Even the strongest relationships have a breaking point. If you push someone too hard for too long, they’ll eventually throw up their hands in protest. As they should. The day after the dinner where I melted down in front of my family (read my last blog post, if you don’t know what I’m talking about) Sam and I had a confrontation. These moments were becoming a regular thing and we were both tired of them. He pulled me aside to talk and said, “It’s clear you’re still not happy, and because of that I’m not happy. I don’t feel there’s anything else I can do to help you.” I knew he was right. In fact, I’d been thinking it might be better if we went our separate ways. I was leaning too heavily on him for things I should be handling myself. Instead of taking care of myself, I was using him as a crutch and a distraction so I wouldn’t have to face the truth. I looked him in the eye and said, “I want you to be happy. If you’re not happy here, I think you should leave. I’m not happy, but that’s not your fault. Only I can fix this.” He hadn’t expected to break up when he initiated the conversation, but at that moment, he saw what I needed and he packed his bags and booked a flight. It was a horrible day. I busied myself by sorting through boxes in storage, getting rid of things I no longer needed. I’d feel the tears well up in my eyes and spill over onto remnants from my past. As I was sorting through the articles of past chapters of my life, I couldn’t help but mourn the end of yet another. One that had been so sweet in so many ways. Sam made dinner for my parents that night and thanked them for their hospitality. It was an amicable parting of ways. The next morning I drove him to the airport and my heart broke more with every mile along the way.
I now understood that I had to get back in touch with my truest self. I would build myself back up and then go to work in determining my calling. I planned a road trip to Mesa Verde. This is something I’d wanted to do with Sam, but he hadn’t been too enthusiastic, so I decided I’d go alone. I began reading Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, and slowly, little by little, I began to heal. Throughout my life, whenever I’ve lost myself I’ve found my way home. This is where I feel grounded, where I can rebuild, and where I’m surrounded by unconditional love and reminders of who I am at my core. This time was no different.
My road trip to Mesa Verde was a necessary, although difficult journey. I camped the first night at a hot springs in Buena Vista. There I floated in the hot water while gazing up at a sky full of stars. I fell asleep in my tent with the sound of flowing water to comfort me. This stop reminded me of my connection with the natural world. I felt my own energy flow through the water and rise up in the steam to connect with the mountains surrounding me. I was reminded of my own power, I found my own calm. A self-assurance I hadn’t felt in a long time. I woke up early the next morning and packed the car, eager to reach Mesa Verde in time for a tour I had booked.
Mesa Verde is home to some of the best preserved archeological sites in North America. The Ancestral Puebloans built elaborate villages in the cliffs and canyons during the late 1190s. Only a fraction of their settlements have been discovered and excavated. I’ve wanted to visit Mesa Verde for close to 20 years, but had never made the trip. I’m fascinated by the impressive feats of architecture and survival that must have been required to build and live within these dwellings. I arrived at the National Park and immediately felt the power and mysticism of the place. I was excited to explore and my trip there alone gave me a sense of empowerment that can only be felt by following your heart and finding your own brand of joy. I spent two days in the park hiking and touring around. I connected with strangers and savored my autonomy. While it felt good to be doing something for myself, there were moments of loneliness as well. I missed Sam.
As I left the park I began listening to an audiobook my mom had recommended. It was about a global pandemic that had wiped out most of the population. This quickly jarred me back to reality and sent me spiraling into a bad place. I felt scared and depressed and alone once again. How could I shake these feelings and get back to the bliss and the freedom I had felt the day before? I reached Durango and drove straight through town to a beautiful lake someone had mentioned. I left the car and hiked off to find a spot where I could be alone. As I sat on a rock in a secluded spot, surrounded by aspens and pines, I closed my eyes and focused on my breath. My ears perked up and I could hear every sound around me: the nearby stream, leaves rustling, bugs buzzing, the wind. I opened my eyes and felt like I was seeing the world more vividly than I had before. I’d managed to clear my mind of the past and the future and find myself entirely in the present moment. My fear, pain and depression subsided and I felt within me a conviction and faith that I would find my path and take control of my life. As I crossed a stream to get back to my car, I waded through raging waters, across slippery, unsteady stones. I had a moment of panic, worried I’d fall and hurt myself. Then I took a deep breath, took my next step and made it across. My heart was pounding and I felt alive. This small moment reminded me that I am capable and I can trust myself. I have within me the power not only to survive, but to thrive.
I woke up early the next morning, well before the sun was up and began the long drive home. I was winding through canyons as the sun arose, shining its light on the cutest little mountain town I’d ever seen. Those long hours alone in the car brought me back to myself. I came home from my road trip more self-assured, more determined to continue forward and more powerful than ever before. In the weeks that followed I found myself traveling around the US. I went to California to see my 97 year old grandma, roadtripped to Washington, DC, hopped over to Annapolis to see my aunt and then caught up with old friends in Chicago. These short trips allowed me to revisit my past, finding myself again through family and friends. Sam even met me in Annapolis and we discussed the possibility of rekindling our relationship in Mexico.
In mid-August I flew to Mexico City where a two-bedroom apartment and my best friend were waiting for me. Newly sober and fresh out of a breakup, Kayla welcomed me with open arms. I breathed a sigh of relief and my whole body started to tingle with anticipation of the work that lay ahead of me. We hadn’t seen each other since January and had planned to meet up in Tel Aviv in April, but COVID had squashed those plans. She had begun her own life transformation pursuing her purpose in November 2019 and I knew having her nearby would be essential as I began my own journey. We got into a routine of working during the day and brainstorming at night. She and I would talk for hours on the couch, giving each other ideas and advice. She introduced me to a business coach, who I hired two weeks after I arrived. We filled our days with hard work and sober fun, focusing on our physical, mental and spiritual health as we cheered each other on.
