Warning: Some adult language ahead.
This has been one of the strangest weeks; I have made both huge strides and scraped the bottom of the barrel.
One minute I feel as if I’m on the verge of something amazing and the next it feels like it’s all turning to sh*t and I’m on the brink of failure.
I quit my corporate job over a year ago and began to build a life centred around my passion, to live according to my meaning and purpose and to be my authentic self. Since then I have written a book, qualified to be a yoga teacher and a life coach and blogged about all things health and happiness.
I was lucky enough to get hold of a ticket to a sold out event to see the Dalai Lama speak, alongside some of my other inspirations, Matthieu Ricard and Daniel Goleman. This made for a special week, particularly as I sat meditating in Trafalgar Square, London with Matthieu Ricard and a few thousand others in aid of World Peace Day. But that was just the start.
An article I wrote for elephant journal hit over 29,000 views, I held my first public speaking event for the group Action for Happiness and it sold out. A few hours before the speaking gig I was at the job centre signing on for the first time in my life. While I’m doing what I love, I’m still starting out so much of what I do is unpaid as I develop and progress. I’ve never claimed a benefit before and it didn’t feature as part of my imagined highway to success. In fact at times I felt like I was possibly traveling in the opposite direction!
That night I happened to watch a clip of Elizabeth Gilbert talking about her new book, Big Magic. She talked about shit sandwiches and her view was that basically everything in life comes with a shit sandwich. You just have to ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth the shit sandwich. I thought about this for a moment and thought about the ease of a regular income and savings to fall back on and the comforts of my former life. I instantly knew which set of shit sandwiches I’d chose—every time! In fact I’d eat a whole picnic of them to live a life of passion and authenticity and do what I love.
I’m sure people look at my life from the outside and are envious; they often say that I am “living the dream” and have found freedom. I may have freed myself from the confines of an office and the 9-5 grind, but I don’t think being homeless and jobless without an income for over 12 months quite constitutes living the dream. The strange thing is I don’t regret my decision for one minute and still feel what I’m doing is 100 percent the right thing. It has taught me two things: every path comes with shit sandwiches and secondly, never give up, even when it gets hard. Especially when it gets hard.
I don’t write this for pity or for business (although some would be nice. Business not pity!) I write this to show that the path is never smooth and that if I can do it so can anyone. I want to underline the importance of not giving up and staying true to ourselves. Just because you commit to living an authentic life don’t expect all your wishes to be granted and everything to go smoothly. Whilst authenticity, meaning and purpose are key to happiness so is resilience, and set backs will always occur along every path.
When someone stands in front of us and speaks of inspiration or has written a book, we tend to think they’ve got it all sussed out and their life must be idyllic. This is certainty true of my thoughts about those I look up to. But there is a human element in us all; no-one has a perfect life. Tough times come to everyone and often those who inspire us have had to overcome their own struggles to get there and if they can, so can we.
I’m fairly sure most of those people at this week’s talk on “creating a life you love” think I’m a successful, well off and living the dream (I wore my best shirt). They may not have come at all if they’d seen me at the job centre earlier that day. But there’s no shame in struggling, in asking for help or in failing as long as you keep getting back up. Sometimes it’s part of the journey—we have to take the rough with the smooth and this week has been one of the roughest and the smoothest of the last 12 months and I’m still smiling, still hopeful and packing my bags ready for another picnic!
When the voice in my head began to get negative with thoughts like, “How are you going to survive without money?” “Who are you to inspire others when you can’t even find a job?” I remember why I’m doing this. I look back through the emails from strangers I’ve had thanking me for sharing my story. I’m grateful for all the small things. I remember to appreciate all I am lucky to have: food on my table, the sun shining on my face, my freedom and family and friends who love me.
Incidentally my Mum and Dad visited me the day after my talk; Mum brought a newspaper cutting she thought I’d be interested in. It was an interview with Liz Gilbert talking about her new book, Big Magic!
Author: Jess Stuart
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Alessandro Valli