I found myself aimlessly staring in the mirror, finally realizing that this is was my life for the next 35 years.
For the majority of summer 2016, I woke up almost every weekday at precisely 3:30AM, jolted out of bed by the rapid beating of my heart without understanding how to stop it. I was absolutely miserable working at an early-stage startup with founders who were only thinking about their “billion dollar” idea without an inkling of how to execute on it.
I didn’t realize when I took the position that this was the case. The bosses played their roles very well. I was also a little fed up to begin with; the last position I had lasted 6 months due to the partners splitting the business and subsequently closing the NY office. I was on the brink of burnout and hoped this job would be the breath of fresh air, the change from the boiler room sales environment I was used to, but it was worse.
I knew a couple of years before this moment that I needed some time. Time I didn’t take in between high school and college. Time I didn’t even take after college when I couldn’t find a job because of the worst recession in history. Time that I still have trouble giving myself, as I feel I am wasting precious time that should otherwise be spent urgently awaiting, yet subconsciously fearing what’s next.
I just needed time, not a couple of days, weeks or months, but at least a year to myself to, as the Donald would say “figure out what’s going on,” with me! I was tired of chasing money in the concrete jungle, I was tired of going to work and coming home to loneliness, I was tired of not enjoying my friends, family or even myself.
I was, however, making great money, living in a nice apartment and even going on extravagant vacations. So what was my problem? Why was I unhappy?
I grew up at the crossroads of two cultures – the stubborn and strong-willed Albanian, and the right to be free American. The American dream of going to college, making a lot of money and buying everything I wanted sounded pretty good. My Albanian friends were married somewhere between the ages of 16 and 21, adopting a whole new dysfunctional family and having someone to answer to again. I knew that wasn’t my escape. I found the American dream more appealing and also my way out from the insanity of an Albanian household.
Freedom, however, isn’t always free. The dream included a degree in partying and an $80,000 bar tab also known as student loans, which by the end of it will total way over what I ever imagined to pay for an education. Worth it? I’d still say yes, because it helped me believe that goal setting works, received enough of an education to write and do research, and make enough money in the corporate world to give me that bit of confidence to take the first step in trying my luck venturing on my own.
So here I am now. After working almost 8 hard years, saving enough money, selling what I could of my belongings, and kissing my apartment in the sky goodbye…I am gloriously sitting on my bed in my room that happens to be under my parents’ roof. Ok, so not the most glamorous outcome, but a necessary step in figuring out what freedom means to me. As for the last 20 years of my life, I’ve felt like a slave to the system, with a single focus – to get rich and then enjoy life.
One morning at work, October of last year, after another passive aggressive moment with my extremely awkward boss, I started to see that the abuse was not good for either of us. I ended up buying a one-way ticket to Geneva that afternoon, for December 14th, a date I picked because the flights were cheap. A little dramatic, yes, but I knew it was over, I just waited it out until I got all my ducks in a row.
I really had no idea what I was doing, but my lease was up, I definitely couldn’t afford the rent on my own, and I absolutely had no more energy to search for a new job, nor deal with a whole new set of bosses, clients, colleagues, etc. I knew I wanted to travel, so I finally did it, decided it was time to move out of NYC. My only option, however, was home – in Jersey. It was a long drawn out internal battle that, to this day, I still wonder if it was the best choice.
To add to my uncertainty, everyone was telling me I was crazy to leave a career I worked hard to build with absolutely no plan. I was terrified, and I want to work, but I needed a purpose other than just money.
Not all was bad during this time. Shortly after I started this job I found yoga, which helped me deal with the physical pain I was experiencing from stress the job was causing me. A major factor that built up my self-confidence to take the plunge. I loved yoga and how it brought me back to living in the moment.
I also met a wonderful man while I was traveling in Croatia. A last minute trip that I had no plans taking since I started a new job a few months earlier, but when I realized that the work relationship was deteriorating, I just booked it and tagged along with my friends on their yacht. I won’t lie, I had been manifesting meeting someone, and I really hoped to meet someone on this trip. This is when I really started to believe in the laws of attraction and manifestation. He restored my faith in people again, his kind heart brought mine back to life, gave me hope. We didn’t know what would happen but I was happy to have met him nonetheless.
I saw this as a huge sign in my life, and I believe signs are everywhere, helping us through the journey, we just have to be conscious enough to see them. My intuition was telling me that the time, my time, was near.
So what to do? Just travel? I still needed some kind of purpose. After 9 months of traveling I see what an amazing feeling it is to just travel aimlessly and discover, but almost a year ago, it was still a foreign concept.
So I went to a yoga teacher training for 30 days in Bali. I was so hoping for that “aha” moment where I figured it all out, but it’s never that easy! There I discovered the ego in yoga everyone outside of yoga talks about. The teacher wasn’t very spiritual, but again that’s my fault because I didn’t explore it past the surface, I had a goal to achieve and this fit my schedule (another lesson learned). I still love to practice, meditate daily now, and working on using yoga as a therapy for myself and hopefully others someday too.
I spent time in Switzerland to experience a real relationship. After years of torture in the NYC dating scene, I welcomed waking up next to someone; traveling together, cooking together; loving together. It was beautiful, which is why it’s worth dating long distance. If it’s for love, it really works!
At the moment I am back at home, with a trip to Ireland coming up soon for the #tbexIreland conference and spending a few days with my beau. Back home after that to plan the next four months of travel and work.
My Experimental year is not about going off to do crazy things to feel something different, its just about allotting myself time to do something different from what I know to be normal, in hopes of recognizing behavior and patterns that are not working for me. To tackle, in my case, dysfunctional preprogramming and create less suffering for myself; to love myself more; to cut myself some slack. I am experimenting with my personal boundaries, facing my fears and insecurities.
My year is coming to a close, and I have only just started to scratch the surface. I thought after a year, I’d have it all figured out and could go back to work. At the moment, I think its wise to keep going. I have come a long way so far, imagine the opportunities in front of me as I continue to live in the moment. Only time will tell.