Take weekly steps toward building a better brand!

Within the Journey

Within the Journey

Originally posted in Modern Ink Magazine

July 20, 2011

We caught up with the lovely Jani Moon Irion and asked her to share with our readers what it was like transitioning from three years of life in a developing country to stepping foot in New York City for the very first time…what we got was a beautifully honest depiction of her trials, struggles, and the realizations she came to throughout her continuing journey:

“Surviving the death of my sister and a painful divorce gave me the strength and courage to make major changes in my life, and in 2008, I left for the Peace Corps. Joining the Peace Corps meant leaving the comforts of American life, a new man I thought I was in love with, my friends, and my family for the adventure of a lifetime.  I sold and gave away everything I owned, believing in my heart I would never live in the United States again. I was stationed in Vanuatu in the South Pacific, a country that I had not previously known existed, until I found out I would be living there for two years.  Its only claim to fame was that a Survivor television show had filmed there. This tropical paradise and modern day pirate bunker is filled with yachties, criminals, French and English families who survived the Independence, a new breed of wealthy Australian and New Zealand expats, and the native local people called Ni-Vans.  The country is caught in a time warp, trying to decide whether to live in its colonial past or swing over into the throws of modernization.  In Vanuatu, it’s common to see thirty people squashed into a box-shaped tin house watching a cheap, boot-leg Chinese copy of Rambo with Russian subtitles. The tropics, with its pristine beauty and wild aliveness, inspire a childlike innocence and simplicity. The local people live off the land gardening, hunting and fishing while the children help with chores, play with rocks and sticks, and run into the bush swinging giant bush knives. The two sides of Vanuatu are like that of any coin, inextricably linked and yet polar opposite: black and white, privileged and poor, peace and chaos. The humid, oppressive heat was a petri dish of micro-organisms. Stomach viruses, inexplicable skin rashes, chronic fatigue, the potential of contracting worms and tropical mosquito born diseases, combined with culture shock and emotional breakdowns consumed my first four months in Vanuatu. I knew I had to make it through those two years, but I didn’t know if I could. Fear overwhelmed me, while my physical and emotional health were deteriorating. Yet regardless of my own downward spiral, the limitations of my physical and emotional state sparked a growing anger, defiance, and a desire to persevere.  I refused to be like some of the other Peace Corps volunteers counting down the days, practically the minutes, until they could go back home…I wanted to passionately love each minute on those islands, but I wasn’t having an optimistic start. Stretched thinly, I broke. I found out that my ex-husband was having a baby with his girlfriend, and the man I fell in love with months before I left to go to Vanuatu re-kindled life with his ex-girlfriend, and again I felt deserted, alone, and with nothing to go back to. I remember being in my house in the village, with its tin roof and a bed sheet separating me from the six other family members with whom I was sharing the house. Desperate and broken, I stayed up one night sobbing from my very gut, praying over and over again “God, please let me love it here so much that I don’t ever want to leave,”  and after that, things changed. I was one of the few volunteers who was placed in the city with a flush-toilet and running water. Hallelujah– I was in heaven! The first week at my new site, I met two new best friends who became like sisters to me. Eventually, I fell in love with the most beautiful young Aussie surfer with the heart and soul of an angel…my prayer had been answered. As the next two years flew by, the island became my experimental playground to organize and facilitate teaching workshops, direct plays at the community theater, teach yoga classes, start a fire dancing troupe with local children, practice Reiki, create sacred women’s circles, make jewelry, paint, and much more. My experiences in Vanuatu gave me a deeper understanding of myself, what I want, what I can create in my life, and how I am capable of being in service to others. But unfortunately nothing lasts forever. After two years the spell was broken, and I forced myself to stay once my service was up, even though the deeper voice within was telling me something else. I had fallen in love with a man and I loved the island and the people who lived there. I had made it my home. I was a big fish in a small pond–deeply loved; I felt important and inspired a community. Realizing that the lies I tell myself can only last for so long, I began getting panic attacks, feeling like the island was closing in on me, squeezing out the oxygen in my lungs and the life in my body. The love I had for my boyfriend, the people and my friends wasn’t enough anymore. My body was sending off sirens and alarms, screaming that my time here was over and that I needed to go; leaving was unbearable but certain.

