In March of last year, I got a phone call from my then-editor with some upsetting news. They were shutting down the Washington, D.C. branch of the online fashion and lifestyle site where I had worked as a writer, thrived, and loved life for the previous two-plus years. The call came hours before I was getting on a plane to L.A. for a soul-searching trip of sorts. The timing was interesting, to say the least...
The writing job was, in fact, my second job—a part-time gig that filled up the hours when I wasn’t at my full-time as a project manager for the Food & Drug Administration. I was essentially living out my true passion as a writer, in my off hours.
I had gotten my day job at the FDA pretty much out of college, and had coasted comfortably along for five years. It was safe and secure, and I was perpetually reminded by family members, friends, and the world at large, that “in this economy,” I was lucky to have a stable position at the government—and should never let it go.
My parents urged me to keep the job until retirement—literally. Staying at a government job for 20-plus years, and collecting a pension as reward, was what smart people did, they said. In their eyes (and in the eyes of many others), government jobs are stable, and that’s something they never had, and wanted for me. If I wanted to pursue my passion, they encouraged me to do it on the weekends, as I had been doing.
And so, I was creative on the side. My time and energy were always split between the FDA and my writing. I felt like I was living a double life. I’d go into work in a super-conservative, government-y outfit and spend hours on topics that, though worthwhile and important, were never my passion.
I spent nights and weekends in my ripped jeans and fuzzy cashmere crop tops, writing into the wee hours of the night about the beauty routines of local DJs, how to beat winter skin woes, and why Drake makes a great workout playlist. And it never, ever felt like work. Of course, I knew I couldn’t keep up the two gigs forever, which was why I had planned that trip to L.A., even before I found out that my writing job would be ending.
I was already feeling like my life was in limbo, and L.A. had always been where I wanted to live. I thought perhaps I’d find answers during my trip there. I had no idea how true that would be.
Three days after I arrived, the friend I was staying with invited me to the guided meditation she’d been attending every Wednesday as a mid-week de-stresser.
The first thing you should know before I continue this story is that I am the least hippy-dippy person on the planet. I don’t know anything about crystals, I don’t burn incense, and I don’t start my day with sun salutations or reflections (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I am, however, incredibly open-minded, so the idea of attending a guided meditation was exciting.
When I arrived at the studio, called Spellbound Sky, the room was full of blankets and pillows and it felt instantly welcoming, relaxing, and safe. Everyone was friendly. There was, dare I say, a good energy.
Our guide, a meditation guru named Jessica Snow, began the session with a poem by Rumi. The narrator of the poem describes being “asleep” as a metaphor for living one’s life according to others, and the inherent inability to know one’s self when living that way. The poem's powerful refrain is: “don’t go back to sleep, you must ask for what you want.”
After the poem, Jessica introduced the “stone” of the evening (each meditation session is matched with a stone that symbolizes the theme of the night). Sodalite, Jessica explained, was a dark blue stone that represents “the energy required to separate what we really want from what others want for us.”
The subsequent 40 or so minutes involved a visualization I will truly never forget.
Jessica explained that the evening’s “owl meditation” was a power-raising meditation. The idea is to connect with and remember who you really are. She walked us through an exercise in which we pictured ourselves as owls. We could fly anywhere, and do anything, and the vast expanse of the universe was ours. She asked us to picture what it was that our hearts wanted most in the world. To let go of fears, and the voices of others, and to see from our bird’s eye view the life we wanted.
Then she asked us, “as the powerful hunters that owls are, to swoop down, and get the components of that life. To grab “with our owl talons,” exactly what it was that we desired. To go after it. Pick it up, grasp it, bring it back to our home, and own it.”
Picturing yourself as an owl may sound hokey, but I went with it. Perhaps I was so open to the experience because I was desperate for life answers at that time, but I also think that you might be surprised by how easy it is to surrender to the visualization, especially when there’s a person giving you the "permission" to envision your dream life. The commands Jessica gave, and the instructions she provided, felt akin to when an instructor in a spin class tells you to pedal faster or pedal slower; or your boot camp instructor tells you when to crunch, and when to lay back down. You do what they’re saying, you try your best, and you feel better for it.
