Tales of Transition Part 3: I business-consulted the fuck out of my life

 

 

I drove my blue Holden Barina into the city of Brisbane.

As the sun disappeared and the darkness dropped in, the city lights danced across the winding river.

“Wow” I breathed. “Brisbane, you are beautiful.”

 

I’d arrived with nothing. No plan. No job. No place to live.

I was certain it would all work out.

House sitting a friend of a friend’s house for a week, I set about trying to get my life in order.

First was a job. Which I got on the second day, as a bookkeeper for a fancy fruit shop in the fancy part of town. “Start tomorrow” he said. And I did.

Next was an apartment. Which I got a week later, in a dodgy suburb about 15 minutes from the city and my work. The walls were paper thin, I could hear EVERYTHING my neighbours were doing. But I could just afford the rent.

I took my stuff out of storage and set up house.

Brisbane would become my home for the next eight years.

 

One thing my parents instilled in me from a very early age was a good (so good it was bad) work ethic. This served me well in the corporate environment.

Bosses loved me because I worked long and hard. Clients adored me because I was young, sweet, ready to please (self-worth issues much?), relatable, and I got the job done.

I quickly made my way from receptionist to bookkeeper to business consultant to senior consultant without any formal training.

 

When my partner at the time hit 30, he had – what we jokingly (not jokingly) called – a quarter life crisis. He flipped the fuck out.

I think I was 25 or 26 at the time. I watched him with interest and decided then and there that would NOT happen to me (famous last words).

So I did what I always did when there was an issue that needed solving. I business consulted the fuck out of my life. I strategised, I project managed and I put into place a very solid five year plan, to ensure at the ripe age of 30 I would be top of the corporate ladder, have heaps of money and a university degree to boot.

I told myself, at 30, I’d have nothing to worry about.

I certainly would NOT be having any quarter life crisis.

 

The Universe laughed.

My soul was under there somewhere kicking and screaming “Don’t do this!

But I was too high on six figure incomes, a huge ego and recreational drugs to notice.

 

Fast forward a couple of years – and I had it all. I was 28 years old, a senior consultant, a huge pay packet, a business degree almost complete, a fancy convertible car. The universe had delivered.

My life was ticking all the boxes. I should have been happy.

But I wasn’t.

That creeping depression was there every day.

Before work on Mondays, I’d lie in bed, the sense of doom in my stomach pouring out through tears.

 

I had been contracted out to a mining company to do some consulting. This wasn’t new. I had worked on mining sites many times before. But this time something was different.

As I flew into that mine site , it was like I had suddenly woken from a deep sleep and was seeing the world – my world – for the first time.

They were digging up the earth, destroying the land, all for the sake of money.

I could feel the pain of the earth pulsing through me.

This was the very thing I was against.

I was not only contributing to it, but capitalising on it!

 

Once you’ve seen something, you cannot un-see it.

I started to ask myself some bigger questions: What is the point to this? Is this all there is to life? How am I contributing to the world in a way that is meaningful? What am I here for? What is my purpose?

Alongside a newly forming passion for veganism; alongside the creeping depression that was not-so-subtlety telling me “this lifestyle is not for you”; alongside a growing concern for our world and our environment, I could no longer stick my head in the sand and pretend everything was okay.

 

One morning, I was sitting at the end of my boyfriend’s bed in just my bra and undies. He had a mirror at the end of his bed. I looked up and stared at myself in the mirror.

I had no idea who I was.

Who is this person staring back at me?

I had created the perfect life. I had done all the things “they” told me to do – get the job, the relationship, climb the corporate ladder, make the money.

The problem was, in doing that, I’d veered so far off my own path, I’d completely lost sight of who I truly was.

Nothing in my life felt like me – not even me.

Something had to change. But, when you have no idea who you are, you have no idea what you truly want.

 

Little did I know, I was about to enter one of the darkest periods of my life.

Looking back, I can see that it was at this very moment, I began to drop into the unknown. That space in between stories as Charles Eisenstein calls it. Where the old life is done but the new life is yet to make itself known. It’s a space where I would remain for a long, dark, frustrating seven years.

 

Lobbed into my inbox one afternoon came an email from my university. They were looking for volunteers to work with endangered seas turtles in Costa Rica.

This is for you” my soul whispered.

