When I graduated at the end of four transformative and special years at UCLA, I still didn’t have a clue what I was going to focus on or what I wanted to do with my life. At a time when I was “supposed” to know what direction I was headed, I only knew five things – I wanted to live abroad, I wanted to speak languages, I wanted to meet interesting people, I wanted to work for myself, and I wanted be creative. I had a deep sense that I would work my way into finding the things I was meant for, but I really had no idea how they would manifest.
Cut to 15 years later and here I am, living in Guatemala with my husband and 2 children, speaking Spanish, running my own business, and working directly with Mayan weavers to create original handwoven textiles. For the most part, it’s just my life and I live it like anyone else, doing what I have to do to get through a typical day of work while raising two tiny children – sitting in traffic, running in circles, paying bills, the usual. Other days, I stop and look at it all from the outside-in and reflect on how far I’ve come. It is in those moments of reflection that I am so proud that I trusted myself enough, for so many years, to have made the life I am living a reality. Although I didn’t know what it looked like, I believed that it would happen.
For most of my 20s, I was in search of “what to do with my life”. I struggled, I succeeded, I tried and I failed. I was horribly impatient to find THE THING that I was meant to do and I often forced answers when they weren’t ready to be given. I stubbornly refused to get a 9-5 job because it felt like a trap and instead I did all the creative jobs I could conceive of, meanwhile feeling insecure and worried about how I would continue to support myself financially. I often felt lost, like I was probably wasting my time trying to dream outside of the box.
But, with time and experience, I eventually began to see and trust that things work themselves out, doors open, people are generous with their time and help, and opportunity presents itself when we are ready for it. Although I was still impatient most of the time, eager to find my “calling”, I also began to understand that at the very least, envisioning myself doing the things that made me feel purposeful, inspired, and successful was a really useful form of focusing my energy. Those years were such a test of my patience, my passions and my resilience, but most of all, they taught me how to really listen to my instincts, envision what I want, and do what feels true to myself even if I don’t know exactly where it will lead me.
By no means do I have it all figured out – my life is hardly perfect. As a mother, a wife, and a business owner, I constantly question myself and wonder if what I’m doing is the smartest move, the best practice, the right method. However, I can confidently say now that for me the beauty of living what I like to think of as an “authentic life”, means following my heart, trying out what feels right (even when I don’t know what the outcome will be), doing my best, asking for help, being vulnerable, sharing success and failure with the people I love, and always showing appreciation for the experiences I am living. I continually envision the life and career that I want and I encourage those who ask me how I got to where I am, to do the same. Sometimes envisioning the job or life that inspires you can be as simple as one sentence or a single photo that speaks to you deeply, that ignites a light in you. Write that sentence down, hang that photo up, put it somewhere where you’ll be reminded of it but be sure to move it once and a while so it doesn’t just become white noise. The practice of listening to your instincts can be hard at first, but the more we are aware of what feels right and visceral as opposed to simply doing what we think is expected of us, the clearer that inner voice becomes.
From time to time, when I need a good reminder, I always go back to a quote that has been one of my favorites since I was 21 years old and which reminds me to trust the process of living life authentically. I hope it may for you, too.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek the answers now, which cannot be given to you yet because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke