If you haven't yet read my story, 'Undying Hope' on the Breaking Free Blog, I would start there. At the end of last year, I hit rock bottom. I knew there had to be more to life then then the way I was experiencing it. It humbled me before God and I discovered that in my own weakness and vulnerability emerged strength. It was with undying hope that I decided it was time to recreate the narrative of my life and become more of the person I was intended to be.
My life transformed the moment I came to one undeniable truth. Everything in life is only temporary. Nothing good or bad lasts forever. We do not truly own or possess anything. We are spiritual beings in physical bodies, and when we die, nothing else but the love we left behind remains. Even the people we love eventually return to the earth. So the real question I asked myself is what are we doing with the time we have left?
In January of this year, a friend of mine told me about this story she heard on the radio. It was about a young woman in her early twenties that had just been dumped by her boyfriend. He not-so-politely informed her that she had three days to move out. She was left with basically nothing. He even took the dog. She explained that despite the fact that her entire life had just been turned upside down it was actually a blessing in disguise because it made her aware of all of the things she still wanted to do in life but had never done. She promised to make a commitment to herself to say yes to all of the dreams she had once put on hold for others. I didn't know what else to call this concept or idea, so I started calling it a 'Yes Year'.
This story breathed new life into my being. What were my dreams anyways? And why had I been putting them on hold? What was preventing me from pursuing happiness in every single situation and experience?
I met my best friend to discuss these things. I was tired of feeling sorry for myself. Tired of feeling trapped in some ways by my current life circumstances. Tired of focusing on what I didn't have and not being fully present. So we created a pledge that agreed we would say yes to all of the opportunities and challenges life handed us in 2017. We set a timer for two minutes and ferociously jotted down all the things in life we had always wanted to do. Our lists began with silly things like 'shave my head' or 'dye hair platinum blonde' but it quickly escalated to the dreams we have always had, like 'run a marathon', 'qualify for Boston', 'start a blog', 'find a meaningful career', and 'travel the world.'
Next, we set another two minute timer and created a list of all the reasons people had convinced us why we shouldn't do these things or why these dreams weren't possible. This list was twice as long as our first one and we had to set an extra three minute timer just to write all these things down.
It was astounding to me that we were able to so easily identify what our dreams were, yet when we had to think about all the reasons people had convinced us not to do them, it took more then double the time. No wonder hopes and dreams get crushed so easily in our world today. We spend so much time making each other feel smaller so we don't feel insecure about ourselves, naturally our dreams are silenced over time. How many of us have remained status quo, ordinary, and complacent in some areas of our lives because we have allowed other ordinary people to convince us that our dreams didn't matter? That there is no chance they would actually work out? In the words of Maryanne Williamson, "There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insure around you." And in the words of Steve Jobs, "Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it and you can influence it. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again."
After creating these lists, I had an exchange with one of my co-workers that only propelled me further into this idea of redefining my dreams. She was showing me pictures of her cousin climbing a mountain (causal), and after a few enthusiastic minutes of us conversing and vicariously living through his experiences, she sheepishly sunk back into her chair and said, "Yeah, I wish that was my life." It felt as if someone has thrown a brick at my face. What I wanted to say to her was, "Wait a second. That can be your life if that's what you want to do! That life can be my life too! The choice is entirely up to you." And that's when I knew I had to quit my job. I knew there were so many things I still wanted to learn and see and do. Regardless of how amazing the people I worked for were, or the fact that they had just offered me a raise, didn't seem to matter anymore. I wanted to wake up every damn day and feel like my purpose was being fulfilled and my soul was on fire. The only person holding me back was myself.
I paced back and forth in my office after everyone had already left. I thought about my list. I kept looking at the window as if the answer was waiting for me on the windowsill. I can do this. I have the ability to change my life.
That evening I met my parents for dinner and practically burst into tears the moment I opened my mouth. I had to quit my job. I didn't know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to go back to school. I also wanted to travel. I had enough saved to spend part of the summer in Europe. I wanted to become a Christian-based yoga instructor as well, because that was something I had always wanted to do. I told them I didn't want to wake up at the age of forty and regret not doing all the things I actually wanted to do with my time. I didn't know what, where, or how any of these things were going to work out, but in my heart I knew it was right. The gentle voice within was finally speaking truths and making known all of the dreams I had once silenced.
For a moment, I forgot all the hell I had put my parents through the past six months and was paralyzed with fear they were going to tell me all the reasons why these ideas were superfluous. But then I remembered my mother's face in the hospital and the letter my father had written me with a list of the things we still needed to do together to convince me why life was still worth living. I remember the tears in his eyes when he handed it to me and told me that he still needed more time. These people sitting across from me loved me more then anyone in this world could possibly understand. They didn't give a crap about what I wanted to do in life. They just wanted to see me in love with my life again. They both smiled and we started laughing out loud at my outburst and my obvious fear of rejection. Of course they supported me. Sure it seemed a little crazy but I had been called crazy before. This was my chance to change the direction of my life and attempt to pursue my dreams. I told them it was going to be my 'Yes Year'.
