Posts Tagged ‘fear’

Photo by Flickr user: wolfsoul.

Photo by Flickr user: wolfsoul.

As I see it, there is an epidemic occurring in our society; it is an epidemic of people being terrified to be alone and as a result remaining stuck in the wrong relationships. Sadly, I see examples of this around me on a daily basis. And unfortunately I see far more examples of that than of the opposite. Should it be any surprise, then, that 50% of marriages end in divorce? It isn’t to me.

One of the benefits to growing older is that as you experience [and learn] more, and as you observe more, you are [hopefully] much more clearly able to see when a relationship is right…and when it is wrong.

If the 20s were the decade of friends getting married, the 30s have proven to be the decade of friends getting divorced. I think it was around the age of 35 when I noticed that what had once been the “summer wedding season” had instead turned into the “summer divorce season.” And all of the couples that I saw in my 20s and thought to myself “those two are so wrong for each other!”, those couples have in my 30s ended up divorced: almost without fail.

Image by Flickr user: donkeyhotey.

Image by Flickr user: donkeyhotey.

Conversely, I’m sure we’ve all seen the couples that when you look at them, you think to yourself “Yes, that is how love is supposed to look!” and it is just so obvious that the pair are so in love; they show mutual respect, admiration, and affection; and they show it over years, regardless of the passage of time. Such couples reveal such a beautiful, powerful energetic connection, and they complement each other so well, truly embodying the spirit of yin and yang. They are simply a joy and an inspiration to be around. I am grateful that growing up I had a friend whose parents exemplified this for me, even after 25 years of marriage. So even from a young age, I knew what love could look like. And today I am so grateful to have even a small handful of such couples in my life, for they remind me over and over again of the kind of love that I want in my life and why I choose to not settle for any less than that.

And I am by no means under the illusion that a relationship should be easy all the time, nor am I espousing that. I am the first to know that love can be messy and that it takes real work to keep a relationship intact. But what I can say, from experience and from keen observation, is that the right relationship should be much easier than the wrong one. And if the relationship is a constant uphill battle, a constant struggle, then it’s not the right one. We can choose to have something better, more easeful.

Unfortunately, for every one of the couples that exemplify what love can be, I have known twice as many couples who exemplify the opposite of that. I have known the couples who fight all the time and who you just dread to be around. I have known the couples where it’s just so obvious to an outside observer that one of the people is in love, but not the other. I have known the couples where the woman is so desperate to get married and make babies, that she ignores all of the signs that scream that he is not the proverbial “one.” I have known the couples that break up and get back together, over and over again (Oh wait, that was me!). I have known the couples where one partner wants to have kids and the other does not, and they stay together for years, one partner clinging onto hope that the other will change their mind.

I have known the couples that are simply tolerating each other, out of some sort of misguided sense of obligation, rather than showing or feeling anything resembling love. I have known couples where the man only got married because of pressure (or even an ultimatum!) from the woman. I have been in the weddings where you are biting your tongue as the bride walks down the aisle, because you just know with every fiber of your being that they are making a mistake (incidentally I’ve been in three such weddings, and ALL have ended (happily) in divorce). Heck, I have even known multiple couples who themselves admit that they knew it was a mistake, but they walked down the aisle anyway. I have seen people engaged in extramarital affairs and in circumstances that are far too “complicated” to be “right,” people who are clinging to the unhealthiest of situations in a desperate attempt to find happiness.

And when I speak of such couples, I do so with deep empathy and understanding, for I too have lived through my own version of the “wrong” relationship. And I know that these souls are on the same powerful journey of growth and learning on which I reluctantly found myself (that is if they are open to such growth and learning). I spent years with the wrong person, trying to convince myself that it was right. I have always said that one of the cruelest aspects of life is that we have the ability to fall in love with the wrong person. Frankly, it’s brutal and there are few things more painful than star-crossed lovers. And I know how difficult, how painful, and how seemingly “impossible” it can be to extricate ourselves from the wrong relationships; I know all too well how paralyzed we can become, how stuck we can get. I know the feeling of having the constant pit in your stomach and of your head trying to rationalize that it’s caused by something else, when deep down in your heart, you know the real reason but don’t want to admit it.

I have also learned that love is not enough, and that of equal importance are timing and compatibility. You can love someone with every fiber of your being, with every breath of air in your body, but if it’s not right, if they are not the right match for you, it won’t matter. Of this I personally know all too well.

