How I Got Unstuck

The past eight months have been an exhilarating time for me, and I feel more connected than ever to my life’s dual-purpose of sharing my creativity and helping others to tap into their own creative potential.

This comes after a period of feeling extremely stuck. Like, waist-deep in swampland stuck. Like, ‘is my life ever gonna change or should I just accept this is it?’ stuck.

This was an odd and slightly unfamiliar feeling for me since I had a history of assertively creating outward change when I wanted to, allowing me to live with a sense of limitless growth.

My two strategies for growing and getting unstuck

  • Change the outside to change the inside

  • Change the inside to change the outside

In the five years before I moved to London, I studied and lived in four different countries (Spain, Italy, USA, and Portugal), mostly hopping around in 8-month stints back and forth between the US and Europe.

When I arrived in a new place, I would naturally feel change happen inside me. I was working remotely as a design freelancer during this time, and work would shift frequently. With each new environment and project, I would grow intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. I loved it.

This period ended, and I arrived in London with a desire to stay put for a while. After a few years of being settled in London, I started to feel stuck. I wanted things to change, but for the first time in a long time, I didn't know how to change them. I suspected the feeling was related to geography, and each year (usually around Autumn) I would consider moving back to the US or finding a new place to explore in continental Europe, but I would hesitate and never do it.

‘The stuckness’ (as my counsellor so ominously called it, conjuring the form of a shadowy swamp monster in my mind), solidly made itself at home. With it watching over me, I realised that although I was growing and learning as I moved around, I had been in a cycle of pushing aside some deep desires about my life’s calling and purpose. I’ll save my story of that cycle for another time, but, since I’m fresh out of the land of stuckness into a more fluid territory, I thought I’d share some of the things I did to get unstuck.

First, I considered picking up and moving to a tropical paradise (escape to Bali anyone?), but my instinct told me to switch my strategy and stay put this time. Instead of changing my environment to change me, I wanted to change me to change my environment. I didn’t want to make a bold move and see what unfolded. This time, I decided to attempt the uncertain work of looking deep inside myself, then waiting to see what changed around me. I would change the inside to change the outside.

I was unsure it was going to work, and there were times I doubted myself and my approach. It seemed slow, a bit lazy, and possibly out of touch. I wondered if it was delusional to think I could change the world around me through my heart, or my instinct, or my mind, or whatever I thought I was exploring. There was no hustle and no drama, and no way to easily measure my progress. But with some patience, discipline, and a little bit of trust thrown in, the stuckness has left, leaving behind only a little bit of stickiness here and there.

The waist-deep swampland has vanished and has been replaced by a peaceful forest that I get to explore each day anew. The winding paths allow me to meet people on their own journeys. We stop to chat and exchange tips, like hikers passing on the trail. My sense of purpose is strong, and I feel connected to a renewed sense of self.

After some time reflecting and considering where my path has taken me, I’ve settled on two strategies for continuing to grow and getting myself unstuck — to change the outside to change the inside, or to change the inside to change the outside.

Both strategies have served me well, and I don’t feel one is inherently better than the other. As with choosing a creative process, I think it's all about appropriateness and experimentation. By experiencing each strategy, I can see they are both authentic ways to grow, and I’m happy I’ve given myself the chance to understand them through the lens of my own life.

Change the outside to change the inside

For me, this meant leaving New York City shortly after my 31st birthday, breaking with convention and taking my life on the road. I travelled light and was always ready for new projects, new homes, new languages, and new relationships. The lessons I learned about love, happiness, and acceptance during this period were life-expanding, and I could not imagine a version of me without them.

Change the inside to change the outside

A few years ago, I followed my instinct and stayed put in London even when I got a little tired of the scenery and, quite frankly, tired of myself. In the spring of this year, I stopped working for a bit and started thinking less about new places and new projects and more about the kind of mark I want to leave during my life, literally and figuratively. I did some deep dive emotional work and went to counselling, did some hypnotherapy, and tried working with a coach for the first time. I spent time reading and journaling, and I created a daily routine for myself which forms the basis for my professional work and creative practice.

Turns out, I still love painting and drawing as much as I always did, but now I get to do it with decades worth of learning in my toolkit and a renewed sense of personal purpose. The professional and personal work that I have done throughout my life serves as the foundation for my creativity coaching, which I look forward to growing in the coming years.

When I think about the future, I'd like to do my best to avoid the muck and frustration of getting stuck. At the same time, I know that by getting stuck I was able to stand still and see myself for the person I am and imagine the person I strive to be.

I look forward to finding a sense of balance between exploring inside and outside, and I wonder if this will help me grow as an artist and coach. Let’s see.