When you were five, what did you love? Growing up in school we are always told to follow our dreams but how many people really understand what that takes? How many grownups actually believe that to be true? It is a beautiful thought and for many, it is a beautiful fiction to dream about while you go grab coffee for that person that has the dream job you always wanted. Going after your dreams can be tough, scary, heartbreaking and yet it can be an amazing adventure if you let it be.
Growing up, not everyone gets cheerleaders and family and friends supporting them but I have. There have been many different adventures and paths I have gone down. I went to art school, studied fashion design, was a martial arts instructor, published a book, owned multiple women's empowerment businesses, I ran a non-profit focused on education policy, studied clinical psychology in multiculturalism and feminine studies, got my MBA in global leadership, worked remotely, and now I want to teach self-defense online so I can reach and help as many people as possible to prevent them from dealing with what I had to -- these were and are all dreams I have and have had. I have been one of the lucky ones. There have been extreme challenges and roadblocks I have faced. In this technological age, we don't show people the reality. We show people the reality we want them to see, a staged photo, highlights of accomplishments and so on. I never wanted to share my struggles because for me I would think, 'Oh, that's just so personal.' I would also want to focus on the good in my life cause let's face it, who wants to really focus on the bad...despite the fact that we do constantly in society today.
I have dealt with PTSD from years of abuse from multiple partners and colleagues, attempt assaults and completed ones, verbal and emotional abuse, and stalkers. I have grappled with sleep insomnia, temporary disability, being broke for a very long time, and for years, I just kept pushing through it waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. What I didn't realize was there was a light switch, I just needed to switch it on. I mean to say, I had to change my mindset in order to change my reality. Each one of these challenges has been lessons and changed the course of my current state of being.
I have had three stalkers, the first set me in motion to find a dojo and learn martial arts. It was my experience in the fashion/retail industry and that dojo that gave me the realization that I wanted to support women and lift them up. I wanted them to learn self-defense in a safe environment, so they could set better boundaries than I did with colleagues, friends, and other instructors in my school. I've wanted women to feel empowered because there were so many times in my life where I just felt so disempowered. Thus, I co-created my first women's empowerment business. However, while in that business, I dealt with two abusive relationships, one at work and one at home, along with a stalker and an attempted sexual assault. To put it plainly, I was a hot mess and was about to explode. I had extreme PTSD with daily anxiety. It's as though I was in fight or flight mode 24/7 and the upswings were few and far between the lows. Between that and the unhealthy relationships, I lost sight of my dream work and worked on surviving. For so many years, that survival had been my reality. It didn't feel right with my first women's empowerment business. I loved the model and supporting middle school and high school girls on self-esteem, body image, and self-defense training but I wasn't walking the talk and I didn't have the right partner who matched my energy despite her admirable qualities. It took leaving that partnership and leaving the state I grew up in to find a new norm. I started graduate school and have been with a partner that has encouraged me to follow my heart. So the past few years have been about that. What would life look like if you could do anything or that one thing you really wanted to do? Last summer, I had my dream job with an amazing women's empowerment business which had personal and professional development courses, these courses were something I had access to taking and the tools learned are still used today. Unfortunately, the business lost their funding quite abruptly, leaving myself and the other staff out of work. What I learned from that job were some great things though. I learned how to put self-care first without compromise and I gained valuable skills for doing social media and online communications. Also, from the abrupt job loss, on a whim I bought a month of unlimited hot yoga and told myself I would attend every day. Which regardless of if I am in a studio or not, I have kept up yoga every day for the last year. It also brought me to doing something that one should not normally do. I took money out of my 401K and decided to really give my dreams a shot, investing in business groups, better websites, and most importantly ME. I started forming the life I have wanted for years. For so many years, I have dreamed of having a remote job. What catapulted that want was suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet and being hit by a car while riding my bike. The foot injury made even crawling to the toilet painful. Then having more remote work became a priority.
So, this last year, I put time and money towards my self-defense business and my social media business. While I would like to say I am rolling in the dow, these have not brought in the money that would allow for ultimate financial freedom. What it has brought me is the freedom of time; time to take care of my body, time to actually listen to my parents while having our phone conversations versus absentmindedly doing other things while talking (...you know I'm not the only one who has ever done that so don't act shocked!), and taking time to cultivate ideas -- to DREAM BIG. A few months ago, I met this amazing and vibrant woman who shared with me her work and asked if I would put together an online self-defense course. The idea of doing this work full-time feels like an amazing opportunity but I know the work is not done.
