Six months before my fortieth birthday, I booked a solo trip to Paris to celebrate the milestone….and, I cried. I realized I had not taken a vacation for myself in ten years. TEN YEARS!! How did I let this happen?
Just ten years prior, while approaching my thirtieth birthday, I made a life-changing decision to move across the country to New York City from Los Angeles, where I was born and raised. I was finally going to follow my dreams of becoming a successful singer/songwriter.
I always felt New York City calling my name. Every major artist I knew got their humble beginnings slugging drinks while performing in the Village or Lower East Side of Manhattan. Even saying I was quitting my job and moving to NY gave me artistic credibility. And like the song goes….“if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!”
I left my cushy full-time office job (with benefits) at Disney. I sold my car and everything else I owned and left my big studio apartment filled with two huge closets (ugh, how I miss them!), and enough living space to have a dance party in my room on a daily basis, which I did many times. I kissed my friends and family goodbye, and showed up to the Big Apple (well, Queens, actually) with a huge smile on my face and announced to the world: THIS IS IT!!!!! THIS IS MY BIG LEAP OF FAITH!!!! I’M FINALLY GIVING IT MY ALL!!! I’M GONNA PROVE EVERYONE WRONG!!! IT DOESN’T MATTER THAT I’M THIRTY!!! I’M STILL YOUNGGGGGG!!!!
Cause that’s what they say, right? Leap and the net will appear? Every “Behind-the-Music” special I ever saw was telling me all I needed to do was give it my all and everything will work out. You know what TV special they need? What happens when you take a big leap and it doesn’t work out as planned. What do you do then?
I spent the first year in New York as giddy as a teenaged girl discovering her new crimping iron. I went to Bartending School (because I knew nothing about making drinks…because, I NEVER drank!) And I got a job right away. And I then quit after a few months because, I never drank, what was I doing getting people drunk?
And this began a pattern…I became excellent at getting jobs and even more excellent at quitting them. I worked the front desk at a fancy Madison Avenue beauty salon, as a receptionist at high-end health club, as a waitress, as a caterer, as a coat-check girl, as a temp and finally as an assistant to an Executive VP at MTV. I even served drinks to Mayor Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion and offered a napkin to the President of the ABC Family Channel, the same company I had worked for prior to moving to New York. “Hey, remember me?” I was thinking, “I used to schedule Promos for your channel. Would you mind reminding me how brave I am for giving it all up to pursue my dreams? Please? I can really use a confidence boost right now.” She just took the napkin without even looking up.
But every job I took (and subsequently, quit) was even more unfulfilling than the next. Either people were mean or the hours were crazy long or I felt like I just didn’t belong. Remember, I was thirty surrounded by twenty-year olds whose idea of a good time was getting drunk, or staying up late or gossiping over this girl hooking up with this guy, who (OMG) had a girlfriend!
Even in my twenties, I was never that girl. I never drank or smoked (like, anything!), and I was very career driven. I was infectiously eager to finish college. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communications (making my non-college degree parents proud). And on my summer breaks, I secured internships at major record labels, like Arista and MCA as well as an internship at a little known reality TV series called, The Real World.
I was hard-working. I was determined. And I had a strong sense of who I was and who I was going to be: a hugely successful, multi-platinum singer/songwriter, like my idols, Mariah Carey, Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow. However, I had to keep my artistic (aka: risky) dreams a secret…especially from my unsupportive father. Which really meant, once graduating college, I would work a full-time “real” job with benefits while pursuing my musical dreams on the side.
I didn’t want to be just another “starving artist” in LA. I would go about it the smart way. I would work behind-the-scenes in the music industry and learn as much as I could while making solid industry connections. It would just be a matter of time before some executive said, “Hey…let me hear your demo” and then BOOOOOM! I would get signed immediately!
Or, so it played out in my head.
I worked all throughout my twenties: first, as an assistant to the President at Barry Manilow’s Management Company; then, for three executives at Sony/ATV Music Publishing; and finally, scheduling promos at a little unknown channel called, Fox Family (which later became the ABC Family Channel under Disney.)
Over the decade, it started to feel like I was playing it safe. I wanted more of a challenge. I never felt satisfied waiting until my workday was over to feed my passion. The whole “waiting” for my big break felt stifling. There was always an inner voice that whispered to me…”You have so much more to offer than this.”
So, I started questioning: What would my life look like if I didn’t have another career to fall back on? Maybe I do need to “struggle” for a bit to see if I really have what it takes to succeed as an artist? What if I really gave it my all? What would that feel like?
I decided my thirties were going to be about doing it differently.
But after my first year in New York, running from meaningless job to meaningless job, I was slowly losing steam. My big dream seemed like a distant fantasy. In many ways, my day jobs became a reflection of how I was feeling: alone, unstable, disconnected, and unfulfilled. I was living paycheck-to-paycheck and the only money I was able to save was spent on visits flying back home to LA.
