Money evaporates quickly when you don’t know what options you’ll still have tomorrow. And so I lost my office in June. The whole business tanked in October. I entered a deep depression — it wasn’t just a matter of waiting it all out — the dream was dead.
Last summer, I closed out my office. I don’t think most people realize how devastating that was for me. Over the ten years prior, I had slowly but surely built up a holistic health practice in my living room. I worked a life-sucking day job that I eventually learned was knowingly cheating me out of money, but my passion was for helping chronically ill and disabled people take charge of the ways they relate to their bodies and health.
It had been a side gig at best until December of 2019 when I gave my two weeks notice to the soul-suckers and signed a six month lease on my new full-time passion. The office came with space for large group gatherings— mindfulness classes I designed for my clients, a chance to teach tai chi, and plenty of room to let my imagination expand.
The first two months were unbelievably successful. I taught workshops in four different cities, my classes were expanded from a one-off thing to a spring and summer series, my schedule was almost completely booked, and, for a brief moment I felt like I was actually helping the world and doing something I love.
Then there was this thing called coronavirus.
All of the sudden my client base couldn’t leave home. My backbone of massage therapy was shut down by the state. My classes were delayed indefinitely. And the quirk of owning a computer without a webcam went from being folksy to a lack of social currency which threw me completely off-the-grid overnight.
Money evaporates quickly when you don’t know what options you’ll still have tomorrow. And so I lost my office in June. The whole business tanked in October. I entered a deep depression — it wasn’t just a matter of waiting it all out — the dream was dead. I don’t know how else to describe it. I had been living in my dream job. But now I was filled with that icky dread you sometimes wake with after narrowly escaping a nightmare.
My nightmare lingered for months. And for the most part, I kept it all bottled up inside me because I knew that others were going through the same thing or worse. Broke and ashamed, I recoiled from everything and everyone. My imagination seemed rusted shut. I was convinced I was out of ideas, out of useful skills, and doomed to sink beneath the pandemic’s waves.
It took me until Tu BiShvat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, to begin my reemergence. That night at a virtual seder, I peeled a tangerine alone in my apartment as a rabbi offered words of wisdom concerning the Kabbalistic world of Assiah. She invited us to allow the last year to be peeled away with the skin of the fruit, and for us to savor the divine essence still present within.
I needed to lay down afterwards. Everything hit me all at once — my anxieties about self-worth, my doubts about bouncing back — and yet it all became microscopic, a dripping faucet draining to the ocean.
That night I remembered myself as more than a job — even more than a dream job — more than followers and email lists and booked schedules and successful businesses. I remembered myself as the entrepreneur who started three businesses by the time he turned 30. I remembered the highs and lows of each of them — the stress of meeting deadlines and taking risks, the thrill of making a real connection with a client, and the reward of seeing what was once just an idea now made manifest in the world around me.
My holistic practice was my dream job. So was farming. So was painting. So were so many other arts and crafts I’ve tinkered with and sold over the years. My life is a continuum of these dreams. I remembered myself as the dreamer. How poor I’d become to mistake one dream for the full breadth of my life. How poor I’d become to think of myself as merely a worker, an itinerant automaton in service to the dream.
In my depression I found a richness unparalleled by any success so far. I encountered the true beating heart of persistence within me. My roots touched again the eternal pools of inspiration and I knew myself no longer as a dry tree. I became like the tangerine beneath its peel, like a lizard shedding its skin. Now refreshed, now renewed, now reminded of my individual nature, I am coming back from the depths with the flowers of the spring. The core of me, the essence, is unshaken by external circumstance, or even by external details and identities.
Who I am is in my becoming.
And new dreams will always be becoming through me.