For the first post in our My Surfing Life series we talked to Antonia Atha about how she went from working 12 hour days and living in London to surfing perfect waves and living in Bali ..
This is a story about finding out what you really want in your life, and following that dream
I know the idea of ‘Just follow your dreams’ seems like a faraway fairy tale or a bland quote found on a Pinterest board, but we can step outside societal norms, put down our phones and comparisons to curate our lives to bring us joy. All it takes is a bit of planning and a willingness to do things differently, if you read on, I will show you my personal journey of how I have achieved just that.
A few years ago my life looked very different to how it does today. Today is Wednesday on the last day of November for 2022, the sun is shining and so far, I have attended a friends Yoga class, gone for a surf in clear tropical waters and had a delicious lunch amidst a backdrop of palm trees.
I have a pretty wonderful life.
I designed it that way, and so can you.
We all have an idea of what our ‘dream life’ would look like, usually something we have stolen from a Pinterest board or Instagram quote, but rarely do we really think about what would actually make us happy, or we dismiss it as not being realistic or practical. We move images of our idyllic life into the folder in our mind marked ‘day dream’.
I did this for years, while attempting to squeeze my life into a perception of what I thought I should be doing, what would make me seem cool, accepted and more importantly enable my Dad not to worry about me.
For over a decade I worked 12 – 14 hour days in the film industry. It was an industry I felt proud to work in, in some way it validated me, making up for my natural state of ‘uncool’ and I did have fun. I loved the creative aspect of my job and the people (to the most extent) who I worked with.
But honestly, I wasn’t very good at it. The high stress problem solving left my nervous system in tatters and my life seemed to swing between the feast and famine financial and emotional situation that goes hand in hand with contract work.
One day everything seemed to come to a head, I knew I had been unhappy for some time in my chosen profession but on this particular day I received the wakeup call that I needed to make a change, it came in the form of a panic attack. I found myself locked in a bathroom unable to breathe, a supplier had just informed me that a prop we needed to film with the next day was going to be delayed and would be with us in a week. In the normal world this would be fine but in the film industry this was very far from fine.
So here’s where my journey to a different kind of life began ..
Step 1 – Make a decision to change your life
As I walked down the hall towards my boss’s office to let him know what had happenedI realised that this career that I had fought so hard to get into wasn’t for me. I was so far from happiness I knew something needed to change.
Shortly after that incident I fell into what can be only described as depression, the kind of sadness that makes you regret waking up, that what is the point of anything cloud that can drag you under into a sea of lonely darkness. I felt I had failed in the film industry, yet I had zero other skills. I knew what I didn’t want to do but had no idea what I did.
Step 2 – Get clear on what lights you up
However small or big that may be. Think about all the elements that bring you joy, from a favourite item of clothing to freshly baked bread, and write them all down.
It was in that time that I set about the task of getting clear about what I did like. What was it in the darkness that gave me even the slightest glimmer of light.
I wrote on scraps of paper everything I could think of that really brought me joy, not what I thought I should like but what authentically made me feel lighter. I wrote things like, drinking coffee while sitting in the morning sun, having a chat with someone in a supermarket, fabrics, travel and that feeling of walking into the ocean as the sun sparkles and glints on its turquoise surface.
From these scraps of paper, I began to jigsaw piece together the vision of a life I would love. I designed how I wanted my life to be and got honest about what I didn’t like, (yes I like to be in bed by 10 and no you won’t catch me at big parties.)
Step 3 – Get clear on the limitations you have set for yourself
What is it your mind tells you is possible for so and so, but not for you?
Shortly after deciding what it is you would love your mind will loudly come up with all the reasons why you can’t. Why you should stay small, safe and within the life that society / friends / parents think is best for you.
It will put up a great argument.
And you will need to overcome that, and that will take bravery, the kind of bravery that puts yourself first above all else and decides that ‘I deserve to live a life that is right for me’, even if it’s scary, even if it means heading into the unknown.
Step 4 – Start small
Start taking the steps that honour yourself and authentically bring you joy, many of these things can be incorporated into your life easily and immediately. If you love fresh flowers on your kitchen table, make it a priority. Have a lipstick that just makes you feel glorious? Wear it to go to the supermarket.
I slowly started to weave into my life the things I was passionate about, I dusted off my fabric collection and made cushions. I wore my favourite dress just to walk in the park and always had chocolate in the house.
Step 5 – Make a plan
Changing your life will not happen overnight, you will need to come up with an escape plan and a financial buffer. The idea of floating off into the life of your dreams in a white linen dress, a wide brimmed hat and the belief that the universe will take care of you, may work for some people, but for most of us, we need a plan.
Once you are clear on what it is you would love, you need to get practical about what steps will realistically get you there.
I knew I wanted to live somewhere warm, where I could surf in a bikini and work in a way that was creative but not stressful. I wanted to work with fabrics and more importantly tell the stories of the cultures and people that made them, with a little of my story thrown in for good measure. I started my own business ‘The World in Cushions’ while still working in the film industry and slowly I began squirreling money away, investing and hatching a plan.
Step 6 – Take a leap of faith
Change takes courage, it requires you to step outside your comfort zone and do something different. At some point you will need to take that leap, burn the bridges (or is it boats) and go for it.
If you don’t try you will never know.
I rented out my flat, packed up my belongings, storing them in my sisters’ garage and with 2 surfboards, one suitcase and many jars of marmalade, I moved to Bali in Indonesia.
That was 3 years ago.
The beauty of a plan is once you have made it, you just follow the steps and before you know it, you’re in a completely different place, living a completely different life.
Step 7 – Be kind to yourself
Unlike in the movies, things will inevitably come up that will require you to grow and adapt, new challenges will present themselves and a happy ending is, in reality, just a beginning.
As you adapt to your new life be kind to yourself, look back on how far you have come and silently congratulate yourself on a daily basis.
You have made it, you are living.
I still get moments when I am consumed by sadness, business struggles and bad days, but I have curated my life to suit who I authentically am and what gives me my very best chance of happiness.
Your dream life will likely look very different from mine but take confidence from my journey that whatever it is, it is within reach.
How its going ..
Since moving to Bali, I have surfed some of the most perfect waves in the world and during the pandemic often with just a handful of friends. I have seen the dawn and sunset every day and made new friends that I now cannot imagine my life without.
But most of all I have made friends with me, as I am, a quiet, nature seeking oddball in love with fabrics and surfing.
A big part of my success is down to my business ‘The World in Cushions’ which gives me purpose and investing which allows me to feel I am taking care of my future self. If you would like to know more about my story then please reach out, I love a chat!
MY SURFING LIFE is our irregular series profiling women who have changed their lives to make space for more waves