From the ashes

If you could reset your life, what would you do? If you could change your job, your relationship, your home, where would you go? Who would you be? And what would your life look like moving forward?

Few of us ever allow ourselves to think about this kind of scenario as adults. Upending your existence and making drastic, lasting changes that alter your place in the world are made difficult by the obvious day-to-day responsibilities of life – Finances and money. Love relationships and family. And maybe just the overwhelming feeling of “I can’t possibly do that” because, well, changes – big, 180-degree type changes – are scary and really fucking hard.

While I didn’t see it in the big picture at the time, in 2018 I made a series of incendiary decisions that started to burn at the pillars of my life, slowly and quietly undoing the very things I had for years looked at as me, my very proof of existence. In June I left my job, recognizing finally that the environment I had been unnecessarily mentally and emotionally depleting myself to keep afloat for the past nearly four years was at best, not fixable, and at worst, toxic to my soul. In November, I stopped drinking thus ending one of the most consistent “relationships” of my adult life. And in December, I struck the final match that ultimately burned my world down to its foundation: I broke up with my boyfriend of almost four years. It was not a surprise, though its ending came after an abrupt, almost physically startling realization that more than anything I want to have a baby. And the then swift and simultaneous clarity that our relationship was broken and could not fundamentally give me what I want most in the world: a family.

And so, in 2018, I left. I burned everything I knew and understood to be fundamental mile-markers of who I am into ashes and dust and walked away from a life I had been trying desperately to make work for more years than I would like to admit. I closed my eyes, walked past the glowing embers, feeling blindly through the deep, dark smoke, and emerged on the other side into a clear blue great unknown.

It’s a big leap, going from the place you thought you were into this; finding yourself alone in a wilderness of your own creation, trying to shed this skin of expectation and values you’ve worn almost your entire life which are just no longer helpful or useful to who you are or would like to be. This is the in-between. It’s either the land of infinite opportunity or the existential abyss. And the most terrifying thing of all is that you’re the only one who gets to decide which one of those definitions ultimately lays the foundation the rest of your life.

I am facing in the direction of unbridled opportunity but it’s scary and new and there is a recurring voice screaming WHAT THE FUCK running though my head many, many times a day. But, as my grandma would have said, “them’s the breaks” – this is life. And there’s no qualifying that as bad or good or otherwise. It is a season and it is as necessary as it is temporary.

For now, what I can tell you is that at the moment (on a Monday afternoon in a coffee shop on the northern California coast) I am more vulnerable and emotionally unarmored than I have ever been in my entire adult life. Freedom from any sort of expectation is the source of simultaneous excitement and terror – I can do anything I want and be anything I want in a world that is infinite in possibility and acceptance. As a start, I gave myself a small gift of grace and moved far north to live near the sea for a few months, a dream I’ve had for many years. Every day, I walk on the beach with my tiny dog, past high cliffs, ancient redwoods, and wide rivers that have no expectations of the world around them other than to just be.

When a fire burns hot, it leaves only ashes behind. And though small, those tiny grey particles have to go somewhere. Into the ground. Or up into the wind. Or out upon the sea. One way or another, they are trying to find their way back into the world. They are trying to reset, to find a home, in order to make way for a new, great, glorious and most importantly, yet unknown life.

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