I Did This to Myself.

Not really. But sorta.

See, I did this thing. I meditated and…kind of invited Kali, Goddess of Destruction, into my life.

I blame elephant journal. Fucking elephant journal. elephant fucking journal.

This article waxed spiritually poetic about how Kali isn’t only about destroying every single thing in her path and beheading demons for kicks, but is also really big into creation and rebuilding. I was implored to allow this destructive energy to enter my life, taking away everything that I no longer needed, everything that I never needed but held onto because it made me feel safe or because it fulfilled a societal expectation or whatever. Only after destruction could my life begin to regrow — into the life what I actually wanted and needed and loved.

Dude, I bought it. Hook, line…sucker.

And like a new-age Jumanji, I entered the game without really, really thinking about it. It was just a meditation, an exercise, an inconsequential thing to help me open up to the possibilities of the Universe.

Things you should know about Kali: bitch be cray, and bitch don’t play.

Does this look like the face of someone with any level of chill? (Kali Trampling Shiva by Raja Ravi Varma, 1848–1906)

I should admit, I was already feeling like my world was crumbling. Feeling angsty over the loss of my twin flame, feeling restless because our lease was ending soon, which meant time to look for a new home, feeling neurotic because my 29th birthday was quickly approaching and my life seemed to be going nowhere — there were a lot of feels, my friend. A lot.

So in a way, seeking out change (albeit the destructive kind) seemed like a positive thing to do. My friend says that when you fear losing something, you should let it go — then the worst has happened, and you no longer live in fear. You can move on. I began to think of all the things I held on to, simply because I feared not having them. Things I didn’t need, and didn’t even really want, but still held on to.

To be perfectly honest, I figured I’d do some meditating on letting go, then clean out my closet. Maybe get a few things sold on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Hopefully have some kind of enlightening moment where I let go of some bit of emotional baggage and start vibrating on a higher frequency, or something equally freeing and wonderful that would leave me looking like some kind of stock photo you’d find under the tags: “girl + happy + dandelion + sunshine.”

Remember what I said earlier about Kali not playing around?

It began with my car’s transmission informing me that there had been a “failure”….oh, and this “failure” happened while on the freeway with two small kids in my car.

The children are safe, the car gets towed, the guy at the auto shop assures me that he’ll have answers within a day, and that he’ll do his best to keep the cost as low as possible.

A few hours later, he calls me with the diagnosis: multiple issues with the car, resulting in a $5500 bill, if I decide to fix it. But great news! My $75 diagnostic test is free, if I get the work done at his shop!

Despite this tempting offer, I remember that my car, now five years old — AND JUST PAID OFF TWO MONTHS AGO — is not worth $5500. A run-in with a motorcyclist who’d side-swiped me prior to this incident adds another $2500 worth of exterior repairs to make my car look “buyable” by most people’s standards. Also, due to my knowledge of planned obsolescence, I understand that it’s only a matter of time before another problem pops up. And another, ad infinitum.

The car is scrapped. No problem, right? Just buy a new one. Or a new-to-me one.

Except I have precisely $288 to my name. Oh, and a credit score in the 500s. Oh, and no verifiable proof of income in over three years. And also a newly-found sense of hindsight regarding past choices.

Now, I don’t want to criticize Kali, but I do think that perhaps she over-corrected. Just a skosh. Like, I get taking things I don’t need out of my life, but I would respectfully submit that I actually do need a car. My car, to be specific. My car, which is paid off and has blue-backlighting on the dash panels, which doesn’t hurt my eyes like the usual standard harsh red. My car, for which I spent FIVE YEARS OF MY LIFE paying $430 a month. My car, which has taken me over 81,000 miles — including across the United States, three times. My car, which (did I mention was paid off and therefore allows extra breathing room in my already-tight budget?) was required in order to keep my two freelancing jobs, both of which barely keep my head above water financially as it is.

To say I had a meltdown would be a solid understatement. I kept it together while talking to my best friend, mainly because I was still reeling from the shock of reality. However, I burst into tears while talking to my mom — and not just tears. Sobs. The full-body, so-deep-that-you-can-hardly-breath-and-any-words-you-try-to-say-are-completely-indecipherable kind of sobs. The kind of sobs I haven’t cried since being a child (and let it be noted, I cry pretty regularly). For variety, these sobs were interspersed with a self-loathing monologue about how this was just a wake-up call to how wasteful I had been with my life and my chances, and how I was just a huge failure at life, etc, etc, ad nauseam. You know, the usual things you do when you’re having a panic attack and your favorite hobbies include beating yourself up for failing to live up to impossibly high personal standards.

Cue a call from my sister a few minutes later, worried sick because my mom had called her, apparently planning to get on a flight to come see me because she feared that I would “hurt myself”.

Yeah, not exactly a triumph in dignity.

Kali: 1. Ego and Sense of Adulthood: 0.

I cried. I stared at the ceiling, not sure what to do. I cried some more. I realized I may have to move back home — a death sentence, for someone who finally moved away and finally found a place where she felt like she belonged. I talked it over with my roommate and — you guessed it, cried.

Finally, I got some sleep. When I awoke, I had a plan. I would sell my car for parts. I would rent a car through Lyft, and make extra cash driving for them. I would save up, pay down my debts to raise my credit score and help establish some kind of income, and then settle on a nice car that suited all my needs — not just the first one I found at a decent price because I felt I had to.

