By now, it’s safe to say that nostalgic “snow day” feeling has worn off. Fridays don’t feel all that different from Mondays. You’ve reconnected with long lost friends and family, caught up on reading, reorganized your pantries, baked enough brownies for whatever borough you live in and done enough at home workouts to ease your conscience for the next few months.
All of us around the world are dealing with powerful blows to our own universe – particularly those battling with their health or who have tragically lost loved ones due to COVID-19. Some of us are managing just fine, maintaining the same income while working from the comfort of our homes (and pajamas), some are boosting their entrepreneurial status – while others are confronted with the loss of income from a job they loved – and arguably worse: their loss of purpose and identity. But I have a hunch that all of us (jobless or not) are grappling with the same question:
In the rush to return to the way things were, is it worth it to rush back to our old lives – or take this time to reinvent it?
There is no foreseeable end to this quasi-reality – and although our sense of normalcy has been stripped away, so have most of our excuses (i.e. too many commitments, not enough time, etc). See, from the right angle, this new way of being is a gift; perhaps one that raises an even more difficult question:
If you’re not using this time now to be who you’ve always wanted to be, then the question is not when will you – but will you ever?
THIS is your wake up call! You can no longer trap who you want to be in the land of someday. The time is now and someday is today! It’s time to dissolve the disillusion that you’ll be that person when you get there.
The truth is — you don’t get there and become that person. You get there by being that person.
Alter egos have always fascinated me. The Latin translation = “the other I.” For performers, alter egos are essential (i.e. David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Beyoncés’ Sasha Fierce or Bruce Wayne’s Batman). Creating an alter ego to catapult you from where you are to where you want to be – is not only a game changer for celebrities, but for us civilians as well. While I now have several, NeonGypsy was my first — and is the one that (quite literally) got me from there (my hometown: Pittsburgh, PA) to here (the center of the world: New York City).
There’s a 4 step recipe to creating an alter ego. As with all delicious meals, the secret (and most important) ingredients are to have fun in the process – and as always, cook with love.
Step One: Find your recipe Check your pantries to see what you have/what you need before making your grocery list – and I’m not talking canned goods and condiments. Your first move is to take a step back from yourself to assess the way you are and how you live your life. Curiosity (without judgement) is key here. How does who you are right now differ from who you want to be? Organize your list by categories (i.e. personality traits, leisure life, hobbies, finances, etc). Highlight the qualities you want more of – and scratch off ones you want less of. The more thorough your recipe, the sweeter it will taste.
Step Two: Create and customize Now that you know your ingredients, it’s time to create! This is a sensory experience. How do you want to feel? A good place to start is to pull from people you already know (a fun-loving co-worker or a friendly, outgoing neighbor). You can also look to "expanders;" these are people you don’t know (celebrities you admire, a friend of a friend, etc) that you'd like to be more like. You can even pull from your past (6-year-old you, 21- year-old you) or the way you imagine yourself in the future. NeonGypsy was created around my 18-21 year-old self. She’s the one who booked a one-way flight to backpack around Australia – and years later, a one-way train ticket to NYC. I call upon her to calm my nerves before an acting audition - or to help get me out of my own way in any scenario. She’s wild, fun, full of life and absolutely fearless. During this creation process, think beyond people and visualize powerful symbols and images that light you up (like neon colors, free- spirited gypsies who travel the world, big smiles, fireworks). Then, get as specific as you possibly can. Do you make your coffee at home, mobile order, or have superpowers and give up caffeine altogether? Perhaps you’re the type who buys a drink for the person in line behind you... Maybe you’d like to swap your insecurities for fierce confidence. Get a table for one to people-watch and soak up your surroundings. Take a half-day to read in the park. You might look forward to sipping martinis at live jazz bars or dabble in mixology and whip up the perfect old-fashioned from your at-home mini bar. Do you pack your own lunch or buy fresh food at bustling outdoor markets? You may enjoy staying up late writing your novel or jumpstarting your day by rock climbing. Where do your passions lie: art, fitness, foreign cultures, creation? How do you spend your Saturdays? Is your style set or is every day a new expression of who you are: ever-changing, constantly evolving and renewing itself? Once you create your alter ego, customize it with a name.
Step Three: Taste to perfection Everyone knows taste testing is the best part of cooking. This is the fun part! This is where you begin adding a taste of your “other I” to your current life — a pinch here, a sprinkle there. Let your alter ego be a source of emulation. Live into it. What would it do? The year I created NeonGypsy, my mantra was: “what would NeonGypsy do?” Anytime I needed to get out of my own way (which at first, was a lot), I would call upon her. I called upon her so much that by now, she’s no longer my alter ego; she is a part of me. Use the specifics you outlined in step two to incorporate as many of those moments as you can into your daily life. Remember: the more you do, the faster you become.
Step Four: Enjoy! Stir it up and enjoy while it’s hot. One of the most common human beliefs is — “when I do this, get there, have that, THEN I’ll be who I want to be; THEN I'll enjoy my life.” We end up waiting our whole lives to arrive at a place where we will finally be able to live how we’ve always wanted to live…to finally enjoy what we’ve spent our lives creating. Well guess what? There is no there. No matter what your recipe for life is, all you have is here and now. As the world slowly reopens, anxiety about going back to how we lived and who we were is starting to rise. Remember that you do have a choice.
We choose who we’re being at any given moment. We can clutch onto our old stories for as long as we choose to carry them. Why wait? Why wait until this pandemic is over? You can be you — who you’ve always been — or you can be you — who you’d rather be — whenever, wherever, you are.
Unleash the version of yourself you create TODAY – the one who is better, brighter, livelier, more YOU! – and let it live!
It’s a new world; it’s time for a new you...