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Leave Your Heart to Wander

We can choose to wander guided by our hearts rather than by fear of the future and the unknown.

Dearest Doodle Soupsters,

When I made the painting above in 2020, I felt spellbound by the TV series Little Voice, with music by Sara Bareilles. I was the same age as the main character, Bess. And I remember feeling that we would have connected with each other in a special, deep way — the kind of meeting that feels validating to the core of who you are.

Bess is a fictional character, an imaginary singer-songwriter in New York City trying to listen to and honor her own voice. But as I watched the show, she felt so real.

Sometimes I think, the passage of time has a way of winking at me. Because the following year, I met a real-life human named Brooke who reminds me of Bess from the TV show. Like Bess, Brooke is a tender singer-songwriter. The similarities didn't click in my mind until I returned to this painting today, reading over the story behind the artwork I wrote shortly after making it.

During the show, Bess writes a song called "King of the Lost Boys." Back in 2020, I put the song on repeat and painted what I felt. The scratch marks and colors blending into each other represent what it feels like to wander, to keep moving forward while unsure of the direction you're moving in, feeling maybe unprepared for where that wandering path may lead. Bess writes "King of the Lost Boys" after comforting her brother, acting out the story of Peter Pan together like they used to do when they were kids. These are some of the lyrics: Shadows begin their games These faces with no names Whisper words in tongues Make your ears ring The monsters circle 'round Eyes upon you Raise your head And let them hear your heart's choice You are the king of the lost boys Come, now Honey, don't you cry, no Honey, don't you cry In time you will be stronger Don't you Worry 'bout the why Those answers come in time So leave your heart to wander Bess and her brother grew up with a father who went absent for days or weeks at a time and a mother who one day left. I can see why they'd find solace in the story of Peter Pan.

Peter Pan's pals in Neverland, the group of "Lost Boys," lack caregivers and must move forward as time passes by them, without their parents. They don't want to grow up. Something is stuck. The lost boys wander, but never quite get to see a future for themselves beyond the lives they already lead. Yet Bess' song reveals something else about wandering — as adults, we can choose to wander guided by our hearts rather than by fear of the future and the unknown. So as Bess sings, we can choose not to worry about the why for a while. Those answers come in time. It's okay to leave your heart to wander ...

Over the past couple years, I've left my heart to wander. I had been reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. It was my first time in a while living back in the neighborhood I grew up in. A veil slowly lifted on the memories that were blocked off in my brain. Except it didn't feel slow at all.

It felt jarring. It felt like I was being forced to start all over. I felt bombarded with flashbacks, nightmares, physical pain in my body, insomnia. And it was the first time it became clear that what I'd been dealing with all my life was post-traumatic symptoms. The stomachaches and digestive issues, the migraines, the sleep issues and nightmares. The anxiety attacks where I had these vivid memories flash before me — I could finally name them as flashbacks. Intrusive memories. I could finally connect all these seemingly disparate health issues. No wonder nothing had worked. There was something tying together all of it that needed space, effort, and time to be processed.

Ultimately, I moved to Brooklyn to be on my own and get that space. Later, I decided to take a break from journalism. To leave the job that was exactly what I had in mind when I decided to pursue journalism.

And then, I worked various part-time jobs. I dealt with financial issues. I didn't know how it was all going to work out. I just knew that I'd been running, pushing, sprinting my whole life. I just knew I needed to truly put my health first. Not half-way. Not I'll take a day and charge right back into go-go-go. No. I needed what I needed and for the first time in my life, I was going to respect those needs. I was going to find the freedom to listen to my body no matter what.

Yes, I worried. Yet, as much as I could, I had to just take a leap of faith. Just like I had to do in order to break my cycle of relying on anorexia/ eating disorder behaviors and suicidality to cope more than six years ago.

I painted. I sang. I wrote songs. I caught autumn leaves. I cried. A lot. I worked when I could. I tried my best to work through the guilt and shame that wasn't mine to bear. I filled up more than a dozen journals. I wrote for myself. And at my own pace, I processed my past traumas with my therapist. I moved through each day not really knowing for certain in my brain what I was doing it all for. But my heart knew.

I've had many moments when healing felt like too much. When I felt like I just never wanted to speak of what happened to me ever again. And over time, I let myself have those feelings while knowing they're just feelings. Feelings help me know where I'm at. And they also pass and change.

Recently, I've been returning to my passion for journalism and professional writing too. I've been sharing my art shop more and applying for exhibition opportunities. And it feels good to put myself out there.

I used to feel scared of listening to my body and that made sense given what I went through. Now I'm not working to prove I'm okay anymore. Instead, it's because I feel ready. Because I'm okay for real. And now I know, not just intellectually but also in my body, that I don't have to prove anything to anybody, including myself.

And the truth is I needed to wander to get here. Sometimes, the path isn't clear. And that uncertainty doesn't change how much I need and want to travel it.

I still feel my pain and grief, but something feels different. I know something now that I needed to know, that I didn't know before. And in a way, I did already know. Yet putting it into words, putting it into song, putting it into paint, putting it into movement. Developing patience and compassion for myself. Telling my story. One puzzle piece at a time. It was all needed. This was always the way here. I couldn't just skip over any of this and rush to a different step of the way.

I feel proud of myself. And being human and imperfect doesn't alter my pride, doesn't shake my knowing of who I am anymore. My values are love and connection, expression and truth, compassion and justice, openness and joy. And I can finally treat myself in a way that matches my values. I was never born to be a superhuman. I was born human.

I can challenge myself and still be kind to my body, give myself grace. I can have goals and not demand I think of every little hiccup that may come along in order to give myself permission to believe I will fulfill them. I can give myself permission to not know and be okay with not having my mind made up. I can rest for the sake of it. Enjoy myself for the sake of it. I can have a flashback and ground myself and remind myself I'm safe now. Now is different.

The past already happened and I can't change that. I can feel sad or angry or confused or a bajillion things at once. And I can know that makes sense and also know I don't feel that way all of the time. I can surrender to my grief, knowing this is me living in the present feeling my feelings instead of fighting them.

And I can thank my younger selves for making the brave to choice to listen to her heart's choice and let herself wander guided by this intuition. To not demand all the whys up front. And the answers? The ones I actually need? They really do come in time if I can find the courage to do what's required to find them and follow where each one leads.

With appreciation for wandering,

Nicole Sylvia Javorsky


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