Three and a half years ago I moved to Los Angeles from New York City. To say I was in a low place during that time is a bit of an understatement. I had recently become single after a seven year relationship, I had quit a job that wasn’t fulfilling me, and had reached the end of the lease on my apartment with no prospect of a new place to live. Many of my friends had since moved from the city, and it no longer felt like home. So when the opportunity came to move to Wyoming to teach at Western Wyoming Community College for six weeks while a friend of mine was on maternity leave, I jumped at it. After all, this is why I had gone to graduate school for an MFA, and this is why I was in student loan debt. I wanted to teach in a college. Those jobs were far and few between in NY, but here was my chance, so I left. I moved West, and unbeknownst to myself, would keep moving that direction even after the six weeks was up.
After those six weeks of teaching at the college level, of meditating everyday, of exploring the mountains of Wyoming and spending more time alone than I ever have, something inside of me changed. It became extremely clear to me that I couldn’t move back to NY– what was there for me? My life there was no longer satisfying. I didn’t know where to go, but I knew where I didn’t want to go. Two of my very best friends at the time lived in LA, and when they half-jokingly said I could stay on their couches, I said okay. What was there to lose?
So many people called my move across the country brave. They told me how much they admired me for leaving a life that made me unhappy to start something anew. They told me how courageous my decision was. But, honestly, it didn’t feel brave or courageous at all. It just felt right. It felt like the only correct option in a sea of wrong ones. I had that much certainty when I boarded that plane on New Year’s Day 2014. With no job, no apartment, no car, but with the love and support of family and friends, I headed to the Pacific.
I kept a diary during that time— one of the few things that kept me sane and enabled me to work out the many mixed feelings I was having. I recently came across the entries and was struck by how clear headed I actually was during a time of total upheaval. It is so easy to get stuck in the routine of daily life and to lose the ability to listen to your inner voice, your intuition, that thing that drives you to find and create happiness. As I wrote in that first diary entry, “its obviously taken me to lose everything to be able to tap into that fiery desire to find everything.” And maybe that’s what courage is. Maybe courage is hitting bottom and working your way back up. Maybe courage is allowing things to fall apart so that you get a chance to rebuild. Maybe courage is not something that just a few of us have, but a gift that life hands us when we need it the most. And in the most courageous moments of our lives, maybe courage is easy to access, because it feels like the only option, the only path that makes sense. Maybe courage is merely accessing our true selves, underneath all of the layers that can obstruct that. And maybe courage is simply believing that we are worth something better, that we are worth finding happiness.
Was I brave and courageous to leave a life that made me unhappy to find something that did? In this sense, yes. But then so are you. You are brave and courageous for getting out of bed every morning to face the world. You are brave and courageous for sharing parts of yourself with friends, family, even strangers. You are brave and courageous for doing the best you can in any circumstance you are in. And you are brave and courageous for loving yourself and for knowing that you are worth happiness. And even in those moments of uncertainty, of self-doubt, of confusion and frustration, courage is present, waiting to lead you to a path that may seem scary from the outside, but one that will still your fears on the inside. Courage is not in few, but is in all, and the more we see the decisions in our lives as courageous, the more we begin to understand just how remarkable and how capable we all are.
So, with that said, I will leave you with the words that I wrote to myself on that trip that ultimately changed my life:
“I may not have a plan but I want to be totally open to the possibility of my life. What comes at me I want to be able to see – really see it for what it is. I want to live in those moments. I mean we all do, but I want to be in those moments. I want to appreciate those moments. I want to be aware of those moments. And at this point in my life I can not focus my attention on anything other than creating happiness for myself. And I think its obviously taken me to lose everything to be able to tap into that fiery desire to find everything. For the first time. With new eyes. With new appreciation. With a willingness to be open and to enjoy the journey! I may be in a bit of a survival mode, but clearly the universe is steering me in a way that it knows I will respond. Well, congrats universe. You win this one. I get it. I see it. I want it and right now all I can do is work for it. There are no more distractions, no more excuses. If I want to live and smile and enjoy this life, this is it. This is the moment. This is now. I’m ready. I’m here. I’m present. Let’s do this.”