Why I’m Giving Up On My Dreams

A stage; a.k.a. "home"

A stage; a.k.a. “home”

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.

Just a slice of the immense crowd in Foley Square

Just a slice of the immense crowd in Foley Square

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.

With my amazingly supportive friends at the 2014 NEDA Walk

With my amazingly supportive friends at the 2014 NEDA Walk

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?

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My Trip to The Seed

MindBodyPlate trip to The Seed

On my way to The Seed 2014 food festival in Soho, NYC

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a vegan trade show held in New York City’s Soho neighborhood with fellow foodie and friend Dr. Emma Basch, PsyD. This event was put on by The Seed, a plant-based lifestyle company here in NYC. It was the second of such events I’ve attended with Dr. Basch, and I can’t imagine it will be the last. After all, what’s better than spending an afternoon snacking your way through stall after stall of innovative, tasty, veggie centric food — and with a brilliant partner-in-crime, no less?

MBP at The Seed Food Festival

Emma and I on the red carpet at The Seed: Positively Plant Based food festival in Soho, NYC

MindBodyPlate isn’t quite “on the radar” yet, so it’s not as though I had a special press pass or speaking engagement. I was just one of the throng, meeting culinary creatives and lifestyle educators along with the rest. But that’s no reason not to report back to you guys! After all, I came across some really groovy new food items, and I’d love to share them with you.

The style of this post is in no small way inspired by two of my blog-spirations, Oh She Glows and Choosing Raw. Angela and Gena are incredible bloggers, and their recaps of various festivals and events are no exception. Keep in mind that these reviews and opinions are my own, and that I’m in no way being compensated by the companies discussed. It’s just for fun… and maybe you’ll spot the products in a store near you!

Seed Festival Picks | MindBodyPlate

1) I’m just gonna jump right in and start with my absolute favorite product from the show. Ortaggi makes a “frozen organic health snack made from vegetables with hints of delicate herbs and refreshing fruit juices.” In other words, it’s sorbet – with veggies! These treats may be packed with nutritional powerhouses, but they are perfectly sweet, intriguingly complex, and very refreshing. I loved the “spinach + kale with celery” flavor (no really, loved it!), and thought the “celery + cucumber with basil” was pretty decent too. I’d like to get my hands on the “red pepper + peach” or “beet + tangerine” flavors – they look amazing! Not sure when these tasty treats will be headed to a store near you, so keep your eyes peeled!

2) I’ve never been much of a ‘chips’ person, so I was surprised to find that I like these chips… a lot. Beanfields is a family owned company that makes bean and rice chips in a variety of appealing flavors. Though the ingredient lists get a little long for my taste on some of the more complex flavors, I was happy to see that the classic sea salt flavor used just five ingredients: black beans, navy beans, long grain rice, safflower or sunflower oil, and sea salt. The Beanfields company is committed to environmental sustainability and eschewing the use of genetically modified crops. A one ounce serving of their snack contains 4 grams of protein and another 4 grams of fiber. And you guys… they’re seriously tasty.

3) Speaking of interesting ways to use beans, Explore Asian’s line of bean-based pasta is a total home run. These noodles are certified gluten free and USDA organic; moreover, they are delicious and have an appropriately pasta-like consistency. They have four flavors (black bean spaghetti, mung bean fettuccine, adzuki bean spaghetti, and soybean spaghetti), each comprised of just two ingredients: beans and water. I personally wouldn’t recommend the soybean flavor, as un-fermented soy is notoriously difficult to digest, but the remaining three flavors are the perfect way to spice up your old pasta routine – and add protein to boot!

4) There were a great many pieces of handmade art for sale at the festival. I really liked this one, but failed to get the artist’s name. However, their signature is in the lower right hand corner, and I thought the sentiment well worth sharing.

5) Most interesting find of the day went to Our True Roots, a company attempting to popularize the edible tubers known as Tiger Nuts. Tiger nuts, also known as earth almonds (Latin name Cyperus esculentus), are a crop known to have been cultivated by the Egyptians as early as the fourth millennium BC. They have a nutty, ever so slightly sweet flavor and are traditionally used to make a horchata-like drink. I tried a few “nuts” and was pleasantly surprised! I imagine they’d be a great way to boost the fiber content of your trail mix.