So why is it that so many people stay together for all the wrong reasons? Why are people so afraid to be alone? Fear. Society. Expectations. As I’ve observed people and relationships over the years, it has become clear that so many people are terrified of being alone; terrified of ending up alone, and of dying alone. I once shared this fear, so it is one I relate to and understand well. And as I already said, I understand how it feels to be stuck with the wrong person, and in the wrong relationship, for all of the wrong reasons. I have been there and I am fortunate that my partner had the guts to release me from it, as I’m not sure I ever would have had the courage on my own; for I too was living in fear.

Society tells us that we are meant to follow a very specific formula for life: college, career, love, marriage, and babies… only in that order! We do not even realize how brainwashed we have been as a society. And what society teaches us, our friends and families only reinforce. Everyone has an opinion about what we should be doing. When we see our friends getting married and having kids, we feel even more pressure to be doing the same. If we do not follow that formula, our parents disapprove, people think there is something wrong with us. We all have the aunt who asks, “So when are you going to get married?” There is so much pressure to conform, to fulfill the expectations of society.

I spent the first half of my 30s gripped in sadness and despair, because I too felt that I had to fulfill that formula, and it just wasn’t working out for me. I found myself 32 (and then 33, 34, 35…), single, and childless and that had never been the plan. I should have had three kids by that age. For all of my life I had planned to get married and raise a family. And I am such a passionate, open-hearted woman with so much love to give; how could I not be finding a beautiful soul to complement my heart?

Well, if life has taught me one thing, it’s that the most difficult times are the most valuable and that by walking through each one of them, there are invaluable lessons to learn. I had to walk through an extremely dark time of loneliness, of being completely on my own, for years, before I could come to understand the importance and value of being happy on our own. It was only by walking through my own darkness that I was able to find the light, and in doing so I realized that the light comes from within. The true joy, the absolute bliss is only to be found within us, never outside of us.

And if there’s one universal truth, it’s this: Before you can ever be happy with someone else, you must first be happy with yourself.

And I have not only made full peace with the fact that I am now 38, single, and childless, but I have fully embraced it and the truth is that I have never lived more happily, more vibrantly, more fulfilled. I love my life and there is nothing missing. I now could care less about having children (If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be saying that now, I’d have thought you were c-c-c-crazy!) Does this mean I am cynical and do not believe that true love exists? Not at all. I have the gift of having experienced it with my own heart, so I know it’s out there. And if I happen to find it, well great, because that would just be the cherry on top of an already wonderful life. But I know it’s not necessary for my happiness. I know I already am, and will continue to be, happy and fulfilled no matter what comes into my life.

The moment we release the expectation that we can only complete ourselves with another, the moment we can release the idea that we have to adhere to society’s mold, is the moment we find freedom. And in freedom, we can find true happiness.

Photo by Flickr user Chema Escarcega.

Photo by Flickr user Chema Escarcega.

It’s funny, I suspect that many of my friends might pity me for being alone, for not yet having had the “fortune” of getting married and having children. But what they may not realize is that I choose to be single. I could easily have been in relationships over the years, but I knew they would be with the wrong person, and I have no interest in getting myself embroiled in something wrong, when instead I can be keeping myself open for something right.

And I’m happy to say that I have absolutely learned the valuable lesson that it is far better to be single than to be with the wrong person.

So, yes, some people may feel sorry for me that I am alone. But the irony of that is that when I look around me and observe so many unhappy, dissatisfied relationships and I see so many people who are stuck, all I can think to myself is, “Thank God I’m single!”

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I was sitting on my futon writing when suddenly I heard a creaking in the walls. Assuming it was the usual bus driving down the street, I thought nothing of it. Seconds later, my two kitties came flying erratically into the living room and suddenly the entire room began to shake. We were having an earthquake. My legs involuntarily turned to jello.

I live in San Francisco, so I am no stranger to earthquakes. But despite that, they still give you a shock when they come, always so unexpectedly. Several hours later, having wound down from the adrenalin of the small quake, I was laying in the acupuncture chair, full of needles and definitely ready for the relaxation of my weekly acupuncture treatment. Suddenly the acupuncture clinic began to shake somewhat violently. I threw my upper body into the air and yelled out an expletive! We were having yet another earthquake! Twice in one day.

