Category Archives: Opportunity

Take Two: Learning to be Alone

I can just imagine the look of stress on my mom’s face as she receives an email notification that I’ve written another blog on me being alone. Let me quell your fears right away — It’s OK Mom, everything is fine and we have not broken up.

In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. This time around I am learning that there is a new kind of being alone, the kind that you schedule and choose very carefully. The kind that is infinitely more challenging when you’re in a happy, loving relationship in a city full of things to see and places to eat and and friends (!) … did I mention I have those too! It’s kind of well…overwhelming. Both in a very good way (believe me I’m grateful) but also in a how-do-I-balance-all-this-and-still-go-to-the-gym-kind-of-way?!

So here we go with my biggest realization as of late: my time living on Long Island should more accurately be described as my time in isolation, not my time spent alone. I didn’t know that there was a difference until I had something to compare it with, but this is what isolation looked like for me.

Scrolling for hours and hours through social media because I missed all my friends and even randoms I didn’t even really care too much to know how they were doing.

Crying after coming home from a fantastic weekend of visiting people and feeling the heavy void of them not being there.

Being in bed on a Friday night at 9pm because I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my time, warming my heating pad up and calling it my “boyfriend” because it was heavy enough to mimic human contact.

These were some of the down sides, but I’ve also written extensively on the positives — I learned a whole lot about what I do to entertain myself when I am isolated. The list includes but is not limited to:

  • Getting tipsy and playing 9 holes of golf by myself
  • Going for a long walk at the beach in the winter time
  • Learning to dance the tango
  • Learning to kick box
  • Zumba!
  • Taking myself out to restaurants
  • Going on a string of ridiculous first dates
  • Shopping — lots of shopping

And above all, I did a lot of reflecting. There was a lot of laying around on my yoga mat, deep-breathing through challenges and grappling with feelings of longing for a more active and interesting lifestyle. But don’t get me wrong, I did settle in some. I made a few really important friendships and I quieted myself down from my usual warp-speed pace. And you know what? By the end of it all… I was actually really grateful that I got to have those experiences. And I was also like, really fit. Which was cool.

And so now, looking back it feels almost crazy how quickly I’ve accelerated. I went from 0-60 practically over night. And with 9 months under my belt, I am starting to crave some quiet again and I realize that I have to make that time for myself. That I have to choose it and I have to honor it.

I need to take time to reflect more and to be alone. The alone that I choose for myself. The alone that is the opposite of isolated. The alone that feels so decadent and healthy and re-energizing. The alone that feels so good.

So all of this just to say, there will be more here soon. This is one of my favorite outlets of reflection myself and it’s been a while. But I am back and I have so much to say.

L.

 

 

 

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It will be worth it.

For the past three years I have been a shepherd, so to speak, for young international students who are leaving home (some for the first time) to come to the United States to spend a year, maybe two, living with an American host family as an au pair. My training school has ushered thousands upon thousands of students through its doors, welcoming and grounding them in preparation for their adventure ahead.

The question “what’s next?”is the common theme that bonds all of the students together, and our facility is a place where transition begins the process of transformation. At the Training School our students are on the precipice of an enormous change, perhaps one so drastic that they may not even recognize their former selves upon returning home to their countries at the end of their program.

And it is this raw energy of change that has fed my heart and soul, and which has driven me to work harder than ever before. Over the past few years I’ve come to discover that I value nothing more than pushing and expanding boundaries, stepping outside of my comfort zone and trusting that the “what’s next?” will be effortlessly handled when and as it is meant to be.

So as I prepare myself for a life transition of my own, I think it’s pertinent to reflect on some of the lessons my students and this school have taught me over the past 3 years.

1. The unknown is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. I’m literally reminded of this one hundred times a week. When I ask an au pair how they are feeling about meeting their host family for the first time 99.99% of them will say “I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.” And well, duh! That’s because they have only the faintest idea of what their life is going to be like in a mere 48hrs. Nothing is more unsettling than not being able to plan two days in advance. The thrill of it all is the adrenaline pumping through their veins and the realization that, “well, shit, I am here and I’m doing this and soon I will walk through their door and I will figure it out.”

