Ruby, our hamster, just jumped off her wheel. That damn wheel kills me. She runs with such purpose. Such determination. Such conviction. She believes she is going somewhere. I avert my eyes from my laptop screen and look up at her. She is sitting on her hind legs, staring at me. What does she want from me? I think she is smarter than the average bear or at least the average teddy bear hamster. Her beady little eyes have emotion in them. They do. It’s nearly lunchtime; time is passing quickly as it always does.
I’m not on a wheel anymore. I used to be.
Now, I know I’m going somewhere. Now, I know all this time away from my kids, in exile from joy, counts for something. Now, I know that doing the work, really doing the work matters. I didn’t know that a year ago or two years ago or ten. I wasn’t sure. I hoped it did, but I wasn’t sure.
My eyes shift from Ruby to my husband. He is on his laptop, engrossed in something.
“I’m going.” I say.
“What?” He responds, half listening, continuing to focus on his work.
“Swimming, I mean. I’m going swimming.” I say.
“Okay.” He’s not going to let me mess up his flow.
“Maybe, I’ll jump in today,” I say.
My husband, frustrated that I am still trying to engage him in a conversation, takes a beat, and without looking up from his computer says, “Why would you want to jump in when you can walk?”
I think about that. Our approach to life.
I used to always feel the need to jump … To feel alive, to feel happy, to feel whole, all the time.
I used to think that I was trapped. I used to think I didn’t have the freedom to do what I wanted.
I am me, I am free, and I live my life with joy. That’s what she told me to repeat each morning, every day, twice a day. Repeat. I am me, I am free, and I live my life with joy.
Theodore, the crazy tabby kitten, continues his race through the house stopping to attack my feet again and again. Tracking Ruby from every corner of the house. He just wants to play. I want to play. I understand my 12-year-old son. He wants to play all the time, too. Hell, I want to play all the time, and I’m a grown up.
“Life is a combination of work and play,” I tell my children every day after school—work first, then play. I hear the words coming out of my mouth, but they are hard for me to swallow.
You see, I was raised by old-fashioned parents who pushed the 9-5 Ethos on me. Work hard, then retire and relax. Find a good job with the State so you have a retirement. It sounded so boring. I don’t want that. I didn’t want that. I wanted to travel. See the world while I was young.
I am me, I am free, and I live my life with joy.
I am me, I am free, and I live my life with joy.
I dropped out of college my sophomore year to model. I made a good living at it, too. I lived in Paris, Milan and finally, New York City! I had fun. I could say it was hard work, but that would be bullshit. I know what hard work is, and that was NOT hard work. Yes, there were early call times. Yes, I froze my ass off in Times Square. Yes, I lived out of a suitcase, but it wasn’t hard work. What I do today is hard work. Stressful. Painful. Soul-wrenching. When I was about 20 years old, I read “The Fountainhead,” a book that stuck with me. A particular quote comes to mind:
“To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul – would you understand why that’s much harder?” ― Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
People might say you sell your soul when you model. I didn’t. Silly rabbit. That wasn’t me. Modeling isn’t real. They never had my soul. Never. But just a few years ago I believed that I delivered my soul daily on a platter, for all to devour. I was and still am a visual designer. I share that title with about 212,000 people in the U.S. As a visual designer if you don’t sell your soul, you are probably starving.
As a creative, I’ve been known to say that is no room to be creative anymore. No time. No time for emotion. No time for aesthetic. No time for art. No time. Today, it seems a lot of clients need things faster. In the book How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul, the author states that “Graphic designers are seen as occupying a position in the media jungle somewhere between cable TV game show hosts and door-stepping tabloid journalists.” Ha. That’s a sad statement. A statement I might have glommed onto a couple of years ago.
Nowadays, I have a different perspective. I don’t have all my eggs in one basket (as my mom would say). I mix it up. I write some days. I design some days. I reflect other days. I learn other days. And, I think to myself that Howard Roark was right, it’s much harder not to sell your soul because, bottom line, most of us need to earn a living. Don’t we?
I’ve often fantasized about that trust fund I never had. What I would have done with it? But, I think, what I’ve been through has made me who I am today. And, today, I’m feeling better. You see, it’s all about perspective. And changing perspective, changes everything, so does repeating a few mantras.
About a year ago, I was given a few mantras by a brilliant woman. And, at first, when I said them aloud like she told me to, I didn’t believe them. But, after a few weeks of forcing myself to say them aloud, so my ears could hear them, I started to believe them. And you know what? They worked! So, I’m going to share the ones I used with you.
Maybe you are in the place I was a couple of years ago. Maybe you are lost. Maybe you don’t know how to find joy. Maybe you don’t know what fulfills you. Maybe you are afraid. Maybe you are just exhausted.
I was there. I was. I’d lost that loving feeling if you know what I mean.
Read the mantras below. If they resonate with you, then say all of them twice a day, in the morning and at night, in the mirror. Make sure you say them loud enough for your ears to really hear them. It’s got to do with cellular memory. “The Cellular Memory pre-disposes or, “programs” you to perceive and behave a certain way as thoughts and feelings are made manifest within your consciousness.” And, maybe they will work for you like they did for me. Maybe they will shift your perspective. Maybe they will improve your life.
I release the fear and find my focus now. Repeat. I release the fear and find my focus now.
I am me, I am free, and I live my life with joy. Repeat. I am me, I am free, and I live my life with joy.
I realize my fulfillment where I see it, as I see it, in that moment. Repeat. I realize my fulfillment where I see it, as I see it, in that moment.
By the way, sometimes I jump in now and sometimes I walk. I’m good with both because either way I end up swimming, and that makes me smile.