Feature Image: Expansion by Paige Bradley
Written by Jennifer Sodini
Growing up I was always captivated by the world of film, and the universes that the imagination could create through this medium. I would lose myself in various characters, stories and the different worlds that captured my creativity and took my focus away from reality. I guess you could say I was a weird kid, with interests that weren’t the norm – especially growing up in a WASP nest in New Jersey, but my proclivities were piqued because of the environment I was in as a child.
My parents separated when I was 3-years-old, and I was (and still am) an extremely intuitive/sensitive child. My father wasn’t really the type of person that knew how to be a father and my mother was a flight attendant. Both were caught up in their own “business”, so when I was little I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather would pick me up from school, and always wait outside of his car for me – so that I would never have to worry. He always promised he would never lie to me, nor would he break a promise. He was a gentle giant…very quiet but his eyes had a certain knowing wisdom. My grandmother, on the other hand, was the antithesis to this gentle giant, as she was loud, opinionated, and not afraid to tell you just how much she knew (and that she was always right) – picture Kathleen Turner meets H.P. Blavatasky. She despised the Catholic church, had a vendetta against Newt Gingrich (and The Pope, George Bush, the neighbor with the speed boat that was too loud, etc. etc.), read Aleister Crowley, was fascinated by Witchcraft and Demonlogy, made voodoo dolls out of potatoes, and taught me how to read oracle cards when I was just 8-years-old. I only recently found out that her mother was a member of the Eastern Star (the female sect of Freemasonry), which made perfect sense in retrospect.
Their house was a Camelot of sorts, a beautiful “castle” with an open door policy, and family constantly in and out. The living room was adorned in “interesting” artwork such as Hieronymous Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”, Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son” (see paintings above), and some crazy medeival mace. Education was so important to my grandmother, as she never went to college, and it was her dream that my cousins and I educate ourselves to the best of our ability. My grandparents would often take me on vacations, and exposed me to culture in the way of Opera/theatre at a very young age – but it was imperative to my grandmother that I always learn something or take something away from the experience. I remember learning my times tables while on vacation in Barbados, being forced to journal (at 6-years-old) while on a cruise in Alaska, falling in love with the story of Turandot at 7, and taking all sorts of notes about the history of Washington DC when I was 9 or so.
My mom did the best she could with me at that time, but my father wasn’t able to “figure it out” and his way of giving me love was giving me money, and “things”. I felt as though my grandparents were my parents, and my grandmother was more than a mother to me…she was my best friend. My “Camelot” was my safe zone, protecting me from my parents drama, and the struggles I felt “fitting in”.
When I was 12, my grandmother discovered she had a serious heart issue which required surgery. Ever the drama queen, she told us all that she wasn’t going to make it through surgery, and that she wanted to be cremated. Given the fact my grandmother tended to overexaggerate and be extremely dramatic – none of us ever considered that she, perhaps, was letting us know what was already written. The last time I saw my grandmother, her and my mother got into a huge fight, and she slammed the door on my mother’s face. The next day I had a phone call with her, where she told me she loved me…and that was the last time I ever heard her voice. I will never forget the phone ring early in the morning at my father’s house, and hearing my father’s wailing sobs down the hallway – as I prayed that it was some mistake, or someone else that he got bad news about. My grandmother didn’t make it through surgery. She was gone.
She didn’t want a traditional funeral, instead we rented a boat, and spread her ashes in the ocean while Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries” played (as per her request). Nothing was the same after she died.
My grandfather surprised us all when less than six months after she died, he got remarried in Vegas to a woman that was dead set on destroying our family. Soon after, “Camelot” was sold, all of my grandmother’s wishes in her will were dismissed, and my grandfather disappeared into a person I could no longer recognize, living a lie, and the ultimate promise broken. If I were to say my life was easy after all of that transpired, that would be a lie. My mother and I were like oil and water, my father just continued to throw money my way and reprimand me over the phone, and although my grandmother’s body was barely cold, my grandfather was jetsetting the world with his new wife and enjoying his “ivory tower” which was a locked penthouse apartment that family members must schedule a time before visiting. As many people know, being a preteen is not the easiest thing in the world but when your world shatters and you are left to fend for yourself and “figure it out” without a safety net – or any empathy – shit gets really complicated.
In my teens and preteens I was a loner, friendly to everyone, but in my own world (I got the “most unique” superlative in 8th grade) – knowing too much in the way of esoterics doesn’t bode well for conversation in elementary school, and to be honest…I spent a lot of time alone, drawing, writing, creating, and losing myself in movies and rock music.
Highschool was what it was, my mother and I fought CONSTANTLY, and I had a group of girlfriends that would essentially play “musical chairs” with who was best friends with who at what time. While we all really got along in increments – there was a lot of petty drama, lies, and backstabbing (just like Mean Girls). I surpressed a lot of what I learned early in life (as well as my intuitive sensitivities) and did my best to try and fit in – which meant buying fancy clothes, giving into drama, talking about people, and denying who I really was. Luckily when I was 17 I met a really wonderful person, who became my best friend, boyfriend and rock for 5 years of my life. He and his group of friends became like family, and it felt like we were our own version of Donna and Eric from “That 70s Show”.