Those two earthquakes were several months ago now, but I was reminded of them early this morning at 5:30 am when I was jolted awake by yet another earthquake. Fortunately none of these quakes were serious ones, but each one of them has gotten me thinking… thinking about change. It has me thinking about how change can come at any moment, when you least expect it, and often when you are not remotely prepared for it. I am certain that we have all learned this lesson in our lives, often the hard way.

It seems to me there are three types of change: 1. the type of change we consciously make and for which we are excited, 2. the changes that we do make of our own volition, but yet which are still very difficult and sometimes heart-wrenching, and then there is the third type of change: the type of change that catches you completely off-guard, takes you completely by surprise, knocks you over and has the ability to shatter you, just like an earthquake. I have learned through my own experiences that we can learn to approach all of these types of changes in the same fashion: with openness, vulnerability and a willingness to accept whatever may come our way…and not only to accept it, but to embrace it. But I did not come to this place easily.

I’ll never forget the very first major change of my “adult” life. I was 18 years old, just barely an adult, and due to a broken heart and complex emotions in which I was stagnating in my home town, I made the decision (at the encouragement of my mother) to drive the two hours north to spend the summer living at my grandparents’ adorable little beach cottage in the resort town of York Beach, Maine. I had spent all of my childhood traveling there in the summers with my family. It was, in fact, my favorite place on earth, so moving there should have been an exciting change. And in part, it was.

But after packing up the car and making my way part-way up the highway for what felt like a journey to another dimension, I suddenly found myself gripped with panic. I had never lived anywhere except my small, quaint colonial town of Wrentham, Massachusetts. I had never known any friends but those friends with whom I had gone to school for the previous twelve years. Suddenly the thought of moving to a new place, where I didn’t know a soul (other than my family), was terrifying.

I pulled over to a gas station, pumped the pay phone full of coins and called my best friend back home. I was in tears, I was gripped with fear. The tremor of change had taken me over. This friend, who had been my closest friend all throughout my high school years, was wise beyond her years at 18. She somehow knew I needed to overcome this fear and confront this change. She told me to forge on. My eyes brimming with tears, I got back in the car and continued on, steeped in my own trepidation.

Well, I am so glad that friend encouraged me to continue forth because that change turned out to be one of the most important ones I have ever made. It was that step that allowed me to see that there was life beyond the 20 mile radius that I had known all of my life. That move opened up a whole new world to me that I never could have imagined; a new job, new friends, and most importantly…a new perspective. But even more importantly, it was this move, this first spreading of my wings that would pave for the way for me to dive head first into many more significant and life-altering changes to come. It was largely this change that allowed me to put myself on a plane, by myself, to go live in Spain for a year; to subsequently move to several new cities and then furthermore to move across the country and begin a whole new life. It all started with that two-hour drive to York Beach, Maine.

But it seemed that those intentional changes, despite having to overcome fear, did little to prepare me for the unexpected, undesirable and involuntary changes that were to come my way down the road. When the first true love of my life left me in my mid-20’s, I felt like there had been a massive earthquake and the whole earth had fallen out from under my feet. It seemed that there would be no possible way to put the pieces back together again. My world had crumbled.

I did everything in my human ability to try to adapt to that change, but despite my best efforts, it was a change to which I simply could not adjust. Without realizing it, I was fighting tooth and nail to resist that change, and I suffered greatly for it. Life was trying to pull me with the current, but I refused to go. I couldn’t go. I didn’t know how, where or why. It wasn’t until an even more devastating broken heart, six years later, that I would begin to realize that there was only one way to deal with an unwanted, gut-wrenching change. If that first heartbreak had seen the earth fall out from under me, this one had done both that and had overcome me like a giant tsunami and I was drowning in my own sorrow, in utter despair. As I struggled to breathe under the weight of the crushing waves, I reached a point of complete desperation, a point where I knew I only had one option: I had to surrender.

Since reaching that point of surrender in recent years, I have begun to perfect the art of surrendering, going with the flow and trusting in the Universal forces. I have learned that though we cannot see them at the time, there are reasons why all of these changes, however painful and unexpected, come into our lives: they come to teach us powerful lessons; they come to take us with the current and deliver us to new found places we never could have before imagined; they come to transform us into the people that we are meant to be. Those changes, however unsought and however devastating, have allowed me to live through a transformation, a more powerful alchemy than I ever could have imagined. They have allowed me to blossom into a person I never could have known, living a life of emotional and spiritual richness of which I never would have dared dream. Those changes, however unwanted, were in the end…gifts.