Finally, I started to listen…

 

Part 4 coming soon.

 

Need support in navigating transition

Tales of Transition Part 2: A west coast adventure, drugs and depression

 

He peered over the bar at me with his long lashes and droopy eyes. Assuming he was stoned, I made the shape of a pipe with my fingers and mouthed Mary Jane over the loud music.

We both laughed.

His name was Evan and he was travelling with his mate Ben all the way around Australia. They were carpet layers – a very lucrative occupation as I would later discover – and they’d stopped in Darwin to work and cash up.

The sports bar I worked at in the evenings had become their local.

The three of us quickly became friends. Then, Ev and I became more than friends.

I had been in Darwin for only a few short months. My life was work and party, in no particular order. I was trying to dull the relentless depression that had followed me from Alice Springs to Darwin.

It wouldn’t go away.

When the guys asked me if I’d like to leave and travel with them down the West Coast of Australia, I said “Yes!”

 

It certainly did not make sense.

I’d just moved into a flat with a friend – how would I tell her and break the lease? I had no money – bartending did not pay well. I had really only just got settled and now I would leave – what would my Mum and Dad think of this now? I had two cats that would need a home – could I really part with these babies?

It seemed like an illogical, irresponsible, almost impossible plan.

Yet, as I would come to learn, every time I committed to me and my path – regardless of how ridiculous it sounded – the universe always conspired to help.

Doorways opened. Road blocks were smashed.

New tenants took over my broken lease almost immediately.

My parents – bless them – as always, supported the idea.

I managed to wrangle a fortnightly government allowance by telling some sort of sob story – I can’t even remember now. But they believed it.

My ex happily took our cats – he had always wanted them.

 

And, once again, I found myself travelling with two guys.

Kissed brown from the Australian sun. A wide grin of freedom plastered across my face. Sleeping every night in a giant tent close to the earth. Exploring the magical landscapes of Australia.

I felt alive again.

We worked our way down the west coast and along the south coast of Australia. The guys sometimes taking odd carpet laying jobs. Me, trusting on my fortnightly government payment and picking oranges and grapes to pay for fuel.

 

When we arrived in Albury Wodonga, the home town of Ev and Ben, things changed.

The depression I’d ran from in Darwin returned with a vengeance. Stronger and nastier than ever before.

Every morning I would wake with its strong fist clenched tightly around my heart. I would do anything not to have to feel it. Not to have to be with it.

I smoked weed every day to try to escape it – I’m sure this made it worse.

I expected Ev to make me happy . He didn’t and couldn’t. Our relationship eventually ended.

The cold winter of Victoria certainly did not help – I’ve always chased the sun.

I told myself it was the shit job and hours I was working. I talked my way into my first receptionist position at an Accounting firm – no more night or weekend work – but the creeping depression remained.

I partied away entire weekends in a blur of drugs, dance floors, strange men, crazy circumstances and toxic relationships.

Then I’d spend Sundays in bed wishing I was dead.

Even now, looking back on that time leaves me with a dark sense of dread in the pit of my stomach.

 

What I didn’t realise then, but what I know now is this depression was calling me inwards.

This way of being was done, old. I’d outgrown it. It was time to create something new.

But to do this, I would have to pause in the darkness. I would have to find the courage to do an internal clean up and get quiet enough to hear the next steps. Then consciously lay a new platform on which to build this next phase of my life upon.

Nothing I did in the external world was going to work until the internal exploration began.

But, back then, I didn’t have the knowledge, awareness or tools to navigate a dark unknown.

I just thought I was broken, sick, destined to suffer – a story I would start and continue to tell myself again and again for years to come, creating a spiritual wound I would later have to go back and repair.

So I ran.

Three years after I arrived in Albury Wodonga, I took out a loan, quit my job, loaded my stuff onto a removalist truck and headed for Brisbane.

Perhaps the sunshine would help.

 

Read Part 3 here.

 

Need support in navigating transition

Tales of Transition Part 1: Two random boys, opal hunting and the Alice Springs casino

Right now, as I write this, I’m preparing for a huge untangling and transition.

And because, like in all big transitions, I’m feeling scared and uncertain, I’ve started to look back on all the untanglings and transitions I’ve been through over the last 20 years, to remind myself that things always, somehow work out.

