MOVEMENT AS MEDICINE | Dee de Lara
My entire life has been about moving.
From Manila to New York as a baby, to Victoria as a teenager, to Toronto for university, back to New York to grow my career and most recently again to Toronto.
In 2014, I made one of my biggest moves. I quit my full-time brand strategy/market research career of almost a decade to focus on myself and my relationships. I burned out. Melted down. Numbed out. I was at my unhealthiest: overweight, drinking, eating and smoking too much. In a cyclone of anxiety to excel at work, succeed at a long-distance relationship and actually enjoy living in one of the greatest cities in the world. The pendulum kept swinging frenetically and never stopped long enough to make me realize that I was actually stuck. In my own head and in potentially destructive patterns.
So, I joyfully chose to live between New York and Toronto, on planes and between careers. To embrace the freedom of going wherever my new path of jewelry design and freelance consulting took me, with the “this is home for now” mentality. Because of my history, I knew my physical place would be transient.
It’s in my nature to keep moving. Yet, I never prioritized movement of my body. Is this why I always felt so stuck?
With all the moving around, someone once asked me what it felt like to be uprooted. “Uprooted” might be a misnomer because to feel that way, one has to be rooted.
To me, rooted needs a sense of belonging. To a place or a group of people.
Misplaced is a better description.
I feel like I have never really had a place.
When I go to the Philippines, I feel like a foreigner in the “motherland”. Even though I was born there and grew up with Filipino traditions. In Staten Island, I was grouped in with the other Asians in my class because we looked different, even though my favourite food was chicken parm from the local pizzeria. When I moved to Victoria in high school, I was always going to be the new kid. As I got older, I was seen as an exotic novelty with my now-husband being told that he had “yellow fever”. I joked along to feel included, but I hated these micro-aggressions. And even though I felt it was racist, I never said anything because I already felt misplaced enough.
But, I’ve never thought of myself as an outsider. According to The Breakfast Club, Clueless and Mean Girls, I wasn’t a weirdo or a rebel or a plastic or a nerd. I was just there. I kept myself on the border because I knew I would move away again.
I became really good at sitting back, observing and analyzing people’s behaviours and responses. So much so that I turned it into a career. I’ve been told that this intuition and insightfulness makes me good at going above and beyond to think of other people. I find so much joy in taking care of others. But I distracted myself so much that I never looked inward at MY behaviour and responses.
I looked for external things to anchor myself to: work, other people, other people’s problems. But not my own.
I didn’t realize that I needed to feel anchored to myself.
When I finally stopped moving so much, got married and found a home in Toronto in early 2017, it was in the stillness that I found discomfort. In the past year, the anxiety that I always shoved down started percolating in the less distracted life I chose.
I cherished the liberty that comes with not being tied to "real job" in an office, yet felt adrift. I came home to a city where I had previously lived for a decade, constantly visited and have a chosen family, yet felt like a visitor.
I felt even more misplaced.
In the quietness of being in one place, I was confronted with the reality that I needed to find the strength to be open. To be vulnerable. To feel what I had been circling around instead of actually feeling. Plus, I really had to get my shit together and get healthy.
So, in May 2017, I walked into MISFIT Ossington with no expectations, thinking “oh, maybe this might be the exercise that actually might stick.”
But I quickly felt like I had found my place. When I found myself doing arm circles and squats to Sade, Steely Dan and Sebastian Tellier, I found my focus and strength. I was emboldened to tackle challenges that I thought I never had the time and fortitude to do. Going on the retreat in Nicaragua by myself, doing the 30 Day Challenge in March (and being one of the winners!) helped me reveal how essential movement is in my life.
I'm probably travelling right now, but knowing that I can return back to movement helps me find anchors in myself. Meditation and breath helps alleviate my flight anxiety, which I’ve developed despite/because of flying so much. Movement via the MISFIT videos helps me recalibrate and feel at home wherever I am.
I'm ready to instil new habits to round out my 30s being the healthiest and strongest ever. But I need to let go of the anchors weighing me down to feel the lightness to help me find my place. Even if that place is constantly evolving. I think the idea of roots scares me because it seems so permanent and immovable. If you uproot something, it will die or lose its strength. I need flexibility and agility. And this is where the power of movement comes in!
As someone who's been called a perpetual nomad, MISFITSTUDIO has helped me find a sense of place, especially within myself.