How Meeting Elizabeth Gilbert Changed My Life (Eat, Pray, Love & Beyond!) by Tonya Melendez

How Meeting Elizabeth Gilbert Changed My Life (Eat, Pray, Love & Beyond!)
by Tonya Melendez

“There’s a crack (or cracks) in everyone…that’s how the light of God gets in.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

The "Eat, Pray, Love" story continues now as Elizabeth Gilbert and her beloved, "Felipe" are no more. The news of the split reminded me of the evolution she wrote about in the book, how she shifted, healed and learned to love again. Energy is always moving, like magic. We can change from one thing to the next. One day you are a listening and the next learning. When something awakens, inspires and motivates you there is transformation. That is what happened when I met Elizabeth Gilbert, I transformed like a butterfly emerging form its cocoon.

We forget the people we admire are just like us and life happens. The courage it must have taken to share her love story, her “Committed” life with “Big Magic”, makes me wonder if she will embrace a happily single lifestyle. I've lived each story with her and since our birthday’s are days apart, I look forward to the continued evolution.

When I read “Eat, Pray, Love” the first time, it instantly became my bible, the evolution of being human, a woman, a Seeker. It connected me to her as if we lived parallel lives.

When I finally quit my safe and secure job as a school librarian to become a Yoga Instructor and Spiritual Teacher everyone around me thought I had lost my mind.
Elizabeth’s words were my words, her pain was my pain, our stories were different yet I knew her. I had never looked so deeply at myself or my life.

Up until that point, my life had been a series of stops and starts. I was determined not to repeat the cycles. I had exceeded at every textbook definition if who I was “supposed” to be. I pursued higher education and found a career surrounded by books, my first passion, yet it was not enough. I drank too much, suffered in silence and dated the wrong men until I had my "crying on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night" moment.

After finishing Gilbert’s book, I posted a world map on my bedroom wall, applied for my passport and waited for the day my daughter went to college. My Seeker's journey began as I studied to become a Spiritual Counselor with UCSL and yoga teacher at Kripalu. For the first time, I felt joy I had never known.
Her next book, “Committed" came out and with it came Elizabeth on a nationwide book tour. I was over the moon excited when I saw she would be in Chicago the following week. By this time, I was a few years into my journey and began to unravel what fear had done to my heart while while leading me to understand what love truly meant.
The day came and I couldn't believe my luck. I sat close enough to look into her eyes. Before she arrived, I chatted excitedly to my neighbor about meeting Elizabeth and how reading "Eat, Pray, Love" had changed my life. I had no idea a reporter for the Chicago Tribune sat behind me listening.
I listened intently to her every word. Then my turn came for her to autograph my book. I could finally share with her how I quit my job and was living my "Eat, Pray, Love" life when the reporter chimed in and asked for a picture. Me, the “Wanna Be” Writer meeting Elizabeth Gilbert, The Writer. We chatted and laughed, I was beside myself. The next week, a friend called to tell me I was in the Tribune.There I was, a full page article with Elizabeth Gilbert! I could barely believe it!

5 Things I Learned from Meeting Elizabeth Gilbert (Practicing "Big Magic")

◦ Enchantment: Life experiences bring inspiration and with that comes learning about the Self. I discovered that I depended on others opinions and expectations to tell me who and what I was. In learning this, I knew I had become a Librarian to show the world I was more than a pretty face. I discovered things within me I did not know existed until I gave myself a chance.

◦ Permission: If I give myself permission, I can do whatever I want.  The only thing I needed was bravery.  My first trip to Europe came one year after our meeting in the Fall 2011.  I was overjoyed to live in Madrid for 6 months and I have lived-in several countries including Costa Rica, Switzerland, Spain, Ukraine and now Mexico.

◦ Persistent: It can be scary, but you cannot give up. My childhood was spent buried in the library, reading. Gilbert’s words gave me the courage to write and never stop. My first book will be published and released in August 2016.

◦ Trust: You have got to take a look at your “s*hit. Then get over yourself. I learned to trust the Universe. I learned to listen to life’s callings. I learned to take risks.  To have sacred time alone and not share it. I learned we do live in a friendly universe. I learned Chicago may be my hometown, but that I am a global citizen. I learned to eat, I learned to pray and I learned to love. 

◦ Divinity: There are signs everywhere. Connecting to my inner guru has changed the game for me. I cannot believe how far I have come. 

Currently, living near Guadalajara, Mexico, I know I could have never become who I am, traveled, lived where I have nor do what I do if I had not met Elizabeth Gilbert.

As a new chapter begins in Elizabeth’s life, as a newly single woman and mine as a happily single woman, I pray our paths cross again so we can chat about this new part of the evolution and the next. 

(To read the full Chicago Tribune article http://trib.in/29nqo58)

Previously Published in Huffington Post

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