Endings have always been difficult for me.
I get attached to people, places, things.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I left my birth country forever when I was a child.
Perhaps it is because I have not yet mastered the art of detachment. I still cling to the way things used to be, the way I imagined they should have been.
Staying open to change is a daily battle.
And so, it is in this state of melancholy that I contemplate the end of my apprenticeship at the Elephant Journal Academy.
With just a few days remaining, I feel a mix of emotions.
There is a clear sense of burn-out from the intensity of the program. I find myself looking forward to some unstructured days and rest. But there is also an unmistakable sense of sadness.
My immersion into the universe of elephant journal—where people live mindfully and strive to be of benefit—turned into an incredibly healing process for me.
I found myself in the sea of positivity and hope—from all the motivational messages from Facebook memes that I had to post hourly, from the inspiring stories of struggle and triumph, right livelihood, spiritual awakening and many others published on the site, which I read daily, and from the conversations and exchanges with fellow apprentices and editors dispersed across the world.
“Be around the light bringers, the magic makers, the world shifters, the game shakers. They challenge you, break you open, uplift and expand you. They don’t let you play small with your life. These heartbeats are your people. These people are your tribe.”
~ Danielle Doby
One of the incredible byproducts of the Academy was the access I gained to a tribe of like-minded people. Everyone in the program was a fellow seeker of truth and life, meaning and purpose. Each participant had incredible stories.
My new tribe was there for me as I opened myself to a degree I had never before dared. As I excavated my wounds and wrote about what hurts, I was met with understanding, support and encouragement. This gave me confidence to push further, go deeper and dare greatly.
The Academy became an incubator where we apprentices found the perfect conditions to learn, develop and thrive. It was a given that each one of us had a voice and a meaningful story within us. We each received enough fertile soil, light and water for our stories to germinate and bloom.
“Your life has purpose. Your story is important. Your dreams count. Your voice matters. You were born to make an impact.”
~ Nicky Gumbel
I applied to the Academy with the intention of “acquiring skills to help me express my voice loudly and clearly in the hopes of being of benefit to others.”
I have certainly acquired the skills to express my voice. I have gained confidence and have had plenty of opportunities to test out my voice through writing. I was also made aware of the various ways in which I could broadcast it.
I now have the necessary tools to make an impact. What I will do with them is up to me.
“Stop waiting for good things to happen to you. You have much more control than you think. Go out there and make good things happen.”
The first test came quickly.
When we were invited to sign on as Teacher’s Assistants (TAs) for the next Academy session, I hesitated. An opportunity to stay in the elephant journal family for a bit longer was appealing, but the time commitment became a stumbling block.
I am a recovering perfectionist, over-achiever and people-pleaser. I always gave 250 percent, with no balance between my commitment to others and respect for my personal needs.
“Learn to say ‘no’ without explaining yourself.” ~ Unknown
As I am learning about self-care, I am also learning to say no. Since this concept is still new to me, I am a bit overprotective of my sovereignty and my needs.
The Academy is what we make of it. The opportunities for progress are tremendous, but to take advantage of them we have to make a serious commitment to engage and participate. The rigorous homework is the least of it.
I had to stretch my comfort zone. I had to open my heart and push beyond fear. I expressed myself publicly (via my writing) about things I have hidden for years. It was a lot, and it was all happening quickly.
Speaking our truth—after a lifetime of living in the familiar comfort of hiding behind acceptable masks—takes getting used to. It is highly uncomfortable, because once we dispense with the masks, there is no place to hide.
The impending end of the program promised me space to go back and catch my breath.
But go back to what? My life pre-elephant journal? But my life is not on hold where I left it, waiting for me. It has changed rapidly through the prism of my shifting perceptions. My life has changed with me.
The question now is rather: How will I live my life from now on?
The trouble with finding our voice, after we’ve spent years looking and fighting for it, is that we now have to live with it. Now that we have found it, we can no longer ignore it.
I am now the highest authority, the decision-maker. I am now accountable to no one but myself. There is no one to lie to or to escape from. No one to defy or rebel against.
I now know who and what I am. What feels right or wrong. And I have proclaimed in my application that I want to be of benefit.
So what now? Will I “walk my talk?”
“Listen to your heart.” ~ Everyone
I made my decision unexpectedly one morning.
I acted on impulse. The feeling that moved me came straight from the heart; my protective ego didn’t have a moment to interfere.
I was reading a post from yet another thriving fellow apprentice, announcing a published article, thanking everyone who helped her make her dream a reality—friends, fellow apprentices, editors, the Academy.
I know that feeling of overwhelming gratitude. I clearly remember the avalanche of emotion that seeing my first article published unleashed in me.
To have something we’ve written published is an incredible milestone and personal achievement.
To arrive at that place in our life, we had to overcome so many barriers—most of them self-imposed.
To write, we have to be able to process our life experiences and distill them into coherent thought. We then must find the voice to express those thoughts in an accessible and succinct language, with which our audience can connect.
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” ~ Karim Seddiki
To then submit our writing to a publisher, we have to believe that we matter, that our story is important. We have to get over all of our shame, our inadequacies, our wounds. We must overcome our self-doubt, every criticism, every mean word we have ever heard. And that, in of itself, is a tremendous accomplishment and a leap of faith.
Whether our work gets published or not is almost the least relevant step, because we have already done all the work on our self—the most important work. This process is usually quite difficult to measure, so publishing renders it visible.
When we finally see our words out there—streamlined, organized, polished, available for everyone to see—we experience a tremendous sense of accomplishment and validation.
But none of us can do it alone.
To achieve something, it helps to have people who believe in us and can get us through the dark days of self-doubt. These people are compassionate, because they know. They have been there and understand the process.
“We are all struggling. Reach out. Be kind. Mean it.” ~ Waylon Lewis
As I was witnessing all those emotions of empowerment, gratitude and accomplishment within myself and all around me, I realized that I wanted to be a TA!
“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.” ~ Rumi
I want to be there to help others discover their voices and find their paths. I would like to reassure them that they are worth it, that their stories matter and that they can make a difference.
“Build someone up. Put their insecurities to sleep. Remind them they’re worthy. Tell them they’re incredible. Be a light in a too often dim world.”
I am ready. To commit. To be passionate. To be productive. To share, contribute and be of benefit.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”
~ Maya Angelou
I am ready to engage and give back, because my gratitude and doing what I love nourishes me. I no longer fear that my giving 250 percent to others will deplete me, because I am as respectful of my needs as everyone else’s and have learned self-care.
“When one door closes another door opens.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell
The new door is opening—and I am walking in.
Author: Galina Singer
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Toby Israel