It’s Time to Get Real and Then Get to Work

Britt East
7 min readMay 20, 2019

How to Build the Life of Your Dreams

Real change requires sustained effort. Demands self-discovery, personal practice, and relatedness. Insists on hustle and teamwork. Takes energy and execution. A bias towards action. And while there are no shortcuts, if you hire experts, get real, and then get to work, you will see results more quickly than you ever dreamed. In fact most start to see incremental, positive change in only a matter of months.

This article will help you get real, and then get to work. So you can efficiently and effectively implement the practices you need, in order to live your most audacious and authentic life. Truly start to thrive. I know, because this is what is working for me. And if you want some of what I have, you must do some of what I did. Here is my story.

In a gentler world, I might have lived in 1920s Paris or Berlin. Spent my evenings with Brecht or Gertrude Stein. Made love to Isherwood. But instead, I grew up in 1980s Tennessee. Where intellectuals were punished and differences destroyed. I inhabited oblivion. Naked and alone. And learned sex in the shadow of AIDS.

In other times, my family could have been socialists who fought in the Spanish civil war. Or even marched in Montgomery. Filling the house with poets and jazz. Trading in dissent and manifesting vitality. But instead, they found suburban rage. And set down their books, and put away their music.

My friends might have been artists and intellectuals. Members of the avant-garde. Revolutionaries and anarchists. But instead, I had no friends and was no friend. And separateness became solitude, and daydreams became delusions. Until all that might have been, never was.

I only ever longed to be loved. Because to be loved was to belong. And to belong was to be real. But we are so primitive. And I spent my time living the lives of others. While the me of me that should have been was stuck back there. Waiting to be born.

I was raised in a family steeped in denial and inter-generational trauma. Addiction. Abuse. Suicide. There wasn’t one way of hating ourselves, the world, or each other that we did not try. And society made it clear that everything about me was wrong. I knew that if I did not hide, I would be killed. Ravaged by bigotry and homophobia. So I learned to fall through the cracks and slink in the shadows. I achieved exactly as much as I needed to go unnoticed. Master of misdirection, I held up my trophies to bask in praise, while inside I hid all that I lacked. But try as I might, I could not pass. In a misogynistic society, my personal femininity betrayed me.

And yet I was also awash in privilege. White. American. Ostensibly male. But with no real foundation, I was unable to effectively leverage any advantages. And as an adult it wasn’t long before I gave into despair and depression. Retreating into an entitlement rage that magnified my character defects, and led me to dark places. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I met a great guy and we fell in love. It was shocking that anybody would choose to love me. But love me he did. We finished school, and moved to the big city. It was thrilling and exhausting and fun. And then he was arrested for having sex with a minor.

Turned out there was lots of sex outside our relationship. I was devastated. Destroyed. We each joined 12 Step programs. He for sex addiction and me for co-dependency. And for the first time in my life, I got real. I found a sponsor, worked the steps, and lit my soul on fire. I had never witnessed such raw, unadulterated authenticity as in those meetings. It was electrifying. I admitted my powerlessness. Created a fearless moral inventory. Made amends. Started service work.

Even amidst this positive change, my partner and I split up. I became desperately afraid. I built a fortress around my soul. To seal myself from the world, such that nobody might ever see me or know me again. I thought if I pared my life to the bone, I might master myself and gain some semblance of control. But instead I just ended up lonely and afraid.

I picked myself up and re-entered the world. I met a wonderful man and we fell in love. Later we married and built a sweet life. But my baggage followed me. So I found a therapist. He has created the single safest space I have ever known. He helped me unpack my story and contextualize it with my current life. And above all, he gave me a safe space to land. I got real, and then got to work.

After years of telling my story, I hired a life coach to help me turn attitude into action. He believes in me more than I have ever experienced. Makes me feel like I can take on the world and do just about anything. Where my therapist holds my story, my coach helps me manifest my dreams. He helped me shed my residual shame and internalized homophobia, while re-writing my story and stepping into a new life. Once again, I got real, and then got to work. Here is some of what I learned.

I’ve always been overly attuned to my own suffering. Spent years making love to my misery. Grew comfortable in the warmth of my sadness. Soothed by my sorrow. Safe in the arms of my self-fulfilling prophesies. Dying to remain alone. Which is pretty silly, since I only ever wanted to be cherished and adored. For others to see me and invest in what they see. To experience the thrill of togetherness.

I’m often overly idealistic, and struggle to live life on life’s terms. Immerse myself in fantasy. So I might preserve my illusions of control, paper over the pain, and hide from the parade of past absurdities. I place impossible expectations on those that would love me. Resentments which reinforce my core belief that I am permanently broken and alone. But I must be a friend, before I can have a friend. Which means mining my depths, and transmuting the trauma. Today. So that I might love you.

I am not unique, and neither of us are alone. If you want to change your life you need to get real, and then you’ve got to get to work. Get real about who you are and the life you’ve led. Get real about your choices, your fear, and your anger. Get real about your family and your childhood programming. Get real about your body, mind, and spirit. This is a matter of rigorous honesty. About looking at your life, and accurately measuring its hills and valleys.

You cannot do this alone. You must meet yourself in the eyes of others, who can reflect your character defects and qualities. You need someone to help give you context and proportion to your story. So you can examine your motives, the results, and the unintended consequences. And above all, so you can be joined in them. This can be a mental health professional, a coach, a group, a congregation, whatever. Be relentlessly pragmatic. Do what works.

After you get real, your personal practice will sustain your progress. I made a sacred commitment regarding the primacy of my own health. To the essentiality of my own wellness. The urgency of my own self-care. That I might be whole. Have something to give. Able to show up to my life with light and love. This is a daily set of activities that move me to a heart space and connect me both to my inner child and divine guidance.

Nothing truly spiritual is separate from the body. You are beautiful and desirable just as you are. Today. Now start acting like it. You must find a way to fall in love with your own body. For me this involved a combination of yoga and weightlifting. So get moving. Literally. Stand tall and take up space. Be seen and heard, as you transform into your confident, radiant self. Walk with dignity and pride, and act like the warrior you are meant to be.

Stepping into this new life is one thing, but bonding with your better self is another. And you cannot know whom you have not met. Spend time dreaming. Meditate. Create the space necessary to learn both what you believe and what you need. Go on adventures. Cultivate the hobbies and passions that will sustain you. The bottom line is you need to get to know this new person, who is more you than you’ve ever been.

I believe that we’re all in this together. That if each of us took a little less, we would all have a whole lot more. And that there is no greater wisdom than kindness. I want you to know that I have never known a love like this. This love that I learned to feel for myself and each of you. That lights me on fire and sets me free. As if I have been cracked open by the blessing of just walking with you. And the me of me that was always meant to be is at long last being born.

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Britt East

Inspirational writer, public speaker, and author of “A Gay Man’s Guide to Life”: britteast.com