Go Before You Know
I take a gulp and look down at my check book. It has been siting on my desk for days now, taunting me in my indecision.
The words of the admission officer still ring in my ear: "When you put a definitive step of action and commitment in place, the universe conspires to make it possible."
In bright blue ink, I have written eleven-thousand-dollars in the square box on the right of the check. It is the largest single check I have written up to this point, and a good portion of the savings I've worked hard to accrue over the past years. The words "University of Santa Monica" are printed neatly on the To line.
Before I can think twice, I tear the check satisfyingly out of its perforated book, slide it firmly into the pre-addressed envelope, and seal the flap before sliding it into the mailbox.
I am enrolling in the University of Santa Monica's Spiritual Psychology Program - a 10-month personal development program so esoteric and hard to define that even now I sputter when people ask me what I learned there. Spirituality? Psychology?
The truth is, I had known long before I enrolled that I would attend the program.
There was that deep gut lurch that signifies a body-level intuition when I first heard it's name three years prior; a wince of longing when I would be referred to by my friend Christie and her fellow graduates; subtle and not-so-subtle signs that started to pop up in my path as I'd bump into random people who were affiliated with the University or get gifted books that were also on the curriculum. The tingle in my belly was unmistakable, giving me that indulgent feeling that I would come to know as my soul's longing - always accompanied by the whisper "Could I really give myself this?"
I fought through fatigue and handful of excuses to drive thirty five minutes to a late-night info session alone one Wednesday night in May.
My ego and mind balked at the idea of investing so much in a program that had very little to do with my traditional career path. "You don't even get a degree," my hyper-rational saboteurs scoffed in my head, "Haven't you invested enough in certificates? What's this all getting you at the end? And do you even have time for this?!"
It is true that the timing was not ideal. I had spent the whole summer in a frenzy of activity, dating like mad, filling my downtime with coaching calls and yoga classes and balancing the demands of a full-time job. I was on the hunt, eager and impatient to move into the next chapter of my life as an entrepreneur and in a loving partnership, but I wasn't even that sure of what it would all look like.
I was impatient for something I could not yet see.
Irritated it was all taking so long, I filled the gap in the only way I knew how - by over-packing my calendar. I decided I would make a project out of fulfilling every as yet un-acted upon bucket list dream - bound and determined to fall so deeply in love with my own life that I would cease to feel anything was missing.
I enrolled in motorcycle school and yoga teacher training. I booked a solo trip to Cuba to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I made plans to buy myself a convertible. I deep cleaned my apartment, cut my own hair, and took ceramics class.
And it worked... sort of.
My admissions officer at the University of Santa Monica had told me that just completing the application and sending the check would change me: And it did. By the time I started telling people about my decision to enroll, I realized that my fear of a chorus of disapproving mentors and objecting bystanders was complete fantasy.
Most people were simply curious, or casually interested, and even my practical-minded father (in my head the most cautious and vocal of my career monitors) surprised me by letting me know how proud he was of my decision to enroll. The reality was slowly dawning: No one is looking over my shoulder to make sure I hit all my marks, check all the boxes. There's no test, no board to get approval from in my ever-changing professional trajectory. In fact, no one really cares. This life comes down to me, my choices, my joy, my definition of success. Period.
And suddenly, freedom. Unbridled, pure love of following my joy coursed through me, waves of anticipation and excitement of being on my right path, a feeling of certainty and gratitude for following the signs that led me to this moment, and the courage to cut that $11,000 dollar check.
Miraculously, the joy carried with it other gifts: A week after I mailed the check, my parents, inspired by my enthusiasm for the program, came forward with a sizable contribution to my tuition that felt exactly like the kind of gift from the universe foreseen by the admissions officer.
The process I went through to 'go before you know' had lasting effects. Today, my decision making mechanism is stronger and faster than ever. I can now (mostly) feel when the early signs of something that wants to happen through me show up: delicious, gentle, insistent, they reside at the level of my body and heart, not my mind. I now know how to put real world resources - time and money - on the table right away to communicate that the message has been received and I'm ready to move in that direction. As Mary Hulnick, co-founder of the University of Santa Monica likes to say, "When the intention is clear, the methods appear."
And almost all the best things in my life - meeting my partner, buying plane tickets to be with friends and family, starting my business, investing in a leadership program - have required this level of courage and faith upfront.
You see – magic is waiting and ready for you, but it demands you put your chips on the table before you know your hand.
You have a part to play here: Doing the hard thing. Looking at the finances. Tossing your hat in the ring. Plunking down a deposit.
You are asked to follow your gut, feel for your sacred yes and ante up now. If you really are in this for the long game - the joy and play and curiosity and aliveness of what is possible - there is no way you can lose.