2. Be aware of your point of no return …and embrace the momentum.  Each week as the au pairs fly in from all around the world and arrive to the Training School in New York, I sense they are feeling that they have crossed their point of no return. And while this isn’t exactly accurate, they are autonomous beings who can exercise their free-will and return home at any point, there is some genuine truth to the statement. After all, they got on an airplane. They flew around the world. They’ve now invested both their time and their money into this adventure and turning around feels harder with all the momentum pushing them forward into the next segment of their experience.

The point of no return, however, is where most humans begin to flip out. You’ve set the wheels in motion and guess what baby — physics. An object in motion will remain in motion, so unless you’re going to quickly build a huge brick wall to smash yourself into (which I don’t recommend by the way) your only other option is to hang on for the ride. Let it take you where you are meant to go and trust that you are going to make it to the other side.

I often use the metaphor of a roller coaster to explain my emotions to people, but this situation is quite literally the most accurate time to employ this visual.

You willingly get on the rollercoaster, possibly even choosing the front seat for greater effect. You buckle in for safety and as the roller coaster clicks higher and higher, you realize that return is no longer an option. This is when your heart begins to beat faster, you fear for your life, your stomach drops into your butt and you panic like a small child lost in Costco. But as you peer over the edge you begin to let go into an inexplicable trust that the structure to which you have so willingly entrusted your life has been soundly built. What’s more, in less than two minutes you will be back at the loading station with a few snapshots to purchase of your smiling (more like scream-cry-laughing) windblown face.

3. Know that you are never alone. One of the greatest aspects of the Training School is that everyone is in the same boat. The community of students is strong, even with so few days to get to know each other, the bonds that are formed are very strong because they are able to comprehend in such as deep way the nerves and excitement that their peers are experiencing.

This has served as a reminder to me that in any kind of transition, it is crucial to seek out those who are or who have recently gone through something of similar sorts. Taking care of yourself is your number one priority during any transition, but the task can feel daunting if you are trying to do it alone. Reach out to friends, family and significant others for support and comfort. Let them know that you believe in the process, and that you want them by your side to remind you that the trail you are blazing still leads to Rome.

4. Take off your armor. The most gratifying moments for me at work are when a student will come to me or a member of my team, and wearing their heart on their sleeve, demonstrate their exquisite vulnerability. Just this week I had a lovely girl from France reach out for help with her transition from home to the U.S. In speaking with her she told me that she has always been a pillar of strength for her family, and that being an au pair has always been a dream of hers. As her dream began to turn into reality, the pressure of holding  not just herself, but her family together as well, was weighing heavily on her. She was homesick, she couldn’t stop crying. She felt she needed to be strong and forge ahead.

My advice to her was take off her armor. Be vulnerable. Soften. It takes an incredible amount of energy to put on a face that exclaims, “everything is fine” when you’re actually feeling more like, “holy shit, everything is upside down.” That energy should be conserved and used to process your emotions. Don’t use your valuable energy to cover them up because the ramifications on your mind and body will be grave. Your future-self will thank you for doing the hard work.

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Transitions are super hard and can be incredibly uncomfortable and trying, but they are also pregnant with possibility, excitement and growth. It’s crucial to remember to be mindful. To be where you are. To observe what you are feeling and to give thanks to it. It’s ok to ask for guidance. It’s ok to ask for support. Trust. Soften into the discomfort — it will  be worth it.

 

 

 

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Today I feel like spring

The cool air touches my face and the apples of my cheeks turn that rosey color that I love so much. Today I feel like spring.

Today I feel ready for bloom. Ready to push up through the ground and burst open my petals. But I know it’s still just a bit too early–I am still a gentle bud and I must take my time. Be patient. Allow it to happen. The time is coming.

The time is always coming and going, going and coming and I will be ready when it is here. I will be ready to display my soft pallet. My graceful hues of green and yellow and rose. I will be ready to sing my sweet song to the world. The song that only I know how to sing, the song of me.

The barren land is rejuvenating itself and signs of growth are all around me.

