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Leaving the Nest

 

I’m writing this because I care deeply about the person reading this. I hope that, through you understanding my experience, we grow stronger harmony. At times, this journey I’ve been on over the past year has felt very lonely. If any of my words strike a chord inside you, please reach out. I would love to listen to your experience too, not just as reciprocation, but because such exchanges are nutrition. May we always be here for each other. 

 

I used to believe the entire world was contained in New York City.  My parents are from Israel, my English teacher is from Singapore, and my neighbor is from Russia.  To me, conversing with any New Yorker provides rich horizon expansion, regardless of where they come from.  We’ve all walked down different city blocks, all sat across from different people on the train, and all have something profound to teach each other.  Then there are those mouth-closed, eyes-open moments that we never planned on witnessing but the city sends our way nonetheless.  Whether it's a breathtaking beauty walking down the street with the confidence of a runway model, the pulverizing power of a busker’s music, or the strange smell of crack smoke wafting down the train car, these nonconsensual stimuli provide priceless education and fuel for life.  For all its striking beauty and horror, I hold deep reverence and gratitude towards my hometown for exposing me to all its facets that bolstered my maturity.  Naturally, when I was growing up I shrugged off every place I visited: there’s no place like home.  This bubble comforted and protected me for 21 years.  There’s plenty to see in this bubble–one could spend their whole life transfixed by its innerworkings, never seeing its boundaries–but it’s still a bubble.  

 My recent trip to Nepal altered my perception forever, irreversibly popping this bubble.  I’d never been somewhere so different from home.  While there, I saw something I now can’t unsee: New York is not the center of the world.  My fast-paced, money-hungry upbringing stands in stark opposition to the way most people are raised.  I come from a beautiful, chaotic hurricane of a city, and I’d never known the feeling of distance from the storm.  I now recognize that no pure ingredient can be extracted from New York’s eclectic melting pot.  We can’t discern exactly what went into the pot, but we lust over its cumulative result nonetheless.  In other words, within these five boroughs, cultural diversity can only be experienced as removed from its original context, filtered through generations of assimilation.  Eating carrot-ginger soup is an entirely different experience than eating a raw carrot or ginger knob.  I’d never truly bitten into a carrot until I attended yoga school in a Nepali farming village.  

In any case, it was New York that nurtured my imagination and motivated me towards faraway lands in the first place.  Yoga first found me here, in the heart of the brick city.  I’m forever indebted to Fierce Grace Hot Yoga on Allen and Stanton for setting me on this path.  

When my mom first invited me to join her for a class at the studio, she had no idea what a catalyst the experience would become.  Like most Americans, my introduction to yoga only involved physical postures of bodily contortion, devoid of emphasis on breath and mind.  In fact, I grew up conflating yoga with stretching, a mere fitness exercise.  During my first few classes at Fierce Grace, I went through the motions obediently, but failed to see any deep significance in my movements.  Then, one class, as I was struggling to enter Yantrasana, I was overcome with a jubilant, involuntary laugh from deep in my belly.  Out of nowhere, I was overcome with epiphanic reassurance that yoga would change my life.  Somehow, through solely configuring my body into these positions, I began to form a dialogue with my spirit.  The window that yoga opened in my soul led me to form an independent, intuitive practice of meditation and deep breathing.  On top of that, I began passionately cultivating knowledge on natural healing, physiology, biochemistry, and neuroscience using the internet.  If we’ve ever spoken before, then you surely know about my uncontrollable habit of gushing this information at anyone who will listen, inviting exciting conversation.  I find such thrill in sharing this bliss I’ve found.

I thank the universe every day for leading me towards this window into the spiritual plane, the world of the unchanging.  The anchor that I’ve planted there has forever changed my relationship with the volatile, material world of constantly changing physical space.  Before yoga, I’d gone through phases with countless manifestations of material escapism.  The most gripping was my addictive dependence on marijuana that lasted over three years, but the same demons of escapism live within such mundane and unassuming fixations as thrift shopping and hookup culture.  My emotions shot around in every direction with the rapid fluctuations of these hobbies, and my position in relation to them.  Now, after closing my eyes and breathing deeply, I allow myself to lightly participate in the excess of the material world, maintaining a sense of humor and feeling the deep roots of my unchanging spirit.  Nobody can steal peace away from the soul within me, the spirit that is simply using my body as its current vessel.  

I went to Pokhara, Nepal because I wanted to earn my Yoga Teacher Certification, and I believed that getting as close as possible to the ancient lineage from which yoga sprouted would deepen my own practice.  My teachers at Pokhara Yoga School validated my intuition that yoga is built primarily on philosophical principles of the mind; the fitness aspect has always been but a path towards unlocking new thought patterns.  Walking the streets of Pokhara, it became abundantly clear to me how the ancient philosophy of yoga and Buddhism has shaped Nepali society.  Coming from a city afflicted with heavy crime, I was profoundly moved by the Nepalis’ sincere trust and hospitality.  Nearly every stranger I passed on my school’s road invited me inside for tea once I waved at them.  They offered me their time, their wisdom, and even their possessions.  Not only did they embody peace in their words and actions, but even their faces seemed less prone to gravity than the ubiquitously sullen NYC-mean-mug I’ve come to know so well.  This environment allowed me to let my guard down in a way I never had before.  I thought the whole point of this trip was getting my Yoga Teacher Certification, but it quickly became clear that this pilgrimage had more significance than I’d been conscious of.  During the day, I would meditate presently, taking in the moment; but, during the night, I had extremely vivid dreams of home.  I would wake up anxious about my inevitable return.  As much as I felt that I could blissfully stay in Nepal forever, there was so much pulling me back towards my roots. 

