WLHQ: Gratitude Cocktails
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ~ Marcel Proust
There’s something to say about a friend who’s willing to be tear-jerkingly honest with you, in a crowded bar, over a fizzy cocktail. I met Jay through a mutual friend nearly two years ago, and have been enjoying his companionable advice and words of practicality ever since. Our relationship is predictable in a comforting way-we provide each other with the occasional and much-needed pep talk. As the cheerleading pom-poms get passed between us, we cover everything from the menial pick-me-ups, like getting each other amped up to go running and not be flabby couch-potatoes, to the big, emotional meltdowns, like when Jay let me slobber all over his shoulder during a recent boyfriend breakup. He hugged me until I stopped crying, patted my back, and bought me way too many tequila drinks. Friendship, rah-rah!
Not too long ago, Jay’s pep talk was more of a “talking-to,” in the aforementioned crowded bar, with the aforementioned fizzy cocktail. Like any human, I despise being lectured. But in this instance, as Jay deconstructed my woes with his wise, no-bullshit approach, I was surprisingly taken aback rather than angry, as I knew he was absolutely right. Our conversation that night all boiled down to the dangers of feeling entitled, and the cost of an inflated ego. And I needed to learn to let go of both.
I celebrated my 30th birthday last month, and was stupidly happy about it. I probably haven’t rejoiced as hard, since perhaps joining the double-digits at age 10. Most of my 20s were spent worrying about being a more “responsible adult.” I constantly gave myself a hard time for not having everything figured out on my own. For me, being an adult meant being able to afford a decent and comfortable life in NYC without the help of others. It made me frustrated and embarrassed when I had to ask my parents for help paying rent during college. I was an older student with a full-time job-I wanted to be on my own, paying all my own bills, living a stress-free daily life, and enjoying a modest social life on top of that. I thought for sure that “adulthood” would come by my mid-20s. That’s when my former high-school classmates had already graduated college, were getting married, buying condos, and having babies-surely I could figure out rent, if they could do all that.
Jay was adamant that I was viewing my life too negatively, and focusing on what I didn’t have, and why I didn’t have it. That night he forced me to look at what I had achieved, and recognize that the greatest kindness I could do for myself, was to admit that I don’t know everything, and will never have all the answers. In order to thrive and grow, I had to remain open so I could learn from all the people that I encountered, and all the experiences I found myself in. I had to let go, and not be afraid to lean on those around me for their support and guidance.
Thinking back to the path I took to arrive where I am today, I can honestly say that I’m proud of myself. I went from being a professional dancer with hardly any regular gigs, learning the heartbreaking lesson of perseverance, to a full-time student with a full-time retail job, where I learned how to become a leader through the power of example and encouragement, to a job I loved in a company that fostered entrepreneurial development. But my journey hasn’t been without some scary moments as well. Last year alone I had to move five times, and was homeless for nearly two months in between apartments. I relied on the generosity of my friends who let me stay in their homes when they were away, and on their couches, in their way. My dear friend Sarah saw me through some of my worst times last year, inviting me over for dinner one evening when I had no money for food, letting me sleep on her living room couch countless times, and listening to my troubles and making me laugh through it all. I will be forever grateful for her compassion. I no longer feel the need to wade through my life alone, as a stubborn indication of my adult independence; instead, I look to my community of family and friends for guidance.
Fittingly, I now see how balanced my work life is with my personal life. As the Manager of Community at Wanderlust HQ, I develop teams of Wanderlust community ambassadors called Wayfarers. Wayfarers are connectors within their own local community, relating to their region face-to-face, as representatives of Wanderlust Festival. They help raise festival awareness and excitement through the power of community connection. (You should totally apply to be a Wayfarer-it’s super fun!) It is my greatest pleasure to see these teams of Wayfarers bond with each other over their shared love of yoga, and see them take on personal goals with the encouragement of others. Last year I watched as Wayfarers became studio owners, first-time parents, and Wanderlust teachers themselves, all while creating community in the spirit of Wanderlust. I am so proud of the work I do at Wanderlust, and the inspiration it can bring to others.
I finally recognize that it’s the same work I spent doing in my 20s-creating meaningful relationships with my network of friends and family, who in turn inspired and buoyed my own development and growth. I did a good job being in my 20s! I made a lot of mistakes and made some really good friends to talk and laugh about them with. My happiness in turning 30 stems from the relief of letting go of my ego, knowing that I have such a strong community of family and friends to help guide me through times of uncertainty. To my community, thank you, thank you.