Our extract this week is Jump Start by Daniella Moyles. A journal for anyone in search of happiness, strength and authenticity…
Until the age of 29 I lived an entirely unexamined life, one which was viewed through the lens of a completely untrained mind. I was the embodiment of unconstrained desireseeking in the absence of authentic reflection. Aged 31, after a number of years spent circling the globe, half running away from and half searching for some answers, I wrote my memoir, Jump. What began as pages of private journal entries, bulleted lists and often confused rambling streams of thought eventually grew into an unintentional sort of autobiography, which depicted my very painful and unexpected unravelling into some kind of coming to consciousness. After it was published I heard from a lot of people who were shocked or moved by the story, because it had appeared I had been living a ‘perfect on paper’ life before it all fell apart; and when I thought about it, they were right. Even I had been stunned by my own collapse given my circumstances – I thought I’d done everything exactly as you’re meant to. If you’ve read Jump you’ll be familiar with these details from what now feels like a previous life, but for those who haven’t, a brief summary.
By age 28, in 2017, I was a successful model, breakfast radio presenter and budding online influencer – my favourite area of influence being travel, sharing pictures and stories from many beautiful and exotic places. I was financially independent, living in a penthouse apartment, driving a brand new car and in a position to indulge in whatever material spending might take my fancy without a second thought or worry. I was also in a passionate relationship with a well-known, handsome and sought-after man, and by all outward social standards had it very much together. Maybe even desirably so. Interestingly, what I was so sorely and blindly missing was the foundation on which this ‘perfect on paper’ life should have been built. To steal the words from an inspirational Instagram quote I saw recently, ‘If a child can do advanced math, speak three languages or receive top grades but can’t manage their emotions, practise conflict resolution or handle stress, none of that other stuff is really going to matter’ – I was a grown woman with a successful career, a flourishing bank balance, a seemingly enviable relationship and a prosperous future, yet as each year passed and each prescribed milestone for happiness was met, this quote continued to ring true as my emotional, relational and spiritual deficits grew more destabilising and contentment continued to elude me. Every step I’d taken to get to that point, I’d taken in the metaphorical dark, bounced around by my whims and habits, manipulated by advertisers and marketers. My preferences were shallow – driven mostly by social and cultural pressures – and in hindsight, my major life decisions were generally based on my short-lived wanting rather than my long-term authentic values, which at that point had only been loosely established.
My instinctual compass for life: seek pleasure, avoid pain. Yet no matter how much I achieved or acquired there was always someone who had done better or amassed more. There was always an undulating undertone of unrest or agitation, a sense that real happiness awaited me somewhere in the future. Maybe you can relate to this feeling? I am now heading for my mid-thirties and have returned to college for four years to study for my bachelor’s degree in counselling and psychotherapy. I’m single, living with my parents, and have nowhere near the financial independence I had achieved a decade earlier. Assessing my current situation by those same outward social standards, I’m now very much behind, if not completely lost. But it really doesn’t feel that way to me. The last number of years have afforded me a peace of mind and a sense of self I’d been unable to discover amidst all the external gains of my twenties. They have afforded me a self-assuredness around what I do not want, even if that goes against the grain. In leaving it all behind to start anew, I learned that there is a lot of beauty to be found in pain and loss, a lot of purpose in discomfort and a lot of freedom down the path of most resistance.
I’m also welcoming the fact that learning to observe, accept, respect, possibly alter and ultimately love oneself is a life’s work, never fully realised, as we navigate the unrelenting challenges and changes that come with each passing phase of being human. But this journey can be taken in connection to a constant undercurrent of wellbeing, one that even allows us to view our adversities as opportunities for growth. In my experience, both personally and from speaking to others who work in the nuanced world of self-development, this is best achieved through the slow and repeated practice of self-awareness. This is where the space between stimulus and response is found, that unconscious link between a feeling and the behavioural imperative it seems to communicate. This is the ability to enact our free will through earned insight and presence of mind – to pause and choose our reaction or non-reaction before getting hijacked by our emotional response or our habitual behaviours. Self-awareness affords us choices that wouldn’t otherwise be available to us without it, and these are paths taken and not taken in the course of one’s life. If that’s not reason enough to do this work, I don’t know what is.
I have always felt that the journey I took throughout the pages of Jump was predominately an inner one – backdropped by the various interesting, exciting and exotic locations of the outer one, but still, at its essence, a journey one could take in their bedroom much the same. Within the pages of this journal is the work of that inner journey: the tools to examine your life, train your mind and build self-awareness – the foundation upon which all wellbeing sits and all change occurs. The tools to connect to that constant current of wellbeing, hope, positivity and joy in spite of life’s guarantee of disappointment, loss and uncertainty. As we grow in mindfulness we will begin to notice the lies we can no longer tell ourselves – we will begin to have insights into our true motives in various situations, and this is not always flattering work. But we want these insights all the same because it is the best route I know to becoming the best version of yourself. Anyone who has real experience in mental training like this will tell you that there is something to be discovered there that they were missing – and it’s something that most people are still missing, without even the slightest notion that they are missing it!
The fact that none of us are told this in school or by a doctor indicates nothing more than a present-day cultural blind spot – similar to the blind spot of the forties and fifties when smoking was genuinely considered a healthy habit. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we need to train our minds the same way we train our bodies. But if you require more evidence, you already know what it’s like to have an untrained mind – we all do.
Author image courtesy of @alexhutch
by Daniella Moyles
is published by Gill Books,