Chief among these factors pulling me back home was my band, LAUNDRY DAY.  My identity has been synonymous with the band since my four best friends and I started it seven years ago.  Many of the happiest moments of my life are thanks to this band, and I am eternally grateful for the serendipity of our path.  This band has given me the freedom to express myself by drumming, producing, songwriting, creating gig posters, creating merch, tour managing, shipping online orders, and wearing too many other hats to list.  Yet, I’ve known since our inception that I’d never be able to put 100% of my creativity into the band: that’s simply the nature of collaboration.  The greatest work (and joy) of the band has been the quintuplet marriage between me and my besties, and the colorful composite that our individual hues unite towards.  Having that support system present for every victory and failure, musical or personal, was an immense privilege.  We’ve always moved as one. 

My discovery of yoga, and the path it subsequently led me down, marked the first time I found a love that matched my love of the band.  As I saw these changes happening within me, my heart broke, because my growth felt out of my control.  On our most recent tour, a lot of these differences came to light.  I frequently strained myself in order to feign comfort in scrappy, nocturnal road life.  I consistently woke up before everyone else to fit in an hour of yoga and meditation before we hopped in the van.  I’d refrain from the obligatory late-night McDonald’s runs and instead opt for fruits and veggies from our hospitality rider.  But besides the lack of sleep and questionable diet, the greatest strain of all was the stark contrast in mentality between me and my best friends.  I think that they could sense my withdrawal long before I could.  I recall, one night of the tour, one of them saying, “I feel like one day you’re just gonna float away.”  That made my stomach drop.  I knew he was right, but I wasn’t ready to confront that frightening reality.  Subconsciously, I was aware that admitting my desire to leave meant betraying my best friends. 

As this thought pattern festered, my involvement in the band changed from a passion into an obligation. I told myself that I needed to be there because my friends needed me.  My position in the band was unique because our studio-headquarters-clubhouse was in my family’s home.  Defining the boundaries that I needed became difficult in this environment.  Again, now back at home, I would strain myself and relinquish personal space so that my friends had the ability to express themselves in the place they felt most comfortable. Despite my gratitude for its thrilling moments, I began to dread studio time, seeking asylum at my yoga studio whenever possible.  I could never relax in my own home until I was completely alone. Still, I felt obligated to show up in favor of the group camaraderie. 

When I booked my flight to Nepal, I thought I’d merely be coming up for air. Just four weeks.  But the trip opened a window that I don’t want to close.  It reminds me of life’s infinite possibilities.  I could have stayed there for much longer than I did: I was just that happy.  But, every joyous thought of, “I never wanna leave!” was followed by the anxious thought of, “What am I gonna tell the boys?” This dilemma weighed on me tremendously.  I sought advice from anybody who would listen, both within my yoga school and around Pokhara.  Helpful as it was to talk things out and listen to unbiased perspectives, I knew nobody could make this decision for me.  Truthfully, I didn’t want to have to choose.  While still in Nepal, I held onto the naive hope that I could get the best of both worlds.  

But, the day I got back to NYC, my brick city paradise simply didn’t feel as much like home anymore.  I felt more sensitive to all the sacrifices New Yorkers make just to exist here: financial, physiological, and more.  I felt a strong urge to leave the city.  But, the city and LAUNDRY DAY are eternally eloped; just ask any fan of the band.  Having one without the other was out of the question.  I came to the following decision: although my roots will always be in New York City, I owe it to myself to spread my wings and leave the nest, at least for a season.  

When I conveyed these thoughts to the boys, I found their response to be incredibly empathetic and compassionate.  Heartbreaking as it was, my revelation provided a clearer path forward for the band, and for me.  None of them have lost their commitment or their passion towards this project, and they will continue without me.  It’s unfair to us all for me to be around if my heart isn’t beating to their rhythm.  I hold such admiration for their tenacity, and I wholly believe that they can make history with this band.  I look forward to seeing it happen.  Honestly, I would love to return one day, but I understand it’s not solely my decision.  Together, we’ve already achieved so many of our childhood dreams, and I am so grateful for that.

After we discussed all this, my thoughts immediately turned towards the band’s incredible supporters.  Since the beginning, my single favorite part of this job has been connecting with all the bright and inspiring people that come to our shows.  I feel most aligned with my purpose during our energy exchange, and I’m so thankful that this music brought us together.  I hope the future sees these bonds strengthening and transforming.  I’d love to trade our selfies and autographs for longer conversations and deeper connections.  My band has created friendships, couples, and even marriages.  The strength of this community is not lost on me.  I breathe calmly knowing that our bond will follow us for life.  

Thank you for reading this; I appreciate you taking the time to understand the context behind this transition.  I am so optimistic about the future.  The past seven years have been an amazing and surreal dream from which I have just woken up, to be reborn anew.  Music will follow me wherever I go, as will drawing, writing, teaching, and putting on colorful outfits that make me feel like a flower.  This spring, I’ll be embarking on several months of solo travel, returning to the region that catalyzed this bliss within me.  I vow to live in service to my heart, following the mediums of expression that align with my spiritual and material being.  

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