I was always a journal-er (-ist? Writer of journals?)
I still have volumes of notebooks and diaries depicting chapters of my life. At one point in time, in my early twenties, I could go back on any given day, leaf through the volumes of my diaries and see what I was doing on that day in time, 1 or 3 or 5 years ago. A literal, tangible Timehop, something technology now catalogs for us with one click.
Somewhere along the road to adulthood, I stopped.
Somewhere along the way of having to get a job, pay rent, schlep to auditions, meet up with friends whenever exhaustion would allow, time robbed me of writing. Of this form of self-therapy.
And it’s sad in a nostalgic sort of way. It's like when you stop believing in Santa Claus or something. When you stop hearing the bell ring on the Polar Express.
Anyway. I’ve been home the last two days, holed up inside my house, sick with a cold. So maybe this spark of “creative genius” is really just sudafed charging through my veins. At any rate, it has given me ample time to sit.
And be alone with my thoughts.
And after the first day and a half of feeling miserable for myself (and my sinuses), I have to say this time off has really got my creative juices flowing.
And wouldn’t you know, I journaled tonight.
Not necessarily in the traditional sense “Dear Diary, I woke up today feeling super excited and then had 2 eggs with toast and went for a jog and called Bobby …”. But more in a creative journaling sense.
(Who’s Bobby? haha)
I pulled out a notebook, and jotted down some thoughts, put some pretty doodles to it with my amazing gel pens (#love), and this thought came to me tonight.
“Dwelling in the past steals your productivity in the ‘now’ and steals your possibility in the future. Why rob yourself of ass-kicking, world-altering POWER by focusing on something that you cannot change? Set your sites and sails on achieving greatness in a forward motion. There is no backward. No Rewind. Only Play.”
And it's so relevant in my life, especially as a 30-something who’s still not quite yet figured it all out. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I still am paralyzed at the thought of pro-creating (and the clock is ticking, my friends). I’m still wondering why I’m here on this earth, and desperate to leave a unique footprint. And I'm sure others can relate, too.
But while I sit a have anxiety attacks over the future, I also notice that I focus A LOT on the past. Like. I spend A TON of brain power every day on replaying past relationships, past memories, reliving what it was like to be a New Yorker for 8 years of my life, what if felt like to be a traveling gypsy out on tour. And then I beat myself up over it, starting this major cycle of self-judgement, like why can’t you just live in the present, Elizabeth?
And it’s utterly exhausting.
I think we find it harder to move on from the past the older we get, perhaps. I don’t know, I’m not yet 80. Call me in 40-some years. But. In my 33 years on this earth, that’s how it starting to feel. I somehow feel tethered to certain moments in my life that I have self-proclaimed as “defining me”. And I wonder how much more productive I could be if I could let go of those things. Or if I let my present or eve my future define me instead.
Major changes as an adult are hard. Moving on from a failed relationship, losing a job we love, moving across the country. These are all really tough things. Yet. We are so adaptable and malleable as a kid. Like, something major might have happened when we were 10 and sure we cried really hard about it in the moment, but we learned to move forward. We learned to get over it. But we somehow grow a little coarser, a little tougher as we age. Suddenly we are harder to change. Maybe it’s a result of our experiences: we defend ourselves from change because it hurts. Because we know that in the past, change has hurt.
So how do we get brave again? How do we become malleable?
This is my experiment. I think breaking open our shell and learning to move forward may lie firstly in clarifying our next step. And then, being fucking vulnerable.
In clarifying our next step, we have to be direct. We have to be brutally honest about what we want most. What do you want most in life? Do you even know? What do you wish, in your deepest of hearts, could be true for you?
Maybe this is a job, a child, a partner. You may be surprised what your heart whispers when you sit still enough. I once sat with a Firestarter from the amazing Danielle LaPorte and she asked that very question, on repeat, in her transformative, goddess tone “What do you want? But what do you want? What do you want? What do you want?” Over and over. I was surprised at what came to the surface for me then. That was 5 years ago.
And sure, you or I could refuse to dig deep. But if you are too scared to admit to yourself what you truly want, you only have one option: you must submit to what you have.
So what are you going to do about it? What are we going to do about it?
Clarify your next step. Say it out loud. It’s probably going to be fucking scary. It might make you cry. Hell, it should, if it means that much to you and you’ve been holding onto it, caged deep inside of you. Then write it down. Circle it. Underneath, make a game plan. List the top three most important steps that will make this dream ACTIONABLE.
If your deepest desire is to become a world renowned life coach, what is the next actionable step? Maybe it’s seeking a mentorship of someone who’s living the life you admire most. Maybe it’s enrolling in a life coaching course.
The second thing, practicing vulnerability. That’s trickier. Brene Brown, who has dedicated her life to studying vulnerability, says it perfectly:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Take that in.
That’s powerful. That is HUGE.
We are our own worst enemies. We are our own biggest roadblocks. The only person holding you back from the life you want is YOU.
And we hold ourselves back so often as humans by living in the past. We dwell there. We take long strolls inside the darkness of a memory. Sometimes there seemingly is comfort in pain. But dwelling in what once was is NOT MOVING FORWARD.
I think that’s been my biggest realization tonight. Something suddenly clicked. After moving from NYC to Florida 2 years ago, I still feel a sense of unrest. I still don’t have a career I am proud of. I pine after the city because it represents a time in my life where I felt I was flourishing. So I go back to the city in my mind a thousand times a day. And I am TIRED from all of that travel. And too depleted of energy to move forward. How can I expect to catapult ahead, revel in a new business, a new city, a new marriage if I am carrying hundreds of pounds of baggage on my shoulders? It is ridiculous! I am asking so much of myself! It’s like trying to run a marathon with a 50# weight tied to my ankle.
I need to detach myself from the weight of the past. I need to recognize that my infinite possibility is expansive and beautiful and full and FORWARD.
I need to clarify my next step. And embrace vulnerability.
Tonight I choose to move forward. And tomorrow I choose to move forward. And the next day, and the next day. And if you feel the immense weight of the world on your shoulders, if you are tired of carrying the past with you, I hope you will join me. Because forward is where our hope, our excitement, our limitless power to change the course of the world lies. We just have to take the next step in front of us to unlock our possibility.
Go all in. And don’t look back.