UPDATE: this post now includes the awesome and (literally) life-changing heart/brain conversation!
I’ve been a little quiet on here, but it’s been anything but slow around these parts. For those who have been following this blog, you may know that I’m embarking on a pretty major life change – t-minus 52 days (but who’s counting?).
I was writing a newsletter to let the people in my life know about this, and as I started talking about what I’m doing and why, it became clear I wanted to write more than just a quick email. I’m hoping to keep this brief as well, but I wanted to give a little more context as to my next steps…
A little background
So the last year has been pretty outstanding from a performance perspective: successful stand-up show in LA, national commercial, and regional theatre work in Seattle. No way could I have predicted this would happen, and certainly not all in the same year – I am extremely grateful for these opportunities and feel blessed that they came my way, as so many people work for years in LA & in this industry without feeling like they gain any traction.
Seattle was a huge game-changer for me, too: it allowed me to start a whole new way of living – I’d never worked as an actor full-time, never done a full-fledged professional show, and never really had my days to myself (mainly have had a string of progressively rewarding office jobs). Plus, I got to do all of this in an amazing, beautiful city, surrounded by some of the coolest people I knew, and all I had to do was show up and do a bit of acting. Awesome, right? Pretty much.
But here’s what I found: looking back at my time in Seattle, I didn’t feel most alive on stage – it was when I was out experiencing that city and life: riding my bike downtown, volunteering, going to museums, talking with people, interviewing the cast – this was what really excited me!
I really think the Universe had presented me with the life of a working actor and asked, “is this what you want to keep pursuing?” And the answer, shocking to me too – was “no.”
So it got me thinking – what do I want to do next? I came back to LA in early May with no job and really nothing to do. I had lots of fun just reading out in the yard by the pool, but soon enough, I wanted to do something and created a project for myself: The Sonnet Challenge, which has been a blast. But there was more to uncover…
See, Seattle awoke a spirit of adventure within me that I didn’t even know existed. Not only did I love exploring that city, but the rest of the country along my journey. I took 5 days to drive up there, and 5 days to drive back – and those times were as amazing as anything else during my 12 weeks out of LA.
One of the other reasons for this breakthrough, I think, is because of all the information I was taking in: at the beginning of the year, I was hooked up with PhilosophersNotes and listened to 50 notes in 50 days (part of a challenge). Listening to ideas from Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Joseph Campbell, Tal Ben-Shahar, and many others was just amazing. I truly believe that if you are even casually interested in what these people are saying, it WILL change your life. It certainly did mine.
So back in July, I was reading this obscure book – you may have heard of it – Eat Pray Love – yeah, so I was reading that and thought “wow, traveling sounds really easy – I think I’d like to do more of that.” Well, that led to more thinking and brainstorming and then on Friday, July 9th, it all came to a head with this conversation:
Heart: You know, I’ve always wanted to live in San Francisco….
Brain: Yeah, it’s a beautiful place….
Heart: Do you think we could move there?
Brain: Uh, yeah. [as if to say, why are you asking me?]
Heart: Do you think we could do it in January?
Brain (simply): Sure.
Heart: Oh really? Awesome, let’s do that then!
I was completely surprised at how simply I could make this decision: my heart really wanted to do this; my brain knew I could do it, and with that, I was off! This reminded me that many “big” decisions in my life are only “big” because I’ve assigned that weight – just like the Buddha said: all events are neutral and our mind assigns the meaning. Things really can be much simpler (and easier and fun!) if I choose for them to be so.
Taking it All In
A close friend recently forwarded me a fantastic article on ZenHabits, called “The Minimalist’s Guide to Cultivating Passion.” There are some great parts (including why Steve Martin is successful), but what really resonated with me was the talk about exploration:
“You need to be exposed to many things…You should expose yourself even though you might not know if you’ll be interested.”
“…discovering passion requires a dedication to unstructured exploration.”
“Put another way: take a step back; relax; then open your eyes to patiently take in all that’s out there.”
And THAT is what I want to do right now. I want to really take the time to see what excites me, hear what people are saying, see what’s going on in the world, and find ways I can be of service to others.
