In the mid-80s, I was born into a middle class caucasian family, and we lived in a safe suburban neighborhood in Southern California.
We shopped at Costco.
We ate biscuits and gravy made from Bisquick.
We hosted birthdays at Chuck E. Cheese.
The closest thing to risk taking I experienced was the time my grandpa installed a steel pole inside our mailbox then filled it with cement because some wayward driver kept running it down. The experiment successfully stopped the crazed driver, and the fragments of their shattered headlight made us snicker.
As a child, I always imagined my life as an adult would look for me as it did for my parents: a mostly predictable, standard, American lifestyle … except for the fact that I wanted to be a whale trainer when I grew up.
Through my youth, the nightly news provided my only exposure to other countries and cultures — while my family went on frequent camping trips around the US, we didn’t have passports and didn’t speak any other languages. And to be honest, I didn’t feel particularly intrigued by travel because the world looked kinda dangerous. Other things of note, my lineage is comprised of farmers from Illinois and Virginia, so it didn’t even occur to me that maybe there would be a life for me somewhere else beyond the confines of my hometown.
Then suddenly I became different, like … really different. I started living a life that didn’t align with my upbringing and I started acting like a crazy person. The intrigue of things that never caught my attention before overtook me and I couldn’t rationalize my new tastes with logic. I very bravely dared to respond to life from an internal guiding force stronger than anything I could explain. I started living from my soul.
What the Bleep Happened?
When I look back at how much I changed, I’m honestly astounded. I wanted to be a whale trainer, remember? Fast forward to now, I’ve traveled to 36 countries and lived in Peru, Argentina, Australia, Bali, and Thailand as well as New York City and Los Angeles. I speak fluent Spanish and also run an acts of kindness movement where I do good deeds around the world. I’m not married (yet) and don’t have a house (yet), but I do actually shop at Costco every once in a while. Their $1.25 window pizza slices are dope.
So what the bleep?
How did I end up down this path and what does this have to do with the soul?
Stay with me …
During college, I had been working as a waiter for a catering company when I made friends with an Argentinian guy who invited me to the beach with his crew.
On the shores of Santa Barbara, all of us sat together sipping Mate (a type of Argentine tea) from a hand-carved gourd. I think I drooled on my towel listening to the sing-song sound of their lyrical Spanish. Meanwhile my friend told me of life in Buenos Aires: the culture of tango, the bustling streets, the hot summers. I was instantly enchanted … and that’s when I heard it:
The quiet voice from within told me everything I didn’t know I needed to know.
A very strange certainty conducted my mind. I definitively wanted to learn to speak Spanish and live in Argentina. The certainty of this calling from within caught me by surprise because I couldn’t rationalize it. I just knew this with unshakable truth.
From my very limited world view, it didn’t make sense. Sure there were plenty of people who traveled and lived in other countries, but those people weren’t me for God’s sake.
After that day at the beach, the mysterious voice from within wouldn’t shut up. I’d wake up in the middle of the night feeling inspired to Google images of Argentina and I’d marvel at the European style edifices, giggle with glee, then feel entirely insane.
I was still in college, so just to get things going in the right direction, I decided to change from Italian to Spanish classes. Either way, learning at least some Spanish was a practical choice … I just didn’t know the language would become an obsession. Once I was in, I was in. When I heard you could actually get school credit for living in another country (i.e. study abroad), I couldn’t believe it. I called my dad to rave about my incredible development, but he told me I was out of my mind and that he’d stop contributing to my college fund if I went abroad. I reasoned for as long as I could that he was right, but at the point at which I felt I still just couldn’t stop myself from going in the direction I felt “called” if you will, I secured three jobs and started saving money. After scrubbing a lot of dishes, I made it to Spain, which didn’t satisfy the itch for Argentina, but I knew it was a stepping stone.
I’m convinced my family thought maybe I’d get travel and my fix for Latin culture out of my system when I studied abroad — nope.
Cut to now, I’m still obsessed with both travel and Latin culture. I love Spanish; I love salsa dancing; and when I am in Spanish-speaking countries I feel at times more at home than when I am in the United States.
What Does the Soul Sound Like to Me?
Sometimes my soul has a voice, and other times it communicates to me through sensations. By “sensations” I mean a deep, sultry knowingness that reverberates from my gut outward. It feels like YES. It’s emotional. It’s fiery. It’s alive in a way all the “shoulds” are not.
When I think of whatever the soul goal is I’m picking up on, my heart beats faster. The soul goal also motivates me to take small steps that will hopefully lead me toward accomplishing it. This in turn makes me feel alive because I am making moves on behalf of a mission that’s greater than myself.
For example, during the call to Argentina I started learning Spanish and asked everyone in my network if they knew someone that lived in the country. I started having phone calls with random people in Buenos Aires to make new friends before I even landed.
In any circumstance where I tell someone about my soul goal and they respond with anything negative, I feel enraged by their doubt, which only makes the fire inside my chest burn brighter.