I would take whatever funny stories I had about the many guys I met and dated on the subway or the time I “almost” got signed to an indie label or the “almost” meeting with this big-wig…and I would reassure my friends and family members, “Hey, look! I’m still going! I’m sorta-kinda making it. Everybody’s got these stories of struggle before they make it big, right?”
But underneath, I was unravelling at the seams.
Not only was I not a big successful recording artist like I had planned, but I still wasn’t married, I barely had enough money to buy a plane ticket home and now…on top of it all…I was getting OLDER!!!!
A big awakening came when one night, while walking home from an emotional goodbye dinner for my closest friend, I got mugged by four girls–just ten steps from my front door. I was so fragile that when I felt the first girl grab me from behind, I imagined it was a friend sneaking up on me giving me a giant hug. Boy, was I wrong.
I don’t remember all that ensued because my mind went straight into preservation mode, telling me “This-is-only-a -dream/You’re-going-to-be-fine.” It was my first lesson on how powerful our subconscious really is. It completely protected me from feeling any pain.
When I “awakened,” and saw the girls running away with my purse, I somehow had the courage to yell, “Hey, can I get my wallet back?” And for some strange reason, one of them threw it back to me. It was all I needed to get me off the concrete ground and into my apartment.
Once I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, I realized everything I was feeling on the inside was now staring back at me. I felt like the city literally kicked the s**t out of me. I couldn’t hide it anymore. This was no longer another cute anecdote I could tell…this was real. And I just needed to cry. Like, really cry. So, I gave myself permission to be sad for awhile.
I spent that entire summer grieving for my childhood dream, for the life I thought I should be living…for everything.
For the first time in my adult life, I learned how to truly take care for and nurture myself.
I went to yoga; I ate at restaurants alone; I let my phone go to voicemail. I stopped trying so hard in every aspect of my life. I finally had the courage to admit to myself… I just don’t know what I’m meant to do. And that’s okay right now.
Around that same time, I accepted a full-time office job at Spike TV as a Promo Scheduler. (yep, the exact position I had at ABC Family Channel just two years prior in LA!) I figured a stable income and a regular 9-6 schedule would give me some comfort. And it did for awhile. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had let myself down. I was making less money than I did at ABC and still had no benefits as I was hired as “freelance.”
But I’m so much moooooore than this job, my inner voice would whimper. I have so much more to give, to say, to create, to BE!!! THIS CUBICLE IS CRUSHING MY DREAMS!!! I want to laugh BIG and LOUD everyday and I want to skip and dance and blow kisses and SIIIINNNG and be silly and INSPIRE and motivate and CHANGE THE WORLD and BE SOMEONE PEOPLE LOOK UP TO!!!!!! I HAVE ALL THIS INSIDE OF ME!!!! HEEEELLLLPPPP ME OOOUUUUTT!!! But…I didn’t have the tools yet to follow that voice. And so I pressed on.
I was smart enough to go see a therapist at the time. And I remember what she told me after one long crying session, “You don’t know what all this is preparing you for.” Hmmm…I thought. Am I being prepared for something? Is there something else here that I cannot see? Hearing those words made me believe in something bigger than myself. It instilled a sense of faith that I had lost completely. And to this day, those words have remained my companion.
In the winter of 2008, this same therapist introduced me to a workshop that would ultimately change my life. I, along with ten other women, attended a six-week seminar called, “Something Different for Women.” And within the first meeting, I heard the most powerful statement that turned my world rightside-up: Your words and your thoughts create your reality. (cue record scratch) Wait — come again? You mean, I’m doing this to myself? WHAT?!?!?!? I shut-up for the first time and took in every word she said. I was ready to introduce a new way of living.
Up until that point, I had no problem telling anyone and everyone about my struggles. In fact, I spoke about it frequently to a video camera I set up in my bedroom where I would press “record” and talk about my everyday journey of being an artist. I started back in LA, at age twenty-nine, before I ever thought about moving to New York. I had only planned on taping for six months but something shifted in me when I began to speak about my life to this video camera. I started taking bigger risks, and that included moving across country to pursue my dreams.
I taped everything from the joys of discovering my first snowfall to the comfort of hearing my father admit he was proud of me to confessing I ate all of my roommates Oreo cookies. I even spoke the night I got mugged. I laughed, joked, cried, screamed and yelled at this video camera. I was unafraid to speak my truth because somehow talking about it was all the medicine I needed to get through it.
But when I heard that statement about my thoughts creating my reality, I wanted to stop talking, and start changing what I spoke about. I began by reading everything I could on the topic of Self-Help. I found tremendous solace in books. I even started daily gratitude lists to shift my focus from what I didn’t have to appreciating what I did. And I wrote the affirmation on my wall: I want to love what I do and do what I love everyday. And all of it started working.
