Last summer, I took a leap of faith.
After a year of living in New York City, I decided to leave and go out on the road. I emptied my apartment, packed two bags, and bought a one-way train ticket to Montreal.
The idea came to me one evening while I was overlooking the dining room of a bar I was working at. Nothing particular happened. But the three words, not my life, were bouncing back and forth between my ears. This job was one of three currently on rotation. My legs felt tired, my mind felt tired, my heart felt tired of living.
That previous year, like many people trying to make it in the city, I schlepped from job to job. I worked in fashion, in restaurants, in prop houses, I even wallpapered bathrooms. Still, when I couldn't make the rent, I sold off my belongings. I would have done anything to make my dream of living in New York possible.
Except, the life I was living didn’t look at all like my dreams. Instead, I felt hammered with exhaustion to the point of indolence. But I couldn’t slow down. Soon, my want to avoid activity morphed into frustration and anger. I needed a change. A life which felt simpler, pure, and free.
My want for a simpler life had little to do with the choice to stay in or leave New York. What it had to do with was my want for a sense of freedom from the shadow of my heavy past. A past I’d been running from for far too long.
At a young age, I lived through some major trauma, the self-containment of which had become too much to bear. The tipping point was when, the year before my New York story, my father died and I spiraled into depression. Again, instead of seeking help, I pushed my feelings down and tried to seal them over with keeping myself busy. I moved around from place to place, trying to cope while life staggered and lurched around me. But that old adage is right: you are where ever you go.
On the outside, I looked as put together as anybody. Though, on the inside, my world was a wild, emotional landscape. A complicated terrain that I wasn’t gentle with because instead, I tended to it with self-limiting beliefs and doubt.
By the time I'd reached New York, I'd sabotaged myself more times than I could count. I'd quit jobs, destroyed relationships, and even tore down a beloved life overseas. I’d reached a point where I was no longer sure that life was worth living. But that night at the restaurant, I made a promise to do something different, something I hadn’t done before. I was ready to say yes to myself by claiming my past, and my future, as my own.
So often, we push through our pain by keeping ourselves busy. For me, keeping busy has been in its own way a defense against total collapse, a safety valve, and so it’s done me some good. But I’d reached a point where sustaining myself required something other than keeping busy. It felt as if I was existing in a state of deferred living, with two feet stuck in the mud. The mud of a past that I clung to with a strange, perverse persistence. Up until then, the words, let go, felt foreign and bitter on my tongue.
The noise of trying to hold myself, my life, together had reached its peak that year. I damaged friendships and experienced little productivity. My sense of self and esteem were shot.
Like many, I wanted to believe that I made it into adulthood unscathed. But I hadn't. And all avoiding my pain had done was cost me the ultimate price of self-abandonment.
When I left Brooklyn, I only had one intention — write. The plan was to write my way through my past with no idea of how things might turn out. I didn’t even set an end-date. Instead, I made an agreement with myself to feel my way through the experience. To sit and acknowledge each aching moment of pain, discomfort, and anxiety. To draw energy from moments of splendor. To surrender to the elegance of the here and now.
After Montreal, I followed my nose to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, where I finally allowed myself to grieve the loss of my mother thirteen years prior. And in the months following, I returned to Europe where I continued to confront my past. I saw people I hurt and people who hurt me while reaching deep down into myself for peace.
The time I've given myself has availed more gifts that I could have imagined. The experience of learning how to be self-reliant, and my own friend, has been profound. In addition, I’m learning how to reframe situations by taking responsibility for myself. And while I learn to lean into the robust experience of solitude, I am actively developing a language of compassion, forgiveness, and self-love.
Of all the poor decisions I’ve made in my lifetime, I’ve finally made a good one.
A full life is one that includes sorrow. But we can experience liberation from the complications of sorrow by accepting it. By moving through it, by dancing with it, by seeing beauty in the clouds. It is in this way that life can flow with ease, simplicity, and a gorgeous sense of plenty. Because the range of our humanness includes the grace of our fall.
Jocelyn M. Ulevicus is a writer, educator, and seeker — seeker of truth and beauty. Her work aims to assign a meaningful, accessible, and loving language to themes of loss, trauma, and heartache. To remind people that a poetic essence does exist in a world that is cruel and out of touch with our beginnings, our communion with nature, the earth, and ourselves.
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