Collecting the tools of a sustainable, self-directed life

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14- Finding Your Place, Part Two

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In Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck reveals how change forces us to let go of our identities one after another and to birth someone new. I couldn’t have found my place without this painful process of change.

I started my last job in July of 2012. I was only a week in when I stopped wearing makeup and suits.  That was my “essential self” as Martha would call it, rebelling. Being a respectable, productive member of society— with a job, a home and a growing net worth—was so much a part of my life, that my essential self had to make some room for the real me. It took a few more years and the sudden death of a close friend for me to let my essential self lead.

In February of 2015, I quit my job. Five weeks later, I sublet my apartment and boarded a plane for Asia to write, meditate and live simply in Nepal, India and Indonesia. When I returned to Manhattan in September, I still couldn’t let go of my home. So I sublet it again and went to Spain to bide my time. I planned to go to Italy and Greece after. 

But on the anniversary of my friend’s death in December, grief took over. I had spent so much time wishing she was there, that I hadn’t come to terms with her death. I finally had to mourn her. And the loss of her light and her smile. The loss of her future. And of the joys and pains we wouldn’t share. And even her brilliance, kindness, influence, presence and constant, loving encouragement. I fell apart. 

As Beck predicted, the meltdown dissolved the respectable, productive mask, setting my authentic self free. And I finally had to deal with feelings I was holding at bay: anger, sadness, betrayal and loneliness, emptiness, fatigue, frustration, dissatisfaction and overwhelming, stagnating fear. I remembered how important it is to live fully, to remove everything hindering that and add only what supports it.

On Christmas Day 2015, I started a plan for my new, simple life which included a list of potential properties in New York State’s Hudson Valley. 

In January, I stayed with a friend in Queens to complete Beck’s Square One work— identify all of my life losses, share my feelings and grieve them through. 

I went to Dallas in March to redefine some of my most important relationships.

In April, I returned to my NYC apartment, nurtured my relationships there, and, in May, informed my management company that I would not renew my lease.

In June, I took a bus to Kingston. I walked through town to see a $5,000 foreclosed house and two few city-owned, wooded plots with streams from my list. The vacant plots combined the fantasy features I’d read about and rekindled the joy I felt on the rice patty in Ubud. I met artists, visited collective work spaces and maker communities. I had found two ideal options for my new home.

A few days later, I signed an agreement to sublet my place in Midtown through the end of my lease, sell my furniture and move everything I wanted out. I was letting go of my apartment. It was no longer my home.

With self-work, persistence and time, I had, as Beck would say, let go of status, income and position for inner peace. Next I would I have to to “sit with the nothingness until [my] fear fades.” I was prepared to “watch what—and who—emerges.”

Letting go is scary, disorienting and necessary for finding your place. Beck’s North Star has been an excellent map for navigating that change. What tools, mantras, practices or resources have you found helpful with change?