The truth is I’ve felt this way repeatedly throughout my life. Usually during the low moments when all I wanted to do was escape from a relationship or a place or a situation – even from myself. But I’ve learnt that running away never really works, in the end.
However, I’ve felt this longing during the high moments, too. I can’t explain why; you don’t always need to have a reason for feeling the way you feel. Sometimes things simply don’t feel right, not because there’s anything wildly wrong, but because there’s something else your heart and soul wants for you.
A longing to strip my life bare isn’t the reason I left London to cycle from Istanbul towards Singapore. Seriously, there are far easier ways to strip your life down to the foundation than leaving everything that feels comfortable, familiar and safe to spend a year cycling across country after country. Being able to strip my life bare is however, a positive side effect of that decision.
It felt like an opportunity to simplify my days as much as possible, to slow down, to create space in my life and my head and my heart to look closely at every area of my life: At what’s working and at what’s not working. To look closely at not only the light that exists within – but also at the darkness – because both exist within each of us. I want to own everything that makes me, me.
It felt like an embrace; a choice made from a positive place – a place of love – rather than from a desire to escape or as a result of a decision that was made from a desperate rock bottom on a cold and lonely bathroom floor.
It also felt like a natural next step in a series of steps I’ve taken to live life on my terms, rather than the life others expect me to live. For the past five years I’ve been on an incredible journey of personal exploration and growth. I let go of limiting self-beliefs, old ways of being, thoughts, words and stories I told to and about myself. I let go of negative relationships, learned how to set boundaries and say “No”. I ended the war on my body and healed (for the most part) my relationship with food. I let go of clothing – not because of how it made me look – but because of how it made me feel. I donated/gifted/sold a ton of belongings and I burned my journals and said, “Thank you” as each page went up in flames. I acknowledged my own goodness, took ownership of everything life has given me and transformed my relationship with money, defining what wealthy looks like, for me. I gave myself permission to explore and ‘play’ in my work life. Crucially, I learned how to be ‘here’ in this moment, rather than always focusing on getting ‘there’.
I’m not suggesting my life is by any means perfect, but it is mine.
So, why strip it bare? To create space for the new – not new things, but a new way of being; being more present in my relationships, adopting new habits that serve who I am and where I am in my life now – because you are allowed to change and grow out of who and where you were before. To deliberately create a simpler, slower way of living in order to be more focused on the big, bold dreams I have for my life. To claim a side of myself I wasn’t ready to claim before.
So, what does ‘stripped bare’ look like? It can look any way you want it to look. Your foundation might be big or it might be small. You may believe you’ve taken only what you truly want and then realise later that you’ve still got so much more to let go of. You could choose to strip your life bare again and again until all you can see are bones – that’s okay – it doesn’t matter how many tries or how much time it takes. You’ll become lighter with each layer you peel away.
This is what ‘Life, Stripped Bare’ looks like for me, today. Which means it could look entirely different tomorrow, by autumn or this time next year. There are no rules.
The result is I feel LIGHTER. Less weighed down by life and the weight of other people’s expectations. I spend more time just being.
There are those of us who desperately hold on. There are those of us who long to let go. I can only share my experience: Living lighter helps me shine brighter.
© 2019 Esther Zimmer