In this wellness-obsessed age of trendy yoga workouts, “pay to meditate” facilities and napping classes (yes, that is actually a thing–go look it up on ClassPass), the idea of “letting go” has become a craze all of its own. I feel like I’m constantly being fed content from people all over the world who have “let go” and are in some godly other-state of living. And by the way, all of them apparently have personal photographers and an unlimited fund for clothes.
Now, I’ve often thought of myself as a person who has lived fully and freely. I’ve traveled solo extensively, lived a fabulous life in New York City, and worked as an artist. I’ve had beautiful, passionate romances with men from across the globe who have swept me off my feet, even if just for one night. One time I left all of my belongings behind and went hiking with strangers in the mountains of Slovenia. I got certified as a freakin’ yoga instructor! To an outside observer, I’ve nailed the letting go thing.
Under the facade of my social media-curated existence, I have the tendency to be the opposite of free, however: a total and complete rule follower. My upbringing encouraged politeness and my education was one of strict adherence to the laws of the land. I thrive when I have a list that I can neatly check things off of and then say “See! I did it! I did a good job!” As much as my behavior may have looked free, my inner monologue was that of “Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing this right?”
Last spring I found myself overworked and deeply uninspired working a variety of monotonous jobs that didn’t fulfill me in any way. I’m talking no days off for months on end just to pay the bills associated with living in New York (aka cutting off a limb once a month). I was unable to do the artistic work that I’d spent years developing a craft for. I’d always adored being a New Yorker but suddenly I felt weighed down by my day to day existence. Moreover, a thought kept emerging from deep within that somewhere, somehow, there was something else out there for me. That’s why when I pieced together six months of travel and artistic gigs out of the city, I sprinted into it, gladly subletting my apartment and leaving my NYC life in the dust.
So here I am about five months into the experience of my full-time artistic life. I essentially have no home base for the first time… well… ever. I’m working for a theater up in the Adirondack mountains in New York State, and the only belongings I have are the ones that fit in my suitcase and backpack. I don’t have a car. I don’t have a TV, and the wifi is spotty at best. Let’s just say it’s a lot of me time and a lot of nature time, more than I’ve ever had before. It’s been a detox of the mind, body, and spirit and at times maddening in its simplicity and pace.
In this stripping away of so much of my old ways of living, the constant stimulation of the city, the temptation of new restaurants, bars and nightlife, of a steady income, of some relationships that were emotional crutches and the addition of one that challenges my pre-existing thoughts on what really matters, I’ve found a whole other side of myself. In letting go of the safety net that I came to believe I needed, I’ve discovered that not only is there life on the other side, there is an abundance of joy and clarity.
I’ve come to realize that letting go is a deeply personal practice and to try to compare my journey to anybody else’s is a waste of time and energy (sorry travel bloggers of Instagram– I’m doing my own thang!). For me, it’s letting go of what I thought I needed in order to be happy and successful. Letting go of the idea that New York City is a defining aspect of who I am or the key to me being an actor. Letting go of ideas that have been limiting me, such as my “need” for certain comforts, for things that kept the safety latch on and kept me coloring within the lines. Letting go of the comparative mind and the fear that I will be judged for doing things a little differently. Getting down and dirty with what actually brings me joy and peace, and being OK if this truthfulness doesn’t line up with what I’ve believed in the past. Most importantly, taking ownership over my own journey and celebrating it as much as I can.
I’m not perfect in this newfound practice. My brain often screams at me and goes back to a habitual tape of thoughts that don’t serve me. I feel like I’m being rewired and the process is sometimes really jarring to my system. Through all of these growing pains, I have gained clarity and a freedom that I never imagined for myself. For the first time in my life, I feel the vastness of potential, an open road of possibilities, and an excitement of allowing the path to present itself instead of desperately trying to etch it into reality.
Here’s to embracing the unknown–to letting go.
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