As I’m nearing the end of this fearless journey, I started craving the days back in the beginning when I did something scary everyday. There was something special about feeling that knot in the pit of my stomach, or the kind of nerves that fly up and down my spine.
And lately, I’ve sort of fallen back into my normal routine of life…feeling unresolved about what to do for my last few acts. I’ve been secretly hoping the universe would present me with something that would truly shake me to the core. And, last Monday, it delivered.
I am moving at the end of the month from my apartment in Astoria, which has been my home on-and-off for ten years. I never planned to stay as long as I have. In fact, I moved out for the first time eight years ago when I went back to a full-time office job.
Although that job gave me the stability I lacked from living a struggling artist life, I still felt like a failure. And I spent the next two years working in a cubicle, living on the Upper East Side and desperately trying to figure my way out.
I suppose I could have continued along that trajectory and worked myself up the corporate ladder. But office life just wasn’t for me. And once you have even a small taste of that freedom…that scary leap out into the unknown…when you make that handshake with God, promising that you’ll do whatever it takes to fulfill your dreams…there’s no way that light can stay dim. Unless you choose it to.
I cried many nights after taking that office job. I just didn’t understand it. Why was I given this gift to sing if I wasn’t meant to make it my living? Everything I ever read was telling me: Leap & The Net Will Appear or Do What You Love & The Money Will Come. Nothing prepared me for what happens when you do all that and still don’t get the life you want. If music isn’t my destiny – I questioned – then what am I meant to do with my life?
I took a workshop that ultimately changed my life in 2008. I started to turn the questioning on myself: What am I doing to contribute to my reality? How are my thoughts and words supporting the life I want? Before that, I assumed life was just happening to me. That as long as I “worked” really hard at something, I could achieve it. And in that way, I was always at the mercy of what was occurring outside of me versus what was happening within me.
My first “baby” step towards a positive life change was enrolling in yoga teacher training in 2009. I had always loved yoga and had taken classes long before I moved to New York but I never thought about becoming a teacher. I don’t think I even knew it was possible to make a living teaching but, with the help of this new workshop and a whole slew of Self-Help books, a fresh belief system was emerging: I will follow my passion and let go of the outcome.
Once I finished my training, my dear friend, Michael, who was still living in my old apartment, knew of my misery at that job and said I could move back to my old room in Astoria with the same cheap rent. I shunned the idea at first.Nooooooo..I can’t go backwards!! That’s ridiculous. I’m over that apartment and that small room.And then, this little voice spoke to me and said, “But with that cheap rent, you can QUIT your day job and give teaching yoga a real go!”So…I just said, “YES!”
It has been five years since I’ve moved back. FIVE YEARS. I thought of returning to this apartment as a second chance towards my dreams. Even though I have lived within these same four walls for almost my entire New York life, the person I have become is so vastly different than the girl I was when I first moved in. And it feels perfectly timed to leave.
I am incredibly grateful to say that I do make my living teaching yoga and singing/playing my music in my classes as well as providing live music for other teachers/yoga studios around the city. Although it hasn’t been without struggle, I have never felt more fulfilled and valued for my talents than I ever did all those years trying to “make it.”
Last week, I have begun the process of packing and sorting through all my stuff that I’ve collected through the years. Everything from journal entries complaining about my jobs to hand-written directions of every Open Mic in the city to calendars with temp jobs and interviews and notes on the sides and books and birthday cards and luggage tags and pictures and company ID tags.
And there, lying underneath my bed, were my notes from that very workshop I took over six years ago (pictured above). Even now, reading the words, “I just don’t feel good enough” breaks my heart a little. Because in all the work I have done, there is still a voice inside of me that reflects that statement.
But, last Monday, I was given a gift. I showed up to one of my favorite yoga teachers, Ali Cramer’s class at the incredible Laughing Lotus Yoga Center. I absolutely love Ali’s class for so many reasons, one of which is how she manages to weave in such authentic words of wisdom that seem to speak directly to me every single class. And recently, I have had the privilege of accompanying her yoga class with my music, because I got up the nerve to ask her.
So, in last week’s class, after an hour of sweaty flow, Ali asked us to sit in meditation before lying down in savasana. As I sat there with my eyes closed, I felt a presence approach me. “Will you sing something for us?” she whispered. There it was. Chills up and down my spine; hands sweaty; body tingling; mouth drying and that pit in the middle of my belly. HOLY SHIT. I’m not prepared. I don’t have my guitar. I can’t sing one of my songs! OMG, Dana is in the room! I’m not GOOD ENOUGH to sing on the spot! WHAT IS SHE THINKING? But even with all that negative chatter in my head, I just said, “Yes!”
I managed to sing or hmmm some sort of melodic tune, but I was shaking like crazy. And when I finished, tears were rolling down my cheeks. Why was I reacting like this? Perhaps it was all the reflecting and sorting through my memories of this apartment that triggered my emotions or, it was simply the fact that someone I admire so deeply, asked me to sing at the end of her class, validating that I am, in fact, good enough.
After class, I hugged and thanked Ali and expressed my nervousness and tears that came up. She actually thanked me for being so vulnerable and replied, “Well, you just need to do it more often.”
I have taken her words to heart and sang at the end of my class on Friday night as well as in all three classes on Saturday. Not because I needed validation or approval but simply because I can.
Sometimes, life shows us exactly what we need in order to heal. And in that moment of fear, I acted in spite of feeling unworthy. And that alone, is progress. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to silence that voice, but I am learning how to JUST SAY YES anyway!