One time, I saw a new-age "life coach" when I was living in Southern California. I was 19 years old. I lived in Santa Monica with my brother and his best friend in an inexplicably freezing cold, crumbling apartment by the beach.
My best friend on the planet had unexpectedly passed away two months prior in a fatal car accident. I was heartbroken and lost, sifting through greater Los Angeles feeling as if I didn't have a purpose in the world.
I was jobless. I was broke. I had lost the one thing that's always fueled me, even in my darkest hours -- ambition.
I was sad. And for me, sadness is passive. Anger, joy, passion drive me to be active.
But sadness is empty. It makes me want to curl up in a tiny space and hide.
I wanted to see a therapist, but I didn't have health insurance, and $250 per hour was out of my teenage price range. I needed direction. I was desperate for direction, a semblance of guidance, something.
So I went and saw a "life coach" recommended to me by my acting teacher. The life coach was $60 for 90 minutes. It wasn't cheap for my penny-pinched existence, but I managed to swing it. It was dire times.
So I hopped in my little car and drove down the postcard-perfect Pacific Coast Highway to see something called a life coach. I didn't realize at the time I was living out the Lost Angeles prototype: teen girl from East Coast seeks life coach to fix broken life.
Her office was in a little beachside shack in Malibu. I was instantly dizzied by the dramatic display of pink and purple crystals that were scattered across the tiny windowless room she led me into.
My life coach was named Sara. Sara had a serene, sedated smile reminiscent of the documentaries I've seen about people in cults.
I told Sara I felt directionless and lost. I told her my best friend died, and I didn't understand how to get out of bed and go about my life as normal. I told her I was smoking weed all day and felt like I was stuck in a murky cloud of nothingness.
I awaited her precious pearls of wisdom. I could feel the longing radiating from my desperate young eyes. "Give me some advice, please," I silently willed.
She took a deep breath. She looked me in the eyes with a cold, penetrating stare.
"Zara, you're such a control freak." She leaned across the table and lightly touched my forehead. Her brief touch felt oddly violating.
"You just need to trust the universe."
I had spent $60, braved fourty-five-f*cking-minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic and endured an unwelcome, creepy forehead touch, all to be told the only thing I need to do is “trust”?
My feelings were crushed. I had divulged my deepest secrets, wildest insecurities and revealed my most personal demons to her.
I had entrusted her by opening up to her about the things I had never spoke out loud before, only to be told there was nothing I could do except trust that this elusive force is going to ensure nothing bad happens to us and that everything will fall perfectly into place.
She made me feel like there was something wrong with me for being young and hungry for guidance. She made me feel like I was an uptight entity who was destroying her life simply because I couldn't “let go.”
I left feeling confused and hopeless. What do you do with that kind of advice? Go home, smoke a spliff, drown deeper into your depression and wait for the universe to have its way with you?
It left a question lingering in the vast expanse of my brain:
Are we not active participants of our life? Who is steering the ship? Am I or is an unspoken, intangible force?
That night, I remained unusually sober and thought long and hard about how I felt.
I realized I so direly believe in being a good, honest person who sticks to her word. I believe you have a choice in the kind of energy you want to throw out into the universe.
I believe if you're looking at the world from a positive lens, you're going to be a happier human being.
I believe you get what you give. I do believe miraculous things can manifest and out-of-this-world opportunities can be presented to you at precisely the right time.
I believe in the spirituality of nature. I believe in the inherent “goodness” of the world.
But I also think telling young girls to throw up their hands and blindly “trust” the universe ventures into dangerous territory.
I think us girls should be encouraged to take our lives into our own hands. I think it's important for all of us to remember that while the universe might send us signals from time to time, it's up to us to take the wheel.
After all, we are in so much more direct control than we are aware of. It's our choices, work ethic and investments that will dictate what direction we go into on the great map of our lives.
It was after seeing a lackluster life coach in her pseudo-bohemain beachside abode that I firmly decided I disagreed with the idea of surrendering my life to the universe. I’m not willing to trust the universe over trusting myself.
I had been stewing in my own sadness for far too long. It was time to take the f*cking reigns. Take the power back.
Sometimes really sad, really f*cking difficult things will occur that are directly out of my realm of control.
It’s hard, and sometimes the pain is so great it feels tempting to give into pitfalls of a paralyzing sadness. But I can decide how to handle it.
I can choose to work through it. I can choose to surround myself with a plethora of healthy people who will lift me up when the going gets rough. And I will do the same for them.
Beautiful things can effortlessly happen too. But more often than not, the most beautiful things that have manifested in my life, I’ve created.
And the things I’ve worked for mean even more to me than the things the universe has simply “handed” to me. I cherish the wonderful treasures I’ve worked hard to attain.
I’m not disregarding spirituality or the signs the universe presents to us. I do believe, however, it’s up to us to decide what to do with the signals and the blessings.
I want all girls to remember we aren’t as powerless as we feel. Especially when it comes to love. Love isn’t a great universal force you have no control over. If someone treats you like sh*t, you can choose to walk away at anytime.
Because it’s all in your hands: your career. The people you want to invest your time with. The places you want to travel to.
While this can be overwhelming, it’s also incredibly empowering. The ball is in our court.
It’s a huge responsibility, but think about it: You get to decide who you want to be and how hard you’re willing to work to get the things you want.
Not leaving it all up to the whims of the universe doesn’t make you a control freak. It makes you the captain of your f*cking life.