Though it didn’t start out that way, my life in New York City turned into a constant struggle. A struggle to make ends meet, a struggle to ever relax, a struggle to attain personal fulfillment.
When I was 23, there was no place more exciting, no place filled with more possibility than the Big Apple. I felt motivated and driven to keep up with the pace of it all. It became a place in which I learned to assert myself and to gain independence. After a couple of years, however, I found it an ever increasingly difficult place to live, day in and day out. To call it “home” was a struggle. The fading of the honeymoon period became palpable. Instead of looking forward to Friday night amongst the glittering lights and 2am subway rides, I just wanted to hide. Daily life became exhausting. From the moment I stepped out of my cramped living space to greet the day, I dove head first into a current of competition. From the crowded sidewalk to the crowded subway, I entered survival mode adorned with my “armor.” Stone face, headphones in. I was impermeable. Or so I thought.
I didn’t realize at the time that I was battling through life instead of enjoying it. I have no doubt that a small part of me knew it wasn’t the right way for me to live, but I chose to ignore it. Mostly because I thought that I was doing what I was “supposed to do.” And if I gave up, I would be perceived as weak. New York is supposed to be the place where you make a name for yourself, where the world is your oyster. Life is hard, and New York just seemed to make it that much harder for me. It took spending a week in the hospital for me to realize my life needed to change.
In the winter of 2013 I became severely ill. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and spent a week in the hospital. I was unable to take care of myself, plain and simple. It was humbling to watch my body fail me. I had a difficult time understanding why I could become so paralyzed by illness after everything I knew about living a healthy lifestyle. But nonetheless, I needed help. I couldn’t do it by myself. My body was screaming out in pain for me to listen to it, to make a change. I don’t use the word epiphany flippantly, but I had one when I was in the hospital. I vowed right then and there that I was going to live my life for me. In that moment, I no longer felt scared or paralyzed by fear to make a decision about my future. It was time for a big change. Up until that point I had seemingly made choices that were wrong for my innate personality and for my life’s desires. Instead of focusing on who I was, I was consumed with “what” I was. I had ignored what kind of life would make me happy. And my body was telling me: enough.
I believe we prevent ourselves from making big life changes because the routine structure of life makes us feel safe and secure. But that is a complete illusion. What is more difficult is to make choices that will benefit you, even if they seem frightening at the time. I decided to buy a one-way ticket to San Diego, and I’ve never looked back. What I was seeking was a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. To get that, I needed to get out of New York.
To be sure, I still have moments of frustration when dealing with my chronic illness. Moments of denial. But it remains a part of who I am, and I don’t let it define me. I try to live with it instead of against it. We all have our crosses to bear, and I happen to wear mine on the inside. The nature of my condition presents a life that is unpredictable, which is why I try to live my life in the present. The illusion of permanence exists for everyone. We don’t really know where life will take us, so it is essential to focus on what is happening right now. Today, I am healthy. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I can’t let that ruin what I have today.
In times of great difficulty, there is always light amidst the darkness. With pain, there is love. These dualities are what life present in order to encourage us to shift our perspective. We can relieve ourselves from suffering by refusing to resist what is and make choices that enrich our soul. For me, it was to move across the country in order to make myself a priority. Live your life authentically, and doors will open up opportunities that you could have never imagined.