February 26, 2023

What I Learned about Surrender when I Decided to Change my Life in a Major Way.

When my resignation clanked at the bottom of the school board’s mailbox on Hinrich-Schmalfeldt-Straße in Bremerhaven, Germany, on January 29, 2022, it meant a lot of things.

I would be leaving my country of residence for the past 11 years as well as my cushy teaching job. I would be saying goodbye to many wonderful people. I would be moving back in to my mother’s house in West Falls, New York. I would be walking away from a certain European lifestyle of travel and a relationship with a man I loved.

Still, my gut told me it was time.

Where exactly am I going? I would wonder. It didn’t matter at first, I just had to go.

That sacred knowing is hard to ignore; it made me so uncomfortable that I had to change. For me it was the suffocating feeling of stagnation, two torn calf muscles, weight gain, hair loss, burnout, and frustration.

There were nights I wailed on my couch, wishing I could just be happy with a “normal” life as a teacher at my school, wishing status quo and safety fulfilled me. But they simply did not. Even after dropping the envelope into the mailbox, I fantasized about sticking my fingers in the slot, pulling it out and saying, “Just kidding! I can accept this life!”

But that would have been deeply wrong. I had my own vision for my life, though it was still a bit blurry.

I sold or gave away almost everything I owned: my furniture, my car, and my appliances. I sent three huge boxes of art, souvenirs, and clothing. I flew with my cat to America, arguably the most stressful part of the experience. I said tearful, gut-wrenching goodbyes.

Hollowed out and heartbroken, I boarded a bus to Amsterdam, Sloterdijk, with 150lbs+ of luggage on September 28th and flew out on the 29th. I remember looking out of the window as we left Europe behind and thinking it was all so surreal, all completely unknowable, all a big question mark.

There was so much grief in changing my life—even though I chose to do so. Grief, discomfort, and second-guessing. Was this the right decision? Did I just mess everything up? Should I just go back? What’s wrong with me? I cried gallons of tears and went on many long, solo walks to try to make sense of the whirlwind of the past months. My life coach received many a text and phone call. I felt like I couldn’t talk about this pain and fear with those I’d left behind because they would say, “But isn’t this what you wanted?” Yes! It was! But that cannot overshadow how hard it is. The paradox of knowing I needed to leave and the pain of pursuing it were two truths I, but not everyone else, could hold at the same time. It was a lonely type of sadness.

I lived with one foot in Germany and one in the USA for the first three months, constantly checking my phone for WhatsApp messages from friends in a time zone six hours ahead. I didn’t go out and meet new people, except at the gym. Writing served as an outlet, but I was afraid to approach the topic of having left Europe because of what it might bring up—salt in the wound too soon.

It was hard. It hurt. It sucked. I still felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

But maybe there was a reason for that.

According to the app The Pattern, since May 2022 my life pattern has been “freedom from the known,” and boy have I felt it. As a (recovering) Type A, I have tried to control outcomes all my life, and this time I had to sink into the discomfort of not knowing. I fought it at first, trying to make plans, realizing that the only true plan was letting go. Finally, I decided to surrender to it, literally stating out loud: “Universe, I surrender to you. Universe, I trust in you.”

I know it’s woo-woo and some of you are rolling your eyes right now, but it was what I needed to do. At the same time, I read Anne Lamott’s Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, finding a mantra from Katherine Norris, which I began to incorporate into my life: “Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine.” Maybe there was potential in the unknown. I asked to be changed in ways I couldn’t imagine to see what might happen.

Now it’s March 2023 and I am on the other side of this major life change, which felt like suddenly coming out of a dark tunnel and seeing light.

I took a writer pitching class with Sue Shapiro recommended by my writing coach and made a bunch of writer connections. I pitched some of my pieces and had two picked up immediately. I wrote fearlessly and shamelessly. I joined a gym that has become a supportive community and have regained a feeling of oneness with and agency over my body and its capabilities. While interviewing a small business owner for a piece, we came up with a cool Book Club+ concept for locals. I entered what I would call a state of flow in which opportunities kept presenting themselves to me. I also met a man I feel a true connection with.

Was this a result of asking the universe for the things I couldn’t imagine?

Indeed, one year ago, I could not have imagined my life as it is now. I could not have imagined feeling expansive and open to opportunities or being in a state of flow. I find myself saying: “I am so happy right now,” instead of my previous: “I need to escape my life.”

It’s kind of incredible.

Surrender” and “trust” are my words of 2023. I had to go through a metamorphosis to get here—skipping the painful, bone-crunching caterpillar-in-a-chrysalis stage to reach a higher potential was not an option. All the goodbyes and uncomfortable emotions were required. As the steps toward a life I have manifested unfurl around me, I feel trust in the universe in a way I never have before. Maybe we all need to surrender to divine intervention and let the magic happen. Maybe all we can see is what is in front of us, whereas the universe has a bird’s eye view.

Maybe surrendering is the most daring thing we can do.


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