I left the first man that I’ve ever loved since my ex-husband, and the seemingly plausible future of a husband and family was washed away with the incoming tides of change. In August 2010, I moved to New York City, a city where I had never even stepped foot except within the confines of my imagination. I remember being six-years-old, dreaming of NYC, singing off-key to “I’m singing on Broadway,” stomping away, pretending I was a famous tap dancer and singer. Here I was finally living a childhood dream…minus the desperate need to prove myself, the unrealistic expectations, and of course, the poverty. My story is the main story-line threaded throughout every other New Yorker’s drama:  dancing in the alleyways and through the streets to our own Broadway shows, singing of heartache, disappointment, and the hope of being discovered. I thought nothing could be as challenging as joining the Peace Corps and moving to a developing country, but I was wrong–my move to NYC was much worse. Vanuatu was teaming with the hum of wildlife and the constant rhythmic sounds of the ocean, tones relaxing enough to put a baby to sleep. New York has two beats: the pulse of a jackhammer drilling away at your fragile ego, and the pulse of heartbeat pumping creative passion into your veins. The Jackhammer hit me first. I came to NYC with many expectations for myself… feeling called to this city and expecting the moon. I didn’t realize that I would struggle, doubt and began to regret my decision.  I got lost in the matrix, a place of insurmountable intensity, seventy-hour work weeks, crowds of people and buildings, a depressed economy, highly qualified and skilled people fighting over each and every job.  Most damaging to me, however, was my tortured and overly-crowded mind. It would race with worry and fear, drowning out the vision that had guided me to New York to begin with. I felt lost…depressed…lonely.  I wanted to go back from whence I came, but there was no going back; there never is, and I was stuck in my own self-created hell.

I wanted to get unstuck, but didn’t know how.  It was so easy to find peace and clarity on the island, where time was my best friend. In New York, I felt all my tools and teachings gained in Vanuatu were being put to the hardest test yet. How could I be happy, clear, and at peace in the most insane city in the world? I expected my prayers to be answered as quickly as they were answered in the village–that expectation was a mistake.

It was a long cold winter. Consumed by depression, everyday was a struggle to feel thankful. I was in limbo, a dark constricted place, grieving my old life and yet not fully in my new one. I never wanted to go out; I complained constantly and had negative thoughts spinning circles in my head; I was praying for spring, the budding hopes of a brighter future, a garden of expansion…it eventually came.

It came when I decided that I wouldn’t work seventy hours a week. It came when I honored my body and needs. It came when I loved myself enough to ask for what I wanted. It came when I was in my power not to be okay with the status quo. It came when I decided that I am the creator of my reality, my life.  I’m not victim to my circumstances but the heroine of my Broadway show. Most importantly, it came when I let go and trusted the organic timing of life. After night falls, the sun always reappears and rises; all darkness eventually turns to light… in its own time.

I’m now a media coach. It’s drama-teacher-meets-life-coach-meets-your-favorite- therapist. I get to help unravel people from all the crap they have made their truths and reality. These lies aren’t who they are–my clients just need to remember who they are so they can talk, entertain and just BE from a real, authentic place. From there, we laugh, cry, and fall in love with them.  I love my work; I help shed people of their false exteriors so that their vulnerable, powerful, and creative superstar-selves shine through…they mirror back to me all that I need to learn and re-learn myself.

I still struggle, and my life is far from perfect, but there is perfection in the imperfection.  Knowing that at least gives me the courage to spread my wings and try to fly.”

Read more about Jani in our upcoming Fall issue of Modern Ink Mag!

jani in vanuatu

Leave a Reply

Call Jani (917) 509-8016 info@janimoon.com New York, New York