I’ve had people question my intentions of going out on adventures, especially outdoor solo travels.
“You’re running away.”
“You’re fleeing from real life.”
They’re not always wrong.
Some of the times I’ve gone backpacking, or kayaking, or back country camping or climbing, I’ve gone because I’ve wanted an escape from my everyday life.
BUT there are times when I NEED to get away.
You see, working in a profession where I’m expected to give, give, give everyday (I’m a special ed. teacher), there are times when I need to replenish my cup to continue giving.
Being outside, getting away from people (except other like-minded outdoor adrenaline junkies like myself) lets me recharge.
After a hard week of teaching the neediest of scholars, I feel overwhelmed, overstimulated and need to get outside, in nature, and get back in touch with me.
In the outdoors, my ego is stripped down and my true authentic self can emerge. This is when I am at my most happiest. This is when I am my most raw. This is when my inner voice is loudest. This is when I heal. This is how I recharge…until the next time I can go out into the wilderness, to lose my mind and find my soul.
Do not shame me for talking too long with you at the bar. Just because I enjoy a good conversation does not mean I’m interested.
Do not shame me for dancing enthusiastically with my friends at the club. Just because I love to express myself doesn’t give you permission to dance up on me, or touch me inappropriately.
Do not shame me for expressing my emotions, calling me “too emotional” or “you’re overreacting” just because you’re too insecure and uncomfortable, and not in touch with your emotions.
Do not shame me for listening to my intuition. Do not call me “crazy”, when deep down I know that something isn’t right, that you’re cheating, that you’re pulling away.
Do not shame me for dressing up and feeling sexy. Do not shame me and cover me up because you cannot handle your sexual impulses.
Do not shame me for sending nude photos to my, then, boyfriend. You know who should be shamed? Him, for leaking the nudes.
Do not shame me for setting strict boundaries at work, stating I’m too difficult to work with because I won’t freely give my time and energy. Both my time and energy are precious resources, and I’m very discerning as to how I give them away.
Do not shame me for setting strict boundaries in my relationships. I’m selective of how and with whom I spend my time.
Do not shame me for standing up against my abuser, my assailant, the person who violated my trust, my boundaries, my safety. I will not be shamed into staying quiet and compliant; I won’t stay a victim any longer. My voice, my story will be heard!
Do not shame me because I chose my career over having a family. I am following my path, not yours.
Do not shame me because I chose a family over a career. I am following my path, not yours.
Do not shame me for putting happiness, wholeness and self-love above all else. I cannot give my talents and strengths if my “cup” is empty.
Do not shame me into becoming your salvation, your life raft, your caretaker. Just because you’re searching for completeness doesn’t mean I’ll allow you to become co-dependent.
I have a right to express myself, verbally, physically and emotionally. I have a right to body autonomy. I have a right to have my story, my voice, be heard. I have a right feel safe. I have a right to be loved, without expectations. I have a right to walk down the street, to be in a conversation, to be in any interaction where my body is not made mention, verbally, non-verbally or physically implied.
“Oh my god! I love your sunglasses and your phone!” A little girl the age of five came running up to me in the doctor’s office waiting room. “You’re so beautiful!” She excitedly remarked. She gave me a hug and I complimented her on her tie-dyed mermaid dress. She was glowing with pride.
Her parents were behind her, smiling watching the interaction. I smiled at them and commented on how that was the sunshine I needed this morning! “Keep on shining that sunshine, lady! Don’t dim that light for anyone,” I said as I shot her parents a smile. I thanked her and her parents before they left the waiting room.
Just before she radiated her positivity, I was texting my best friend Rachel with tears in my eyes, “I’m not okay.”
That morning I had woken up in a panic at 2 am, cried myself to sleep, woke up at 6 am and again had a panic attack before heading to my Dr. appointment. I was overwhelmed with stress from work, house work, and adulting, feeling hopeless and helpless, with a bum knee as icing on that shit-cake.
Shortly, after texting Rachel my SOS, I texted her how this little girl brightened my morning. Rachel texted back “the universe knew you needed that!” Indeed, she was right.
That little girl embodied everything I’m working on becoming. She brought the sunshine to that waiting room, radiating positivity no matter who she interacted with. A quote I saved put it best: “Influence the energy in the room!” This little girl definitely turned my bad morning into a brighter one.
So how can I start brining my own sunshine? First thing I’m working on, undoing all of the negative stories I tell myself that originate from previous traumatic events and social conditioning. There was a certain time in my childhood when I knew who I was and I unapologetically acted and expressed my authentic self. Second, I’m identifying my triggers so I can lessen their impact on staying present and positive, ensuring I can hold space for others. Third, I’m working on my self confidence. When I’m more confident I enjoy interacting and conversing with other people. When I’m more self-confident I can give authentically of myself without feeling depleted.
I’m pretty sure this little girl and her parents could tell I wasn’t having a good morning and she put it upon her toddler self to do something about. Her positivity, her sunshine was infectious and for that I was greatly appreciative.
