“Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.” – Drake
The truth is, as annoying as this saying may have become, it speaks volumes: You Only Live Once.
Y.O.L.O… at a time…
Today marks the start of my 35th trip around the sun and I declare that it will be my best one yet. A bold declaration, you say? Sure, but I fully intend to make it so. And the same thing goes for next year after this one and the year that follows that one. I’m setting out to collect “best years” like I’ve collected “best friends,” loving and appreciating each one for its uniqueness and embracing whatever it brings through a dedicated practice of surrender, willingness, acceptance and some intense manifestation. I choose to hold this vision for my life with the knowledge that I am the co-creator of my own reality and that at any given moment, I have the power to choose another thought, feeling, direction, to dream another dream and to see even the tough times as blessings. This mindset hasn’t come to me easily, though. It was only after hitting my rock bottom that I began to seek out and cultivate my spirituality with purpose and create the massive shifts that have brought me to this space.
The year 2012 was easily the most difficult one I have faced thus far. My marriage had ended, I found myself homeless, broke, with no education, no job experience and no hope. I ended up moving in to a tiny little townhouse in the middle of nowhere with my four-year old son and our unexplainable giant furniture. I remember standing in the living room of that tiny little townhouse and pointing to the ceiling fan, which was made of glass and decorated with gold painted glass fruits. It was one of those fans that had the long chain/cord running across the ceiling and down the wall. I pointed at it and I told my mother that I would hang myself from it if I wasn’t 100% convinced that the entire ceiling would just come crashing down around me. We were cramped for space and harboring a fugitive (our huge golden retriever), which was against the condo association’s rules. At this time, I was also pregnant with my second son (whom I was wholeheartedly convinced would be born a girl) and scrambling to complete an Associates degree online so that I would eventually be able to support my children and myself. For months I was in complete denial of the situation. I refused to unpack a single box or accept the reality of my shattered life. As a result, I was completely unprepared for my baby’s early arrival or the kidney stones that would put me in the hospital just 10 days after his birth. Soon after that, our beloved family dog was evicted and I received news that I didn’t get in to the nursing program that I had applied to… the only program that I had applied to…
This was my rock bottom.
With two small children at home and virtually no help from my ex husband, who had fled to his hometown two hours away, I had to evolve. I had to face reality and figure out how to dig my little family out of the hole we were in. I literally had no other options. I shifted gears from nursing and after being waitlisted for a month, was accepted into the Radiology Technology program. I later realized that what I thought was a devastating set back was actually a blessing in disguise; it took less than a week of my X-Ray clinical rotation for me to realize that I never would have made it as a nurse. Good call, Universe.
It took several more years of struggling, fighting and stubborn will for me to find my way out of the dark. In those years, the shifts were small and inconsistent and I honestly wasn’t even aware of how they began to build on each other. I first tackled my diet and adopted a daily workout regimen. Feeling healthy and confident in my own skin for the first time in my entire life inevitably led to the desire for fulfillment in other areas of my life. Looking back, though, there was one very significant decision that propelled me on this path: It was a trip to Jamaica with my mom and the intention to leave that island with no regrets/nothing left undone that truly sparked my transformation.
Prior to her asking me to tag along, I had no desire to go to Jamaica. In fact, I had lost my desire to do just about anything. I had realized, through some deep reflection and soul searching on the ending of my marriage that I had become a shell of a person. In plain terms, I was boring AF. My spark, my identity, almost any semblance of the person that I had been prior to my marriage was gone. I identified myself only as “his wife” and “their mother.” For years, I gave up my friends, my hobbies, my dreams to fit into the mold of who I thought I should be. I thought that staying home with the baby while my husband went out with friends was just what good wives did. I thought that supporting his dreams at the cost of mine were just part of the territory. I thought that giving up every waking moment to my child and his needs would make me a good mother. I thought I was doing everything right. But I realized, much too late, that through the years, I had become a watered down version of myself; nothing like the wild, carefree girl my husband had fallen in love with. Inside, I was miserable and resentful and no fun to be around.
The realization that my former way of life just wasn’t working for me anymore brought me to my Y.O.L.O. moment. I wanted to change and I was willing to do whatever it took to start living again. So, when 2014 rolled around and my mom asked me to join her for 12 days in Jamaica, I said yes. This was a huge step in my evolution. I said yes. And in my saying yes, I promised myself that I would make the absolute best of it, that I would try anything that was put in front of me and that I would leave that island with no regrets.
As a reformed picky eater who notoriously survived on barely more than macaroni and cheese and hot dogs for the majority of my childhood, I took a step forward by saying yes to every single meal and every single “Do you want to try it?” I said yes to baths in streams, to hikes through jungles, to long hours in the car, to photo opportunities, to no air-conditioning, to dangerous neighborhoods, to braided hair and to random explorations. I swam in every single body of water that we came across. I embraced the unknown. I made friends turned family. I surrendered to my mother’s entire itinerary (one small step for man, one giant leap for this former control freak.) Most surprisingly, though, I took a literal leap of faith and jumped off a 35ft cliff in Negril. Me: The boring housewife, the furthest thing from an adrenaline junkie that has ever existed. I jumped.
But first, I stood at the top of that cliff for what felt like hours. I looked down at the water and I literally shook with fear. I watched brave person after brave person leap into the crystal blue waters below. In fact, I stood there for so long and made so many failed attempts to jump that the lifeguard finally said, “This is your last chance. You’re going to hurt yourself if you’re scared. So you jump now or not at all.” I took a deep breath and charged forward on shaking legs, closed my eyes, held my nose (I know, no one said I was cool) and I jumped. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done, but that moment after hitting the water, making it to the surface, taking a huge gasping breath, finding my bathing suit top (also not cool) and realizing that I was still alive was the exact moment that I began to live.
Since that epic trip, I have been more committed than ever to my journey of self-discovery and holding true to my Y.O.L.O. mantra every day. While it has taken me on adventures of a lifetime, including a trip to Paris with a guy I had only known in real life for one day, demolishing and remodeling an entire house essentially on my own, signing up for a 6 month long yoga teacher training, opting for red-eye flights on budget airlines to take advantage of any traveling opportunity that is put in front of me, to flying across the country (literally from Florida to California) just to hear my mentor and favorite author, Gabby Bernstein give a 2 hour speech, to random concerts and cuisines, it also shows up in my daily mundane life. Sometimes, Y.O.L.O. is as simple as letting my kids eat nothing but cheese fondue for dinner and roasting marshmallows for dessert. Sometimes it’s a neon pink manicure in the dead of winter, sometimes it’s learning how to skateboard with my 4 year-old son while praying that I don’t break an arm because I have no health insurance. It’s right there; the joy, the excitement, the pleasure. It’s always there. You just have to be willing to see it.
Starting today, I challenge you to live with more Y.O.L.O., more joy, more excitement, more letting go, more surrender and more love. When you can’t find the joy: create it. When you don’t see the silver lining: paint it. Take one small step every day and occasionally, when the opportunity presents itself; just jump.