Almost exactly five years ago, there was an article written about me and many other "nice girls who dated jerks." In the article, I referred to a situation where in a very young and confusing relationship, a boy I dated called all women praying mantises (they eat their mates after sleeping with them). This was burnt in my brain as something that was one of the most negative things I had ever heard. He had referred to me as a praying mantis as well, and I felt a pang of pain every time I thought of it. We were young and naïve and playing with fire, but I always took it so seriously and never saw it as just another negative name.
This situation happened when I was much younger, (20 years old), the same year, I was changing who I wanted to be. I chose to go abroad (traveling alone for the first time to live in another country), I chose to go a different career path (deciding to continue with my masters program for education, but started to plan events in NYC on the side as well as intern for Entertainment Tonight), and I started to realize that I just didn't know myself yet, at all.
I pressured myself back then, I was so angry at myself for not being what this person wanted me to be. I thought something was wrong with me, and that I was in fact like a praying mantis. One year ago to almost the day, six years after I was called this name, four years after the article came out, a friend of mine who I loved and who was a little intoxicated randomly called me a praying mantis. I was stunned. He said it so out of the blue, I couldn't help but take it as a sign that I was not growing and was stuck in a place I had been years prior. This put me on a journey of introspection. What was I doing wrong? I was working with people I loved, but was not in the right role at work. I was living in a place I did not want to be in, and I was forcing myself to be someone I was not. Just like when I was 20, going through a major transformation, allowing for life to eat at me like a praying mantis would eat its mate, I was not being true to who I wanted to be. Was this the energy I was giving off?
After that moment, I realized I didn't want to be stuck. I didn't want to be a version of myself I didn't know. I did a lot of introspective work. I went to a healer, I got a life coach, I started to meditate, I started doing yoga, I stopped drinking, I moved locations, I read tons of books, I traveled to India, to Panama, to Vegas, to Utah -- I said yes to a lot. I worked really hard on understanding what I wanted and who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go. I was honest with those who I loved and included them in my journey; they changed roles in how they played a part in my life, but I worked with them, as opposed to against them to make it work for all of us.
One year later, I look around and feel so blessed to be a part of an experience like the Downtown Project. I am building a community with people I trust, respect, and believe in. I am a part of creating something I know will make a lasting difference in the way we look at urban development, and I am still able to maintain the relationships I believe are dear to me and have helped me get to where I am today. I have kept the parts of my old life in tact while creating new experiences to fit who I am. One year later, I am a part of an experience where coincidentally, a praying mantis figure spitting out fire, (recently purchased from Burning Man) towers over everything as the muse of the city. A beautiful, large praying mantis will be the center of the city, standing tall and proud as the emblem of a new creation. Where there was barren land, now stands a story of potential. It is the same exact place, but a very new interpretation.
This week, I met a beautiful woman who told me a story about a praying mantis after she visited Vegas that she remembered from childhood. There is something about Vegas that brings out a lot of serendipity and it was almost to the year after the praying mantis incident from last year. She mentioned that the praying mantis was called "praying" because its hands were always in prayer, and I was shocked. I had always thought it was called a preying mantis; I had made it this ugly creature that was constantly on the prey, on the look out for it's next target, and she looked at me and said, "no, praying mantises are beautiful, and if you think about it eating it's mate, you could think of it as another way as it being one with its love."
For so long, I made up excuses and said I was stuck, I was convinced I made wrong choices, I was convinced I was not good enough, but those are all interpretations of stories I created in my head. We all do it; we all create stories that we are not enough, that we are too much, that we are not just perfect in our imperfection, beautiful in our brokenness and exactly as we should be. Sean Stephenson, one of the most influential people I have ever met in my life recently said, "we have control over two things; we have control over our interpretations and our responses, just remember that." It made me realize, sometimes, you don't have to change anything at all; you are exactly who you should be, where you should be, and what you should be doing, it's just how you interpret it that makes all the difference.
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