Today’s post transports me back to a time when I was still living in Philadelphia, working in Camden, New Jersey as a special education teacher, hating my life, feeling stuck. I worked a job that had little regard for a work-life balance, working ten hour days, 50 hour work weeks and bi-weekly Saturday schools. I’d come home with little to no energy to take on any personal projects of my own. My. Soul. Felt. Empty.
It was a time when I was searching for something, anything, as a sign for what was next. I got that sign in the form of the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was the second and third pages of the Introduction that became my “sign”. Here Paulo writes about a personal calling (what you were put on earth to do, igniting enthusiasm within you) and the obstacles that one has to face in order to achieve it. But what really stood out to me was this:
“Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the later goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness…”
Upon reading this, I wept uncontrollably. I was living the bearable suffering, too scared to chase my personal calling. I felt my soul being eaten away by my job and by my place in the world. Bitterness had started to creep in.
I read that on a Sunday. By Thursday of that same week, I walked into my job and resigned. It was such a quick decision I hadn’t even called my mom for fear of her talking me out of it. After I had given my letter of resignation, I called her to state my plan.
My plan: I move home for two months, backpack Australia for a few months and then head off to Colorado to start a new life. As much as I was adamant about this plan (deep down I knew it needed to be done), somehow I felt like a failure. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a special ed teacher? Maybe I wasn’t good enough to be successful at that school? Maybe I wasn’t good enough to continue with the life I was living?
NOPE. N-O, shit naw. Wanna know what ACTUALLY happened?
I FINALLY FIGURED OUT MY WORTH!
I was worthy of so much more than what I was getting out of my job and my life back in Philadelphia. That was no longer my path and I sensed it. Kudos to me, because as Paulo stated in his introduction some people never figure it out. And I’m so very thankful for the friends, family and my therapist at the time who helped me to remember my worth.
Two years after moving home for two months, backpacking Australia for four months and then moving to Colorado I can tell you I am that much closer to realizing my personal calling. I still have a few hurdles to jump, some decisions to make but I know it’ll be worth it AND that I AM WORTH IT.
So if you are living your life thinking that this current path just doesn’t feel right, but you think you’d be a failure for quitting, please know, please deeply understand and feel that you aren’t a failure. You’re coming to realize your worth. You’re starting to understand your path, your next steps in your journey, following your own personal legend.
Coelho ends the introduction of The Alchemist with this:
“But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become and instrument of God, you help the soul of the world, and you understand why you are here.”
Help the world by following your personal calling, by knowing your worth, by knowing when to walk away.
It was one year ago today I dropped my life savings into purchasing a pair of house keys worth about a quarter of a million dollars. For a commitment-phobe like me, a house meant more than just owning a home. First off, I did it on my own (All the women, who are independent, throw your hands up at me!) Secondly, I was ten years old when my parents’ divorce rocked my world, and I hadn’t felt like I had a place to call home. Yes, I had a structural roof over my head, but I no longer had a warm, safe, inviting physical space and I no longer had the cohesive family unit to go with it.
After my parents divorce, I hating spending time at my house. Luckily I had one friend whom her house became my second home, and I spent lots of time with her intact, albeit dysfunctional, (written with love) family. Holidays became dates I yearned to escape as I still continue to travel during most family holidays to avoid confronting painful reminders of my broken childhood home.
But buying my house became a symbol of taking back control of my security, ensuring I had a safe space, physically, mentally and emotionally. What I didn’t know was that my emotional healing would be accelerated after buying my home.
Two months after purchasing my house, I decided to try a more intense form of therapy called psychosomatic trauma release. I discovered it after discussing it, with my massage therapist, an experience I had while meditating, attempting a full body scan.
“I didn’t have monkey brain (layman’s terms: my mind consistently ruminating on thoughts throughout the meditation). But I couldn’t feel my chest or the lower half of my body while doing the body scan.”
“Maybe your body is holding onto something you haven’t fully processed yet,” my massage therapist mentioned, speaking about my childhood experiences. She referred me to my current therapist and the rest was history.
Jumping into therapy required diving head first into traumatic scenarios that I hadn’t revisited since childhood, most memories repressed along with trapped emotions. After revisiting those traumatic experiences and creating new storylines attached to healing and growth, my general anxiety melted away, my emotional triggers now have less of an impact and I can finally feel my legs, hips and chest.
Having my safe space to take refuge post-therapy was vital to my healing process. In fact I argue without my house I would have been less than willing to explore the deepest, darkest depths of my own personal psychology.
Human developmental psychology supports having a sense of personal safety in order to achieve self actualization or a person’s full potential. Abraham Maslow, the originator of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, theorized that humans must reach a level where their personal safety is met, (i.e. shelter, job security, health, and safe environments). Maslow claimed that if a person did not feel safe in a particular environment, they will continue to seek safety before they attempt to meet any higher level of survival (love and belonging, esteem (accomplishments), and self actualization.
My own healing has taught me the value of a safe space, and my willingness to offer it to others. I intend for my home to be a warm, inviting, safe space for anyone who enters, and I’ve even adopted the safe space mindset to employ in my classroom for my students. But safety doesn’t only come in the form of a physical space. It can be as simple as being someone’s safe space to vent, a non-judgmental friend whom you can share some deeply personal information or the occasional SOS text, “I’m not okay.” Being that’s safe person can be instrumental in someone’s personal healing process.
