7 years ago on this date, I moved from Florida to Los Angeles with just suitcase, a guitar, and big dreams intact. It has been truly incredible, experiencing my adult life fully in this city…watching and reflecting on the growth and radical change that has occurred from ages 17-24.
When I moved here in 2009, I had incredibly specific expectations for myself, and pretty much had the “10 year career plan” all figured out. If I’m being perfectly honest, it actually worked for the most part. But what confused me was my lack of happiness and fulfillment when I would reach a new milestone. This is where I learned that I had no choice but to grow and evolve. I learned that I wasn’t just placed on this earth to be a business person, but an artist. And the bits of type-A in me would have to wrestle with the wild, creative gypsy quite a bit, and quite ferociously. Who will win, the perfectionist or the free spirit?
Fast-forwarding a bit, around this time a year ago, the veil was torn and I realized my life was never going to be the same. That perhaps my wildest dreams and 10 year plan with great intentions wouldn’t come to fruition. That instead, my worst nightmares could…things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Losing a husband, home, family, friends, pretty much every dime I had to my name. Every ounce of my being felt tested and torn. My spirit was drained. My energy was minuscule. My heart was shattered. My body and immune system were beginning to fail.
In survival mode for almost a year, I never really knew where I’d be sleeping. My car? A cheap motel? Thank GOD for the incredible friends who generously took me in, showing me radical love through couches to sleep on and meals in my stomach when I had gone days sometimes surviving on protein bars and lukewarm cans of soup. These were my worst, hardest, gut wrenching days. But guess what, friends? They made me a better woman. And that dreadful season did, as I prayed and begged, finally come to a close…allowing a new one to begin.
That season taught me to seek joy in the now. To find gratitude in the seemingly simple pleasures of life…my dog and her patience with me dragging her all around…my parent’s cozy red flannel I kept on for comfort and a sense of home…authentic friendships…fighting for myself…fighting for God. It taught me that I don’t have to be a perfectionist anymore, and when life doesn’t have to be perfect, perhaps it can finally be good.
Today, I am running my own “business.” Actually, as amazing as that is, I hate how it sounds. I am running my own art. I am creating in ways I never knew I was capable of. I am smiling. I am proud of the woman in the mirror. I have a non profit. I have a home again. I have beautiful, authentic friendships. I can’t believe, even now, that last year happened. That I pushed through. That I chose joy. That I still chose God. That I chose to create.
Through the years, and especially through last year, I was sanctified by fire, not scarred. I love the woman I’ve become because I know what it means to lose her. And I fought mightily to become her. I know what it means to cry out to God, scream with sobs and snot as I’m on the floor alone. Begging for peace. Begging for understanding. I love God because I know what it means to fight him. To doubt massively. Worst of all, to know he’s there but wonder if he cares at all that I’m slipping away.
The past 7 years didn’t kill me.
They didn’t amputate my purpose.
The last year didnt take me down, either.
Instead, my faith, dreams, and belief in God, myself, and others is stronger than ever.
Dreams don’t die. They do sometimes pause. Creativity takes a back seat when you are in survival mode and fighting for your life. But you can’t let it slip away. Oh, please, don’t ever let it slip away. I promise if you hold on, and it’ll be hard, and it will hurt like hell, it’s so worth the wait and the fight. Because you win yourself. You find yourself. You get your voice. You own truth.
I’m 24 years old now. I am completely flawed and absolutely human. I am an artist. I am weird. I am me. I know what redemption means because it happened to me. I know what grace is because it transformed my life.
My point of this anniversary rant is to tell you that while life may not always go according to plan, and a lot may change, if you remain faithful and keep fighting, you’ll see that you step out of survival mode and cultivate a life instead…
You will thrive, not just survive. Bring it on, February 2016.