“Chaotic Lifestyles” on the Take Care Podcast

Listen to Episode 1 of Sierra’s new show on the McKissick Health Podcast Network.

Sierra J. McKissick


How do you know you’re living the right dream?
When is it okay to stop living a life you were told to want?
Why does life gift us chaos?

In this episode, I invite my email subscribers to consider starting a new tradition this year instead of choosing the typical “new year, new me” mantra. This year, consider getting into the arena to sit with your fears, heartbreak, and disappointments and grieve your losses. This is the year you handle your sh*t and become the honest version of yourself that expresses your feelings and confesses your needs.

If you are ready to become a Gladiator — again, the cute kind that looks like Olivia Pope in Cashmere — listen to this episode and get ready to take control of your life.

Things I mention in this episode:

I have no rights to the audio in the intro and outro; its use is only for education. This audio includes: “Lotus Pond” song by Aakash Gandhi; a compilation of Maya Angelou interviews (The Paris Review as The Art of Fiction №119⁠ and Bill Moyers Journal 1973); Midge’s Late Night TV Set Finale from the filmThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino and produced by Amazon Studios, Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions, and Picrow.


Do people in your family call you a superstar?
Were you the best athlete in college?
Or the fashionista among your friends, a bookworm when you need to escape, or a genius at work?

Much of our identity is shaped externally. Who people say we are, what we can or cannot do, or whatever achievements we have made can become shallow qualifiers for our role or place in the world.

But what do we do when the role we were given no longer fits?

During my time in academia, “I knew I wasn’t happy… I didn’t know what to do about it.”

As an 18-year-old, academia once provided me freedom, an escape from my hometown, and an opportunity to lean into curiosity and live freely.

There were no siblings to compete with passively, no church poorly dictating morals and values, and no adults wielding fear as a universal disciplinary tool while barely managing their own lives and ignoring their failures.

College meant freedom. So, the thought of leaving seemed like returning to captivity.

When I left higher education as a student at 27 years old, it was a reincarnation that disrupted everything I ‘thought’ I should be and do. I was walking away from everything

I thought I should want but didn’t. And I felt shame and guilt. For a time, I felt reckless and questioned what was so terrible that I would choose chaos instead.

Freedom is a lifetime practice. — Dr. Edith Eger

When you’ve tasted freedom, you never expect what used to feel like freedom to become a cage. There’s a line in A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas where Feyre (Fay-ruh) says, “I was a lonely, hopeless person, and I might have fallen in love with the first thing that showed me a hint of kindness and safety…And maybe that worked for who I was before. Maybe it doesn’t work for who — what I am now.” Our vision of freedom changes as we discover how to live freely and unpack the tragedies that have held us captive.

I know it’s a new year, and our lungs seem filled with inspiration to start anew. Everyone loves to throw around “new year, new me,” but perhaps this could be the first time we consider allowing the new year to give birth to the real you, the honest version of yourself that expresses your feelings and confesses your needs.

I wouldn’t say I’ve spent most of my life hiding–because I don’t think that’s true–but I’ve committed much time and effort toward managing the version of me I shared with the world. Carefully selecting which pieces of myself I left unprotected — -It’s exhausting.

And the older I get, the more I love the idea that “The only person I want to please is myself. If other people enjoy who I am and what I’m doing, it’s just the cherry on top.”

And understand what I’m saying.

Our goal shouldn’t be to withhold the good parts of ourselves, and we shouldn’t throw everyone into our arena and hurl our worst attitudes and habits to see how much they will take before crumbling. But, we should desire safe attachments in our relationships where we aren’t afraid to be fully seen or unmasked.

We can be wounded and accountable. — Dr. Edith Eger

Choosing to live freely comes at the cost of facing your fears publicly. You have to be vulnerable, ask yourself questions, and tell yourself the truth about who you’ve been, who you are, and who you want to be.

You must set boundaries and be prepared to deliver consequences when people violate them. But, most importantly, you have to speak up. You have to say what you need, explain what you mean, and mean every word you say.

I’ve been making payments, at times reluctantly, for the past five years, and every time something new comes up, I challenge myself to reflect on it, consider what I want, and then speak up. Whether the right words come in minutes, hours, or days, I sit with the options before me and ask myself, ‘What do I need?’ Don’t be afraid to befriend your feelings and be diplomatic with your shortcomings.

“Sometimes, life makes us sit in a room full of shortcomings and do nothing. The only task is to admit they exist.” As a capable adult, you are responsible for your emotional and physical needs; making your life what you want it to be is up to you.

So, before you throw another victim into the arena to solve your shit, fasten up your gladiator suit and get in there yourself. See if you can stand seeing the real you.

Sit with your fears, heartbreak, disappointments, and grieve your losses.

Then, when you find strength in accepting what is lost, ask yourself what’s next. “What do you need to move forward?”

I titled this episode “Chaotic Lifestyles” because to move forward, we have to be willing to step into new places that might look crazy to everyone else.

I can’t tell you how many family members and friends struggled to introduce me once I was no longer in academia full-time. The blank stares and confusion were numbing.

But, I knew I wanted more from life than what I was being offered or the title Dr. and I was willing to step into the arena, to walk through chaos to get to it.

Maybe you are like me. You want more out of life, but the only way to get it is to take ten steps in what seems like the wrong direction. The signs of progress can be misleading.

The shitty parts of life can make your life seem colorless and appear dead, but you are very much alive. Your ability to see that is directly linked to whether you sit with the chaos or sacrifice yourself in the arena.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve been through enough in my life to know that I make one hell of a Gladiator–but the cute kind that looks like Olivia Pope in cashmere, not musky white dudes in sandals.

You are capable of more than you ever thought was possible. And the sooner you embrace the chaos within your life, the more you can harness the power within you that can change every unfit or out-of-place element surrounding you.

So, tell me.
Are you a gladiator in chaos, fighting for the life you dream of?
Are you living the life you dreamed of?
Or do you need a new dream?

I have a poll question: Are you satisfied with your life today?

Share your answer in the poll on Spotify. If you’re reading this article on Medium, leave me a comment with your answer.

If you’re listening via Apple Podcast, head to Instagram with a screenshot of the episode and tag me @smxcoaching to tell me your answer. I want to know. See you again next week for another episode, until then. Take care.

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Sierra J. McKissick

I’m a writer and educator. I write about behavioral and spiritual health choices and inclusive creative strategies. @iamsierrajecre