“Your actions are your only true belongings.” ~Allan Lokos
This is not a piece about a person who has already finished her journey. I am not here to tell you that I’ve emerged from a dark place into a place of ease, or that I’ve discovered a profound new way of being that shields me from daily stresses.
I wish I could tell you those things. I love to read about successes like that.
Instead, I am in a messy stage of my journey, holding on to the glimmers of joy that I feel throughout each day, dreaming and journaling and not getting enough sleep.
I am transitioning to a different life path as we speak.
I take each day as its own adventure, knowing that I will feel any combination of boredom, happiness, depression, anxiety, and curiosity. Knowing that it’s okay for change to be complicated, that it’s okay to be confused one minute and excited the next as long as I keep asking questions and keep looking for answers.
There’s no avoiding this part of the journey, the part where you peel back the layers of who you were and make room for who you will be. Where you shake free from the comforts and limiting beliefs you’ve been living under, where you consider if the life you’ve been living truly reflects who you are.
This is the scary part. The part where you feel guilty or ashamed or sad that it took you this long to acknowledge your dreams. It’s hard to know when this part will end. All you can do is keep moving and know that those answers will come.
For the past five years my life has not reflected who I truly am, as I’ve worked a job that bored me so deeply that my soul quietly settled down to sleep.
On one hand, I am grateful for this job, grateful for the boredom-induced depression that shook me gently but steadily until I finally dusted myself off to search for something more.
I am grateful for the months of utter paralysis, as I knew I was somehow meant to stretch my creative spirit but did not understand what that looked like or how it sustained me.
I aim to forgive the part of myself that argued it was “too late,” and that I should just accept the steady job with no questions asked.
And so I remained as patient as I could. I asked friends to describe my strengths, I vented to my journal. I cried and read inspirational blogs until my eyes reddened. I closed my eyes and meditated, waiting for the light bulb moment to provide me my core beliefs and purpose.
I’m grateful I did not give up. That I have not given up, still.
My breakthrough came a year and a half into my journey. One and a half years of reading and thinking and hoping for more. And suddenly, with little warning:
I think I’m supposed to do visual art, written quickly into my journal.
Isn’t it funny how life surprises you? I didn’t see this coming; I hadn’t pursued art in my twenties or dreamed of someday being a full-time artist. I let the thought sit for months, afraid of it, thinking I must have misheard my yearnings.
And so I waited until the thought reemerged four months later. Stronger now, more insistent.
And I am grateful I listened.
My journey has changed shape, as journeys often do if you let them, softly tugging me into a makeshift studio after work each evening where I paint and write and remind myself to take big, soothing breaths.
I’m still not a full-time artist yet, but every day is an adventure still, asking me only that if I haven’t yet found my confidence, to please get up each day and try anyway. And so I get up each day and I try, even when I’m overwhelmed and tired, even when my next steps are unclear.
One of my favorite mentors, Marie Forleo, has often said clarity comes from engagement, which is a hard concept for those of us who plan endlessly and write everything down multiple times so that we can avoid actually taking that first step.
That first step, which supports the next and the next, is the most important of all.
Without action, my journey would be back at square one, huddled under the weight of my doubts and fears.
Without action, my soul would still be asleep, unable to consider a different future.
Without action, I would not cherish these moments of actual joy, my paint brush in hand. I would not know they existed.
And so the question becomes: have you been listening?
Do you feel the tugs, however quiet, that will lead you in a new direction? I know many of us are so good at ignoring these whispers, resisting the changes that feel so big and scary and new that we can’t imagine where the journey will lead.
Today, I want you to act, acknowledging your resistance with empathy as you move forward anyway. I want you to get messy and uncomfortable, even if that simply means facing your fears in the pages of your journal.
If you are just at the beginning, or perhaps even in the middle of your journey as I am, remember: you are capable of joy. Now how will you create it?
About Elizabeth McDonnell
Elizabeth McDonnell is an artist and inspiration-seeker. Her mission is to create whimsical artwork that inspires, and to always create just for you, who are looking to introduce more peace, motivation, and creative delight into your home and daily life. Check out her art and sign up for her newsletter at http://elizabethmcd.com. Also find her on Instagram and Facebook.