Yesterday I shouted “I LOVE MY LIFE!” down Manchester Street. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this way and by saying it emphatically aloud I felt a twinge of self-consciousness, yelling this down a not-so-vacant London street. The self-conscious feeling didn’t stop me no more than I could stop the feeling of goodness welling up and out of me.

Hi. I’m thanking myself this Thanksgiving. I feel thankful for my own perseverance and drive to create a meaningful and balanced existence for myself. I take inspiration from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Millennium message:

While engaging in material progress and taking care of physical well-being we need to pay equal attention to developing peace of mind and thus taking care of the internal aspect of our being.”

It’s been a rough year and I couldn’t have said I loved my life seven months ago. Seven months ago, I was in the throes of anguish, stuck at the crossroads of breaking off my marriage. The reasons for being in the relationship no longer stood up, and the mismatched nature between my husband and I, after five years together, was blinding me in the face. So many questions and insecurities abounded as I stepped off into the void. What would I do? Should I stay in the UK or go back to the States? What was I to do to make money? Would I survive? Could we still make it work? Was this the right decision?

I followed my gut, and called off the marriage. I did not think about my parachute. I just pulled on the emergency handbrake.

Things I didn’t think I could accomplish or face:

  • Surviving separation – the doubt, the incessant questioning, and the guilt that go into this is immense. Having to tell others was fraught with anxiety. “To have and to hold, till death do us part” are powerful words. Commitment is highly prized. But so is knowing when to say “Enough is enough.”
  • Deciding whether or not I would move countries – is it enviable that others can move away? Is being globally mobile really all that great? It brings with it plusses but also minuses. I took a trip back to Los Angeles to see if that city still held any sway over me, and alas, it does not. When I touched down in Heathrow, despite all the emotional turmoil, I breathed a sigh of relief. The U.S. may corner the market of “Land of Opportunity,” but really, opportunity is what you make of it.
  • Dealing with parental pressure and traditional Chinese values against divorce – it’s confusing when my mother urges me to break off things completely and swiftly, but then asks me to keep hush that I’m divorcing. The cultural schism between our generations gapes once again, but this time around, I learn to realise that my mother’s opinion is only that: one opinion, not THE opinion.
  • Creating my own employment – did I plan on being self-employed? Did I really know what that entailed? No. I, like so many people, had been spoonfed to associating work with an anonymous company. It’s easier that way. You give up control and are reassured that you’ll receive a paycheck at the end of the month. It also disconnects you from the very real activity of getting business.
  • Setting up my own business without knowing if I wanted to stay or go – despite not knowing anything about business, I kept on working on Melt Therapy. It was mine, and Thai Yoga massage my passion, whether I stayed or left the UK. The thought of re-entering an internet job felt distasteful and untrue to myself. So I chose the only path that seemed interesting, though I planned nothing.
  • Going out to business networking meetings multiple times per week in order to promote myself – try walking into roomfuls of strangers who are all in business and introducing who you are and what you do. Do this four-to-five times per week, knowing full well that this is the scattershot method to gaining new clients, and tell me if you feel exhausted. It is a matter of motivation and energy. I’m just now learning more about Sales and Marketing, and learning to trust myself in this venture.
  • Understanding the difference between being productive and “making money” (paid vs. unpaid labour) – when I wasn’t “working” (aka massaging) I felt I was a loser. I wasn’t paying myself the time I was doing admin or going to meetings, and hence felt those were less worthwhile. They are all aspects of one’s business however. And one’s business really is one’s life…at least mine is. So my lifestyle is my business. This means I am set on a path of living authentically and being me.
  • Making ends meet by myself in one of the world’s most expensive cities – who knows if I’ll ever afford a £1 million home here in London. I have to love the home I’ve made for myself here and now. And all who visit me say my flat’s pretty cute and homey.
  • Packing up a two person flat, and moving in a smaller one for myself – I faced the prospect of shutting down all outgoing expenses and accounts, plus chucking out bags and bags of unwanted personal items. As my husband was no longer in the country, the onus was left to me. A lot of stuff was carried to charity shops. I packed and dumped, disassembled, packed and dumped. I then moved myself into a new part of the city, feeling completely alone.
  • Coping with having no family in a foreign culture – only when my cousin visited me had I realised I missed family. My parents have no interest in coming to an expensive cold country, so haven’t bothered. It’s forced me to re-examine the relationship I have with my mother.
  • Having less friends that I do in the States – having less friends means less resources to draw upon. But really, how many friends did I need? And also who’s to say I won’t make more friends?
  • Being granted British Citizenship – in the midst of indecision, I qualified as a citizen and this helped me decide to stay. I miss many things American, but home is where you make it. And part of me, thinking back to my childhood in Australia, feels like I came full circle.
  • Applying for a British passport – though I don’t plan on travelling very much in the near future, it’s always nice to be prepared.
  • Sorting out my banking and financial health – a primary deal-breaker in my marriage was the state of our finances and how my husband and I saw money and savings differently. The years that ensued caused me to become an anxiety-ridden wreck, and to constantly fear the lack of money. Since separation, I entered cognitive behavioural therapy, but what really shifted matters for me was seeing an independent financial advisor. He non-judgementally gave me concrete advice and examined my personal and emotional relationship to money. It was one of the most cathartic things I could have done for myself.
  • Understanding that I actually do have a good relationship towards money, and gaining perspective on Savings, Earnings, Borrowing, and Spending. Now that I have a basic understanding of how I operate with money, it’s time to put the building blocks in place. I no longer wish to be a slave to money, but rather, start building a life whereby money serves me, my needs, and how I wish to live.
  • Learning to pamper myself, and accept nurturing acts of kindness – my previous blogs have dealt with a new injection of femininity, which makes me feel more complete. Plus it’s all fun, comforting, and rewarding.

I am thankful to the handful of friends around the world who have seen me through these hard times. A lot’s happened. I have my blue days still, but more and more, as I get into the rhythm of my own existence, life feels joyful. I no longer look to others for direction, whether that be from my mother or from the head of an indifferent company. I simply have to follow my own desires and remain responsible to myself. As a friend once said, “You are now the captain of your own ship.”

I continue to shore up my business. The business of being myself. This business of taking care of my needs. It’s not over and there’s always more around the corner. But to excise that which does not serve you, to prune, to make space for new things – these are things that require patience and consistency. Once you make space, there is an unexpected freedom that comes from uncluttering. This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to myself…not because I act selfishly, but because I am uncompromising to my personal values.

Erica, 34, London UK

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