Zani / A Love Ninja Goes Global
What would your 30 something self tell your 20 something self if you could?
“There is no time like the present…. Just GO FOR IT.”
I had a multitude of adventures in my 20s but I also missed out on many great experiences. There was a part of me that was always feeling like I needed to get to hurry up and move on to the next place without fully exploring where I was. I never made it to Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar while living in Southeast Asia, simply because I kept putting it off and thinking – well… I’ll be back here again- don’t have the time right now – no need to do it today. I never went to Portugal, Turkey, Ireland or Czech republic while living in England for the same reasons. None of us can really forecast where our lives will lead us…. (especially if you’re carried by the wind like me)… and so I wish I could tell that 20 year old me to just go for it. Don’t hesitate or over think things. You only live once and when the moment presents itself to you to jump, just do it. I cherish all the times I jumped and regret all the times I didn’t.
What do you wish you took more seriously in your 20’s?
SUNSCREEN. Let me tell you… these wrinkles don’t lie. I can remember being a teenager and having older ladies (i.e. my dermatologist) tell me that I had such beautiful skin and I needed to protect it. Something about being young makes you feel invincible, like you’ll never actually get old and so those rules about aging don’t apply to you. Fast forward to your thirties, laying in bed, and arguing with your boyfriend about you wanting to get botox. Real talk. When I see wrinkles and scars on other people I think they’re actually pretty beautiful. They tell stories and I love that… unless they’re on me, in which case I curse my teen and twenty year old self for laying out frying with zero SPF Maui Babe on my body and nothing on my face but a pair of oversized, affected LA girl sunglasses. Sunscreen, kids. I guess there is a deeper lesson here about our ephemerality and mortality. Nothing lasts forever, especially youth.
What do you wish you took less seriously in your 20’s?
Myself. (of course). This applies to present moment me too – hence the botox talk above. I found vipassana meditation in my late twenties and it really flipped my life around. Instead of fixating on the small stuff and burrowing so deep into the present moment that it feels like this current emotion or feeling will never end- I learned how to step back and observe the impermanence of it all. This life…. This body… this feeling… this moment… It’s all fleeting. So if we’re not so into what right now feels like, we can just observe and breathe and watch it disintegrate and fall away, just like everything does.
Another thing I probably took to seriously was my yoga. Ya- I bet you didn’t expect me to say that. J But it’s true! I see this a lot and it was definitely true for me in my twenties… We go SO deep down this spiritual rabbit hole that there becomes a sort of exclusive elitism of the chosen ones who can pretzel their legs behind their heads. I feel like it’s so misguided and ridiculous to turn a yoga practice into a competition with yourself to push to the point of injury, or take it so seriously that it becomes a membership into some really super cool, conscious community all clad in really expensive spandex.
Favorite memory from your 20’s?
There are just so many… but the one that pops to mind was when I was 27 years old, sitting up on top of the roof of Maharishi Mahesh’s ashram in Rishikesh, India (the one where the Beatles recorded the White Album). I went there one beautiful, sunny December afternoon with my gypsy musician friends I was traveling India with. We loaded up with guitars, watercolor paints and samosas and hiked through the overgrown, dilapidated grounds and broken remains of buildings. Our little tribe was all adorned in those multicolored, long crotch baba pants, beads, scarves and magical stones,. We climbed up an old rusty ladder and found this epic rooftop with views of the Ganges river where we spent the afternoon singing our hearts out, dancing with arms open wide, and letting our paintbrushes play and tell us stories. It will always stay in my mind as one of the most free, open-hearted days of my life. I think it really symbolizes my twenties and the place I ached for and eventually found.
In your early 20’s where did you think you would be (work, live etc) by 30?
I got married at 19, so I definitely went into my twenties expecting a world much different to the one I illustrated for you in the last question. I lived in LA when I met and married a kind, loving British man and suddenly had fallen into the role of “wifey.” Just a few years later, at age 21, we decided to be bold and pack up our lives and move to London, England just because we could. We spent nearly two years living in London, traveling to a different European country every other weekend and I absolutely loved it. I pictured my 30th birthday would be spent in England with a bobbed haircut and big winter coat, toting around cute, little rosie cheeked babies that called me “mummy” in their English accents. I imagined that I would be teaching yoga at a small studio in London part time, totally settled into a family.
And where were you by 30? What did your life look like?
Divorced, living at home with my parents and two dogs in San Diego, working my way towards becoming a doctor. My thirtieth birthday was actually spent scuba diving in Tanzania, Africa with my best friend/mermaid sister who had been spending time in Kenya and came to meet me for the week I had off of school. I had moved back to America at 28 to start this long road towards becoming a medical doctor. Working as a nanny while putting myself through school, maintaining a 4.0 and discovering (to my utter disbelief) that I love math. Seriously you could NEVER have convinced me that this what my life would look like in my thirties.
Were you ever worried that it wouldn’t all fall into place?
I pretty much have the fear every day of my life. My sisters and I all suffer from Imposter Syndrome… it’s like I feel like I’m forging forward on this path and everyone looks at me like I’m this brave, capable woman… but in reality I feel like I’m clutching for dear life… holding on to the threads of some threadbare net that’s precariously keeping everything together, but any moment the bottom could fall out and everyone will realize that I am just as clueless and scared as the rest. Every semester back at school I think – well this is the one… this is the time when my professors will cotton on the fact that I’m really not as smart as they all think I am, the other shoe will drop with a vengeance and I will be flat on my ass.
What is the greatest gift about being a woman in your 30’s?
Finally understanding and accepting that less in more. Oh man does it feel good to count my five best friends on one hand and be content with just ONE glass of expensive wine, instead of 6 glasses of cheap crappy wine. I feel wiser and more stable than ever before. This past winter I spent five weeks in Honduras working at a medical clinic and befriended some twenty-somethings while I was living down there. They all called me Grandma Zani because I acted very much like I was in my 30s and refused to stay out past 9:30pm or drink more than my body wanted to. Whatever. Grandmas rule.
When you look out onto the horizon. What do you hope your life looks like at 40?
I see Dr. Zani with her own private practice in LA or San Fran, taking several trips a year to developing countries to go work at clinics in underserved communities, like the one I just worked at this winter in Honduras. I love California and no matter how far and wide I travel this amazing globe, I always love coming home. But I love the idea that I can leverage my incredible fortune to be an American by going out into the world to be of service when I can. There is so much suffering out there, and I truly believe that we are all part of one human family. In the same way that you would never let your brother or sister suffer, so too should we take care of everyone’s brother and sister. I look out into the stars and remember how tiny we are, and how connected all of humanity here on earth is. I really want to make the greatest impact possible and I believe I can do that as a doctor with a degree in global public health… So that’s where I’m headed. (I really hope 40 year old me reads this back in ten years and is like yup. Nailed it.)
What’s a quote/ saying you try to live your life by?
“Come out of the circle of time, and into the circle of love.”
This is a quote by a Sufi poet named Rumi. It was a quote we lived by while I was living in Venice Beach after my divorce and before my move to Indonesia. My little community of friends all got LOVE tattoos on our wrists and while in India, my travel brother, Aaron and I wrote a song where the chorus says, “Ohhh.. it’s better late than never in the end… to come out of time and into love, my friend….”
The older I get and move away from that free-spirited, Burning Man-esque mentality and into a more analytical, scientific mindset while I study…. I still find myself coming back to that quote and recognizing this funny human construct of “time” and recognizing how arbitrary it is. That circle of time will eat you up and spit you out if you let it. Love is something profound, and I chose to stand in it instead.