I would also start doing what I moved to this city to do. I realized that, since moving here three years ago, I’d become complacent. Originally, the plan had been to take a year off, to regroup and recharge — I’d spent two years working at a break-neck speed on my last project, and I was mentally exhausted. I wanted to live a “normal” life again, to plant tomatoes and grow an herb garden and not worry about the industry or its demands. And I did that…for one year, then two, going into three….the quiet life was so nice, it was hard to leave, especially when I knew the demands of the world waiting beyond this moment. It was so much easier to stay in the quiet world and just daydream of the other — imagining your life is so much easier than actually going out and building it.

But Kali isn’t one for daydreams. That severed head she’s almost always holding? Most interpretations claim it’s symbolic of ego — Kali brings the destruction of pride, the death of that little voice that says to stay where you are and what you are, because being a beginner is embarrassing and maybe, just maybe, you will fail.

That’s the thing about imagining: when you imagine something, it always goes the way you want it to. You’ll always marry that girl or get that job or be that celebrated actor or singer. When you start moving into reality, however, you could lose that lover, or that job, or never become a working actor or singer. You could realize that it isn’t going to work, that it isn’t meant to be, that you don’t have what it takes.

You have to find a new hope, a new dream, a new life — and god, you’ve already invested so much time and emotional energy into this one. How can you just move on?

Well, sometimes you don’t have a choice.

On day two of the destruction, I took a Lyft to an open call for my chosen profession — a profession I’d abandoned for the past three years. Due to traffic, I arrived too late and was turned away (don’t worry — I went back and succeeded). The work offered is entry-level, but it’s work and it’s getting my foot back in the door, and most importantly, it was part of the plan that I’d made when I first moved to this city — back when I told myself that I’d only take a few months off, rather than a few years.

On day three of the destruction, I sold my car. While I wasn’t exactly thrilled with how little I got for it, I breathed a sigh of relief — that money alone could pretty much tide me over for the rest of the month, and it was one item checked off the list. My anxiety was drastically reduced, and I was reminded that I can handle any situation, if I let my logical, practical side take the reins.

On day four, I spoke to my boss. While she was eager to have me back at work, she also understood my predicament. She sagely pointed out, “Maybe it’s time that you look at your life and look at what makes you happy — and really think about what you want.”

I also spoke to my aunt, who decided to send me some essential oils. She loves giving me things, and as I am a destitute woman-child, I never refuse. Also, she may now believe that I’m converting to Hinduism, after I semi-jokingly told her about Kali. Being an upstanding Christian woman from Arkansas, she was slightly alarmed.

On day five, I realized that, more than anything right now, I want to travel. Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by the world. And while I have been places and seen things that so many people will go their entire lives without ever experiencing, I know there’s still so much more. To quote Belle from Beauty and the Beast, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell.

I want to climb the steps of every temple in Angkor Wat, shirt sticking to my skin with sweat. I want to pet a fuzzy-headed yak in the mountains of Nepal as I stamp my feet to keep warm. I want to eat street food in Marrakesh and drive the dunes in Egypt and marvel at Machu Picchu and find long-lost kin at a pub in Ireland. I want to get caught in the warm rains of Thailand and the cold rains of Iceland. I want to try out my not-even-remotely-passable Danish and learn phrases in Kikuyu. I want to spend New Years Eve in Tokyo and Memorial Day in Pearl Harbor. I want to kneel in the Hagia Sophia and return to the Duomo and the Sacré Cœur, just as I promised I would. I want to explore the catacombs at Notre Dame and dance in the street for Carnival.

And most importantly, I want a life that enables me to do that.

Kali, in her infinite wisdom, knew that my current life would never allow for such things. And she also knew that I was so blinded by my current life that I would never be able to lift my head above the fog and see — really see — what I wanted.

Granted, it’s not like I can skip town tonight and be in Brussels for breakfast. But now, I have the ability and the clarity to build a life that will allow me to do just that, very soon. And perhaps most importantly: I actually know what I want out of life, at least in this moment.

As previously noted, I work best when given a plan. So that’s what I did — I sat down and wrote out exactly what I wanted. I made a list of 15 places to visit or revisit within the next six years. Then I expanded into an action plan. I made a list of everything that would need to happen for this dream to become reality. The list included items like how to cover my current vehicle issues, how to reduce my physical possessions through digitizing documents, buying a smaller, more portable laptop and a phone geared more towards photography than my current one, and even renting my room on Airbnb or a similar site to make up for the money I wouldn’t be earning while I was away.

With each bullet point, another aspect was tackled and solidified, and everything felt even more attainable and manageable. The lifestyle changes needed to make this happen were suddenly so simple — but I can promise you that if I had been asked to think about it just a few days before this, I would have balked at the thought.

What can I say? Beheaded ego works wonders for your perspective.

I am currently on day fourteen of the destruction. I am still dealing with repercussions, but also still taking steps every day towards my new life — baby steps, but still steps. And as much as it surprises me to admit it, me and Kali are pretty cool now. I am grateful for the clarity and the renewed sense of purpose, and I feel that I have a greater understanding of my own depth and ability to survive. My eyes are open to even more areas of my life that need trimming, and even though I hesitate, I know that on the other side of this fear, more joy is waiting. I will lose things, so that I can gain more. I will cut away the deadened ends, and yet somehow be more complete because of it. Kali has taken, and Kali has given.

I would never invite her back, though. Destroy me once, shame on you. Destroy me twice….