So that's how it began. But it was only the beginning.
Months prior to this conversation, my mother, grandmother and I joined a 10 week program called ALPHA that discussed Christianity and what it meant to be a true Christian. It encouraged me to attend an adult retreat on the Holy Spirit. The retreat inspired me to volunteer and become a youth leader at my church that mentored teenagers every Sunday. I attended mass with them once a week and helped facilitate group discussions on morality and God and the church's teachings.
I realized that teaching and mentoring was a true passion of mine, and that helping guide young adults was what I wanted to do with my life. I rigorously investigated how I could earn both my teaching licensure and master's degree simultaneously and narrowed it down to the only two schools in the state of Ohio that made that quest possible. I got in to both schools.
I started lifting, eating healthier, and doing yoga again. I investigated ways I could get my 200+ hour yoga certification to teach classes, and I found a program that would allow me to do it in Barcelona, Spain. I planned my entire summer around it. I worked both a full time and part time job to help fund my trip.
I knew that during my time abroad, I also wanted to find a way to spread positive messaging. So I reached out to my favorite company in the entire world, Natural Life, and asked if they would sponsor me. I couldn't afford more then a few things from their website at the time, but they had so many beautiful things that drew attention to the light and love I wanted to put back into the world. I shared with them my story and they willingly and graciously agreed to help me spread my message. They send me a box full of beautiful treasures. I couldn't believe that anyone would actually care about my dreams and help fuel them; no strings attached. But people do care, and the majority of things you don't get in life are the things you never have the courage to ask for.
My relationships began to flourish again. I grew closer to my parents and siblings, I reconnected with friends from high school, and my best friends from college were constantly in communication with me. They all knew what I had been through. And I was astounded by how supportive and caring each of them were in an effort to get me back on my feet. I cannot thank them enough for their continued love and support. They kept me grounded in stormy waters and helped me break free of the bonds that were holding me captive.
I was able to identify what kind of situations would make me uncomfortable and I learned how to say no to the people and situations that no longer made me happy. I was better able to express myself in healthy ways to others. I practiced self-care and filtered my life in extreme and purposeful ways. I removed myself from social media for six months and stopped watching cable TV all together. I was selective with the kinds of movies I watched and I switched from pop culture music to Christian radio. I gave up alcohol for lent and no longer have a strong I was inspired by the documentary 'The Minimalist' and decided to cut my closet in half. I sold my clothes and gave the rest away to goodwill. It was absolutely freeing to remove myself from the earthly things that once ruled my life. Who knew that having less could mean so much more.
In three months, I lost over 10 lbs and my body transformed into a healthy state of being. I fell in love with running again and signed up for the Cleveland Marathon. I had to run sub 8:00 minute miles to qualify for Boston 2018 and check it off of my 'Yes Year' list. I even went so far as to print my goal time on my race bib. My family and friends made posters and signs and cheered me on to victory.
I had 'sell my own artwork' on my list as well so I let my creativity rage and bought supplies to make my own soy candles with essential oil blends. I thought maybe I could sell them online. Why not create my own website?
I bought a domain on SquareSpace and started writing instead. I used it as an outlet to free myself of restrictive conversations and express everything that I never had the chance to fully explain to anyone. It expanded and transformed into the blog you are now reading. I decided not to sell my candles, but rather gave them away as gifts instead. I saved up for a camera and starting photographing people. It turned into this incredible source of healing and happiness. It brought new healing into my life. 'Healing Hands' became a personal mission and the highlight of my blog and artistic expression.
I believe when you find your true purpose in life, the universe does everything it can to help you achieve those dreams. Yes, I did work extremely hard studying, researching, and cultivating all of the resources I could call upon to make my dreams happen. When I wasn't tying up loose ends at work, I dedicated every spare moment I had to working on publishing this blog, applying to schools, figuring out how I could get my teaching licensure and my Masters simultaneously, training for my marathon, saving and buying only the essentials I needed for my trip, and ferociously planning where I would stay and go. I also know that handing my life over to God and developing a relationship of trust and dependence was essential.
If you haven't ever read 'The Alchemist', I would put down whatever self-help book you are reading now (which I admit I have read many) and read that instead. It has been translated in 68 languages around the world and is an international best seller. We cannot deny the language of the Universe when we are spoken to.
I believe we are all capable of achieving our dreams and making manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not in some of us. It is in all of us. We only need to listen.
So, what I am trying to say is that sometimes life requires us to do some crazy, faith required things. I wanted this page to reflect those blind leaps of faith and encourage you to allow your life to be unleashed. Leave expectations and the judgments of others behind and give yourself permission to believe with all your heart in the hopes and dreams you were once told were impossible. I promise you won't regret it.