And one of the most powerful lessons I have learned from walking through the fire of my own changes, is how to truly open myself up and surrender to any changes that may come in my future: whatever they may be; however painful, however unimaginable and earth-shattering. As I think about this morning’s earthquake, those that have already gone by and those that will come, I have realized that earthquakes provide us with a powerful lesson for life:

Dramatic change can come at any time. To cope, adapt and thrive, we must soften, surrender and go with the flow.

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I am not a great meditator. Just as I often lack the patience to sit down and finish a book (and believe me I’m in the middle of many!), I too often lack the discipline to sit down and meditate. But that does not mean that its benefits escape me. I have been through periods in my life when I have had deep and prolonged meditations, out of which have come powerful and even life-changing insights.  And equally I have been through other periods where my life just simply gets busy and I’m running in a million different directions. That’s when we find ourselves in the old Catch 22: Because of course that is when meditation can benefit us the most, but as we all know, it can sometimes just be hard to make the time. Tonight I made the time.

My meditation routine is a simple one. I sit in a cross-legged position, on a soft pillow, and I begin to focus on my breath. It does not take me long to get into a steady rhythm and as I do, inevitably one of my cats will meander over to take up a meditation position of his own on my lap as I breathe in and out. They too are not ignorant to the benefits of meditation. As I dive deeper through the different brain waves, I can feel the cat’s energy field connecting with mine and I can feel his body moving up and down with his breath and his purring grow deeper and deeper. This simple scenario is my constant reminder that we are all one, that all creatures on this Earth are connected.

After a steady period of focusing on my breath, it gradually reaches a state where my breathing begins to slow down, almost to a seeming halt, and I begin to become unaware of it. And then the powerful surges of energy come. Simultaneously, I can feel myself diving deeper within and my consciousness being elevated to a higher state of awareness; a state in which I suddenly have a stronger sense of knowing, a state from which clarity and insights often are revealed to me. Tonight, the message was a simple one and one I get frequently. As my eyes welled up with tears, all I could feel and know was that…love is all that matters.

Well that’s an awfully vague statement, right? What do I mean by “love”? Am I talking about romantic love, or perhaps love of family and friends, or simply a love of life? I am talking about all of those and none of those at the same time. And no, you do not need to be “in love” to experience what I’m talking about. I am talking about Universal love: The love that encompasses all things. The love that connects me to my cats as I meditate; the love that connects us to people across the globe who are grieving after a horrible tragedy; the love that wells up inside of us at the sight of a newborn baby; the love that overcomes us when we see ocean waves crashing passionately against the shoreline. Love is everywhere, and it is everything. Not only is it within each one of us, but it IS each one of us, whether we feel it or not. It has the capacity to awaken us, to move us to our core, or humble us to our knees. It has the capacity to transform us. It is all that matters.

Upon finishing my meditation, I immediately posted the message, “Love…is all that matters” to my Facebook page. Within seconds I had a plethora responses and thumbs up. After all, love reaches out and grabs you by the soul strings. But I was struck by one response that was in disagreement with my own. This person commented that “people are really selfish” and that “they do not care about others.”

This notion will likely elicit lots of diverse responses and emotions in each of you. My first emotion was empathy. For I too have at times in my life felt exactly what this person has expressed. I am certain that we all have at one time or another. Whether we’ve been hurt or betrayed by a friend or lover, or been trampled on in our careers, most of us can relate to feeling this way. I used to feel this way a lot more than I do now. And this is where the meditation has changed my life.

Meditation has the power to change our thought patterns and our brain chemistry. By maintaining a regular practice over time, we begin to notice that things that once bothered, upset or even enraged us, suddenly do not anymore. In fact often we can surprise ourselves by not even being remotely ruffled when something negative happens to us. I continue to delight in this surprise in my own life. The longer I meditate the more I am amazed at how I have this new-found capacity to rise above whatever malice or negativity is being directed at me; I have developed a better ability to let it wash right over me and not get me wet.

I have found that when my life hits a rocky patch and I find myself back in the midst of turmoil or distress, when I return to meditation, I am immediately able to find peace…and love. When we meditate, we go within and we connect with something deep inside of ourselves, a bottomless well of Universal love that is connected to all things, to all beings, to Earth and Spirit.

