"The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are." -C.G. Jung
Ten minutes to touchdown and I couldn't sit still. I craned my neck to get a better view of the distant twinkling lights, the lights that I'd seen so many times before and that now beckoned me home like a beacon of hope and new possibility. I'd never been this anxious to land and run out into the airport lobby, searching desperately for long lost friends, the very ones who sent me off on my adventure 18 months ago.
I was finally going home.
The month leading up to our departure date I was irritable and restless, counting each and every hour until I would be back where I fit in, back where I had good friends, had family members close by, and a city that understood me. The months and months of physical isolation, of knowing there was no way back, only forward, had taken a toll on my spirit. I'd been down in the dumps in Guam, despite my beautiful Instagram pictures and my frequent island adventures. I was heartsick and I needed my home.
Matt shifted in his seat, examining the approaching lights. He turned to face me. His face was lit with excitement, a boy's eager innocence unveiling itself through his mature features. He clapped his hands on his thighs rhythmically, just as excited as I was.
I had wondered what this moment would feel like for months, weeks, days. I imagined how I would be feeling right in this very moment when I was on the flight out of America. I wondered who I would be, how I would feel, how I would see the world. Would I see it differently? Would I be humble and patient? Would I look down on my friends and family with disdain? Would I understand them even better or even less? Would I be a weirdo? An earthen, spiritual, hippie warrior goddess? Would I have caught malaria and come back with a fever-fried brain?
Now, as I sat in my beloved tribal leggings and dream catcher shirt, with my head half dreaded and my skin bronzed, I realized that I felt totally and utterly different and impossibly and irrevocably exactly the same. I was changed, yes. But the change was not as I thought it would be.
I was more me than I'd ever been in my life. But I was equally the most comfortable and uncomfortable in my own skin than I'd ever experienced before. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but the cognitive dissonance I was feeling had been keeping me up late at night for the last few months.
I also realized, in that very moment as we were circling the runway, that the weight of the responsibility of individuality had crashed into me and had settled upon my shoulders.
I began to realize that I no longer had popular opinions or common ideas and that they might not be well received by friends and family. An onslaught of scenarios of rejection and ridicule plagued my subconscious, moving in and setting up shop for a long term visit.
I pushed this thought to the side and let my excitement propel me through the next few weeks, soaking in all the things I missed about California. I saw old faces, revisited favorite spots, and settled into my beautiful, artistic new home.
Unbeknownst to me, over the course of the next two months, I unconsciously diminished who I had become while abroad by eagerly wearing my old clothes (I can still feel the wave of relief I felt when I opened my suitcase of tucked away treasures and held my old jeans to my chest), the ones which no longer represented me, by hiding my dreads, and by downplaying what I'd gone through, the things that I'd seen.
I unconsciously ran back to my old lifestyle and habits, drinking to alleviate stress and worry, complaining and criticizing. I felt a great chasm open and I tumbled through it to darkness, my new and authentic self falling with it.
For the last two months, I have lived in a state of near constant fear of what people had to say, how they felt about my life and my decisions, sensitive to their disapproval and misunderstanding. I was especially sensitive to the flinging of their insecurities, fears, and doubts disguised as concern ("just be careful because....") onto me. I had enough fear swallowing my attention as it was, I couldn't handle theirs too.
I started keeping to myself, stopped using social media, and spent a LOT of hours in front of the television, willing it all to go away. I stopped taking care of myself, stopped painting my nails, stopped showering as often, and tried to numb and self medicate as much as possible.
I retreated as far as there is to retreat, using July as an incubation period, nurturing and healing myself back to health. And this period of hibernation and isolation only led to self-examination. And this is what I discovered:
My journey through the world was a journey through the layers I'd added on over the years that I called "me." It was a trek through the vacuous and vicious jungle of my inner most fears, insecurities and doubts. It was a road to transformation, lined with raging fires and debilitating personal disasters.
And I had to walk through the flames to make it out again.
When I look back on where I've been, I see moments of personal triumphs and defeats, not cities and rivers and mountains I visited. I see ugly, raw truths that were exposed to me over the rice paddies in Hampi and in the dusty, bumpy capital of Nepal. I see the pain, the anguish, the moments of utter despair from my haunting past, and only flickers of rickshaws, cows, garbage, circus schools, and lush foliage.
I also see the moments of pure illumination, pure golden haze in an ash-strewn venture. I see moments of enlightenment, perseverance, and accomplishments. I see unadulterated ecstasy, the nirvana of conquering my own mind, of abolishing demons and fears by shining the light on the depths of my mental closets.
I don't see the towering green mountains of the Himalayas or the rooftop in Rishikesh overlooking the Ganga where I read and read and read.
I see the story I wrote in the first dark and dingy Ashram, I see the beginning of my journey as a writer, the first rush of exhilaration upon reading my own work. I feel the feelings I felt, the mixed jumble of alphabet letters that were once full emotions sloshing around my gut, driving contractions of anxiety through my shoulders.
I feel the belief of knowing this wasn't just "a trip" and that this "trip" would not come to an end like everyone else believed. It was the beginning of my journey, the very first step in a staircase of many, to diverge from the majority and truly become who I am meant to be.
I feel the lightness of having released so many truths, having slew so many dragons, having given myself the room to grow and breathe. I feel the lightness from shedding all the layers of mainstream thoughts and opinions, the heaviness of really examining ideas and concepts for my own self, and the fullness of having allowed my true essence to shine through and guide me to my final destination.
With the blue moon in full effect, the mysterious nature of my own mind was revealed to me and this is what I birthed: I am an artist and I accept myself. I am free, no matter where in the world I am, no matter if I am imprisoned or enslaved or in jail, I am free. It is not something that anyone can give to me, it is what I AM. It is an innate quality and it starts and ends with me.
There was some deep, hidden block that made me reject my art, my self expression, my vulnerability, my willingness to live fully. Something embedded deep judged, critiqued, ridiculed, isolated, and tortured me these last 15 years of my life. It told me I wasn't good enough, I wasn't cool enough, I wasn't pretty enough. It kept me from my own greatness, holding me prisoner, disconnecting me from vitality, from the true source of Life. But I wasn't backing down this time, I wasn't afraid of it this time. I faced it, with its snarling teeth and jagged, sharp claws. I told it there was no way it was going to win and I wrangled it to the ground when it leapt. I conquered it and stood over it, my foot pinning it to the floor. And as soon as I looked down at my foe, it vanished, for it never really existed in the first place.
I conquered fear.
And I'm here to tell you that I'm no longer ashamed of myself.
I'm no longer afraid to stand tall in my body and in my personality and spirit. I'm no longer holding myself back from what I will be. I'm no longer letting nonexistent future scenarios dictate how I live my life. I went to India to conquer fear and it took me coming all the way home to realize it doesn't exist anywhere outside my own head. And now I'm free.
I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a hippie. I am a revolutionary. I am a woman. I am a goddess. I am a soulful spirit, aching everyday to be expressed. I am seductive. I am powerful. I am kind. I am generous. I am nurturing. I am a mother. I am a maiden. I am a crone. I am. I am. I am.
Namaste, you beautiful souls.