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Wear Rejection Like a Badge of Honor

Berkeley, California – Summer 2003

“We’re worried about you*” were the first words of my brother’s intervention.

Only one year my senior, his concern was both endearing and disconcerting.

He tells me he understood when I took a year off from college to travel the world. I had been young. Defiant. It was something I needed to get it out of my system.

He understood, he said.

But now, I was getting a little old for this.

He didn’t want to see me in the poor house.

He didn’t want me to be “lost” forever.

It was time to be normal.

It was time to revert to type.

Before his call I had been smiling, waltzing with the gorgeous summer sun and imagining my new life.

I was on Telegraph Avenue in front of University of California — Berkeley, feeling my freedom and absorbing the studying students, bounding hacky sack players, snuggled sweeties and rollerblading mamas, thoughtfully considering if this would be my next city.

I’d dreamed about living there for so long.

I wanted to be somewhere with radical politics AND laid-back, hippie tendencies.

Somewhere near water and trees but close enough to a bustling metropolis that I didn’t feel isolated.

I was looking for a culturally diverse city so I’d always feel connected to and learning from the people around me.

I needed sun but not the sweltering heat I’d grown used to in Atlanta.

I wanted farmers markets. Good vintage stores. Museums and live concerts.

I wanted creative vegetarian restaurants and a spiritual community that included meditation, prayer and global wisdom traditions.

I’d already found a yoga studio and church that I absolutely adored.

This was it.

But now that I was twenty-four, my brother was calling me smack dab in the middle of my idyllic Berkeley day and telling me to finish that science class so I could graduate from college, hunker down, get a job, and make something of myself.

Bless his heart.

His intentions were in the right place. He wanted me to be happy and his version of happiness looked like: college, grad school, working for someone else, buying a property, getting a husband with a similar path, having babies and ensuring that they followed in my footsteps.

But it was too late.

I had discovered sovereignty and was already unbound.

The seeds of independence and adventuring and self-actualization that had been germinating my whole life were now blossoming.

I was no longer willing to live according to someone else’s script.

I didn’t want to be in the poor house either, but I was refused to conform just to keep me out.

I was determined to do my life on my own terms.

I moved to Seattle instead of Berkeley and discovered another immensely lovable yoga studio where I practiced five days a week.

I joined a spiritual community that nourished and galvanized me with luminously transformative teachings.

I taught Global Leadership to high school students then took them to China where we slept on the Great Wall and adventured in big cities and tiny villages for three weeks.

I was fulfilled; even if it wasn’t the city I’d initially fantasized about.

By the time I finally took that science course and graduated from college five years later, I’d traveled to five more countries, had a stint at Microsoft, become a birth doula, and met the Dalai Lama in a private audience.

And my brother? He got the grad degree and the property and the job. (He’s still working on the wife and kids part.)

The other week he asked me why I was ‘being rebellious’ – living my own way and all.

I shook him off like a wet dog shakes of the rain.

His continual desire to put me in a box has nothing to do with me.

That’s his trip. And I’m going to let him take it.

Life isn’t an agreed upon path with prerequisites, performance reviews and priorities set by someone else.

It is a piecemeal journey where you can be who you actually are, do what you’re here to do and make it all a successful adventure.

It’s about choice. The willingness to be unprecedented, misunderstood, celebrated, rejected, fulfilled and purposeful, (mis)interpreted and judged.

It’s about knowing who you are and what makes you come alive.

It’s about saying ‘no’ with love and integrity and ‘yes’ with joy and freedom.

*Although my brother wouldn’t reveal who the ‘we’ was, he was not referring to my parents. While a bit trepidatious about my unprecedented adventures, they’d learned to trust me and my path. I’ve determined that he was referring to our community of friends who, like him, were scrambling to live superimposed expectations of ‘normal’ and were disturbed (perhaps jealous?) that I’d jumped ship.

All my love,

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