Leaving the Familiar

A guest post by Christine Mason Miller

My work has always been about encouraging others to create a meaningful life but it has been expressed in many different ways.
— Christine Mason Miller

I worked with Christine several times on book projects when I was an editor for North Light Books. Beyond publishing, we find it very easy to be friends and share many interests and values. Being aware that she is currently going through a stage of transition, I asked if she would share her story here of leaving behind everything familiar to explore something new. I can't wait to see what develops for her in this new stage of pursuits and endless—albeit it unknown—possibilities. I have no idea of the ways she will find to continue to share herself with us, but I know with confidence, they'll be first-rate, full of empathy and wisdom. That's how she is, regardless of the road she's on. —Tonia

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
— Howard Thurman

Almost exactly twenty-two years ago, I marched confidently into the Santa Barbara City Hall to apply for my business license. That day—which was perfectly sunny with clear blue skies, just like most every other day in Santa Barbara—I had a vision, I was fearless, and I completely took my inevitable success for granted. I didn’t question whether or not it was going to happen; I knew it was going to happen. Which sounds a lot like arrogance, I know, but it had nothing to do with thinking I was a big shot and everything to do with total, utter ignorance.

I had a clear image of what I wanted to create but no idea of how to actually make it real which was, it turns out, the best of both worlds. Growing my business was like playing a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I may as well have been blindfolded when I started; the first steps I took toward realizing my dream had me in various states of progress versus backslides. It went that way for a while, but over time I found my footing (and lost the blindfold) and I’ve been going ever since.

These days, when someone asks what I do, I usually flounder. I talk about the different things I’ve been doing over the past few years—writing a book, facilitating retreats—but eventually offer a broader explanation, which is that my work has always been about encouraging others to create a meaningful life but it has been expressed in many different ways. It started with a line of handmade greeting cards launched from a two-bedroom apartment in Santa Barbara in 1995 and now finds me a brand new resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin with nary a project, goal, or offering in sight.

Because I am essentially wrapping up the past twenty-two years of my professional life—officially, legally shutting down my business—in order to make room for what’s next, which is, at this point, a complete mystery.

Even though my work (whatever it ends up looking like) will continue to be about providing soulful, creative support and inspiration to others, it feels important that it be built on an entirely new foundation. The good news is that my life is currently rife with metaphors in this regard, as my husband and I have just moved from Santa Barbara to Milwaukee. All the physical and geographical foundations of my life are changing—my home, the space I work in, my community, my zip code. Everything is brand new.

There is no need, really, to close my business bank account and make the dissolution of my business official. I won’t likely do anything radically different in Milwaukee. Aside from paying taxes to Wisconsin instead of California, our move doesn’t need to be more than a tiny blip of inconvenience. But deep down, in that space where my intuition resides, I have heard the call loud and clear: Empty the building, close the doors, lock it up and don’t look back. This is a time for new beginnings and new pursuits, all of which need to come to life in an environment free of old stories, patterns, habits, and belief systems. 

Over the course of my career, I’ve straddled the before and after of the internet and social media age. I had a website when I started my business, and that was a rarity back in the day. There was no Facebook, Instagram, Squarespace, Snapchat, or Kickstarter. I’ve had to learn (again and again) how to navigate and utilize all of these digital tools and platforms to further my work and offerings. I have had to learn how to create, communicate, share, and promote everything from a course for aspiring authors to a retreat in the wilds of Big Sur. Much of what I do involves me sitting at a computer, which I could have continued to do indefinitely whether we stayed in Santa Barbara, moved to Milwaukee, or traveled around the world.

My work has become, in a way, rootless, at least in terms of geography. There isn’t anything wrong with that per se, and many would argue that is the new normal, but after all this experience in the realm of digital interactions and exchanges, I am longing for something physical, tactile, and textural. I want to have to figure out how to work my magic based on the energy I feel in a room. I want the intuitive. I want the sensory

I have never lived in Wisconsin, and I know very few people in Milwaukee. I don’t know how I am going to meet people, make friends, find my tribe. And I have no idea how I can be of service to this new community. Are there people in this new city that are longing for the kind of support I am able to offer? Is there a way for me to channel the lessons, experiences and wisdom I’ve gleaned over the past twenty-two years—both professionally and personally—into a meaningful offering that can be shared on the ground and in person rather than predominantly online?

I have been given a few clues over the past few months, and I’m holding them close. They aren’t guiding me toward an entirely new vocation, but they are encouraging me to continue to sit still (or as still as I can in the midst of setting up a new home), be patient, and lean into a space of trust—trust that my path will reveal itself and that this act of closing the doors on everything I’ve done up to this point is important and necessary. And that, when the time feels right (and I know I’ll know when that is), I need to keep the words of Howard Thurman fresh in my mind. I need to begin to build my own foundation, clear of clutter from the past, with gratitude, with trust, with joy.

Christine Mason Miller is an author and artist who has been inspiring others to create a meaningful life since 1995. Transplant: A Podcast about Home, inspired by her recent move to the midwest, can be found at www.christinemasonmiller.com.