Level 38

Last night, I treated myself to a long walk across the Williamsburg Bridge. As I walked and took in the New York skyline, oddly enough, I started thinking about video games—specifically my favorite video game from my childhood, Super Mario 3.

Super Mario 3 had eight different worlds that you had to conquer in order to save the princess. There were mazes, dungeons, dragons, snapping plants, bombs, underwater predators, and all sorts of obstacles that Mario had to overcome in order to get to the next level of the game. You could earn points by finding secret lairs with coins or super mushrooms that would give your more power for the journey. There were tricks and shortcuts you could use to jump ahead to the next world, but if you didn’t learn how to defeat the particular set of villains and obstacles at each level, you would have to start back at the first world all over again.

I was definitely on my Super Mario grind in Year 37. I took huge leaps of faith in my business, I put myself WAY out there to meet new people and build my network, and I took on some of the biggest personal and professional challenges in my life thus far. While those big leaps yielded extraordinary success and access to new avenues of opportunity, they also came with huge learning curves, big losses, and enormous hits to my soul. I was grateful to be at another level of my life, but by the end of 2016, I didn’t want to play anymore.

My January 2017 was one long slide of dark nights, oversleeping, gorging out on organic snacks from Trader Joe’s, and binge watching “This Is Us.” Most of my calls with my business coach were basically me saying, “Nope, I’m not doing that.” If I didn’t take on a new leadership role with my networking group, I doubt that I would have left Brooklyn at all last month, let alone my house. On the days that I managed to have a modicum of energy, I was searching job boards and seriously considering moving back home to Baltimore.

I had just come off of the biggest year of my life and I was simply terrified to do it all over again. The success was great, but the lessons and the pain that came along with them felt unbearable. I wasn’t going to put myself out there again. I wasn’t going to roam the streets of New York looking to slay dragons and conquer new territory. Been there, done that, put my soul fully on the table—only to be crushed—and I sure as hell wasn’t going to do that again.

Fortunately, my business coach does double duty as my Jewish mother and she literally dragged me back into the light. As I began to unearth myself, I started to understand that there are levels to this game we call life. I recognize that each year of my life comes with its own unique set of challenges. But in order to get the life I want, I have to keep on jumping, running, stretching, and leaping—regardless of whether that particular attempt at success yields an extraordinary win or a spectacular failure. I don’t have to quit on myself just because I fell down a rabbit hole or discovered that a friend turned out to really be a foe. My only job, even with my fears in tow, was to simply keep showing up for each and every level of my life.

As I crossed the last few hours of Level 37 on The Williamsburg Bridge, I took a few moments to stop, take in the view, and just cry. One of the things I love about New York is that you can cry in the middle of the city and nobody gives a shit. I cried for every thing I did and didn’t do, for every win and every loss, for every hello and every good-bye, and for every new jewel I put in my crown and every hard scrape I took to the knee.

I have no idea what Level 38 has in store for me—and yes, there are days that the thought of the unknown still scares me. But as I walked off the bridge last night and prepared my soul for the next year of my life, I found solace in one of my favorite Brene Brown quotes—“I don’t leap for the landing; I jump for the joy of knowing that I can fly through the air.”


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