In that moment, what I wanted most, and what I knew would make me happiest, was utterly clear. I could see every facet of my life as a full-time editor, with a creative company, living in Los Angeles. I could see myself in a thriving, modern office-place with likeminded coworkers, pitching ideas, brainstorming stories, and writing about them. I could see my desk, my relationships, and my personal and professional fulfillment. I knew it was what I wanted and the life I was meant to live.
When I got back to D.C., I began by making clear to everyone in my network that I wanted to move to Los Angeles and work as a writer. I told people. I wanted it out there, in the universe, and wanted people to have me at the forefront of their minds if they heard about positions in Los Angeles.
I patrolled job postings online and applied for several positions. Sure enough, because I had had the courage to tell people about what I really wanted to do (the fear of failure and nay-sayers be damned), a friend passed along a tweet that Byrdie was hiring beauty editors. I prepared my cover letter, sent my writing samples, and, when I got a call back, I went to work furiously writing the edit test of my life.
Within three weeks of getting back from my trip to L.A., I had secured a freelance job as an editor-at-large for Byrdie (meaning, I was writing from D.C.). I was tremendously proud of myself, and it was a huge step in the right direction because I now worked for a publication based in Los Angeles. I was that much closer to living there.
I proceeded to get my finances for the move planned. I had to save a large chunk of money if I was going to leave behind the life I’d built in D.C., and move to the West Coast to begin again.
Two months later, I got a job offer to do something different, and pretty cool, at the FDA. Had I not had such clarity on what it was that I wanted, I would have said yes. The pre-meditation me would have said, “Why not? It’s interesting and it’s an honor to have been asked to step into this role.” But I knew that taking on a new job—in a field that wasn’t ultimately my dream—was a distraction. It was scary to turn down something so “good,” and there were lots of voices telling me to take it. Still, I said no.
Six months after returning to D.C. from that fateful trip, I quit my job at the Food & Drug Administration and watched my best friend get married—it was the very last epic thing I would do on the East Coast before moving. I flew out to L.A. again, to apartment hunt and meet the Byrdie team in person. I completed another edit test, met the founders of the company (Clique Media) for a final interview, and got my job offer the same day my boyfriend and I signed a lease in West Hollywood. It was the best day of my life, and I jumped up and down so hard when I got the call that I banged my knee into a door handle and had a bruise for four days.
I am writing this story four months into the job I always wanted, the one I knew would make me happiest, in the deepest corners of my soul. My life is exactly what I pictured in that owl meditation, and it’s a joy even when it’s hard.
I’m also proud that it took six months to make it happen. This story isn’t about getting inspired and going out and doing something rash in the next 24 hours. It took six months to happen because you don’t just quit your day job and move across the country in the blink of an eye. There was a lot of thought and consideration involved, but not so much so that momentum waned before I made a leap I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.
I look back on that meditation experience as a catalyst. I do believe that it was a fateful coming together of “right place/right time” factors. I haven’t meditated since, but writing this story made me want to get back in to Spellbound Sky and see where the practice takes me. I believe I would benefit from it as much now as I did when I was at a crossroads, because I think every meditation session is an opportunity to communicate deeply with whatever parts of you, are, as Rumi wrote, “asleep.”
You don’t know what answers you might find through meditating. Maybe something you always wanted will be affirmed. Maybe you’ll picture something you never knew you wanted. Maybe you’ll realize you’re happy right where you are. Maybe nothing will happen—at first. But the absolute worst that can happen is you’ll achieve a level of calm and inner peace, and mental relaxation, that we so rarely get in our hurried, instant lives.
And you might find that once you clear away the mental brush, and look down at what you want, you do know, more than others, what will make you happiest—and can go after it.
Have you ever tried guided meditation? What are the components of your dream life you would grab with your owl talons? If you care to share, I'd love to know. Let us know, below!