So while it is almost certain that we will have our bad days and we will come on hard times, sometimes at the hand of other people who may or may not be bad-intentioned, it is up to us to decide how we respond to it. At a time on the Earth when there is more turmoil and division than we’ve seen in a very long time, it is more important than ever that we can all develop this capacity to rise above negativity, anger and fear. So I invite you all to learn to meditate or return to your own practice: go within, touch the bliss of divine consciousness that is the connecting force between all beings on this Earth and beyond. Seek out peace and light. And never forget that love IS all that matters.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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As we prepare to head into the New Year, it is of course common tradition that we reflect back on the year that is coming to a close. We see all of the “Best of” lists of 2011, we revisit the most prominent news stories, both good and bad, and we think about all that we have accomplished and that which we did not get a chance to do. With that knowledge, we then prepare to set our intentions for the coming year ahead. As I look back on 2011 and prepare to head into 2012, the one word that comes to mind is… UNCERTAINTY.

The entire planet is gripped with a high degree of uncertainty at the moment. We’ve seen governments collapse all over the Middle East as a result of the Arab Spring, and now we wait with bated breath to see what will happen next, which will be the next country to collapse, and if the ones that have will manage to form any kind of cohesive, effectual governments. We’ve seen economic systems crumble, and take down intrinsically linked economies with them. We watch on pins and needles hoping to avoid a domino effect across the globe. As the year draws to a close we wait with nervous trepidation to see what will come of the recent news in North Korea and Iran. The world is filled with anxiety and fear at the level of uncertainty that exists.

While we see this uncertainty on a macro level, I’m also seeing it all around me on a micro level, in the daily lives of friends and family all around me. 2011 has been a year of massive shifting and transition. So many people have lost their jobs (myself included!), others have gone through divorces, others have ended long-term relationships or begun new ones, and still others have made monumental shifts in their lifestyles: changes of career, changes of location, even changes of purpose. Many have also been shifting on an esoteric level, accessing new levels of consciousness not before experienced.

I have so many friends that are presently living through intense periods of uncertainty, not having any idea what the future will hold or which way to go next. And with that comes the expected confusion, anxiety and even panic. After all, we are human. It is in our nature to fear the unknown. In my own life, so many questions remain: When will I again have an income? How will I pay my next rent check? Will I ever find love? Will I end up alone? These questions are very real for me. But am I filled with the inevitable dread and angst that would typically accompany such uncertainty? The answer is “no.” And here is why: While it is our human nature to fear the unknown, that which we cannot see, know or understand, I have realized that this is one of our many human frailties. The truth is that uncertainty is simply a disguise, albeit a sometimes scary one, for OPPORTUNITY.

When I look back on my own life, I am able to see that every period of uncertainty through which I lived, inevitably led to a much greater opportunity than I could have possibly imagined. The first period that comes to mind was 1997-1998, my first year out of college. I was living in Boston and was working at my first “real” job. I hated it. I was miserable. I counted the days…literally. But I had no idea what to do or where to go next. I was applying for jobs everywhere, but as is often the case with recent college grads, I lacked the experience to get my foot in the door at most places. And frankly I had no idea what I wanted to do. So I did all I knew how to do… I followed my bliss.

I had studied abroad in Spain and was passionate about foreign cultural exchange as an incredible opportunity for growth and empowerment. So I began pursuing any job related to foreign exchange programs, international educational travel, etc. Then one day, after a year of searching, BOOM, it happened. I landed the dream job. I spent the next five years organizing student educational travel to Spain and Latin America and traveled to both places frequently. I had landed exactly where I was meant to be.

Fast forward to the year 2004. I had moved to Washington, DC to pursue a graduate degree in international affairs. Though it was certainly not what I had planned, almost as soon as I arrived I knew I was in the wrong place. It did not take me long to realize I was not a bureaucrat, so I shifted gears and dropped out of graduate school. Here I was having left the job I loved in Boston, but I knew I couldn’t go back. That life was over. I could only go forward. But where to? I had no idea. Once again, I began a long and arduous job search, really having no idea what I was looking for, but simply trying to apply for any job that fit the skills I had gained in my previous position. But I had some pressure on me. I knew that I would run out of money by that August, so I would have to find a job before then. And what if I didn’t? I had no idea what would happen then. I was in the tight grip of uncertainty….Until, low and behold I found a job on August 23rd, my first job in the dot-com world and the job that put me on the path towards a successful management career. Once again, a period of deep uncertainty had led to nothing but incredible opportunity.

