28 years ago today, I was born a free spirit.
When I was a baby, my Mom caught my sister pulling me out of my crib.
She claimed that my eyes told her that I wanted to be free.
As a kid, I ran around naked screaming, “I’m jungle boy” in our back yard, I painted my face with my mom’s art supplies, and I defied convention at every possible opportunity.
But somehow, as I grew older, things changed.
Popularity and status and normalcy took precedence over self-expression.
I wanted to fit perfectly into the social structure that surrounded me. I wanted invitations to birthday parties and sleepovers. I wanted to never have to sit alone at lunch. I not only wanted to be liked, I wanted to be liked by everyone.
When I discovered sexuality, I wanted to be “loved”. I wanted to be smothered in someone else’s affection. I wanted a connection that made right anything in myself that I deemed wrong. I wanted to complete someone and for someone to complete me.
In adulthood I wanted my friendships to save me from my boredom. I wanted my boyfriends to save me from my loneliness. I wanted my career to save me from feeling purposeless. I wanted my therapist to save me from my anxiety. I wanted my family to save me from the wounds I blamed them for creating.
I always wanted someone else or something else to make me happy.
Then, ten days before I turned 25, I decided to save myself. That’s when I put everything in storage and flew to Costa Rica without much of a plan.
For those first two years traveling the world, when I was 25 and 26, I learned how to live without anyone else. I learned to need nothing. I needed to know that I didn’t need friends to have fun. I needed to know that I didn’t need a boyfriend to feel loved. I needed to know that I could be a hemisphere away from my family and still feel secure.
And I did.
In fact I prided myself on my love for being alone. I not only didn’t need a boyfriend… I didn’t want a boyfriend. I not only could travel alone… I preferred to travel alone. I didn’t need friends. I didn’t need family. I didn’t need a lover. All I needed was myself, a yoga mat, and the freedom to explore the world.
Though as I approached 27, I started to see how limited my mentality was. True, I didn’t need anyone. But had I created a different kind of prison for myself?
Whereas I used to be someone who was terrified of being alone, I became someone who was terrified of being with others. Alone, I could be my best self so easily. Around others, I felt triggered. In their presence, I watched myself enact patterns from my past I worked hard to grow from.
I wondered if I had exiled myself to my own private island. And that made me feel… sad.
Finally, I decided it was time to let the wall down.
When I released that thought into the universe, I had no idea how hard it would hit me back.
For the year that followed, my walls not only came down, the layers of protection surrounding my heart were ripped to shreds. Every trigger I had buried, rose to the surface.
I fell in love with someone, to realize for the first time, what every man I had every fallen for had in common: unavailability. People and problems I ran across the world to escape, returned to haunt me. I traveled to places where I witnessed poverty and corruption on an unprecedented level. I witnessed how closed I was, when I met the most loving, generous people on this Earth. I went back to Puerto Viejo, the darkest and lightest place for me, and faced some of the greatest emotional challenges I’ve ever had.
Through those experiences, I watched my heart crack open. I watched it expand as I let love in. And let me tell you, it was really, fucking hard work. But it was worth it.
I don’t blame myself for those years where I clung to others. At the time, that’s what I thought I needed to be secure. I don’t judge myself for the years when I retreated from others. At the time, that’s what I thought I needed to heal. I needed that space from my triggers to develop strength within myself. I needed that space to learn to self soothe. I was always doing the best that I could, with what I had.
Now, at 28, after a year of facing my demons, I’m ready for something more. I don’t have to hide in others to feel loved anymore. I don’t have to deny others to prove that I don’t need their love anymore. I don’t have to repeat patterns that ultimately leave me feeling unloved anymore.
I’m ready to trust that I love myself so much, that I create space for loving relationships in my life. I’m ready to trust that the universe loves me so much, that it will support me. Even if support sometimes looks like a serious kick in the ass. I’m ready to trust that the more I give love, the more I become love, and the more I become love, the more I become free.
I’m ready to acknowledge that freedom is not only embracing my individuality. Freedom is embracing that at the heart, there is no such thing as individuality. That there is no distinction nor boundary between the molecules that create you and the molecules that create me.
28 years later, I’m ready to return to that free spirit who was born so open to the world.
I’m ready to return to love.