May 15, 2017

How Elephant Academy Helped me Finally get my Sh*t Together.



If anyone would have told me I could just type up the simplistic advice that I offered a friend (naturally without believing it for myself), add a few random feathers for fun, post as a quote on Facebook and then say it would go viral, I’m sure I would have had an lol.

Given this post reached two million readers, received 83,475 reactions, was commented on 3,565 times and was shared 21,599 times, it’s clear that it wasn’t the feathers and that these words spoke to many of us. These numbers are not meant to brag or impress, but their message was loud and clear:

I wasn’t alone in feeling lost, dissatisfied with life and wanting more, but questioning whether it was too late. 

There were others who also felt like they had failed in life for not having it all figured out as an adult.

Back in the early days, I was the greatest planner and had my life mapped exactly how it was supposed to go. My father is a psychiatrist, and all bias aside, he has a gift and spends his life doing what he absolutely was meant to do. Being very much his daughter, from the time I was three years old, I was crystal clear on what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Each night I would wait for my dad to come home from work and run to greet him—not so much to say hello, but to grab his glasses and briefcase so I could put them on and be just like him. At this young age, I understood that daddy listened to people all day and helped them. Without a doubt, this was all I knew that I wanted to do, and up until a few years ago, I was still determined to fulfill my dream of becoming a psychiatrist and helping people.

Life goal—no checkmark.

I also had my love life all figured out early on. By the time I was 16, not only did I have my girly fantasies of getting married some day, I actually knew who I wanted my groom to be. We weren’t the least bit involved, but within three months of meeting him, I just knew. Though it took seven years for us to actually start dating, my gut had been right. Complete with a fairytale surprise proposal in the south of France, I eventually married my dream man. To this day, there is no question of our connection and that we were meant to be. Just not forever.

Life goal—check. Uncheck.

My relationship failed and I was a failure.

Maybe because I had the most significant aspects of my life planned out so young, when I directed my life off course, it became increasingly more difficult to find clarity in a new vision that had purpose. I tried my hand at many things and even succeeded at many of them, but I wasn’t a psychiatrist and nothing truly fulfilled me.

My attachment to my original plan prevented me from seeing any other way.

Even when I thought I had let go of the old and felt ready for the new, at a subconscious level I remained stuck in how things should’ve been. With every new opportunity, despite the best of intentions, a part of me held back—almost afraid of finding success in something new.

I had messed up and didn’t deserve to be happy.

Additionally, the deeply personal struggles that I kept hidden from childhood and the growing list of failures further took its toll on my already shaky sense of self-worth and esteem.

I was the girl who “had it all.” I came from the “perfect” family, had excelled in everything I touched when I was younger, and was supposed to get life right the first time around. Well at least by the thirtieth time around. But I never did, and despite having the loving support of my family, my confidence plummeted with every fall.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some real cool sh*t. It hasn’t all been bleak and dismal, and I’m sure many who know me are laughing at these words, as many of my friends say they live vicariously through me.

Good ‘ol social media.

I’ve never portrayed anything on Facebook that was fake. It’s all been totes legit. It’s just that I’ve never been one to publicly share when things felt utterly unbearable, and I was drowning.

A few years back, I had returned to school after 20 years and completed my degree. Rather than being proud of this accomplishment, which in itself had been a struggle, I felt worse. I had skipped two grades and was accepted into university early, and here I was crossing the finish line late. I felt embarrassed.

It wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

Graduating led to an internship in Texas. I was immersed in the world of philanthropy in the heart of professional sports in Dallas. Each day was more exciting than the next. The Texans, with their warm hospitality, embraced me, and I built a life that I loved there—but it came to a crashing end when my work visa ran out.

Once again, just as soon as I had found happiness, it was taken away.

The following two years were mostly spent abroad. I was living the dream again, albeit an ever-changing one. But at least I was happy. Inside though, I was lost. Something was missing.

Without anything more meaningful in my life, I was empty.

On the surface, my life was keeping my friends entertained. Galavanting from country to country, mingling with professional athletes and attending the big games, all while supported by the most incredible family and friends. I know I’m a blessed girl, but I’ve struggled to keep it together. I became great at fooling others.

I was afraid to share what I was feeling inside. 

When I came home last year, I knew I wanted to re-establish some roots. Travel would always be a part of my life, but I wanted more. Back to that purpose and fulfillment.

I searched for the “perfect job” and was excited when I found what I thought I was looking for. I began saving for a home to call my own and was just about to make my move when everything once again went—right.

In what appeared to be disappointment and failure, I found what I was looking for. It had been there all along.

For the first time when something went wrong, instead of frantically searching for the next thing and placing enormous pressure to “get it right,” I decided to be at peace and accept. Show myself love. Recognize the huge blessing in disguise. Where this came from, I have no idea. Actually I do. And it’s remarkable, but that’s a whole other chat for another time.

Allowing myself to be in that moment and feel everything I was experiencing, whether it be fate or God, opportunities came to me. Believe it or not, the next day and also the day after that.

One of the two opportunities that presented was the chance to apprentice with elephant journal. This journey has been life-changing. Now I’ve said that about other things I have done and meant it every time. They did change my life in some way, but this experience has brought me back to my calling.

Since January, I have co-managed four of elephant’s Facebook pages—Elephant Adventure, Mindful Gentlemen, Elephant Europe, and Elephant Journal Canada. Through the discussions that came forth from posts, I have gotten to “know” many of you. If only you knew the difference that it has made.

Experiencing the emotions and feelings of those who shared, I was reminded that no matter where we live or the circumstances of our lives, we all have so much in common, and sharing our stories makes a difference. They inspire. They help us heal. I might have “known” this before, but this time I felt it.

I especially have to give the Mindful Gentlemen community some extra kudos. It was the page I spent the most time on, and the courage shown by our readers, as they poured their hearts out to me and shared their fears and frustrations in discussions on the posts, touched my heart and helped me grow.

Your willingness to be so vulnerable was remarkable and inspired me to share my story for the first time, and I’m honoured to have been part of these discussions.

The skills I’ve learned and, most importantly, the people that have come into my life through this experience are priceless. Also, the opportunity to be creative every day as I made quotes to post has been a blessing. But as I shared some of my most private feelings and thoughts behind the safety of my pages’ profiles, your response to them has been the greatest gift. Seeing the impact that my feelings and thoughts, and the way I chose to depict them, have had on you has given me confidence and a lifeline as I find my voice.

I have followed elephant journal for years and the content has helped me tremendously. Having gone through the Academy, it still amazes me that I got to be a part of that contribution for fellow readers.

When I was three years old, I knew I wanted to be like Daddy. Psychiatry was never part of my language back then. I just wanted to help others be happy.

Sharing our voice does just that.

Have I fully gotten my sh*t together, yet? Hell no. Far from it! While this part of my elephant journey comes to an end, I know it’s just the beginning. And even though I don’t have it all figured out yet, guess what?

It’s never too late for any of us to get our sh*t together. Never ever.


Interested in Elephant Academy? Learn more here.




Author: Kalyani Santher
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Travis May

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Kalyani Santher