Tearing Down the Walls
I found this note on my iPhone recently. It’s from May 21, 2021 at 7:20 p.m.:
I bring out in people things they are scared to share but they want to share. We build this wall about who we are, and we want people to come over that wall because we want people to be open and vulnerable, but we want people to show us that wall never actually existed. And there is nothing more beautiful than having the courage to share with other people what you have always been scared to share.
I have no idea what I was thinking at the time, but this statement (verbose, and even nonsensical in some parts as it is) resonates with me quite a bit today.
I’m a good listener. I don’t share much about myself – it’s a characteristic that began as fear of judgment but has since evolved into the profound knowledge that less is more. I have naturally loved listening more than sharing, but my listening skills deepened through my journalism and then legal and coaching training as I learned to pay close attention to the words and body language of my sources and then of clients.
It’s very true that we all build up a wall of who we are – we create an image, a persona. Just look at how most people use social media, showing all the happy, high points – often fabricated ones – for likes and attention. But in reality, we yearn for connection, to be seen, to be witnessed. That’s why finding a true connection with friends and partners is so challenging. It’s difficult to be real because we fear being judge, fear losing the connection and being alone. But being alone is not so bad, particularly if you are living more true to yourself than you would with another person. And someone who judges you is likely not the right person for you.
This idea of connection and how to create it is one that deserves further exploration. My favorite way is through stories, both by hearing others’ and sharing my own. It’s through stories that we learn about new ways of being while also seeing how similar we all can be. But that’s an exploration for another time.
For now, I’m focused on that sentiment of the beauty of sharing truth and the connection that doing so brings.
What a Difference 10 Years Makes
This time 10 years ago, I was in the process of uprooting my life completely and making a move that I never thought possible, a move back to my hometown in Florida. Tampa is a place I long held dear to my heart, but after 12 years in New York City, I had become a different person, one accustomed to a fast-paced, hustle culture, and I had made it, seeing my bylines in some of the biggest legacy newspapers in the world.
But I was not happy.
I knew it was time to leave the city when I found myself crying uncontrollably for days on end. When the din of sirens was no longer endearing, but a nuisance. And one day, I stepped over a man lying face-down on the subway platform without a second thought until I heard an MTA employee asking, “Sir, are you OK?” — I knew then I had become a person I didn’t recognize, one I did not want to be.
Ten years ago, I made a rare trip to see my parents in Florida. We made a long drive to one of the closet beaches, some of the most stunning coastline in the world. It was March, sunny, balmy. In New York, it was cold, cloudy, snowy. I looked around me, at the ocean, at the palm trees. I felt the breeze on my face, whipping through my hair. I let the smell of salt linger.
I thought to myself, “What am I doing in that city?”
That visit with my parents also solidified how much I missed my family, how lonely I really was in New York. At one point, I had not seen my parents for two years. In 2011, we traveled to India together, and on our last day in Bombay, I told my father how miserable I was. Less than a year after that trip and about a month after my beach visit in Florida, my last-surviving grandparent, my maternal grandmother, passed away in India. I knew then that I needed to be closer to my family. My extended family is scattered all over the world, and those circumstances (and family politics) meant I never became close to any of them. I only met my grandparents a handful of times in my life, and I did not want my relationship with my parents to dim.
So, less than a month after my grandmother’s death and less than two months after my visit to the beach, I locked the door to my Manhattan condo and took a one-way flight home to Florida. I only returned to the city to pack up my belongings and bid my the Big Apple farewell.
I was 29 at the time, just weeks away from turning 30, and I thought my life was over.
Expectations were such that I should already be married, even having children, or that I should be continuing my education and BECOMING SOMETHING. Fleeing New York (and it really did feel like fleeing) to step into the unknown felt shameful. The uncertainty bore down on me, burying me, drowning me.
Today, though, when I step into the Slice of Now that is my 29-on-the-verge-of-30 self, I tell her to enjoy that uncertainty, to take one step at a time, that so many surprises will come her way. Not all of them will be pleasant, of course, but they are experiences, lessons. And there are rewards, too, such lovely rewards, like repaired relationships with family, the removal of people who have – unbeknownst to her – held her back, and the arrival of new friends, including a partner and a lovely, playful dog.
Now, at 39-about-to-turn-40, there is so much to be joyful about. I’m doing things my way. There is more uncertainty, mystery, and MAGIC ahead. I’m open to it – all of it, both trials and triumphs.
And I face them like the Warrior I AM.
My name is Sushil Preet Kaur, a string of Sanskrit words that I always must pronounce and spell for others, but I do so gladly. It’s my name after all, and I appreciate it being pronounced and spelled properly.
It’s a powerful name, if I may say so myself, one that piques curiosity and tells a story of who I am. “Sushil” has many meanings – chiefly, “intelligent” or “virtuous” – while “Preet” is simply “love” and “Kaur,” the middle name given to all my Sikh sisters, means “Princess.”* So, altogether, I am the “Princess of Intelligent and Virtuous Love.”
And today – yes, this very day, perhaps for the first time ever – I feel it is true. (Although, I must say, I consider myself a Queen.)
In some ways, it seems so audacious to write that, to let it out into the universe and so make it real. But today, thanks to deep work I’ve been doing with a wonderful healer named Christine, I can honestly say that I’m not going to hide anymore. My voice matters. I have things to say, and I’m going to say them – not for the sake of having them heard, but simply for the sake of saying them. Writing them. Embodying them and making them tangible.
It’s one thing to think them or file them away in a notebook that I’ll just throw in a corner and never look at again (and how dare anyone else look at them either); it’s quite another to send them forth and let them be witnessed, if they are to be witnessed, these ideas of mine.
There is so much to get out of my head, so much to birth, to create. So many places to start. I’ve been longing to stand in my power for so long, and finally I feel I can. And I will.
I have so much gratitude: for the healing process that is leading to the creative process, for the healer who facilitated my growth, for anyone who chooses to read this. But mostly, I am filled with gratitude for myself, for allowing the growth, the evolution, the change. For creating. For being all that I AM.
*Our Sikh brothers all have the middle name “Singh,” or “Lion.”