In the summer of 2016, I found myself in a weird place. I had just gone through a year and a half of extreme growth and I suddenly hit a plateau. I was stuck in stagnation central as I journeyed to the Philippines with my family. I wasn’t looking for answers, I wasn’t even asking questions. All the same, my ‘Why’ was solidified on the trip.
We arrived in Manila for a quick, accidental stay (long story) at the boojie Sofitel. One morning, I went to the Le Fit gym and stared as one of the staff swept leaves off the AstroTurf. As I ran on the treadmill, I felt like a hypocrite. Not for enjoying the five stars, but the idea that I was okay with pretending that there wasn’t immense poverty on the other sides of the walls. That I could ignore it and continue on in my LaLa Land.
We ventured out to Ilocos Sur and the barrio where my grandfather was from. It was a journey. Our bus broke down and things got shady or at least I thought they were. We magically found another bus for the last leg of the trip. It was dark. It was HOT, humid as hell. I was hungry. I was SPENT.
The next morning, I woke up just as the sun was coming over the jungle like landscape. I felt a hint of being present. Sweaty, but IN IT. Everyone was up, running around from house to house…a gaggle of kids that moved like one. They followed us everywhere, so excited, enamored with everything that we did.
Welcome To The Jungle
We spent a week in the barrio and it felt like forever, in the best way possible. In that, I was forced into presence. I was at home with the primitive. The simplicity. The technologic detox.
The electricity went down often and the electric wells that supplied water didn’t work. Toilet paper was a luxury. Air conditioner, non existent. Jobs, sparse and low level. I stood in the hut that my mom was born in and was able to see how my life could look a lot different. That if my grandfather hadn’t intuitively known he needed to get out and build a better life, she might still be in that same exact spot.
It bothered me that the worst crime committed by some people was that they were born. Into a shitty circumstance, or region, or family. That more than 20% of the Filipino population had to live in extreme poverty. 19–20 million people are surviving off of $1.25 a day. The statement “you should be grateful you don’t have to live like this” bothered me more. Like they were disposable, a way for me to learn gratitude. I didn’t look at them and say pitifully, “wow, I’m so grateful”. I looked at them and saw that they already had everything. We were the poor ones.
My cousins taught me how to locust hunt just before dark. Bringing them back to fry and forced me to try them. They introduced me to balut(google it), which I declined. We played basketball and danced in a downpour. We explored different cities and talked about our futures.
In one week, they schooled me. On excess, on abundance, on simplicity, on joy, on giving, on love and on karaoke (a sport for Filipinos).
Something switched on in me and I was changed. I couldn’t go back to my job where I wasn’t making an impact. It was sucking the life out of my soul. I had to do something REAL or I wouldn’t be satisfied. The way I lived had to change. The excess, the waste, no more. The way I felt the heat. The way I felt the rain. It all changed. I unplugged from the matrix and plugged into the universe. This was REAL.
Unplugging From The Matrix
I came back, disillusioned by the kush life I led here. I started to rid myself of things, selling off the excess. Of the things that no longer served me. I quit my unfulfilling job. Started my own business. Started taking chances to free myself up because I knew I had to get back to the Philippines to help somehow. Then, I saw there were people here that needed help. I don’t mean help as in charity. I mean help, as in teaching or showing them a different way. Charity creates a cyclical environment not conducive to growth. How I give is to help people grow. You want money? I will teach you how to build a business. The Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”, is how I built my ideas of giving back.
My life and my ethos evolved rapidly. I became obsessed with leading a sustainable life. Sustainability became my mentality and every action that I took went towards that.
I couldn’t walk into an H&M or any retail store without seeing the sweat shops and the trillions of tons of clothes that we trash each year. Or see people drinking out of plastic water bottles without thinking of the ridiculous damage that the production of them alone has on our environment…combined with more than 2 trillion tons of them sit in our landfills. And once I started to see these things, I couldn’t stop seeing them. I saw them in the food that I ate, the car that I drove (I still drive an FJ Cruiser, judge me or buy me a Tesla), the grocery store, in everything.
I made the connection of sustainability in mental health and in relationships and started to apply the concept there (https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6359808086533820416). I rid myself of relationships and behaviors that no longer allowed me to sustain. I tied in the love of connection that I had found from my Grandmother passing and found my ‘WHY’ (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/catalyst-katie-wallace/). From there, the rest is history.
Defining Your Why
Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mind Valley and so much more, says you need to ask yourself the three most important questions:
- What experiences do I want to have?
- How do I want to grow?
- How do I want to give back to the world?
From there, you can make no mistake about the life you are leading. Every move becomes intentional. You can short cut and bypass a lot of the barriers and social constructs that you think stand in your way. So, what is your experience with discovering your WHY? And if you haven’t found it have you answered those three questions?