt-kicking, superhero action takes place from.
ONE PERSON AT A TIME.
It’s a f@#$ing slow process. Even painful at times and it never goes the ‘Hollywood’ way. I’m sure Mother Nature bangs her head on our carbon producing brick walls a
hundred million times a day. We always want things now and on our terms.
But nature doesn’t work that way. She’s take her time and purposefully so.
You will always be changing, evolving and transforming.
The things around you; the people, circumstances – everything is temporary. We all change.
With all the doom and gloom that surrounds us in the world; the pending food crisis, the lingering sour taste of bad politics, misinformed media and members of the public, the exploitation of less fortunate people and Mother Nature, and utter disgusting social injustices, life is bloody overwhelming.
It seems horrible to admit, but you can’t change those things.
You can influence them though.
It’s all too easy to be plagued by fear and paralyzed by overwhelm. But if you allow them to fester like an open wound, they only breed complacency and you end up doing nothing at all.
You need to allow time for transformation but all the while, it shouldn’t stop you from doing something. Let go of your desire to have it all figured out today. Shrink your circle of control. If you’re confused about where to even start, start with yourself. If you can’t even make a decision about what’s best for you, how can you imagine a world that’s best for those around you?
The only change you have control over is YOURSELF.
It’s through this process you invite change around you to happen.
On that note, things are going to change a little bit around here. Just a little bit. It’s scary. It’s exciting. And I’d freaking love for you to stick around.
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