In a bit of a nod to EPL (though I didn’t think of it at the time), I have my own 3 words for this journey:
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” ~ Woody Allen
So what does the next 16 months look like for me? Here’s my best guess:
- Spend the month of November in Hawaii as an apprentice at Polestar, a Spiritual & Yoga retreat center with an organic farm, located on the eastern side of the Big Island (this is already in place)
- Spend the month of December in Massachusetts with family & friends (haven’t been back there since Christmas ’08 – wow)
- Head off to San Francisco, Chicago, Portland (OR), and New York for 3 months each during 2011 – taking the train from city to city to really see this country and take my time!
- Right now, I have no idea where I’ll even stay, but I know that it will all work out
As you might have guessed, this does mean I’m getting out of LA. This has been my home for the last 11 years – lots of amazing memories and friends, not to mention my brother lives here now! Of course I’ll miss many people, but I know this is the absolute best thing for me to do right now, which makes the whole thing much easier.
So, uhh…are you going to just wander the country?
Sorta. I mean, I have ideas on what I’d like to do in each of the places I’m going, but here’s a mission statement I came up with:
Here’s my Primary Objective: just Be. Be the Highest Version of myself – work towards this (I’ll never “get” there – it’s just constant striving). Express gratitude, love, and enthusiasm in what I do and with whom I know and meet.
Secondary Objective: go out into this world and Learn about it. See what’s going on, talk to people, be curious.
I need to keep working hard – be diligent and perseverant with both objectives. Just keep doing, showing up fully in the moment and more doors will unlock.
One of the fun things for me will be getting to know each city and its energy/character/personality. After my 10 weeks in Seattle, I felt like I kinda knew the place – I had been to so many places, done so many things, and met all kinds of people, that I had the feeling of, “ok, I’m pretty comfortable here.” So I began to wonder – could I do that with other cities? Really immerse myself in them and feel like a quasi-local? Well, the answer is yes! Or at least, I’m gonna have fun trying!
I do know that I want to live bymy daily fundamentals & ideals of exercise, optimum health, reading, meditation, journaling, expressing gratitude, and learning – seriously, this is stuff I’ve committed to doing every day and I’m excited to continue the journey! I’ve been brainstorming how this could manifest in each city and am excited to see how this develops!
Something I wrote down at the beginning of 2010 was “I want to listen more than talk.” As I seek out how to live a more conscious, inspired, passionate, creative life, I’m really excited to talk with other people on this path – what works for them? How do they define happiness? Success? What do they focus on in the moment?
The people I most admire: to me, they are expressing their most authentic self, they have found their purpose, creating something of value, and serving others through that content. Two of my favorite examples are here and here. I seek the same path.
Maybe I’ll be shooting videos for a blog site, maybe I’ll be recording conversations, maybe I’ll be writing. I’ll have to see what resonates with me and how I want to spend my time. I want to follow pursuits that will energize and inspire me, not obligate and drain me.
Over the last several years, I’ve dedicated myself to many things, particularly for my acting career (lots of theatre, self-marketing with postcards and newsletters, a pretty fun website); and more recently, a blog, the Sonnet Challenge, and Virtual Nathan. I’m not sure what’s next. But I’m not really in a rush to do anything either. It’s time for me, as the Zen Habit article says, to do less to get more.
I have a lot of ideas of what I could do – I need to just give myself the time (before I dive in and commit 100%) to see what I want to do.
And as that quote above says, this all could easily change. I might go to Hawaii and never come back. Or maybe I land in Chicago and realize that’s where I want to be. I dreamt big, but I still know that I have the freedom to change whatever I want. There’s no obligation with this.
Some of my goals during this time:
- To push my boundaries and expand my Comfort Zone
- To pursue the things in my life that have energy for me, whether it’s work, hobbies, interests, or people, because that’s when things happen
- To connect with people in a playful, genuine way – always being authentic and true to my ideals
- To learn that which will help me work towards my Highest Self
- To study how to solve problems to expand myself and open my mind.
Ok, this all sounds good, but could you give me some more cosmic, “woo-woo” reasons?
Happy to! I’ve written the following things in my journal – hope they seal the deal for ya:
It’s time for me to follow my HEART, not my brain.
This is all about taking a step forward into growth rather than back into safety.
Am I afraid? Yes. So why do all these things? Because the alternative is even more terrifying.
This is a journey – there may be the name of a city on my ticket, but the destination of this path is unknown.
And a lovely quote from a friend of mine:
“If you knew the answers, why go on the journey?”