Two years into my job at Spike TV and I actually started to believe that I was being prepared for something bigger. I enrolled in yoga teacher training in the Winter of 2009 with no expectations other than to take this “baby step” towards something I felt passionate about. I didn’t know if I could make a living teaching or if I would even like it, but I was convinced, if I couldn’t make music my living, I certainly could do something else that would give me a sense of fulfillment, joy, and purpose.
Shortly after receiving my teaching training certification, I started reviewing old footage of my video diaries to potentially make a film out of them. And I happened to come across one from when I was just twenty-nine years old, way before my New York life.
“My biggest fear is five years from now…still working a corporate job while doing music on the side…and having to look myself in the mirror and say, YOU’RE STILL HERE.”
I felt a huge kick in the gut. What was I doing? How could I be living this exact scenario?! Have I not learned anything? I was now THIRTY-FIVE…and still waiting for something or someone to “save” me. Hearing those words gave me all the power I needed to save myself.
The next day, I marched into my boss’ office and gave my two weeks notice. I had no job to go to but everything in my body knew I wouldn’t be coming back. This time, I was leaping for good.
Starting a new career with a new sense of self at age thirty-five felt both empowering and rewarding. I didn’t have the same hang-ups or attachments to outcomes like I did before. I had cultivated a deep sense of faith in myself, and in the universe or “God” or whatever you may call it. I trusted no matter what would happen, I knew I could get a job (ha!) and I knew I would be just fine.
I quickly started auditioning for every yoga gig I could find. And if they didn’t hire me the first time, I went back the second, or the third and sometimes the fourth, until I was hired. I never took it personally. I kept knocking down doors and ended up teaching for every major gym in the city of Manhattan. I taught for apartment buildings; corporate classes; pregnant women; kids; adults; teens…whomever. And the best part was…I really loved teaching! I loved working for myself. I loved traveling to new places; discovering new parts of the city; meeting new people; creating a supportive community; having time to sit a coffee shop and dream away; or take time in my day to practice yoga. I even laughed big and loud many times in my classes (along with my students) and I was becoming someone people looked up to. Finally, my “job” was an actual extension of who I really was. And it felt amazing to live with that kind of integrity.
Music had never left me, either. I had recorded a new CD, “Walking on Freedom” of songs inspired by my new journey. And I had just started bringing my guitar and singing for my classes in savasana (the “corpse” or resting pose at the end of class). And the response was INCREDIBLE! People were liking my Facebook pages and downloading my songs on Itunes and helping me book gigs! And some were coming up to me after class with tears in their eyes saying, “I can’t believe this is included in my gym membership!”
In 2013, I began creating my own monthly themed-workshops and led my first international yoga retreat to Costa Rica in the summer of 2014. I also introduced, “Yoga Unplugged” to Crunch Gyms all over Manhattan where I sing and play live acoustic music at the end of class. And most recently, I am asked to perform live music for other yoga classes, where I am not the teacher, but solely the musician.
And the best part is…I have never felt more appreciated or valued for my musical talents than I ever did all those years of trying to “make it.” It’s like I was winking back to my younger self and assuring her, hey, I never gave up on you. And the universe was winking back at me saying, hey, you never were supposed to.
I have also added “life coach/mentor” to my list of occupations as many of my students who have asked me privately, “How did you do it? How did you find a way to live a life you love?” And I learned to edit all those video diaries to create another dream come true: my film, “The Dream Diaries” which was screened in NYC and LA to my students, family and friends and is currently in post-production to submit to film festivals. It seems I really do have so much more to offer.
So…fast forward to one rainy day afternoon in February of 2015, when I secured my round-trip ticket to Paris to celebrate my big 4-0…I don’t think I need to explain why the tears came down like waterfalls. I had finally paused and looked at my life and thought, wow, I have come a long way. Not only can I afford this trip to Paris but I DESERVE this vacation!! What a milestone, indeed.
And that’s when I heard that voice again…You have even more to give. So, I got to thinking…what’s holding me back now? How can I really push the boundaries on what I’m capable of? How can I not let another ten years go by to feel this kind of joy? How can I create more fun, spontaneity and LOVE in my everyday life? So, I declared Forty the year I allow FEAR and all it’s friends to teach me a thing or two about whatever “blocks” or “walls” are still up. And once again, I go leaping away to a new decade…
And so the challenge begins: For forty days after my birthday, I vow to do something everyday that scares me, that I’ve never done before or just makes me laugh. And I will share it all on social media so others can not only follow along, but hopefully, feel inspired to do the same. I’m excited to meet the person I’ll become after 40 Days of Fearless Acts…