And then there was the “dark night of the soul,” from the years 2007-2009. Not only were these the darkest, most painful years of my life, they were by far the most uncertain. I had left my stable management job in DC to move across the country, in part to fight for love. Well as we all know, life does not always go as we plan. Instead I found myself rejected, abandoned, jobless and friendless and about to enter a protracted period of unemployment and instability in correlation with the recession that was about to hit. During this period I went from being unemployed, to working at a minimum wage job, to finally landing a stable job, to in the end being laid off and unemployed AGAIN. Nothing had gone right. My life was completely stagnant and uncertain. I had no idea what to do or which way to go. I was lost…and I was terrified. The future looked anything but bright.

But as many of you know from reading my previous stories, those intense years of uncertainty would eventually give birth to opportunities and adventures I never could possibly have imagined. That job that laid me off eventually led me to another dot-com management job in San Francisco, and it was the dramatic unraveling of that job that surprisingly and unimaginably led me to the unexpected life that I am living now: the life of a writer.

So what is the lesson in this? Well, I have learned that although on the surface uncertainty is very scary, in reality, at its core it is anything but. Uncertainty is an opportunity. It is the freedom to try new things, it is a blank palette on which to paint anything you want, it is a chance to think outside the box and dare to try things that your previous limitations would never have allowed you to try. But beyond that, if we can not only sit with and accept uncertainly, but if we can take it one step further and truly embrace uncertainty, that is when the true expansion happens and the possibilities become endless. When we can surrender and allow ourselves to sink into the uncertainty, to become one with it and trust in its purpose; and when we allow ourselves to be not only excited, but ecstatic about the possibilities that exist in the unknown, that is when the Universe will respond and bring magic into our lives.

So yes, there are many questions that still remain in my life, and I do not know what the future will hold. But I can tell you I am nothing but excited and elated about what will come. And I know that this period of uncertainty, like all of the others that have come before it, will lead to nothing but incredible circumstances and surprises ahead. I know that the possibilities are endless. And as I look at all of the friends around me who are living through tough periods of uncertainty, and as I think about all of you readers out there who I know are living through the same, I have one message for you: Congratulations. You are the lucky ones!

As you prepare to head into 2012, look not at the limitations in your life. But instead look at the possibilities. Do not fear uncertainty, instead embrace it. And as you set your New Year’s Resolutions, don’t limit yourself to the hopes and dreams you have now. Open yourself up to the ones you haven’t yet dared to imagine.

This post is dedicated to Diana C., Adriana Z. and Kristina L. May you dare to dream…

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© Philippe Clément, http://en.arterra.be/

They say that “there is no reward without risk.” I have no idea who “they” are, but whoever they are, they are very wise. Throughout my adult life I have always been a risk-taker; and I’m not talking about the adrenalin-pumping type of risks, such as bungee-jumping, or the questionable type of risks, such as gambling in Las Vegas. I’m talking about life risks, the kind of risks that require a perfect balance between practicality and fearlessness, mixed in with just a dash of insanity.

The first big risk of my adult life was at the naive age of 20. Never having left the country (with the exception of the 6 hour drive across the border to Canada), I put myself on a plane and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Spain, where I would live for an entire year. I landed in Madrid, a world away from my family and the only life I had known, not knowing a soul and surrounded by ham legs. This move would not only be one of the most life-altering experiences I have ever had in this life, but it would also later lead to a dream job: a job planning educational student tours to Spain and Latin America (www.acis.com); a job I did for years and loved; a job that would allow me the incredible opportunity to travel regularly to Spain and Latin America. This risk to move to an unfamiliar world in Spain would prove to be the first in a long line of bold life choices.

In 2003, after 911 had severely impacted the student travel industry, I made another bold decision: to move to Washington, DC, another city where I didn’t know a soul, and once again leaving behind a life of familiarity. In Washington, DC I would attend graduate school at GW University, where I would study International Affairs, putting me on my desired path of becoming a Foreign Service Officer. At least that was the plan…However, it didn’t take me more than one semester in DC to realize I was not a bureaucrat. After much deliberation, I made the brave and scary decision to leave graduate school. After all of the work (GREs, college applications, pre-requisite courses) I had done to get myself to GW, this was no small decision and a risk I took with slight trepidation.

