“This is not your practice life; this is all there is.” -Unknown

Life isn’t meant to just happen. Life is meant to be lived and it is meant to be felt. Sometimes it feels like breathing in that sharp burst of cold air in the winter, the one that stings your lungs and waters your eyes and causes an exhale that looks like smoke. Sometimes it feels like walking on hot asphalt in the summer sunshine, scorching your feet and causing blisters that will speckle your skin for weeks. Sometimes it feels like a long run on a fall morning, when the world looks so striking you forget your aching muscles for a second just to take it all in.

Sometimes it feels like waking up in a house where you’ll always be the stranger. It feels like living each day according to a routine that is not your own. It feels like facing your weakness, really knowing and reckoning with it in ways you never have before. It feels like making close friends with discomfort, feeling its presence acutely and letting it sit like a constant reminder at your side. And every time you start to settle in, a shifting foundation prompts you to tear it all down and start over. Sometimes life introduces you to a whole new meaning of lonely.

But feeling life, really living it, means contending with adversity. We are alive precisely because of the feeling we possess, that rich emotional complexity that makes up every crevice of the human mind. There are days when you will wake up and remind yourself to step one foot in front of the other because the mountain before you looks so massive you might never see the other side. You gather what courage you have left to muster and prepare for the tasks ahead, knowing that the only way through the challenge is exactly that: through it.

There is good news here. Life has meaning precisely because it’s hard. That cold gust of winter air brings life to your body and those blisters put calluses on your feet. Those long runs build strength that makes you powerful and brave. The mountain you’re climbing, no matter how daunting, has a peak at the top. Resist the temptation to stay in the valley below.

Hard things make you better. Get out there and live.

 

Breathe in, breathe out. Today is bigger than the discomfort you’re feeling at this moment. And besides, this is how you grow, right? Get out there and make it happen. But maybe get an iced latte first so you can put it off just a little bit longer.

Welcome to the real conversations that happen in my brain.

Let’s talk about inadequacy for a second because I’m becoming all too familiar with the notion as of late. Have you ever had seasons where you can’t shake the feeling that you’re not quite good enough to be doing what you’re doing? Sometimes no matter how prepared I am for a task, or how excited I am to take it on, it ends up feeling like I’m standing at the bottom of a mountain cliff with no climbing gear. Well, I guess we’re doing this. At least I packed snacks.

Merriam-Webster defines inadequacy as “the quality of being insufficient or incapable,” which feels like a harsh truth for those of us who set sky-high expectations and then act as our own most ruthless critic. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you may seem to be performing if you can’t rectify that feeling in your own mind. Whether it’s in a career, a relationship or a creative pursuit, that perception of being “not good enough” can sneak up out of nowhere and bring your productive energy to a screeching halt. I say this because I know the feeling all too well.

I’m finally here in New York, living in my dream setting, a city full of hustlers and people who work tirelessly in pursuit of goals and dreams. The ambition running through the streets here is palpable. And yet, more often than not I feel thoroughly out of my element and wondering why I chose to take this leap. What made me feel qualified to be here, telling stories about real, multidimensional people? How can I write in a way that feels authentic to me and also representative of the world I inhabit? I feel tiny in the grand scheme of life and yet also in possession of an opportunity I’m scared of messing up. This is a chance to make a real difference and I know for certain I want to be all in.

And yet, that persistent misgiving in my gut is that at the end of the day, in the eyes of the people I love or the goals I set or the issues that matter, I just won’t measure up.

Feeling incapable is a tough thing to shake, especially when you’re consistently working through a learning curve (Hello, graduate school!). But here’s the good news: Growth doesn’t come from comfort zones and it doesn’t come from embracing the familiar. It comes from the unwavering resolve to climb that mountain cliff, whether or not you packed the right materials. Life would be miserably boring if we all just stuck to things we knew well.

So today I’m celebrating the feeling of falling short because it opens up enormous room for progress. And maybe that belief that I can’t do it will become the very thing that teaches me I can.

One week. Seven days. 168 hours, give or take. That’s how long I’ve been in New York City, which feels like a blink and simultaneously like an eternity. Everything about life is so different here and every part of my day feels like a learning curve in some way (insert mental image of me, probably looking mildly stressed, trying to maneuver my way through a tiny grocery store in the midst of 100 other people). From riding the subway to doing my laundry, even the simplest things here have a different energy to them. ‘One day at a time’ has been my mantra on repeat while I figure out this thing out.

But I cannot tell you how grateful I am to be doing this. When you spend a full year as a nomad, it gives you this pronounced appreciation for the smallest occasions of routine and familiarity. I have a home here. A brand new one. It’s the most surreal thing and I keep having to remind myself it’s legit. This is the fresh start I’ve been awaiting for what seems like a lifetime and it’s finally happening. Pinch me.

