The following post has been submitted by Natasha Shoup in collaboration with Jodi Lee Fleming Photography.
I just want to start by saying what an honour it was when Jodi asked me to be a part of this project. I think it's such a great idea to shine light on others who are on a personal journey of self-discovery and I think we can always learn from others through their dark times, their bright times, and everything inbetween.
I quite literally haven't gone a day without thinking about it since she asked me to be a part of it, and I'm just over the moon excited to be a part of this project.
So, here we go...
My journey of self-discovery began with loss.
Self-discovery is a beauitful transitional phase of life... It isn't a conscious decision one makes, it typically stems from something that rocks your world, could be in a good way, could be in a bad way... For me, it was heartbreak. Heartbreak from the loss of others from my life as I knew it. It was fall of 2015, I somehow managed to lose my grandfather and my boyfriend of many years in the same month, in the same year. My grandfather passed and my relationship had hit rock bottom, it was time to move on...
At first, there was a lot of sadness and mourning, loneliness and the feeling of being completely lost. It's dissatisfying how long it takes to process such emotions, there is nothing you can really do to speed that process up, you just have to live in it, take it day by day... But eventually somewhere along the line the magic starts happening, the magic of new beginnings. You dont even know it at first but in time you come to realize the strength and wisdom you gain from such traumatic experiences turns into something beautiful and beneficial. And so begins the journey of a version of yourself you never could have dreamt of.
I can think of many occasions where my faith and my beliefs that I grew up with seemed to become somewhat of a grey area for me...
There is however one time in particular that stands out in my mind...
It was on my trip to Haiti in 2011, a year after the earthquake had hit. The country was, for lack of a better word, in shambles. One evening after being there for a number of days I was sitting on the beach with my group leader (a man whom of which I have nothing but respect and love for) asked me something to the effect of 'how I felt about God after being to a place like Haiti (because of the recent catastrophic events that occurred there)...'
*A little bit of background, I didn't grow up in a religious family, it wasn't something I really even thought about, ever*.
His question left me speechless. I thought about it for years to come and the question still lingers in my mind...
I may not believe in one specific religion, I tend to be a very open-minded person when it comes to religion. I try to see things through the minds of others to help myself understand and appreciate the perspectives of others.
Anyways, since being on my path of self-discovery I have become a believer in my own kind of religion. The belief that if you send out positive energy into the world that positive things will come to you in return. A belief of karma. That being said, do I think a catastrophe such as the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 was an act of karma?... No, absolutely not. But I do believe it made the country stronger and united the people of Haiti. Visiting Haiti made me realize for the first time that happiness comes from the simple things in life. Love, family, health, the country we are blessed to be born into. I believe the people of Haiti play a big role in my journey of learning what real love looks and feels like and I will be forever grateful to the people of Haiti for that realization.
Vulnerability is something I have come to embrace in my life, it is not easy to be vulnerable. I thought about this long and hard and switched my answer a couple times because after a couple days of letting it resonate I realized what truly makes me vulnerable. I am my most vulnerable when I need help doing something. In fact, one of the first phrases I learnt as a baby girl was, "I do it!" (with the authority behind it no doubt haha) and that still runs true to this day. I tend to want to do things for myself and when I do need help it's really hard for me to ask for it and to accept it, but I have gotten better...
Although I know it is not a sign of weakness it makes me feel weak, on the contrary I think it is a sign of strength realizing when you need help. But to be honest, I'm a stubborn Scorpio and I am proud to be this way, I've embraced it but am always very appreciative to anyone who can lend a helping hand in the rare times I need help haha... (more Scorpio sting, tsssssssss!).
With that being said, I feel my most powerful when I am practicing yoga. It has been a great progressional journey I have been on just like re-discovering myself. I find yoga so satisfying because it never feels the same each time you practice, you are constantly building strength physically and mentally. Also there's nothing more empowering then being surrounded by like-minded individuals that share your love for something as beautiful as expressing yourself through the movement of yoga and harmonizing your breath as one. It's an incomparable union of magic.
Yoga and Music don't just keep me grounded, they have become a form of therapy for me - a safe place/space to let go of my day and truly be myself. Music has got me through some of my darkest days. For me, a day without music is a day without air. Music makes the world a better place in my eyes. And yoga has been my saving grace for the past 8 years.
On days where I can't escape the thoughts whirling around in my head my mat is where I seek refuge, a place that I can count on for absolute peace. Being on my mat is a place that I can be completely present and let all my worries wash away. (Namaste)
Going through tough times is NOT easy and unfortunately there is no quick fix. It takes time and patience to get over things that break your heart. But I can promise you from personal experience that in the end the pain is something that transforms into strength, and on those days where you feel like you have nothing to look forward to think about the growth that comes from the struggle. A bad day is a bad day and it will pass, you have to learn to let go and embrace the journey, the emotions, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
To the women (and men) who are lucky enough to be on the path of redefining and rediscovering themselves -- like anything in life take this in stride. Everyday will feel different, some days you will feel lost, so uncertain about your choices - but know that you are growing through these days, you are becoming stronger, a better version of you that you haven't yet discovered. Always follow your heart and do what is best for you.
Before my heartbreak of 2015 I did not truly love myself. Self-love would have been a foreign concept to me (I say "would have" because it wasn't even part of my vocabulary), something that never really even crossed my mind. I was ignorant to the idea of loving myself. Putting others before myself and trying to please them first. I have however learned to love myself, again, this just happened naturally. I started doing things for myself. Jumping into new sports and hobbies that I had always admired and wanted to try but never took the time to. I can now say there are many things I love about myself...I love that I love with all my heart, I love that I can laugh when things go a wry, I love that I have become fearless, I love that I choose to see the good in people, I love that I won't settle for anything but true happiness, I love my sense of adventure, my sense of humour, I love my loud laugh, and I love my eyes, hair, and feet... (and all the other parts of me but those ones especially).
I'm currently in a transitional stage of my life, potentially heading into a brand new job in hopes to start working towards some future endeavours, and goals I have set for myself. I feel like I am constantly working on myself, aware of times where I need to step back and consider approaching things a different way, a more productive way perhaps. Everyday I discover more about myself and everyday I feel closer to being the person that I am ultimately destined to be. Taking life day by day has allowed me to go with the flow and never set unrealistic expectations on myself for the coming days, just letting things happen naturally and organically. Tomorrow is the best gift I could recieve and everyday I feel more thankful for another day to live and learn.
NATASHA is: BRAVE!
(and so are you)