Escape Artist: Episode 4 – Invest in Yourself

After taking a month to relax and reflect, I am in phase two of my sabbatical and en route in my escape from life as I know it. This phase focuses on reevaluating my definitions of success and investing in creating the lifestyle I want, with no claim to that which held me back before. 

Phase 2: Invest in Me

  1. Grow my systems for success
  2. Build knowledge in my interests
  3. Get experience

We are what we do & commit our time to. In business planning, a fundamental strategy is to align your schedule with your priorities. If my overarching goal is to write and create art, then it makes sense to dedicate the most time to this goal.

Yeah, I wasn’t doing that.

My first love was writing. At seven, I was writing poems in my closet, a safe space away from the loud and abrasive expectations I felt even then. In middle school, I wrote poems for friends and handed them out like party favors. In high school, I scribbled rhymes during track meets and at home late nights after escaping in books. In college, after failing my first Economics class, I changed my major to literature with a focus in writing. This led me to performing my first spoken word poem “Bobblehead” a year later, a move which catapulted me towards my saving grace.

As much as poetry became a passion and refuge, I spent the first ten years of my career working 9-5 or 5-2 or 3-3 contributing to other peoples’ goals. On days off, I regularly tended to family or friends – any problem of theirs was a problem of mine. My time was reserved for nights & I took full advantage, over-indulging in unhealthy environments to relieve stress several times a week. The grind is no joke, and I took that shit seriously. So seriously that I forgot what life was actually for: to be lived, to be enjoyed, and for the person living it. When I was growing up, society told me to be a good daughter, good student, good friend, then a good woman, but I hardly remember being told to be good to me.

To invest in me and the life I want is to take ownership of my decisions.

After quitting my first soul-sucking job at age 26, I promised myself I would never stop writing or practicing my poems – whether or not I pursued them wholeheartedly. This was an attempt to keep a part of me intact while I pursued what I knew deep inside wasn’t for me.  But in fact, it was necessary to grow. I needed to live out my blind ambition, to hurt deeply to recover, to learn what fuels me, and to fall so far in the wrong direction that there’d be nowhere to go but back to me.

It’s true. We will receive the same lessons until we can truly learn from them.

Fast-forward to age 33 after leaving several more jobs, after years of denying myself the time and space to pursue my writing, after ignoring the physical signs of burnout and depression, I felt stuck with constant headaches and fatigue. I was unable to deprioritize mundane administrative tasks or family asks and demands, all of which seemed so urgent, so much more urgent than me living my life.

Enter the Escape Artist. About a month ago, I left two of my three jobs and stepped away for my sabbatical to recoup (phase one). I then began planning how to get back to work but this time defined by my goals and not the expectations of others.

To assist my transition, I planned a writing retreat to develop my writing routines, create objectives and timelines for my goals, and, ultimately, heal so that I could move forward without clinging onto past beliefs, traumas, and other holds. So I booked a studio cabin on a small family ranch and drove into the heat.

Over five days, I defined my personal and professional goals and reviewed the fundamentals of poetry. I created objectives and milestones to make sure I stay on track. I also developed rituals for my daily writing and weekly editing practice, as well as pre-work rituals to get me amped and ready to do me. I also created visual aids to keep me on track. The week closed out with a healing ceremony and a concert to honor myself and what I do. By the time I packed up on Friday morning, I was out of water and food & so full of peace and heart. I was beginning to feel full again as the missing pieces were finally moving back in place.

Investing in me means doing the hard work of re-establishing my focus to succeed as I define it.

Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book No Death, No Fear that we must not be caught up with what we consider truths. Ten years ago, I was committed to the grind, what I considered to be the truth, the need to make money over the need to feel fulfilled. Today, I consider my truth to be present in my whole creative self, so fully present that I cannot help but fuel my happiness doing what I love.

I’m grateful to have matured enough to reflect and challenge ideologies, even those I embraced in the past and which can still be a still struggle to let go of.

We’re all on our own path, and I hope sharing what I learn and experience can help you get yours. Join me next week to explore the third phase of my sabbatical, the commitment & pursuit.

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