I have had way more jobs than many people have in a lifetime, I have dealt with fears, sadness, and pain, I have dealt with epic failures and I say this not for pity purposes but to say, I am happy that those experiences have lead to this time in my life. Jim Carrey had a graduation speech sharing about failure and his father's particularly, explaining why he pursued his comedic dreams. He said some things that really stuck with me:
To check out my new online course that will officially be launching later this month, click here: Warrior Womyn Training
I always hear about these challenges and let's face it, I've done several; 7-Day Detox/Cleanse "Challenge," 14-Day No Sugar "Challenge," 21-Day Affirmation "Challenge". And what I have found with these "Challenges" was that in the end, yes, I felt better but I also eventually slipped back into old habits. I get the feeling that some of you reading this are nodding your heads reflecting back at your many "Challenges" as well. In July of this year, I hit a big roadblock in my life and I decided, "Well shhhhh*********t, I need to get back to focusing on self-care." Anytime I have had a struggle and took time for self-care I have felt insurmountably better:
We talked about "Challenges", and I know several people are thinking "30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge." Hahaha...No. Surprisingly, my 30 days, let alone 60 days did not start out as a challenge at all. It was about economics plain and simple. If I went to hot yoga daily, then this unlimited package was only costing me $4.60 per day (that being if I only went once a day, which so far has been what's happened. Give me time though, I might do two). So, for me to justify spending $140 on a month-long package, I needed it to make sense of it in my head. $4.60 per day for a month is less than a one hour massage at most places or three visits to a chiropractor. However, more often than not, most people don't feel all warm and refreshed after a chiropractic visit (Although, I will share a story later of one such guy who rocked...but I digress). All of this to say, if I went every day, it would be worth it. So that is exactly what I did. I went and believe me the first few weeks were not a cake walk. In fact, the last 60 days has not been a piece of cake but I have been doing it and I will tell you, something amazing has happened.
Throughout these last 60 days, I transformed, both body and mind. No, I don't look like a super model but do I feel freakin fantastic and think I look pretty da*n amazing? YES! Of course, I did what many people do in the beginning, I went beyond my limits. Trying to prove something to myself that in the end proved that I could pull a leg and thigh muscle in one session. Note to all: Go slow and easy! This is not a tough man contest, and I was not racing to some unforeseen finish line. There are 26 postures in Bikram, and you do all of them twice...except the very last one. So go at your own pace and don't go beyond your limits.
When did I know this daily yoga practice became more than just a financial equation and more than proving something to myself or others? It was the day I showed up and class was cancelled. That moment is when I knew that I needed this. Studio or no studio, I needed this daily mantra to continue. And so, I went home and did all 26 moves holding each position for one minute at a time. I needed this because it was more than going through the motion of the positions. During this 90-minute physical meditation, I was problem solving my life.
Heading into each session, I found myself hit with these dilemmas:
What this process has all boiled down to for me is dedication, lots of faith, and an unshakeable belief in myself when there are question marks all around me. So here is my question for you, what is that one activity that makes you feel alive and connected? Whether it is catching a wave, going on a bike ride, a hike, kayaking, going for a swim, playing ball, or the multitude of other activities there are to do in the world which disconnects you from all of the noise but reconnects you to your body? Do that for yourself. No one else will.
"Creativity [...] is entirely and unapologetically based upon magical thinking. And when I refer to magic here, I mean it literally [...] I am referring to the supernatural, mystical, the inexplicable, the surreal, the divine, the transcendent, the otherworldly. Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment — not entirely human in its origins."
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Serving My Happiness
For a long time now, I have shared my story with close friends, loved ones and yes, even therapists. When they hear my story a similar comment has come up, "You should write a blog!" The reality is that I have collaborated on blogs, I have written about other women and their lives, I have covered topics focused on advocacy and online communications but when asked to write about myself, I felt stunted. The idea has been so personal and, as I am sure many people feel, it is exposing. However, there are parts of my life which appear very relevant for others, could possibly help them and so, I decided to buckle down and write this blog. I will say that if you read the beginning and stop, you may find me shallow, uncaring, heartless even, but if you read what I have to share in its entirety, a completely different picture may arise in your mind.
So, here is the reality, I am going to say what you aren't supposed to say. It goes against several theories and beliefs on how to serve the world best, but I am going to share it anyway. Forget your friends, loved ones and humanity, if you are not serving yourself to your highest power, you are doing a disservice to the world, and you will not be as effective at your craft if you do not explore WHO YOU ARE. Who you are is relative to many things and can be psycho-analyzed in many different ways.
In the last seven years, I have associated my mindset with that of an advocate. I have wanted to serve my community in several different capacities. I have served through running a non-profit, owning women empowerment businesses, doing online communications for local and statewide political campaigns, and sitting on steering committees focused on advocating for youth of color and youth impacted by poverty. I have hosted an Undoing Institutional Racism workshop for the city of Tacoma and aided with a national Race and Pedagogy conference. The belief of advocating for others still stands today. Yet, a few years ago, a thought began to percolate in my mind, 'What if I am not serving my community and those I love to the best of my ability? Am I staying in negative situations because I believe I am serving a greater good? Is that even healthy?!' The thought which I am sure many millennials before me have had, and most likely other generations before me will detest was, "What about MY happiness?! What about ME?!" Then an idea popped into my head.
Serving My Happiness is a thought that came to fruition at a very low point in my life. I was drained, tired, had given my all and lost, and now it was time to pick myself up again. However, this time I wanted life to be different. I didn't want to fall down the same rabbit hole. I wanted to rise and serve my highest purpose. What I have found is that by honoring that feeling and following my gut instincts, I am now serving my happiness -- something few people do for themselves in a lifetime. I realized that the more I served my best interests, the more I was available to purposefully help others.
A Blog Focused on Happiness and Healing
Tasha Ina Church