When I moved from San Francisco to New York City, I definitely imagined myself on a stage in front of hundreds of people. After all, I had been doing it my whole life. I was the lead in an opera before I was ten years old. In 2010, just before leaving the Bay Area, SF Weekly readers generously voted me San Francisco’s Best Stage Actor. So I knew I’d make my way to a New York City stage eventually.
I just couldn’t have guessed what kind of stage.
Last Sunday morning I took the subway down to New York City’s Foley Square, right across from City Hall. The fountain had been turned into a stage, and I waited on it as hundreds of people crowded around to listen to an opening ceremony. It was the day of the annual New York City NEDA Walk, raising money and awareness for the mission of the National Eating Disorders Association, and after raising nearly $150,000.00, this huge group was about to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.
Then I heard my name:
Sarah Kit Farrell is a yoga teacher and health coach who recently celebrated 6 years of recovery. She is a program facilitator for mentalfitness, inc., an organization that builds mental fitness in all youth through arts-based awareness and prevention programs…
It was time for me to take the mic, though I wouldn’t be singing. Instead, I spent the next several moments leading all those hundreds of people in a yoga-inspired warm-up.
Lemmie tell ya – I wish I had been asked to sing, ’cause I wouldn’t have been nearly as nervous. Singing I know how to do. But playing the part of an inspirational yoga teacher? Now that made me shake in my running shoes.
Performing is in my heart and it always will be, but a few years back I stopped spending the bulk of my free time on preparing for auditions and memorizing monologues. I basically stopped living the “actor’s life”. It just sort of happened. And when I realized that it was happening, I used every weapon I could think of to punish myself for my transgression.
How could you? I thought to myself, everyone will think you’re giving up — you ARE giving up! Have you wasted your entire life trying to perform only to find that you’re not good enough? That you don’t have what it takes? Or maybe you are good enough and you’re just too lazy to make it. If that’s the case, then you deserve to fail. You’re worthless, in fact. You’re a goddamn disgrace. Get it together, SKF!
Wow, right? Um, self-abuse, party of two?
But no matter how many times I told myself to get back on track, how I should be doing this and that, I just didn’t. The truth was, I didn’t want to. It wasn’t enjoyable to me. That lifestyle wasn’t making me happy.
All the while, little by little, I was giving in to these interests and activities that have fascinated me all along: nutrition, mindfulness, yoga, eating disorders… and I felt awful about it. Each time I gave attention to one of these alternative areas, a little gremlin in my head told me I was betraying my destiny, betraying my true “purpose” in coming to NYC, betraying the goals set out for me by my younger self.
For a while now, I’ve made an effort not to “should” on myself (I should do this and I should have done that). But if I’m honest with myself, for the last few years, my life has essentially been one big SHOULD. I’ve been clinging to this idea that my life was supposed to go one way, and refusing to accept that it might go somewhere else.
This all reminds me of a metaphor used by author Esther Hicks, who says that life is a swift-moving river and we’re all conditioned to think that we’ll be rewarded by fighting to get upstream. But in all actuality, nothing that you want is upstream. In fact, the stream itself is a stream of well-being, and the second you accept the current of your life and learn to move with it, to sway with it, to go with the flow, joyful things begin to happen — and they happen fast.
So on the one hand, I’m flabbergasted that I, of all people, would end up leading stretches for this year’s NEDA Walk, but on the other hand, I’m not surprised at all. It’s the same reason that I was hired at the very first yoga studio I applied to, the same reason my coaching practice took off the moment I decided take it seriously.
Because the current of my life is headed that way. The more I trust that current, and the more I can let go of my preconceptions about how my life in NYC should turn out, the farther I’ll be able to go.
Of course I’ll never stop performing, don’t be silly; it’s in my bones. In fact, I’m planning a New York City debut of my one woman show about food, body image, and appetites unchecked. But it may not be the most important thing. As far as those earlier dreams go, the ones in part constructed by a thirteen year old Sarah, consumed by her eating disorder, rigid in her perfectionism, and desperate for approval, well… maybe I don’t need those specific dreams anymore.
I think I passed that fork in the stream a long time ago. And thank goodness.
So what about you? Are you swimming upstream against the dominant current of well-being in your life? What do you think would happen if you stopped fighting in order to go with the flow?