I had worked out in my mind that my greater purpose was to help the planet. I’ve always been an environmentalist and a humanitarian, so I thought up a career where I would be contracted by non-profits to build and implement programs that help underprivileged communities to build sustainable infrastructure and reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, greedy corporations and other corrupt institutions that are killing our planet. I began conducting informational interviews to educate myself and determine how best to fulfill this role. The more I dug, the more I became discouraged. Something wasn’t right. People kept assuming I wanted to be a marketing consultant, not a “boots on the ground” do-gooder. I had always shied away from really pursuing something else, because I worried my career experience would pigeonhole me into roles I didn’t really want. That was exactly what was happening. Not only that, but something inside me was saying it wasn’t the right fit.
After six weeks in Mexico City, Kayla and I moved to Playa del Carmen. Sam and I had seen each other again on a weekend in Isla Mujeres and decided to give things another shot. I had taken the space I needed to get back in touch with myself and felt sure I could establish boundaries, taking care of myself and not expecting him to care for me, as I had in Tel Aviv. He was living in Playa with a community of nomads, so as the weather got colder in the city, we packed our bags for the beach.
A friend had told me of an ayahuasca ceremony she taken part in outside of Playa, so I contacted the shaman. I had participated in an ayahuasca ceremony in January 2019 and had an incredible experience. Ayahuasca is an ancient plant medicine used to achieve a greater level of introspection and a connection with the divine. When participating in an ayahuasca ceremony most people set intentions for things they’d like to explore on a deeper level. Answers to these questions come in the form of visions and internal dialogues that lead to a greater understanding, which is not achievable through your conscious mind alone. Seeing as how I was questioning my purpose and how best to fulfill it, I set the intention to ask Gaia (Mother Earth) how best I can serve her in this life. Halfway through the ceremony I received my answer, clear as day. It was not the answer I expected, yet it was so obvious at the same time.
Throughout the ceremony my thoughts kept returning to the human mind. I’ve always been fascinated with mental health and function, examining how our life experiences, societal conditioning and our reactions to these elements shape us. I myself have struggled with anxiety and depression throughout my life. I’ve learned and grown from difficult experiences and found myself on top of the world one moment and down in the depths in another. Since I was in elementary school I’ve wanted to help people solve their problems. I’ve been eager to listen and help others process hardship. With great determination I’ve asked hard questions, digging into the root cause of suffering and sought to guide others away from pain and toward greater joy. At one point I wanted to be a psychiatrist, or a counselor. I abandoned that dream for fear of not being able to save someone from themself. Yet as I sat on my mat in the middle of the jungle examining these thoughts, I realized I no longer held that fear. I had tried to save someone and found myself unable. In my last relationship, the moment came when I knew that I was fighting for someone who had given up fighting. (If you care to know more about this, you can read the full length blog post here.) That was the moment when I knew I’d done all I could and I chose to walk away. While I still carry the pain of loss and trauma from that experience, I know I did what I could to help him and I don’t blame myself for his death. This realization brought me back to my innate desire to help others. I learned that night that the best way for me to save our planet is to heal earth’s children from the inside out. There is so much sickness in this world, especially as we become more divided, less compassionate and more driven by the need to achieve at greater rates and greater sacrifice to ourselves. I am here to hold space for others and guide them through their pain to find peace in the understanding of who they are and build the life they want to lead. In achieving a higher level of consciousness, I hope our species will become more in tune with our earth and work harder to save her from destruction.
Coming out of the ceremony I was convinced that my next step was to apply to grad school. I was going to become a therapist! I conducted more interviews, this time with therapists and counselors and began researching Master’s programs. The more I dug, the more discouraged I became. A three-year program would not allow me to leave my current work behind anytime soon. And the thought of student loan debt made me shudder. I looked at online programs, but even those required me to be in one place for the majority of my studies. I wasn’t ready to give up my transient lifestyle. So I shifted gears and started looking at coaching programs instead. I could earn a coaching certification online within several months and begin working with clients immediately. What’s the difference between a therapist and a life coach anyway? Do you know? I’ll tell you. A therapist has received extensive training to understand the human brain. They are trained to assist clients in dealing with trauma and their main job is to listen and ask probing questions. They help clients dig into their past and examine issues that may be unresolved, in order to process and come to terms with these experiences. A therapist deals in the past. A coach helps clients examine limiting behavior and mindsets and trains them to move away from these tendencies toward a healthier framework and lifestyle. They work with clients to build a plan for their future and provide accountability in working toward achievement of that plan. A coach deals in the future. Looking at the role therapists and coaches have played in my life, I realize that each in turn played the role of therapist and coach, to some extent. There’s a bit of overlap there. I believe both therapists and coaches are essential to the self development process, and in my eagerness to start living my purpose as soon as possible, I’ve decided to become a coach, and perhaps at some point I’ll go back to school for a Master’s in Counseling.
At the start of 2020 I’d set a goal of finding a new career path, my true purpose. Ten months later, it was finally clear. The isolation, stress and hardship of the pandemic forced me to look within and do the work. I’d known for five years that I wasn’t fulfilled by my career, but I was too afraid to pursue something different. Finally, after all that time, I somehow found the strength and the conviction to start something new. This year has caused many of us to reexamine our lives. What do you want? What change are you ready to make? Now is as good a time as any to take control of your life and follow your dreams.