Two months after taking the risk to leave graduate school, I would find myself walking around the halls of the United Nations, and looking out on the pristine waters of Lake Geneva, shimmering with the reflection of the majestic, snow-capped Alps behind. “How did this happen?”, you might ask. You see, after leaving school, I began immediately looking for work, honestly having no idea what I was doing or where I would land. In a surprising turn of events, I was offered a position with a human rights firm in DC, which sent me to Geneva, Switzerland for three weeks to work at the Commission on Human Rights at the UN. As I sat there overlooking the breathtaking scenery, chills ran up and down my spine. I knew that if I had not taken the risk of dropping out of graduate school, I would not be having the incredible experience of standing in the halls of the United Nations in Geneva. That was a pivotal moment in my life; the moment when it crystallized for me that life is all about taking risks.

Upon returning to Washington, DC, and now clear that the decision to have left school was the right one, my short-term assignment at this job was coming to an end. To my surprise they offered me a full-time position. Here I was having dropped out of grad school, and virtually out of money, and I was being offered a full-time job. Perfect, right? Well yes, except for the fact that my gut was screaming at me to not take this job; my instincts told me that although it was a good offer, that it was not the right path for me. Without any other plan or idea of where my future would lead, and facing the fact that I would soon run out of money, I went against the advice of my parents (here’s where the important dose of insanity comes in!), I took another risk and turned down the job. I knew how long my money would last and I knew that I would need to find a job before the end of August. On August 24th, just as I was reaching my deadline, I was offered a different job: a job with an internet start-up, an incredible opportunity which would take me down a completely different path.

Taking this job with my first start-up (along with the decision to turn down the first offer) would turn out to be another brilliant decision, and a risk well-taken. Within a few months I had been promoted to my first management position, and I proceeded to gain the fantastic experience of building out a brand new department, and furthermore to have the exciting and invaluable education of going through my first acquisition. (Beyond that, little did I know that the decision to take this start-up job would five years later lead to another start-up position in San Francisco.)

In early 2007, after almost three exhilarating and incredibly educational years at my first start-up, and now with solid management experience under my belt, I made the decision to leave my job. For all of my life I had wanted to move to the west coast, and at this point in my life there was a love worth fighting for in Los Angeles. So I quit my very stable and well-paying job in Washington, DC, packed up everything, and drove the 3,000 miles across country to Los Angeles. However, this would prove to be the riskiest decision that I had ever made. You see, this man had just chosen another woman over me, and I was stubborn (or stupid!) enough to try to fight for him anyway.

To my dismay, I arrived in Los Angeles to find myself rejected, heartbroken, jobless and friendless. And even worse, I had the very bad timing of moving right before the recession was about to hit in 2008, and this meant that I was in store for two years of on and off unemployment and instability. I was about to enter my “dark night of the soul.”

Well, as stupid a risk as that appears to have been, it would prove to be the most daring, and in turn the most rewarding I have ever taken. And by this point I had learned that the amount of reward we receive is directly proportionate to the amount of risk we take. This move across the country to California would change my life in dramatic ways, all for the better: it would lead to my discovery of Anusara yoga, which would save me from a very dark period; it would lead to a powerful “spiritual awakening,” which would lead to me being a writer right now; and it would lead to a series of jobs that would eventually lead me to San Francisco, and to the brilliant life that I now enjoy.

And this leads me to the latest (and hopefully best!) risk that I have taken. In January I lost my job at my second start-up, and I found myself at a crossroads. I could either continue to look for work in the corporate/start-up world, which had become my niche over the previous years, or I could make the very daring decision to follow my bliss and work at becoming an inspirational writer. On one hand I could choose the path that society says I should follow, the path of the stable career, salary and benefits; on the other hand I could choose to follow my heart into the unknown. Choosing the latter would go against the practical advice of everyone around me (including my parents), and it would absolutely require an ample amount of insanity. So which path do you think I took? If you’re reading this, I think you know the answer.

Since I made the fearless decision to follow my bliss and walk down the unknown path of the writer, in just three months I have launched my work in two different languages, and I have been beyond humbled to receive more than 5,000 fans in over 30 countries (now 25,000 fans in 35 countries!) ; all amazing souls who are supporting and encouraging me along my path.

So I ask you this: when you are standing at a crossroads and are faced with a major life decision, the question is “to risk or not to risk?”… You tell me.

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