And today I feel like spring.

buds

 

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What I’ve Learned by Being Alone

Before sitting down to write I did a quick Google search on the following words: loneliness & alone.

The results were just as I’d expected.

There were tons of posts on the growing public health concern of loneliness, Psychology Today articles on combatting it as well as the human need for socialization. What I didn’t see in my quick search, however, was what I want to write about here — what I’ve learned and the benefits of being alone.

For the past year and half I’ve been contemplating the concept of being alone. I moved to Long Island in 2014 for a dream opportunity. I packed up my belongings and transplanted myself in a locale quite culturally foreign to me. I came here without a network of friends and only some limited family nearby. I was, for all intents and purposes, alone.

Before I came out here I had a vibrant social life and a unique circle of friends of all ages. I’d also never truly been alone before, at least not in the way that I have been in this new setting. Here I have not been able to call up a friend and announce that on a moments notice, I’d be at their door. I’ve always had friends to explore and hangout with. So, as you can imagine, this change was pretty abrupt and harsh for me.

At first I rejected the area and its inhabitants. I assured myself that it was time for me to put my head down and to work hard — harder than ever before. If I threw myself into my work, I wouldn’t have time to feel lonely. This was partially true. The first few months I was here, I worked like a dog. I tried to push the loneliness out by working so hard that the weekends could only be a time for rest, relaxation and recuperation. But as expected, feelings of loneliness would creep up on me when I least expected them. There I was again – at the beach, in random parking lots, in my kitchen, on the phone, in the car – crying. I had never been so lonely, and for so long, in my entire life.

When I sat down with the purpose of writing about being alone out here, my intent was to explain the life lesson that I’ve been learning and not to make anyone feel bad for me…or worse, for ME to feel for myself. Just so I’m clear, loneliness does not necessarily equate to unhappiness for me.

Sure, I have days where I feel melancholy and nostalgic and wish I had my best friends nearby. I’ve even had extended periods of time where I’ve felt this way. However, what I’ve been feeling recently is more balance between being a social butterfly and being alone.

Before I moved here, there were many things I didn’t know about myself. I never needed to ask myself questions like Who am I? What do I want most? Do I love myself? I had a barrage of social reinforcements that I defined myself against, and our collective mentality was supreme. I was able to be a unique part of a whole, but I never felt truly whole myself without my friend group.  But now that’s different, and I am different. I have more insight now that I didn’t have before, and I know myself better.

I have a better understanding of my social patterns and tendencies.  I know that when I feel alone I use Instagram and Facebook as a crutch to to feel connection. Or that I pursue romantic possibilities even when I’m not fully keen on the person.  And I know that I will pick up the phone and dial everyone in my ‘favorites’ in order to hear a voice on the line who can reassure me that I am still awesome.

These patterns and tendencies are hard to admit because they go against one of my core values–give to yourself what you would ask of others to give to you. To simplify what I mean by that would essentially be to say, “Hey, go connect with yourself. Be your own best friend. Fall in love with yourself.”

But I am only human. And I frequently forget that I am one with everyone and everything — I am never truly alone.

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So what, you may ask, is the benefit of being alone for this long? For me, it has been having enough time to take a good look in the mirror. In the past two years I’ve been able to shift some of my most negative patterns in a more positive direction because I’ve had the time to look within. None of this means that I’ve perfected my ways, but I’ve definitely made progress.

I’ve learned to value myself and my time more. I have learned to be non-judgmental and kind to myself when I am having a off day. I’ve learned that meeting new people takes time and requires lots of patience. I’ve learned to be more patient. I’ve learned that connection is all about quality and not about quantity. I’ve learned to be more aware of my time spent on social media and handheld devices. I’ve learned to get out there and do things that interest me. I’ve learned to kick box and to tango. I’ve learned to be more grateful for the things that I do have. I’ve learned to relish a quiet Friday evening at home, and most of all I’ve learned that “me time” is a necessity.

So while it’s been a bumpy ride over the course of the past few years here on Long Island, I’ve learned a great deal about who I am as a person and what I am capable of manifesting all on my very own.

 

 

 

 

 

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