I’ve been looking at the times I’ve said goodbye to comfortable situations to step outside my comfort zone and grow. The times I’ve wiped my whole entire life to the ground, to rebuild and start again fresh.

There have been several of these major transitions, which I’m going to share with you through story telling over the next few weeks.

I’d like to say I did all of these transitions with awareness. But, in the early days, before spirituality was cool, intuition was a commonplace word and the internet was even really a thing, I was just a young girl who had a burning desire for something more. Something that didn’t look like what everyone else was doing.

I could feel it, but I couldn’t explain it. So most people thought the choices I made were flaky at best, crazy at worst. Regardless, it is a feeling I have never been able to ignore.

You could say, untangling has always been a part of who I am.

 

PART 1: TWO RANDOM BOYS, OPAL HUNTING AND THE ALICE SPRINGS CASINO

I’m 18 years old, living with my parents and working as a checkout chick in the local supermarket in the Barossa Valley South Australia.

I think, like most 18 year olds, I had no clue what I was doing with my life.

In the final year of my schooling, my high school teacher had handed me a giant job description book and as I unenthusiastically flipped through it, I thought to myself “What is this shit? There’s nothing in here for me.” This same teacher then continued to preach the importance of getting good grades in our final year and going to University. He told us, if we didn’t, we’d never amount to anything. A ridiculous concept, that even at that time, made me furious.

What a load of bullshit.

I had been accepted into the best music college in the state but this didn’t light me up. So I gave up my 11 years of music practice, decided not to go to university and started working as a checkout chick.

I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was depressed. I’d wake up feeling sick almost every morning.

This depression was something I would come to know very well over the next 15 years. It is the thing I ran from and yet also the very thing that has kept me on my path.

 

TWO RANDOM BOYS

On a random Saturday night, I went to the local pub for some wine and mischievous fun with my friend, like we did every weekend.

As we walked in, there at the bar drinking beer were two scruffy looking guys we’d never seen before. We walked straight up to them and a conversation began.

We learnt their names were Eli and Darren. Darren played guitar and Eli sung. They liked motorbikes and Darren drove a bright blue old ute.

And then, somewhere in the conversation, they told us on Monday they were leaving. First they would spend time in the opal fields near Coober Pedy and then drive onto Alice Springs.

As they told me this, I could feel a big resounding YES in my heart.

THIS IS FOR YOU.

There in that pub, full of probably too much wine, I blurted out  “I’m coming with you.”

They laughed.

And I said “I’m serious. Is there a spot for me in the ute? I hate it here. Let me come with you.”

They laughed again, looked at each other for confirmation, exchanged some kind of silent agreement, shrugged their shoulders and said “Sure! Be ready on Monday.”

I went home the next day, hungover and feeling a bit worse for wear but determined.

My Dad wasn’t home at the time. My Mum was in the kitchen folding laundry.

I said “Mum! I’m going to Alice Springs!”

She looked up and said “That’s great. When?”

I said: “On Monday.”

And the colour dropped out of her face.

As I explained to her my plan of driving into the remote areas of Australia with two random guys I had only just met, the colour continued to drain out of her face.

“But your father is not here, we can’t discuss it with him.”  she said.

I could see she was worried that when he returned and she told him she’d let me drive off with two strange men he wouldn’t be happy – understandably.

I also knew she was worried for me. I could see that clearly in her face.

And, of course, she asked “What about your job? What are you going to do about money?”

I don’t think I had much, perhaps $1000 or something like that.

I simply responded “I’m not going to work on Monday.”  and headed to my room to pack my bags.

My parents, bless them. They have always had my back in all the crazy decisions I made. They have always supported me, always cheered me on, always offered a safe base to return to if anything ever went wrong. I am so grateful to them for that. It is, I am sure, one of the reasons why I have been able to take these big leaps of faith.

And on that Monday morning, I packed up a bag of clothes, swung it into the back of Darren’s blue ute,  and we drove away.

This was my first taste of stepping into the vast unknown.

I LOVED IT.

I cheered as we drove out of my childhood town. And the guys couldn’t wipe the grins off their faces.

This was really happening.

 

OPAL HUNTING

We drove for hours, through the day and part of night. Eventually, when we were too exhausted to drive any further, we pulled over under a big tree to rest. We’d had a romantic idea to sleep outside under the stars but the mosquitoes wouldn’t allow it. So we crawled back into the cab in the ute and fell asleep together.  Me squished in between the two boys, tossing and turning  between each of their shoulders.

