Earlier this evening, while sitting before a plate of steaming red curry, I got to thinking about my past like I often do, which – brace yourself – often comes in the form of daydreaming about being interviewed or asked questions by someone of power.
Yep, even before I was six years old, I was sharing my grand insight on the stage across the one and only Oprah Winfrey, enlightening the world with my profound wisdom.
This may be the cue to a serious mental illness, but I prefer to consider it a psychological practice in which I remove myself from myself, and get to know myself a little better. I digress.
While my mind lined up events and circumstances of my recent past (which feels like decades ago) my mouth dropped wider, my mind zoomed in and revealed the obscure details, and I scalded my mouth as my auto-pilot hand continued to shovel – bringing me back to reality.
“Holy shit,” I said silently, interrupting Oprah.
During one of Oprah’s various questions, we’d gone back to the year 2011. At this time, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I wanted many things and each desire felt to me as valuable as the next.
But one of the major things I dreamt of – and arguably always had, likely at the hands of my mom’s past – was becoming a model. This, I now realize full heartedly, was a dream, not of mine, but of my ego. This was a social dream. A goal I wanted to achieve in order to be seen as beautiful, not to fulfill any true desire or sense of purpose.
Many girls dream of just this when it comes to modeling in the fashion scene – whether it’s the ego’s desire or a true dream is hard to say. But if standing in below-freezing weather for hours on end and arching your back in strange ways until your body throbs isn’t test enough, then who knows what is.
So I was modeling. I was 20 years old, and though I was too short to be considered by any agencies, I quickly discovered that I could still make a go at it by collaborating with photographers and fashion people. It worked. (Every agency I spoke with implored me to go in the direction of acting, until they realized how stiffly awkward I would immediately become on film. As it turns out, acting is a serious, serious skill.)
It was May, nearing the end, and I was going to celebrate my sister’s birthday that evening. But first, I was going to be involved in my very first fashion show – ever! I can still remember the excitement of that day (I’d always had “walk in a fashion show” near the top of my bucketlist.) I was ecstatic about the pursuit and eventual success of this ego-driven, fantasy dream – confused into thinking it was my right path.
Interestingly enough, that day took a strange turn of events, introducing me to someone who would become my companion on the pretentious, ego-driven road for the next two and a half years. Before I knew it, I found myself entrenched in an entirely surface world that felt nothing like mine: a surface relationship, a surface career (I chose real estate for some strange reason), many surface friendships and many more lavish, surface events, ultimately creating an entirely surface, ego-driven life.
My mind now grasps how this all occurred. How a silly, ego-driven – but strong! – desire I had ended up gaining such momentum, it brought with it an entire life that matched that single desire in its extremely unfulfilling and shallow qualities.
It’s interesting to me how simple and explainable this matter is, how easily it makes sense. Our futures, after all, are the simple outcome of each of the decisions we’ve made in our lives; desires that are paired with action have ginormous power in either fulfilling us or robbing us completely.
Luckily, I came to the understanding of the life I had created for myself, and I opted out. I chose to change it. People often speak of reaching these rock-bottom moments when you’re robbed of everything including your fear and you finally look at your life thinking “What do I have to lose?”
If you’ve gotten there yourself, or if you think you’re approaching this point, the great news is this: there’s a way out, and it only goes up. The way out for me was to finally lay the truth out on the table, and just do it.
What did I really want? What were my truest heart’s desires? Where was my true passion and sense of purpose?
I didn’t have all the answers, but I did have this: I wanted to write. I wanted to travel. I wanted to be alone. And I wanted to figure out the rest.
So that’s what I did. And today, based on the shift of my desire from a surface one to a deep and fulfilling one, I’m on a completely different path. My future now expands before me instead of resting in the single corner of a structured, pre-packaged box.
So, I suppose the long-winded point I’m trying to make is this: follow your heart’s passion, not your ego’s desires.
And then you’ll ask (as Oprah surely would) how do you know, Alexa? How do you know which desires belong to your heart, and which are your ego’s desires?
I’d say these desires are something you – not your smug or “showy” ego – can identify with. It’s something that you can sit with and think “ah, this feels so good.” It’s something that satisfies you even on the molecular level of your being – even in that empty space of your cells that still hasn’t been named. It’s a desire that’s based on an expression or a higher belief that brings forth something true.
It’s something you can create and then walk away from, looking over your shoulder – happy to have left a part of your soul behind.
It’s… your legacy.
(Ps, my mom’s modeling career did teach me a lot of cool things though. You can read about that on Elite Daily.)