After I graduated highschool, I really wanted to go to an art college, but felt conflicted. My mother made me feel that I would be leaving her stranded if I left (my father threatened to stop helping support her if I moved out), and I also didn’t want to lose the safety net I created in the way of my friends that had become family and the boyfriend who was my best friend. My dad offered me a job at his company, and since it was the family business – I opted to just go to community college, work with my dad, and take the easy route.
I used this as an opportunity to get to know my father, which was welcome since I only really knew the legend of him as his friends described him as “The King” – there for everyone, except for me it seemed. However, I couldn’t hold any resentment to him for being absentee, and I genuinely loved him and wanted him to love me. I think at that time he did the best he could, and loved me as much as it was possible.
In February 2006, while we were on the way home from a business trip, my dad began complaining of numbness in his right arm…he refused to go to the hospital when it first started, and wound up having a stroke. The stroke put him into a coma, and while this was happening, we came to find out my father had brain cancer, which spread to his bones and kidneys. He was in a coma for a month, but when he awoke, he was unable to move his right side, and his prognosis was not good. I visited him every day when he was in the hospital, and it was my wish that he would be able to wish me “happy birthday” on my 21st birthday. He was able to, but a week after I turned 21 my father had another stroke, which he did not recover from. The day he died I held his hand as he exited the world, and he was surrounded by his friends and family as his soul left his body.
My father left me with too much pain, and too much money. Not knowing how to manage either, I decided to get drunk. I spent the majority of my early 20’s partying in Manhattan, satiating my pain with “things”, and living an illusion of being some rich girl who could do whatever she wanted. The truth was, my father left me comfortable, and if I was smarter and had better guidance – I would have been set for life, but I decided to let my ego overpower my common sense and I just burned through my money because I didn’t care about anything other than keeping up with appearances. I invested in other people, boyfriends that I wanted to rescue, and friends that I wanted to impress. I looked for happiness by making other people happy, and by playing an “artificial intelligence” that adapted to the programming around me.
In 2010 I met someone that I thought would be the person I was to marry, I decided to (try to) put my partying behind me because I had found “the one”. I moved in with him immediately, and breathed a sigh of relief because I didn’t have to worry about anything anymore. Another illusion I perpetuated, and projected to be something it wasn’t because of my own pain and insecurities of never feeling truly loved from my father. So, I basically began dating my father, and I feel that this relationship was some sort of karmic debt I needed to experience to get a glimpse into a potential future that wasn’t the future that was meant for me. To make a long story short, I became a prisoner that was her own warden – a firefly stuck in a mason jar with no holes for air. This person was not bad, but wanted control – and that was not something I was willing to give him. I spent two years trying to make it work, because whatever money I had, I put into his home, thinking that home would eventually be ours together, and I wouldn’t have to worry about saving anything (so stupid, yes I know). I just kept praying it would get better, and we would figure it out.
Eventually in 2012, I woke up from this “dream”. I thought the world was going to end, and through a series of sychroncities and psychedelics – I experienced my own apocalypse. My world did come to an end, and I reunited with the truth I knew when I was a child. I remembered my creativity, my love of art, words, music, movies, imagining, and creating. I remembered what it was to really feel, and that my intuition was my gift – a gift that I discarded because I allowed fear, and pain to drown it out. Essentially…I found God – but not a religious God, God in the sense of a rhyme to the reason, and the light in the darkness.
I left him in January of 2013, moved into a tiny studio apartment with my dog and two cats, and that summer I treated myself to an ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica with some money I had made from Bitcoin. When I came back, I wrote a children’s book on cosmic consciousness that I self published, found my soul mate – and really started the whole Evolve and Ascend journey. Broke, but not broken – my life’s lessons have allowed me to become the best version of myself. Knowing darkness showed me light, knowing pain allowed me to appreciate pleasure, knowing death allowed me to be grateful for life, not having love allowed me to REALLY love the love of my life, and I appreciate the fact that losing everything only just allowed me to find myself.
There are certain things you can never learn in books, or really understand from movies. Experience is ultimately what prepares you for this life, and it is through experience you either evolve and ascend, or suppress and pretend. What I’ve experienced is priceless, and while it took me (and has still taken me) on a journey I would have never expected – I wouldn’t trade it for money, or anything material, because you can’t take any of that with you. What you can take with you are these experiences, which you can either transmute into golden light, or let them become the lead that weighs you down. All pain is only temporary, and who you were, is not who you are.
Life is a process of becoming and being, and while the journey may be filled with equal amounts of tears and laughter – every experience only just serves as a test, which will unravel your ego and reunite you with the truth you’ve always known, but only temporarily forgot. While the journey is still revealing itself, and each day is still a lesson/test – I know now, that I am prepared to face all adversity with an open heart as my authentic self, free from illusion – humbled, grateful, and ready…