Eventually we arrived at this remote opal mining community. There was one drop toilet and no showers. People lived in make-shift shacks, tents and old, rusted caravans. It was hot and dusty and dirty. It was the epitome of the Australian outback.

The closet shop and pub was a 30 minute motorbike ride away on an incredibly bumpy old road.

We’d go into the pub sometimes. Darren would play guitar, Eli would sing, I would drink and we’d become friends with the locals.

We pitched a tent in the mining community and stayed for over a week.

The guys were concerned for me. Was I okay to just eat baked beans? To not shower? To not have a proper toilet?

I just smiled. I was in my element.

Sleeping on the ground, close to the earth, sitting around the campfire playing guitar and singing, jumping on the back of Eli’s motorbike and holding on for dear life as he navigated the dirt roads, taking each day as it came. This was living!

Also, if you’re wondering, we never found any opals.

 

THE ALICE SPRINGS CASINO

Eventually we made it to Alice Springs. And this is where I was on my own.

The guys left to go back to South Australia but I knew I could not. That part of my life was done.

I set about trying to find a job.

I worked as a cashier in Red Rooster for two days until I eventually told them to go fuck themselves.

I landed a job washing dishes at the Alice Springs casino. Each morning, I’d have to wake at 4.30, in the freezing desert cold and walk an hour and half over the Todd River to my job where I would wash dishes and chop vegetables for eight hours.

I hated it. I hated it so much. It was awful!

But I was free.

Even though I had no idea how any of this would turn out, I trusted. My intuition had lead me here, it would somehow be okay.

And it was.

My beautiful parents offered to drive my car to Alice Springs and they also found me a quiet place to live. Before that, I had been staying in a noisy backpackers, which became really tiring really fast.

Soon after, I kicked that horrid casino job goodbye, talking my way into hospitality as a bar tender at a resort and a waitress at a steakhouse.

My life was abundant. I made friends. I saved money. Life started to feel good.

Then, almost a year into my new life in Alice, the creeping depression returned, the intuitive rumblings came again. I became restless and unsettled.

It was time to leave…

 

Read part 2 here.

 

Need support in navigating transition

{Untangled 022} The influence of capitalism on our spirits, with Lyla June

Lyla June Johnston Untangled

 

Love this podcast? Subscribe over on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher and never miss an episode.

 

The influence of the capitalist system on our spirits: this was the theme of discussion I proposed to Lyla June when we began our interview.

You see, Lyla June’s story is quite different from those we’ve heard previously. Believing that capitalism is the root of destruction of the earth and the people, she’s lived a series of life experiments, consciously weaving in and out of the capitalist system with an ultimate goal to change that very system.

Life experiment number 1: She chooses not to be part of the capitalist system and for three years she practices what she calls “fearless generosity”, giving away her work and gifts, in a selfless act, for the betterment of her people.

Life experiment number 2: she enters the corporate world, this time with the goal to change the system from the inside.

Life experiment number 3: she decides to build her own system, returning to her traditional institutions and working with Diné peoples to create and sustain their own education systems free of white colonial fetters.

In addition to Lyla’s very unique personal story, you’ll also hear her talk about:

+ The role indigenous cultures and traditions play in helping western societies rebuild social systems and models for a more sustainable world.

+ Putting women at the root to create stable societies

+ And stories highlighting the historical events and treatement of the Diné people.

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{Untangled 021} Navigate on Trust, with Fenja Sepers

37 - Fenja Sepers Untangled 600px

 

Love this podcast? Subscribe over on iTunes or Stitcher and never miss an episode.

 

Back in 2012, Fenja Sepers traded her job and home in Amsterdam for a surfboard and a suitcase and the plan to have no plan. She figured that our understanding of life and the world is not generated through reasoning, but through experiencing, and so taking distance and breaking with the Western system was necessary to create a rupture in the way of thinking and open up to new ideas and worldviews. Fenja baptised her journey Navigate on Trust, taking on a life-experiment that embraces the age-old wisdom of uncertainty. In 5 years she travelled through many countries, experienced joy, beauty, loss, and insecurity, which led to some profound life lessons.

(more…)