Transitions are intimidating. They’re huge and unpredictable and confusing, and they make you feel like a stranger in the best (and worst) ways. But for the first time in almost two years, I’m entering into something that has the possibility of permanence, of being more than a passing phase or a way to fill time. If I have discovered anything from traveling constantly, it is this deep need in my soul for community, much more present and important to me than I would like to admit. I, like so many go-getter types I know, carry my stubborn independence with a measure of pride that can keep me from seeking out people who can see behind the mask. And when I’m in motion constantly, it’s even easier to keep this up. But this new chapter is serious business for me, and it comes with the chance to form a community that has a real possibility of sticking around. That may sound like a small thing, but in the scheme of my 23-year-old life, it’s huge.

I can finally lay claim to a location pin, a ‘You Are Here’ spot on a map and an entirely blank slate. And that in itself is the most freeing thing I’ve felt in a long time.

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days at the end of strings that somebody else pulls.” -Howard Thurman

I’ve never been very good with directions. When I first moved to Nashville, I relied for the longest time on Google Maps to get me from point A to point B, even when navigating the simplest route through my own neighborhood. And this past year? I can’t even list the number of times I’ve gotten lost in a rental car in some state I’ve never visited before. Or better yet, in the middle of a run. Call it poor planning or an abundance of distractions, but navigation has never been my strong suit.

The Thurman quote above was the focus of our yoga practice this morning at Shakti, and it continues to resonate as I think about my intention for this huge upcoming change in my life this year. (moving to New York for graduate school next month, in case you missed it!) I’m standing at the edge of this massive shift that feels impossible to predict or quantify, and at times it can feel like I’m about to drive right off the map and into uncharted territory. I have no clue where I’m going and even less of an idea how to get there. It’s refreshing and exhilarating but equally nausea-inducing. It feels like a profound disruption in the reality I’ve created for myself here, and despite all my wishing, there is no real way to prepare other than diving in headfirst.

I wish we were all given compasses to help us navigate life, for the periods when things look too cloudy or convoluted to know how to proceed. Wouldn’t it be ideal to have a tool to fall back on when you’re tired of trying to figure things out on your own? Although true north is a fixed point that stays constant, our relationship to it changes, and sometimes it can feel futile to keep pushing forward when you’re so turned around you’ve lost your footing. Half the time I feel like I’m headed the opposite direction of where I’m trying to go. How am I supposed to reach the end goal when I can barely see around the corner? This has been a season of real loneliness, questioning and a lot of guesswork about what comes next. In truth, most days I feel more lost than ever and just about ready to settle into something that feels easy and consistent.

But what I do know for certain is this: I’m staying engaged. I refuse to sit static as a measure of comfort, and I refuse to let fear stand in the way of forging ahead. I’ve been feeling far too often lately like I’ve lost agency, like the choices I make and the goals I set are born out of something other than my own heart. Is it all part of an effort to regain a sense of purpose? Probably. But what I want to avoid is getting stuck in a pattern that goes against the grain of my own soul. I want to make choices that are fulfilling. And in the midst of so many rumbling foundations, sometimes small steps forward are the best I can manage.

So here’s one truth that feels undoubtedly my own:

I’m moving north.

 

Life has a way of revealing tough realities whether or not we feel ready to face them. In this case, my brain feels something like a car screeching to a halt after driving down the highway at 100 miles per hour. It rounded a corner and suddenly came upon a stop sign, forced to take a break after ages of moving too fast.

Many of you know I had plans to see the world and check off as many bucket list items as I could this summer. Long story short, I’m sitting here in Nashville with a cup of coffee, a lot of ‘what ifs,’ and a newfound sense of freedom that comes from realizing my worth outside my own idealistic notion of achievement.

This is not something I couldn’t have seen coming. In honesty, my mind and body have been begging me to slow down for months now. As exciting and eye-opening as full-time travel can be, it can also be very hard on a person’s spirit without grounding practices to keep it in check. I completely lacked foundation this year, and it was bound to catch up to me at some point as I continued to run full speed ahead without ceasing.

Here we are, and here’s the truth I should have realized long ago: I had to stop. I have spent too much time constructing lofty plans under the guise of ‘living fully,’ of creating the impression that I am courageous and unbeatable and excellent at all things. The need to be constantly ‘doing’ is so deeply rooted in my psyche that I have trouble separating my idealistic persona from my reality. For someone who preaches the value of self-care and personal wellness, I am awful at putting this into practice in my own life. In this case, the only way to see the truth I’d been ignoring was to have it appear like a giant stop sign in front of my path.

Reality check: I am not superwoman and I am not a glossy social media profile. I am a person. A real, imperfect, complicated person. A person not nearly as strong or invincible as she would like to be perceived.

I am fearless, ambitious and bold, but I also have limits. And maybe the bravest thing I can do in this moment is muster the courage to say no. To face my fear of not ‘showing up’ and admit that I need a minute to breathe. For someone who has long taken selfish pride in her tendency to live life at a sprinter’s pace, this is a humbling reminder of my own inadequacy. It feels like a giant white surrender flag saying, “You cannot do it all, and believe it or not, this is okay.” Life was determined to teach a lesson despite my stubborn insistence not to listen.

