Do you remember being a kid and feeling like you could be anything and go anywhere you wanted? Do you remember feeling that there were no boundaries? When we are children, we are completely in tune with our gut instincts, our inner voice. Children are usually great indicators of people and situations Generally if a child who is outgoing seems uncomfortable around someone or in a situation you can be sure there is something off, there is a reason they are feeling that way. They don't see people's differences like we do as adults, befriending any race, gender, etc until they are taught to think otherwise. We lose all of that over time, but sometimes, we discover it again. I've realized there actually aren't many boundaries if we really want something. It's all in our heads. We over think, we worry, we think of all the reasons we "shouldn't" instead of listening to any inner voice telling us we "should". We just have to let go of our fears. We spend our childhood being told what to do, who to be, how to act and what to believe. If we're lucky enough, we figure out that's all an illusion and we connect with our deepest self again, that piece we lost along the way to find our purpose. We listen to that voice, those gut instincts that tell us who we truly are, what we truly want, and where we want to be.
When you spend time with children, you see that wonder, that "sky has no limits" attitude and you also see purity. Children don't innately judge others or develop fears of crossing boundaries (or staying "safely" away from them). They are taught to do these things. We are all taught these things, by society, by our families, friends, teachers. We accept their beliefs as our own. (And, really, are they their true beliefs or just the ones taught to THEM?)
The last two years has been quite a ride. Hell, my whole life has been quite a ride. I've been through many struggles, some within myself and some caused by others and experiences. I saw the depths of depression as a teenager, I went to funerals for friends in high school, at a young age, I cared for one of the most important people in my life while her brain was slowly deteriorating. I watched her take her last breath 9 years later. I felt like a failure WAY more times than not because life never seemed to be "working out" for me and I couldn't seem to find my happy. I couldn't seem to figure out what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be. This was frustrating since I felt I was a good person, constantly giving to others and trying my best (but, alas, I was not ever giving to myself or trying for me.) I've loved, I've lost, I've seen pain. Many people can relate to many of these things. It's just LIFE. I made choices in my life, like anyone. They were never the easy ones. We all know this poem and I have related to it time and time again.
Two years ago, I experienced something most people haven't and probably never will since there's a better chance of being struck by lightning. I watched two bombs go off on a street in my city right in front of me. I've said it before and there are always these quotes you see floating around about how life can change in the blink of an eye. All of those experiences, those struggles I had before were gradual or if they were sudden, it was very different from this. We all change constantly which is a good thing and we will for the rest of our lives. Sometimes these changes are drastic and fast. The blink of an eye.
Then, another message started coming to me, first quiet and subtle and then it was like the universe said, "Okay, you're not getting this. Now, I have to smack you in the face with it." I was randomly seeing blogs and articles on people who changed their lives. They literally up and moved away from jobs and life to build a new one. It's something I've always thought about and talked about. My friends and family are probably pretty convinced I could leave for Italy and never return one of these days. I won't. I actually love my people too much to move far enough away that I can't easily pop home for a long weekend.
Let me just say, that as much as I post things on social media (running 4 IGs and 3 FBs for two businesses and personal), I don't look at much. I don't scroll through my news feeds anymore. I simply don't have time and quite frankly, I don't care. I don't mean that in a bad way. I just got sick of seeing the drama, the anger, the trivial things. I still do sometimes go through and I do go check out pictures of people I care about. But most times, I don't look at all, or I scroll maybe 10 statuses down in the newsfeed and then close it up. So, unless it pops up at the top, I don't see it. All of these articles popped up at the top, a few were literally the first thing as I opened my app.
The first piece is that the universe has been preparing me to make this decision for a while. Not by giving me a six figure income and making my life a piece of financial cake. Instead, for the past two years, the universe has been stripping me bare.