I’m grateful for the handful of friends who are my safe space when I need them, and I hope to think I reciprocate in kind. If you want to see someone transform their life, to reach their fullest potential, provide them with a safe space, physically, mentally and emotionally. A year ago I unknowingly took back control over my safety by purchasing my house. Although it cost me a quarter of a million dollars, it’s value, to me personally, was and continues to be priceless!
I don’t think I’m gonna climb today, I think I’ll watch my kids climb instead.
Those were the infamous words I heard myself say last Friday (6/7/19) as I got ready to head into work, the a 3 week long summer program at my charter school aimed at providing students with opportunities to try outdoor activities such as paddle boarding, hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing.
That day, my group was headed to an indoor bouldering gym, a gym I had been to many times previously, familiarized with their routes.
Getting to the gym with my group of high school students, I took one look at the ceiling route (a route I’ve attempted many times before but never completed) and said to myself, I bet I can climb that.
Rewind almost a year ago, I was climbing at Garden of the Gods, my adventure partner Tim and I were showing friends from out of town the legendary red sandstone routes. We had climbed most of the afternoon, leaving Montezuma’s Tower, an iconic Colorado climb, for the cherry to top the day’s epicness.
As we cleaned up the gear from the afternoon, I thought to myself, I think I’m done climbing for the day. Tim confided in me that he too was done climbing for the day and asked me to lead Montezuma’s Tower. “You’ve climbed it before and I’m confident in your ability to lead this route!” He confidently stated to me.
I thought about my friends from out of town and how they’d love to be on top of Montezuma’s tower, and see the view from above. I also considered Tim’s confidence and wanted to believe his words. I don’t want to let them down.
That day at the Garden, on Montezuma’s Tower, I ended up falling from 10ft off the ground unclipped. Luckily, my partner Tim caught me (and by caught me, I mean took my butt to his face) but the lasting trauma of the fall mind fucked my confidence in my ability to sport climb.
Fast forward to last Friday, looking at the ceiling route in the bouldering gym, my ego got the best of me. I bet I can climb that lead to me climbing past my previous personal best, but swinging out uncontrollably, falling and injuring my collateral ligaments in my left knee.
Both incidents involved me hearing my intuitive voice: I don’t think I’m gonna climb today…. and I think I’m done climbing for the day.
Yet in both occurrences, my ego was the victor and I rationalized my way out of listening to my body’s intuitive response: I bet I can climb that, and I don’t want to let them down.
The lesson: listen AND FOLLOW my intuition. My body knows best, even subconsciously my body knows more than what my rational brain can process. Clearly the universe gave me multiple chances to learn this lesson, and in the words of The Alchemist author Paulo Coelho, “Success is falling down 7 times but getting up 8!”
“Are you okay!?” It’s the question I’ve been hearing for the past three to four weeks now from friends, coworkers and administrators. My inability to hold a poker face let the world know that internally, no, I wasn’t okay. Recently I’ve felt on edge, trying to prevent myself from jumping off the proverbial cliff. My mood fluctuated between subtle frustration to down right pissed, sometimes veering off into sad and emotional. For that stretch of time, I was doing everything I could to not feel those emotions, because let’s face it, those emotions aren’t fun to deal with. The more I tried to suppress the emotions, not talk about them or deal with them the stronger they became.
This past week, after a few intimate conversations with friends and one intense yoga workout designed to break down the ego, I couldn’t hide from the emotions and their triggers any longer.
Turns out, after a deep reflection on the yoga mat, I had legitimate reasons for being angry, sad, upset.
My first reason I identified is that I wasn’t being true to myself and setting boundaries. I said yes when I meant no. I was giving my time and energy (my most precious resources) freely when I needed to conserve it. My job was emotionally draining, I over booked my schedule and didn’t properly plan times to emotionally recharge.
With Father’s Day coming up, I realized this also contributed to my anger and sadness. Although I believed I’d fully grieved my father’s death, seeing Father’s Day cards in the stores made me upset as I no longer had a reason to buy one. In that moment, seeing those cards, life felt really unfair.
Lastly, in general I’ve wanted to make changes to a few different areas in my life, but since I hadn’t properly conserved my time and energy, I had neither to make progress on personal goals. I felt stagnant, stuck, no hope because nothing was changing.
After identifying my underlying reasons for my anger, frustration and sadness, I allowed myself to feel the emotions which ultimate led to me releasing them.
When I was asked “Are you okay!?” I felt the need to smile, nod and pretend everything was okay, when in fact it wasn’t, far from it. But I’m thankful for my close friends who saw through my bullshit and pressed on with more questions, because clearly they saw something(s) I was trying to ignore.
And that’s the lesson I’ve learned, that emotions, especially the unpleasant ones, are there for a reason. Anger was present because I ignored my boundaries. Sadness existed because I was reminded that someone I love so deeply is no longer here with me. Frustration found its way into my life because I wasn’t making progress on personal goals. And in a world where I feel forced to smile and nod when asked “are you okay?!” I’ll remember to be brave and authentically say “No, I’m not okay, but that’s okay”.