By a similar token, if I shut down my own soul goal by telling myself it’s wrong and try to convince myself out of it, the vision only continues to pester me because it can’t be stuffed down. So, I simply have to live it out or else I’ll be stuck with a very heavy, looming sensation of regret.
The Hardest Part about Living from a Soul Level: Loss
After graduating from college, the desire to move to Argentina had grown undeniably strong, but I felt wrong for wanting that. So, I went to see a life coach to try to figure out what was wrong with me. I felt like moving to South America was irresponsible and outlandish. I’d just spent four years on a degree, and it was time for me to “become an adult and get a real job.” Plus I was in a long-term relationship I felt I couldn’t leave. If I abandoned the realm of expectations, I’d let everyone down: my family, my friends, my boyfriend. So I had to seek professional help to become a conformist.
I desperately wanted to appease my family and fit in with my friends who were on track to getting married and had real jobs, but in reality I felt stuck in purgatory. I’d been applying for real jobs for a while only to get rejected meanwhile biding my time at a restaurant where my boss was a complete a-hole. Oh and that relationship I keep singing about? Yeah, it was really unhealthy, but I was a rockstar at covering that up. My family kept hounding me to get it together, but I didn’t know what together was, I just had this annoying voice inside me telling me to leave.
When I sat down with my life coach and spilled out all this stuff I’d been keeping to myself she looked at me after I was done sobbing and said, “I heard everyone else in all that … but what do YOU want?” I paused then looked at her and said, “I want to move to Argentina, but it feels impossible.”
She locked eyes with me and said, “then that is exactly what you must do.”
When I committed to the choice to move to South America, my coach helped me feel better about myself meanwhile things continued to fall apart in ways I could never have expected. When I finally moved, I lost my relationship, my family and I lost contact for a while, and I had to let go of this phantom respectable adult I thought I’d always needed to become. I had to let go entirely. I felt so alone and like such a failure at the same time that I felt more alive than I’d felt in a long time.
I lost everyone else’s respect, but I found faith in myself and gained the one thing no one else could give me: self-respect.
The Other Hardest Part of Living from a Soul Level: Uncertainty
There have been a few key times when I thought the life I created was guaranteed to stay that way. Everything just felt so certain, it couldn’t possibly change. These were also the times I felt as if my life were built on matchsticks because it came tumbling down in very precarious and unexpected ways.
It just so happens that these were also when things pivoted the hardest. These were the moments when I had to fight to get myself back in line with my soul.
Oh brother, I think a lot of people don’t do crazy things because doing so provokes fear, discomfort, and our greatest nemesis: uncertainty.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that living from the level of your soul is going to make you feel safe. At all. It actually might make you experience even more anxiety. When you traverse the unknown by doing something you never expected you’d do, of course it’s going to feel shaky. It’s also going to make you feel incredible.
When I take on the challenge of figuring out how to live in new countries, it feels like solving a mystery.
How do I stay in my desired country of residence long-term?
If there isn’t Craigslist there, how on earth do I find housing?
How do I make friends in a brand new environment so I feel like I belong there?
How do I learn the local language?
There are endless things to figure out. Sometimes, I don’t have a long-term life plan because I can’t see beyond a few months ahead at a time. It definitely makes me grit my teeth at night, but then something amazing will happen that will supersede the impact of all this unknown stuff.
Plus, I’m honestly just making up this whole life thing anyway.
Ok well that’s enough rambling for today, so I’ll leave you with this. We are each on our own path, so what is right for another person might not be right for you and vice versa. It’s important to respectfully acknowledge other people and do our best to be happy for them as we each continue on our merry ways. Easier said than done, I know. All we can do is find some time to get quiet and start listening more. Maybe then you will hear that little voice from inside telling you exactly what you didn’t know you needed to hear.
Ten signs you’re living from the level of your soul
You ask for a sign to confirm your assumptions and you receive one, or several.
People may fiercely question and criticize what you’re doing and there may be some insane obstacles that show up, but none of these can keep you from doing what you know what must be done.
You can’t justify your choice with logic because it probably doesn’t make any reasonable sense to you either.
If you deny your deepest calling, you can’t stop thinking about it and feel sad.
If you deny yourself of your deepest calling, simple things in your life stop working in very fundamental ways (i.e. money stops flowing, you start feeling out of options, it’s hard to make choices because everything seems wrong etc).
When you grant yourself permission to live in alignment with your calling, your life flows much easier. That’s not to say it’s without challenge or character-forming adversity, but there is this certain simplistic sense to which you feel like things work.
Once you start in the direction of your calling the answers to impossible questions as well as resources to support you begin to appear out of thin air. It always feels creepy when they show up. Again, not to say all your problems will be magically fixed, but resources and opportunities will begin to make their way to you making it easier for that thing to happen.
You’ll probably lose people you thought you’d never lose then you’ll make new relationships you didn’t expect either.
There will be very definitive moments of choice.