5 Things I’ve Learned from my Solo Cross Country Move

Yesterday marked my 6 month Californiaversary. Each day that has passed has solidified the fruits of my labor. This is what I have been dreaming of, since I made my AIM screen name calixdreamiin in 2003. I’ve always talked the talk, but actually walking the walk, it’s a scary leap to take!

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Here are 5 lessons that have made themselves available throughout my mindful meditations on these past 6 months, and everything that has led me here: 

  1. Fuck your comfort zone

Excuse my sass, but a born and bred New Yorker can’t help but to curse when feeling passionate, and escaping my comfort zone has been an endeavor I’ve passionately pursued as my remedy to overcome a life of anxiety. 

Being a student of psychology has allowed me to open my eyes, and have some cathartic experiences leading me to understand emotions I’ve masked for many years— with anxiety being the band leader.

If anxiety is like praying for what you don’t want, what happens when you focus on what you do want? 

That mindset shift made me stop and think, what is it that I want? If the things that you want scare the living hell out of you— good. This means you need to jump out of your comfort zone to go get ‘em. 

So, little by little, I hopped, I leaped, and then I jumped, landing exactly where I wanted to be. Building my comfortable nest in a world outside of my comfort zone. What seemed so far out of reach is now the life that I’m celebrating today.

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2. Those who love you will love you no matter the distance

Want to know who’s cheering for you? Who’s learning from you? Who is inspired by you? Start living for you, and trust the love and friendships that you’ve fostered. 

Being further in distance has allowed my relationships with my friends and family back home to grow stronger in depth. 

I hate the “I’m busy” excuse. We’re all busy. But you prioritize the things that are important to you. 

The people who want to know how things are going. The ones who you’ll text on your good days, and maybe even more importantly, on bad ones. Whether they’re down the block or a 6 hour flight away, those are your true friends. 

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3. Don’t take no for an answer 

Last spring I visited San Diego, and had an appointment at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness, where I brazenly walked in and said, Hi, I’d like to work here. 

Well… that’s not really how things work. 

Could I have been discouraged that I didn’t so easily get what I wanted? Of course. But rather than getting what I wanted, I got something so much better— an opportunity to dig deeper.

In learning the businesses who were partnered with the center, I found Owaves— the app that not only helps me schedule my life, but through conversation and relationship building, had led to a position that was curated just for me. A position where I can not only bring my research to life, but am able to coach college students about media mindfulness. 

Sometimes no is the best thing someone can tell you. It allows you to think twice about what you really want, why you want it, and how you’re going to get there. 

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4. Surround yourself with the people you want to be like

The owner of my gym has ran 100 mile marathons on every continent. The CEO of the company I work for is an MD/MBA. My landlord is a woman, and my closest friend here is studying for her bar exam.

I came here to level up. In order to do so, you’ve got to surround yourself with others who are leveling up in their own lives. 

They say you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with, so choose your circle wisely. 

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5. You are so fucking capable 

I’ve traveled solo more times than I can count, but this is my very first time living by myself. The thought of it kept me up some nights. Am I really going to be able to make it? How will I be able to balance finishing my dissertation, with working, having a social life, and maintaining a fit lifestyle? 

If you want something, you make it happen. 

Physically, emotionally, financially, you are capable. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re a coward, a bully, and are only trying to dull your mf sparkle. 

Six months later, here I am. In love with the life that I’ve created for myself, and the circle I’ve surrounded myself with (near and far). I’m grateful for the hard moments and dark times that have allowed me to shift my focus to the light, leading me to exactly where I needed to be, when I needed to be here. 

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Why I Travel

Traveling serves many purposes. It allows for a chance to see the world outside of your hometown perspective. It gives people the opportunity for vacation, and gives those working in the field of tourism a job. For me, traveling has become something different.

Travel has become a prescription for my mental health.

The first 18 years of my life were spent fighting demons, both internal and external. Mental health was never a concern of mine, because I had already accepted the fact that my home, my reality, and my “comfort zone” would always be one of mental anguish. One where a good day is “just good enough.”

That’s a really sad reality for a someone to accept. Let alone a child, an adolescent, or a young adult.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and let me tell you, I’m pretty damn strong. I feel proud to tell my story, because it is one of perseverance, of self awareness and self discovery. It is a story of using everything in your power to change your reality, in order to change a mentally unhealthy life, to a life of flourishing, growth, and mental wellness.

The best decision I’ve ever made was going to school for psychology. I would have never sought help otherwise, because my reality was my norm. I didn’t understand how starved for positive mental health that I was, until I learned the true definition of mental wellness. Of abnormal psychology. Of mental abuse.

I’ll never forget the day I left my classroom in tears. The day my professor defined and described my home, my family, and my life, straight out of a textbook. I nearly vomited when I realized all the lies I was forcing myself to believe. I was faking happiness for 18 years.

After speaking with my professor, the wheels that moved the rest of my life began to trek forward. In 2011, my new life began. I sought the help that I needed. The help my family needed. I learned that it is not ok to be mentally abused. Ain’t that a funny thought.

Parents are just people. We’re born under this notion that parents are suppose to shower us with unconditional love. But what if you have a parent that can’t love them self? Or a parent that loves them self too much that there’s no room for anyone else. What if you have a parent with a caring, appeasing soul, born under the notion that they are suppose to do whatever it takes to make their spouse happy. Even if their spouse is incapable of happiness. What becomes of a child raised in such an environment? What happens when a child is told not to tell?

I am what happens.

After 18 years of being constantly criticized, of suffering threats, walking on eggshells, and feeling the weight of a parent’s regular suicidal threats on my shoulders, I learned that this was not the life that I deserved. That is not a life anyone deserves. And man, what a powerful realization that was.

So, why do I travel?

Sure, I escaped the mental prison I once existed in. But such a hellish reality comes with repercussions. Anxiety is a very real part of my life. Once I was able to actually focus on my own mental health, I learned that anxiety is one of the building blocks of what has made Lauren, Lauren. It was one of those “a ha!” moments of that’s what that feeling is!

One of my favorite quotes about anxiety is that anxiety is like praying for what you don’t want. It’s a constant worst case scenario playing in your mind on loop. It’s a constant worst case scenario playing in your mind on loop. It’s a constant worst case scenario playing in your mind on loop.

I began to test myself, pushing myself further and further out of my comfort zone, until I was on a plane from JFK to LAX with a 2 month solo agenda. I have never felt so alive. I finally felt free to be me. Nothing was holding me back.

I travel because I am strong, brave, and capable. I travel because there is such beauty in this natural world, and I deserve to experience it. I travel to make up for lost time, for those 18 years that I forced a smile on my face, as I carried the weight of my parent’s personality disorder upon my shoulders.

If you are reading this and any of my words feel all too familiar, if you are living a life of accepting abuse, pain, and anguish, and have been forced to believe that you deserve it.. I am telling you, you are so much more than your circumstance. It’s never too late to seek the help that can set you free. Let 2018 be the year that your new life begins.

Happy World Mental Health Day. I love you, life.

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