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Are You Holding Yourself Hostage to an Expired Version of You?

Updated: Feb 20

Nearly three years ago, in the throes of a global pandemic, I cozied into my living room with my laptop, interviewing an eminent psychologist, Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for a magazine story. During our conversation, we explored the complex ways in which the Covid era had dropped so many of us into the arms of unthinkable disorientation and grief.

There were those whose businesses and finances had been pulvarized. Those who’d buried loved ones. Those whose precious relationships were being pressurized in ways they couldn’t sustain. Also those who wondered if they remembered how to show up in the world without crippling weirdness–who’d never imagined how much the lighthearted office banter and the friendly smiles from strangers in a coffee shop had brought color and movement to their days. 

As we explored the nuances of how enormously humans need other humans to thrive–the uncompromising reality that we are truly oxygen for one another–Dr. Gilliland paused to say, “You know, Lacey, you’re like a therapist...” 

It wasn’t the first time someone had given me that sort of feedback, and it wasn’t the first time I’d entertained the idea privately, but there was something identifiable about how he said it. It was as though a divine invitation lay tucked inside of it, pinging softly in my soul, intending to be unwrapped. And, yet, I opted not to unwrap it, telling myself, "That would have been cool... yeah, maybe in another life."

Not long after, there was the time I listened quietly as a high-profile author and public figure I admired began to cry, saying, "Oh my God...that was almost like therapy." It was during an interview for a feature story and I knew that if my editor caught wind of the nature our conversation had taken, I may never write for her magazine again. It almost certainly would have been viewed as sloppy and unprofessional on my part. Except I'd never intended for the conversation to tug so intensely at the interviewees' emotions and, subsequently, spawn a release; it had happened accidentally.

Which is to say, it had absolutely happened organically.

During that season, I was restlessly pregnant with a brood of questions about my future as a journalist: Am I on the right path? Am I meant to keep doing this forever? Is there something I'm missing? You'd think those moments of explicit affirmation would have been enough for me to feel like I'd been hand-delivered my golden answer, but no. They were signs that floated right over my head.

And there were others, too, many of which were so hysterically obvious that they may as well have been flashing billboards in Times Square. But I kept on trekking through life in a daze of frustrated oblivion, searching only for what I wanted to see, missing every holy one of them because I wasn't ready to follow their clues. I was much too infatuated with a familiar story about a completed version of me.

Lacey Johnson, Author of Radical Life Renovation
"Maybe in another life..."

For a decade, so much of my identity was entangled in being a journalist for (what I perceived to be) fancy magazines and media sources. It was a label I'd wanted, had white-knuckled to earn, and had proudly anointed over myself. The truth is, I'd achieved many of my most ambitious goals. (For the love of God, my word babies had found their way to Oprah's f***ing website!)

Being a writer was my life. It was the thing I did and loved and studied and knew.

Except, in the madness of the Covid era, everything about the industry changed. Editors. Rules. Budgets. Pitching. The ways in which our society receives and digests information. As it happens, I changed, too.

Though I'd been trying so hard not to know it, I could no longer see myself in the world I knew. But I was too scared to admit that because I'd spent so many fantastic, successful years seeing myself in it before. Which is to say, I was turning a blind eye to every arrow that asked to point me toward higher realms of contribution, fulfillment, and satisfaction, all the while imprisoning myself to a completed version of me.

In life, we might scour the horizons for signs of divine direction, but miss them all because we aren't ready to see them for what they are. We don't want to give up the concept we have of ourselves because it's one we've invested in, perhaps one that's predictable and "safe," even if it's chaining us. We want things to be different, or so we tell ourselves, but we're ultimately too terrified and intimidated by invitations toward change.

The tricky part is, if we continue to turn a blind eye to the signs we're given, they get louder and more percussive. Usually in ways that disrupt our peace. Maybe even wrapped inside of lessons that toss us some misery. The truth is, it wasn't until the pendulum swung hard in an ego-bruising direction that I started to pay attention. And that turning point marked a magical, life-changing difference. I finally admitted that I needed to bid farewell to the person I'd been proud to be for so long–the person I'll always be proud to have been–so that I could become who I am now.

For the first time in what felt like an eternity, I again found myself smiling before the glow of my laptop screen–pouring over graduate school applications for psychotherapy programs, dreaming of the therapy practice I'll build and the future books I'll be inspired write–but with a wingspan of credentials and knowledge. Most significantly, with a license to speak compassion, hope, and intervention into souls from intimate settings.

That was 11 months ago. Only days ago, I successfully finished my first semester of graduate school. As it turns out, those signs weren't meant for "another life," after all. They were meant for the one I'm living.

If you feel seen by these words, I invite you to consider something: It's perfectly okay if your truth has changed. And, if you're feeling a ping within your soul that it's time to evolve, I hope you'll give yourself permission to do exactly that. Otherwise you're holding yourself hostage to an expired version of you. Which means you can't possibly become who you already are.

You might be getting elbowed with signs that you're missing because there's something you're stubbornly trying not to know. You might think that clarity will mean a bloodbath to your sense of peace and security, but what if it isn't? What if it's scarier to die on the hill of the person that every version of you, past and present, has fought hard to become? What if the thing you're afraid to do ends up feeling so surprisingly right? What if it serves to free you from an expired version of you?

In the story of your life, it might make the magical, life-rearranging difference.

If this hits, shimmy on over here and grab a copy of my book, Radical Life Renovation: Heal the Past, Reclaim Your Power & Build a Future You Love. It's a sanctuary of soulful stories, transforming rituals, and empowering science, packaged in convenient workbook format. xx


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