But, I think that was the point. What better way to start to completely rebuild yourself and your life than to first feel utterly broken? The universe has literally been giving me an opportunity to start over, to find myself, my purpose in life. In the last two years, I've found myself feeling raw, completely raw, emotionally, mentally, and since I've been sick, physically, literally rebuilding every piece of myself. My friend actually mentioned one day about how I've started over with eating, that it's like when you have to introduce foods one at a time to a baby so you know if they can tolerate it. YES. My rebuilding my digestive system is literally like starting from scratch.
Last summer, I had to move. I had a great, huge apartment in Charlestown for an amazing price. My sister and her boyfriend lived with me. They were moving and I decided, I had to as well. I had been hit so hard being out of work many times over the year after the bombings. That's the downside to working for yourself. You don't get sick time, there are no benefits, you rely on YOU and you alone to bring in money, especially when you're single. There's no one else to pick up the slack. And I don't ask anyone for anything, so I managed it on my own and was barely making it. So, I had to allow myself to save some money for a while and live with a friend in her townhouse. She was looking for a roommate anyway and I decided it was the best decision. It was a hard choice and one that came at a difficult time, right around the first bombing anniversary, when I was a complete mess and still trying to pull myself out of darkness. Then, I went on a trip. In 2013, I was supposed to leave for Ireland for 17 days on April 27. For obvious reasons, I couldn't go. I couldn't even manage going for coffee without shaking and sometimes crying, I certainly couldn't go on one of my solo adventures. So, last year I decided to use the flight to go to a place that I felt connected to, a place I felt safe and happy, Cinque Terre Italy (with a stop in Rome for my sister who came with me). As I sat in the harbor of a small fishing village at sunset, I felt peace for the first time in 13 months. My brain didn't feel like it was going nonstop, the tightness in my chest (that had basically been constant) seemed to disappear and I felt completely calm in mind, body and spirit. I realized I needed to travel again, to reconnect with myself, with nature, with the world. I spent some time when I wasn't sick last summer (I was very sick with a mono-like virus for 6 weeks) going away with friends, spending time at the lake with family, just enjoying life. Then I went back to Italy, my first trip alone since the bombings. I completely reconnected with myself, my passions and met some great people along the way and it was all as it was supposed to be. That inner voice, those instincts had already started to become strong again.
I then was trying to go back for 3 weeks to spend time in Italy and other countries. This was maybe me being delusional since I was already sick. I just sort of hoped it would get better fast. Fast forward to January and I had to decide to not do this trip I'd been looking forward to for 7 months and focus on my health. However, it wasn't the right time. The universe had a plan. Though it's still complicated and I'm not going to be completely better for quite a while, things have become more stable as I continue making a huge commitment to my healing journey. As I read that blog mentioned above, I immediately felt "this is it. I need to go take a sabbatical even if it's only a month. I need to go spend that time in that place that brought me back my peace."
Now, the question I asked myself and that one other person asked. Am I running away? The answer is NO. Last year, when I came home and thought, "I should go to Italy for a while and maybe I'll move there", I was trying to run away. I was still terrified to be here. I wanted to be anywhere else and when I found my peace over there, I wanted to just go back. Now, I am at peace here, despite all I have going on. I feel a sense of relief, freedom, and happiness that I've never felt before. I do not plan to move there and wouldn't want to be quite that far from my people, my life here (though, I could move somewhere not that far). So, a short sabbatical is good. It just feels right, like it was the first (well, maybe like the 4th) thing in two years that made complete sense. The other 3 were the way I realized the bombings and all I'd gone through were what was supposed to happen in a way, the purpose in my healing and helping others, and another experience I had last year. But, NOTHING has ever felt so right down to my core since I've made this decision and the logistics are literally just falling into place.
