Crossroads

I feel confused.

I feel a void.

I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to change my life.

I fear taking the risk to change my life.

I describe these kinds of feelings or states of mind to be part of the crossroads: the contemporary mid-life crisis, the new paradigm malaise that inflicts our generation. It is an extended period (10 to 20 years or forever) of angst, dissatisfaction, confusion and disconnection.

At 34, I led a life that many people admired and envied. I lived in a hip neighborhood in Manhattan, wonderful friends, fabulous parties, a well-paying job that carried a lot of status and credibility in the epicenter of international capitalism. I worked hard, played hard, dined and danced. I traveled often. Yet, I felt a void. Everyday I questioned whether this is the rest of my life. I felt that I was missing something, I felt unfulfilled. I also felt like a spoiled brat even entertaining this angst. I was privileged and fortunate enough to have this life, yet I was still dissatisfied. I wondered if the feeling was the result of failed relationships, worry about missing my baby-making window or that my professional career was a long ways from the very reason I became a lawyer in the first place: to be in service. This angst, confusion and dissatisfaction manifested itself in a malaise that started to grow and that became increasingly uncomfortable to live with.

I wasn’t alone. A few friends suffered the same chronic ailment but when I brought up the idea of making a drastic change to get out of it, they cautioned against it. Sure, they agreed there is the malaise, emptiness, dissatisfaction, and disconnection, but risking everything to search for a way out, when I didn’t even know what ‘the way out’ meant, was not a wise move. There was too much too lose. I reasoned that by staying in it wasn’t I losing out on everything else that could be gained?

I was at a crossroads with a difficult decision to make. Do I continue the status quo and try to ignore this void and distract myself with more ‘fun’, more parties, more work or do I take the risk of losing this fabulous life in hope of finding what would really inspire and fulfill me in a way that I had never experienced. I was less fearful of losing what I had than the possibility of missing out on finding what I really wanted.

People had cautioned me from making risky life changing decisions in the past. As before, I didn’t listen. At some point, it wasn’t a choice for me, there was no option but to find my way out of the crossroads. And for me, this meant leaving my job, my friends, my home and my city to find the answer.

A few years ago, after an intense session of abdominal massage with a Thai master in Chiang Mai, who had to sit on my stomach, all 250lbs of her to get deep enough into my dead colon, I had vivid dreams of all my fears. One of those fears was financial security. I immediately called my best friend. I needed to tell her about my fears and that I just wanted over this. I didn’t want my kidneys, lungs to be holding on to this toxicity. What’s the solution? To be rid of this fear of financial security, do I return to the urban, conventional, structured world that I left? Maybe it was time. She reminded me that my law degree wasn’t going anywhere and pointed out that I had left the matrix before and fear drove me back in. Maybe to really get out of my crossroads, I needed more time, that my true calling, my purpose may not come to me during a 6-month hiatus, or a year, or even a couple years. Maybe I needed years. Was it not worth taking the risk to find out? Big picture, what is a few years in a lifetime?

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So I stayed put. I had to be at peace with all my fears. That meant having the confidence and the certainty of the woman I was at 26 to move to NYC, with no job, no visa and a very small savings. I lived the American dream: I came with nothing and created a fabulous, successful life in the big city. I needed to call that younger self back. I needed faith and the deep knowing that I will get what I wanted. But what did I want.

A period of deep uprooting followed. During a challenging emotional time, I was without the security and comfort that most of us can turn to: friends, family, job, the neighborhood coffee shop down the road. I had none of it. Many times I questioned my decisions. Why did I do this to myself? Do I hate myself? Am I punishing myself? Why do I have to take the hard, more challenging road? I met with healers who told me that this was what I needed to get to the other side. This was my process of healing. Heal what, I wondered? And why do I have to experience pain to get over pain. I didn’t get it.

It wasn’t a quick fix. It took time and patience. It took a pregnancy. It took a child. It took more time. It took a lot of exploration- internal and external. It took sitting with myself without being distracted with parties, friends, this, that. I was on my own and then I was with a baby. And then it finally happened. I felt a change. I felt congruency within me. I felt peace. Angst, confusion and dissatisfaction fell away. I was finally out of the crossroads.

Everywhere I go, I meet people at a crossroads, in one way or another. I offer empathy and optimism. I was in it for a long, long time. I know it’s possible to get out of it, that wanting more doesn’t mean that you are taking what you have for granted, that it’s not just a fantasy or a problem we’ve created in our minds. For me getting out of the crossroads was dealing with the pain, longing and lack of fulfillment I felt in my soul.

It took many moves and years for me to get out of the crossroads. In some ways this crossroads we get to or get stuck in is a complicated place but when you’re out of it, the answer, solution, the destination seems so simple because it makes sense. If you can get out of the crossroads you can be in a place that fits, that is comfortable, that feels like You.

I am on a mission to help ease this malaise that is plaguing so many of us.  The crossroads can feel like an alienating, lonely place. But the old line that we are more alike than different is true. The journey and destination out of the crossroads may look different, but when you scratch the surface you find that the essence is the same.

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