6 years ago I did something that terrified me...
I travelled solo to Europe. At the time, I lived alone in Los Angeles, but traveling alone is something entirely different. Traveling alone--particularly in a country where people are culturally and linguistically different than you--forces you to face parts of yourself you don't necessarily want to (but should). Despite living alone, I kept my life filled with many friends and activities. However, when I'd return to my "sanctuary," I was forced to sit with the person I spent quite a bit of time, energy and planning to avoid... I had an adorable (but baaad) Yorkie, Ziggy. But a dog, it turns out, is not a replacement for human companionship.
I had a hard time being by myself. I often fell victim to bouts of extreme loneliness that found me getting stuck in my thoughts. I'd self-medicate with wine and writing, pretending I was Hemingway...but things were kind of a mess for him, weren't they?! They were for me, too.
To make matters worse, I was caught up on a guy who didn't want to be with me... I didn't even want to be with me, so why would someone else?
I didn't like myself very much and knew something had to change if I was ever going to...so I did the only thing that made sense...I bought a plane ticket to Paris, booked an Airbnb (which was pretty new at the time) and ventured on an Eat, Pray, Love sort of existential, self-exploratory trip.
I wined and dined myself, visited all the museums, learned the metro system, met up with a dance friend who was working with a dance company in Germany, kissed Oscar Wilde's gravestone, then took a train to London to visit friends there for a few days before heading back home. My trip wasn't entirely solo, but I spent most of the time alone, surrounded by baguettes and a language I only vaguely understand (not conversationally).
Fast forward to 2017. I am married. My life is pretty full and I spend most nights with my husband beside me. Since leaving advertising a month ago, though, to complete nutrition certification (which I just did!) and Dietetics pre-recs, I spend most of my days alone.
As I build a new career and shape what my daily schedule and life outside of marriage will look like (because I firmly believe we need a purpose that's our own to remain complete, whole people with or without a companion), I am spending more time alone than I have in years and it's NOT easy.
I'm not naturally that social, gregarious person who can network up a storm. I'm not the best at keeping in touch or reaching out first. I also don't like going to things alone. But as I build my new career, I have to. I went to one wellness event with a friend which was awesome, but also a crutch for me. I think it's important to keep our RL friendships separate from work. I created a separate social media account for my wellness pursuits for this reason. Sure there's a little crossover/promotion that needs to happen-- because when you're starting a business, your friends and family are not only your cheerleaders and major source of emotional support...they're also probably going to be your first customers/clients.
That said, I don't think dragging friends along to wellness events is something good for them, me, or my business. So I'm going to them solo now; revisiting that uncomfortable, but necessary exploration of self, confronting my social insecurities and awkwardness, and talking to people....asking questions about how they started their businesses...asking for advice.
What I've found is that most people are really open, giving, and grateful, especially in the wellness space.
It was mentioned at the Love Beauty Wellness festival I attended yesterday that people rarely land on wellness as a career because they aspired to it. They land on wellness, usually, out of something painful, difficult, or eye opening.
For me, it was a combination of all three: my history with an eating disorder, my father suffering from, and beating, pancreatic cancer, and the realization that I can change the outcome of my current and future self-- which includes my susceptibility to genetic health issues-- by taking care of myself, through ongoing knowledge and practice.
It seems so simple, right?! Self care...something that should be innate in all of us. Like breathing or going to the bathroom...but it's not. I think many people want to invite self care into their lives but don't know where to start. Or they think it requires a long list of rules and regulations. Or they don't want to give up certain vices that provide them happiness on some level.
People who go into wellness aren't exempt from self-judgement, insecurities and engaging in actions that contradict self care-- we're human.
I think what separates us is a strong desire, not to be perfect, but to try to take better care of ourselves every day. We develop knowledge and tools that help us achieve this most of the time, and we want to share that with others; to show them that wellness, self-care-- self love, really-- is always available to us. And that we deserve it.
My 27 year old self didn't realize she was embarking on a journey that would serve as a catalyst for a much larger life journey and purpose...one that saw me leaving one job for another...and then another...and so on...learning from this person and that one...growing up a bit (and over crippling road blocks I created for myself)...meeting the man of my dreams who sees more in me than I often do...and finally realizing that what I love most of all is love, in all of its forms. Self care is one very large facet of that-- the better I am to myself, the more open and able I am to be good to others. That's how true love works.
Health and wellness is about so much more than what we put in our bodies. It's about how we treat ourselves. How we talk to and about ourselves. How we handle our fears and insecurities...understanding that we're not alone with them, even if we are.
I still get lonely sometimes. Most of my friends have day jobs, so it's not like I can go grab lunch or do a day hike during the week to break up the day. I'm sure in time, as I meet more people in the wellness space and develop friendships with similar entrepreneurs, that this will change. But I have to confront my fears and insecurities to get there. I have to stay the course and keep marketing my brand on social media, initiating more conversations with people than they're starting with me...this part is the most difficult. It's so easy to get caught in a web of thoughts...why would this person want to talk to me? And you know what, maybe they don't. Maybe I'm too pushy, aggressive...or any of the unfavorable adjectives I often place on myself...but I have to try...every day. I have to try to be kinder to myself. To love myself. To take care of myself. To challenge myself.
My husband can't do that for me. My family can't do that for me. My friends and adorable (but still baaaad) Yorkie can't do that for me.
I have to do it for myself. So I flip the internal conversation...and make myself a smoothie with all of the healthy things in it...and step inside the simultaneously awkward, lovely and scary world of self acceptance...
And I eat...and I pray...and I love.