In a way, this feels like my ‘Force Quit,’ the only action left to take when you’ve opened one too many programs and slowed down the system. Nothing works anymore and you’re stuck hitting Ctrl+Alt+Delete, at the risk of erasing unfinished tasks and losing part of your work. But the result is a brand new, blank screen with endless possibilities. It is ready to take on new projects because it has the space to function well. Regardless of how much clutter existed previously, as of today, the slate is clean.

I know that initiative is valuable, but so is focus. And routine. And stillness. And to be honest, I think my frenetic energy has kept me from concentrating on the things that really matter. So here I am, facing my weakness and taking back agency in my life. Maybe if I stop trying to do everything, I can go out and do a few things really, really well.

You are so much greater than the sum of your accomplishments. Believe this. I don’t know if I’m quite there, but I’m trying. And maybe, just maybe, this ‘Force Quit’ is my restart.

I’ve officially reached my final month of consulting. (What?) In my typical fashion, I get reflective as chapters are ending, and today I’m reminded of the two words that have gotten me through the tough moments of this year. I first heard them together in January 2016 as I sat in the boardroom of our headquarters to interview for this job. I remember the million questions I had about what life on the road would bring, as Wendy, our Executive Director, thanked us for coming to interview and encouraged us to think honestly about whether we were ready for the challenge. “We look for two main qualities in our consultants that will allow them to succeed: an equal balance of grace and grit.”

Grace and grit.

These two words sum up my experience as a Leadership Consultant more than any narrative I could write about a chapter visit. This work takes grace: an ability to trust people you’ve never met and to see the positive even amidst tough circumstances. We interact with a whole host of people from different chapters, communities and places, and we learn to come into a new situation and build rapport with people in just a few days. It takes an honest analysis of your own strengths and challenges and a desire to work independently. Having grace at all times means you have the humility to recognize your own limited perspective and learn from the experiences of others. It takes a reality check, a great deal of patience and a genuine connection to the value of your work.

Equally, if not even more important to me this year, has been been the word grit. I’ve never considered myself a particularly gritty person, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have guessed that that this would ever become a personal byword of mine. Having grit means more than just being tough: it means sticking to it when there are a million things being thrown at you that you weren’t prepared to handle. It means honoring your commitments even when you want to turn the other way. It means getting in there, doing difficult things, and having a sense of persistence through it all. Gritty people are willing to go the distance. They don’t quit when situations are far from glamorous or ideal. They fight for what they know is right even when it’s hard. I love that quality and I want to be that way.  This job has given me the resilience to weather a hurricane, and for that I could not be more thankful.

Twenty six more days until I readjust to “real life,” and I am very ready for the consistency and routine of having a regular schedule and a community to claim as mine. However, I’m damn grateful and proud of the lessons this year has taught me, and I won’t soon forget a single one of them. I’ve learned to speak up, to appreciate solitude and to adapt to any given circumstance or challenge. I’ve learned to say thank you, I’m sorry and you’re welcome, to make a home out of a place I’ve never seen before and to welcome the adversity of never getting comfortable. I’ve learned that people are surprisingly kind when you don’t deserve it and that strangers are sometimes the best people with which to share a meal.

Thank you to everyone in my life who has made this year worth it (you know who you are). I am a different person because of it. Here’s to the final stretch!

xx

I’m sitting in a Brooklyn coffee shop on this rainy Sunday listening to John Mayer’s “Born and Raised” (like any trendy twenty-something Southern girl, I know, but he’s my favorite) and the song ‘Love is a Verb’ is playing through my headphones and getting me thinking. Not just about love and its existence as an action word, but about a very similar verb: live.

live (v) — to act out or practice; to experience firsthand; to exhibit vigor, gusto, or enthusiasm in

I’ve just spent the weekend in New York City, a place I appreciate for its diversity, complexity and character. Every time I visit I’m reminded of how alive this place feels: alive with hope, frustration and opportunity all at once. It never stops moving and yet somehow remains consistent and life-giving in the midst of all that change. Being here makes live feel less like a state of existence and more like a call to action.

And as I get caught up in my own day-to-day routine, I’m trying to remind myself of this too. How often do we let life happen to us rather than choosing to take it on, for all its charming, chaotic and unexpected moments? People are creatures of habit, I know, and it’s easy to be distracted by our to-do lists and tasks to be accomplished before a project is done. We even make lists and countdowns until the “next big thing,” thinking: “I’ll be happy when…” “I’ll make that trip one day…”Someday when my circumstances are different I’ll accomplish that goal…”

I’m such a planner. I’m such a “next big thing” person. But what if I stopped, took a breath and tried to make live into an action verb, not tomorrow, not next week, but today? I don’t want to sit by and miss out on a moment because I’m too caught up in creating the perfect life. And as confusing and strange as a moment can be, it is the collection of these tiny seconds that makes us into who we are. Here’s a favorite from poet Emily Dickinson: “Forever – is composed of nows.”

Are you going to let those ‘now’ moments happen to you or are you really going to take them in? Let’s make live into an action verb, an opportunity to embrace life fully and make the most of this short time we’re given. You have one chance to experience today, no matter how overwhelming, confusing or even routine it may seem. Get out there and live it.

xx