“I'm the luckiest,” I say. I gaze into my fiancé's blue starburst eyes in the cozy nook of our San Francisco apartment.
“We’re the luckiest,” she says back with a smile.
The exchange of those words during our morning eye gazing ritual never seems to get old. We believe the words every time we say them.
I feel grateful and appreciative whenever I take a moment to breathe into just how rich and full our lives seem, despite the pandemic.
There's a trust, both in myself and in the universe, that things will be fine — magical, even.
In the past year alone, I proposed to the love of my life. I traveled to new destinations. I made love in beautiful places. I found more peace and home in myself. I made new friends with wonderful humans. I opened my heart to more feelings. I stepped into a clearer sense of my purpose.
And underneath that gratitude, I also feel deeply proud — the kind of pride that causes tears to well up in my eyes.
Because not long ago, the freedom and love I'm feeling didn't seem possible.
I’ve had to travel a great distance to get to where I am. And that journey involved many hard and heart-wrenching choices in the past few years.
I’m here to share some of those choices. Because if you find yourself with similar choices, just know that — as my dear friend once told me when I needed to hear it — there’s light once you get to other side of the darkness.
There was the choice to leave a 17-year-long relationship — and 8-year-long marriage — to leap into the unknown.
We’d been college sweethearts since I was 18. And when I left the marriage, I had never dated anyone else in my entire life.
I remember sitting on my living room couch, face crumpled in my hands. I felt so drained and defeated.
It was my third time failing to leave my marriage in four months. Each time I’d enter the conversation with conviction and momentum. Each time she’d challenge me in my thinking or surprise me with her tenderness. Each time I’d lose steam and feel muddled in why I was so stuck.
My heart was racked with such inner turmoil. I felt shame for wanting more. Guilt at the idea of leaving a relationship that seemed fine on the outside. Fear that I might be making the biggest mistake of my life.
And yet, there was a quiet, inner voice, telling me that more happiness and connection and aliveness were possible.
I needed time apart, so I started traveling the world on my own — it was a dream I'd always had but never had the space to do.
I made my way through Portugal, Thailand, Vietnam, and then to Bali. It was at a festival in Bali where I danced and danced at workshops, men's groups, and ecstatic dances — 5-7 hours per day, for seven days straight.
I danced so long and felt so alive that on the last day, a palpable sense of inner joy that I'd never felt before radiated from my body — so much so that my heart broke open as I sobbed.
In that one moment, all the shame and guilt and fear of leaving my marriage melted away into the universe.
I finally understood.
Only by following my own joy, can I truly feel at home with myself and my choices.
I chose aliveness. And I set myself free.
And now I feel more love for myself and for my partner than I could ever have imagined.
Then, there was the choice to leave millions of dollars on the table when I quit my startup job — to spend my energy creating something that would make me feel more alive.
Had I stayed, I would have made more money in two years than my immigrant parents could’ve imagined making in their lifetimes at their Chinatown store.
I remember sitting at a coffeeshop with my friend and sharing my struggle for the umpteenth time.
I judged the part of me that wanted to stay in the golden handcuffs. It would mean giving up my dreams and my own sense of integrity in exchange for money.
But I also felt guilty and ashamed for the part of me that wanted to leave — any startup engineer dreamt of getting acquired and comfortably vesting out millions of dollars. It was as if leaving meant that I’d be a bad person for not honoring the opportunities my parents had created for me through their sacrifices.
Somewhere inside was that voice again, this time telling me that I was born to create a bigger impact in this world.
And again, I chose aliveness. I freed myself from the 9-5.
I learned that working in partnership could feel like hanging out with my best friend, and that I could work way less, be way more productive, and earn even more than an engineering salary – all while living my dream of traveling around the world.
And then, there was the choice to invite my dearest friends to a two-day retreat for my 35th birthday — at a time in my life when I worried I wasn’t important enough, worthy enough, good enough.
I felt nervous to put myself out there, afraid that people wouldn’t find the time in their schedules, that they wouldn’t be able to get away from their kids, that they wouldn’t make the time to fly out and celebrate me.
And that it would all prove that I didn’t matter enough.
I was so wrong.
People showed up for me in the most beautiful celebration I’d ever experienced. We played connection games. We danced. We shared how we had impacted each other. We cried. We hugged.
I chose aliveness instead of living in fear. And I felt so honored, celebrated, and loved.
Then, there was the choice to backpack to Sweden by myself for the world’s largest tantra festival — knowing no one there and seeking sexual transformation.
I knew I carried so much shame around sex from a sexless marriage that I needed to work through and heal, shame that weighed on my heart and my soul.
I took a leap of faith, not knowing what to expect, only knowing that if I were to truly find love in my life, I needed to face my fears and move forward.
In some of the most beautiful emotional release rituals, I let go of decades of anger and grief that I had suppressed.
For the first time in my life afterwards, I saw my body as attractive. I saw attraction and desire as human and beautiful.
I chose aliveness, and I came back more whole. And only days later, I met and asked out the love of my life.
And then there were all the little choices in between.
I couldn’t have known how important and interconnected each of those choices were back then.
At the time, they just felt like separate dark and trying moments — each one feeling as if a war were being waged inside me.
Looking back, I see now how the dots connected — how each choice fed into another and then another, into the freedom and happiness that I experience today.
Because in the end, each hard moment was a variant of the same choice:
Do I choose to honor what I truly want and need to feel alive?
In every hard choice, there was always an inner wisdom. A voice telling me what I already knew I needed to do if I were to feel happy and free.
And every time I listened and followed that voice, I moved past the shame, guilt, and fear that held me back.
And here’s what I trust now that I want you to know.
It might not seem true right now, but the level of joy, love, peace, and abundance I found is possible for you, in every arena of your life. Your work. Your friendships. Your family. Your intimate relationships.
The only thing standing in the way is a choice: a choice to keep following our joy and aliveness.
Every morning, as I gaze into the eyes of the woman I love, I’m reminded of one thing:
We create the life we believe we deserve.
And you and I both deserve so much more.
Thanks to Elenna Mosoff, Brian Basham, Henry Kimsey-House, Katrina Uychaco, and Candace Sauve for reading early drafts of this post.