So, I've been spending my time purging much of what was left of my "things" and putting others in storage. I have been stripped financially (2k a month on food, supplies and supplements will do that on top of running two businesses and regular life expenses) and will be staying in my sister's guest room for a bit. Then, I will take 6 weeks off, I will travel to Italy for about 5 of those weeks. How am I doing this financially? I don't know completely yet, but I'm fortunate enough to have someone to help me out if I do need it, someone very level headed and protective, who is 100% supportive of this and will help me make it a reality. This financial issue may stop people and I'm sure I'd get the question, "well if you're broke, why would you go to Italy?" My answer: Because it's what I'm supposed to do right now and there is literally nothing here now to hold me back. I will actually spend less money there on food and expenses, and I will make some money while there as well. I have already been in touch with friends over there to be sure I can do my special diet and do some family photo shoots and photo walks for tourists, so I can bring some money in. One friend also found me a whole apartment extremely cheap -like $2000 less than if I booked something online (just one benefit to establishing friendships in other places). Since the point is to take time off and for myself, I will not work a lot but will be sure to bring in money while there. My close friends and family members who know about it have been hugely supportive, some even actually saying after I told them that "wow, I don't know why but as you were telling me that, I literally felt it in me that this is right for you."
So, I will go to Italy, I will do some family photo shoots like I said above, I will also be working on a personal project, and most important, I will connect with myself, away from all of my "stuff" both material and not. I will connect with nature by hiking, sitting near the ocean, maybe some gardening. I will meet new people and experience the simple life of a small fishing village.
As I have come to realize, there are things so much more important than money and "things" and worrying about every aspect of life. I already knew this but now it's so much more clear. Sure, I like some nice things and my business requires me to have expensive things, but for the most part, I want simple. I want to spend my money, time and energy enjoying this life while I have it.
This trip won't be 100% easy. Financially, it's difficult. I have to plan and make sure I can do the special diet I'm on without the ease of the supplies and things I have here. I could be alone a lot which can be difficult at times when you're traveling alone. But, I always meet people, both locals and tourists from around the world. I love it. There's nothing like meeting and forming connections, even if temporary with people from all corners of the world. I also think it's a great opportunity to continue being happy with just myself, that I'm enough and I don't NEED anyone else. I already have that here. I I work from home, I spend a lot of time alone. I balance that out with seeing friends regularly but I also don't mind it. I never feel "lonely" and hope I don't in Italy either, but if I do, I'll use it as an opportunity to face that and overcome it. I believe we should never feel lonely and that it's different from being alone. If we are truly happy with ourselves, if we've faced all of our "demons", being alone can be a beautiful thing. None of this is just easy. I, like everyone else, go back and forth daily about my decisions, logistics, I get all "in my head" but I am good at pulling myself back and it always brings me back to that voice.
So, that's it. I have been given a chance to start mostly fresh. That includes purging in many areas of my life both physically and not, making some changes to my biz (which I'll announce when that time comes). The way my life changed fast, that blink of an eye, was not a choice but accepting it and how I've chosen to deal with it has been. It's not the easy road. It's been pretty fucking hard (excuse my language). For two weeks, while packing/purging, I sat on my floor and cried, until I just stopped and accepted it all. So, it's been hard. It still is at times, but I don't let it get me down. I feel it, I accept it and I push forward. I went through that stage of it, I let it consume me a bit, I let myself feel sad and angry for what I've been through. I still do sometimes but never "stay there". I think I was allowed that. But, I also accept it and have along the way. I talk about it all because it's quite simply a big part of who I am now. I deal with this illness every single day. I sort of need people to know I'm still sick, be aware of what is happening, so they can be supportive (or not) and also so I am bringing awareness to the fact that just because you can't see or understand it, it's very much there, just as I did last year with the PTS. It's consuming in it's own way, but, in the last couple of weeks, things have become more clear, less consuming. It's as if a switch inside of me was flipped. Acceptance. Of EVERYTHING. No major worries or concerns about what how things are going to go. This is all leading me to amazing things, I know it deep down inside. Who knows what this trip and the other changes I'm dealing with will bring but I'm open to it all.
My advice to anyone is LISTEN. Listen to that voice, do things you have always wanted to do, find a way, and follow your heart.
Thanks for reading.