Gold and Glow Peanut Butter Cookie Smoothie | MindBodyPlate

The coolest part of the day by far was meeting a fellow graduate of my school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Maria Marlowe is a certified health coach, speaker, and author who was at the trade show to advertise her new line of plant-based, dairy-free, soy-free smoothie mixes under the moniker Gold & Glow. The product has such integrity and the flavors are beyond delicious. It was so inspiring to see a fellow IIN grad shine like that. I brought home a bag of “Enlightened Energy Organic Superfood Smoothie Mix,” an expert blend of  hemp, maca, oats, cinnamon, & ginger. I’ve been using it to create a to-die-for smoothie that tastes like a peanut butter cookie and a snickerdoodle had a baby. I don’t know when her product will be available, but keep your eyes peeled — cause it’s the bomb.

Hope you enjoyed this recap of The Seed vegan trade show! Maybe someday I’ll be more than just a passive observer, but for now it’s a helluva way to spend a Saturday.

Baring My Arms

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Even though I grew up in sunny Southern California, I never wore tank tops. I was irrationally self-conscious about the appearance of my arms. I thought they were ugly. I thought they were too big. I thought they were too pale. I thought everyone would notice that they were covered in tiny bumps from keratosis pilaris, an insignificant condition so common that it affects up to 80% of adolescents and 50% of adults.

In the 4th grade, I wore a flannel over my sleeveless ballet recital costume until seconds before I went onstage. In high school, I braved family vacations to Hawaii and Arizona with a suitcase full of long sleeved shirts and a stick of Teen Spirit. And when Alterations told me my wedding dress would look janky if they added sleeves, as I had originally intended, I was crestfallen and terrified; it was supposed to be the Most Important Day of My Life… how was I going to enjoy it with all the guests staring at my arms?

My mom struggled with her weight while I was growing up, and I vividly remember her saying she would never wear a tank top. Almost like it was the right thing to do, like she was sparing the good citizens of our community the discomfort of having to look at her body. Still, it never occurred to me that my tank top aversion was a learned behavior. That is, until my early twenties, when I discovered that my sister, who has always been a lanky bean pole, shared my irrational fear of sleeveless tops. She too had memories of our mom’s troubled relationship with her arms. We had certainly been paying attention.

Original image: The U.S. National Archives

Original image: The U.S. National Archives

In 2010, I moved across the country and experienced my very first New York City summer. Nothing in my life had prepared me for the unique agony of waiting for the subway in 98°F with 80% humidity. For the first time in my life, the physical discomfort of the heat had eclipsed my self-consciousness. So I bought my first tank top. And then I wore it. And the thing is… my world didn’t fall apart. People didn’t point and laugh. I was even cat called a few times by those rowdy Manhattan construction workers. I wore a tank top and it was fine.

I’m thankful for the lesson, and also curious as to what else in my life I’m not doing because I’m afraid and haven’t been pushed.

Look, I’m not saying my relationship with my arms is all butterflies and rainbows. I’ve still got a lot of relearning and reframing to do. But I’m much more mindful of how damaging it can be to harbor so much negativity toward a physical manifestation of YOU. If I’m working on self-love, it certainly doesn’t help for me to say, “Except for you, Arms. You, I’ll never love.” So I’m taking baby steps. I’m trying to be mindful of how blessed I am to have functioning arms, trying to be grateful for their strength and agility. I’m taking a great deal of pride in my arm balances in yoga – I could take a nap in Crow Pose. Some mornings, before hopping into the shower, I’ll perform a little Ayurvedic self-massage, paying specific attention to my arms, thanking them for all that they do. I’m also trying to reevaluate my conception of the ideal arm. Who says it has to be lean and sinewy? Maybe the perfect arm is broad and strong, thick with muscle and healthy tissue. Maybe that kind of arm can even make ballet look good.

A few months ago, my mom watched as an older woman carrying some extra weight stripped down to her bathing suit to enjoy the ocean. She decided then and there that she would no longer let fear dictate her participation in life. I am so lucky that I get to learn from her. And by the way, she wears tank tops now. And she looks hot.

Proudly flexing my guns while exploring in Sydney, Australia.

Proudly flexing my huge guns while exploring in Sydney, Australia.