I drive down Highway One, top down, looking for the trees. Half a mile South of the lighthouse in Pescadero, I see the familiar fence separating the meadow from the road.
I pull over and turn the car off. The engine slowly clicks into silence. Then I grab my daypack, hop the fence, and hike towards the trees. The breeze ripples through the brush as I walk. At the far edge is the open Pacific. Big blue summer sky above.
I discovered this meadow when I first moved to California. I’d get in my car and just drive and drive, amazed by the massive beauty of the Pacific Northwest. There’s nothing in the world quite like it.
Years ago, I brought a girlfriend here. When we reached the trees, I tore out a piece of paper from my notebook, handed her a pen.
“You need to forgive yourself,” I said to her.
She still carried guilt from her divorce. It was time for her to let it go.
“Write down whatever you’re holding against yourself,” I said. “Everything. Then forgive yourself. Write that down too. When you’re done, we’re going to give this paper to the ocean. It’ll set you free.”
She was quiet for a long while. I think she might have cried a little.
“You have to forgive yourself too,” she said. “For not going to medical school.”
One amazing thing about women, their wisdom. She was right. I’d chosen startups over a career in medicine and no matter what story I told myself, it was a selfish choice. Of money over doing something that mattered to me. A choice I hadn’t come to terms with.
So we both worked on our letters, then we hiked down to the waves, balled up the papers, and threw them into the ocean. And you know what, it worked. Something released inside and I never looked back. The regrets about giving up on med school went away. On their own. So simple, this exercise.
Here I am at the grove, once again, this time alone. Only two windswept trees left. The third lies across the grass, the long trunk charred. Lightning strike, perhaps. A shorter trunk sits a few feet apart, bleached white by the wind and rain.
I climb it and stare out at the ocean. Early evening. The sun is high and large. The water below it, all the way to the horizon, shimmers a path of gold.
I pull out my notebook from my daypack, tear off a piece of paper, and write. Today’s date. What I’m holding against myself. For screwing up when I knew better. For closing my heart. For hurting more than I needed to. For the mistakes. Everything.
Finished, I write that I forgive myself. For it all. And in that moment of forgiveness, I write that I am clean and pure. Because I know I am.
That is the first step. There are two more left. Life has taught me this much in the time between when I first discovered this grove and today.
I hike down to the beach, sit on a rock, and watch the waves. They crash and crinckle over the pebbly shore. I raise the letter to the sky and read it out loud. All that I hold against myself. All the forgiveness.
I repeat this until it’s not needed anymore. Then I reach behind me and grab a large pebble. When I see it, I laugh. It’s shaped like a heart. Ah life, you do have a sense of humor.
I fold the paper tight around the stone heart, stare at the waves again. This is a sacred moment. Of giving over all that I held against myself to something bigger. For it to do what it may. For it to take it away from me so that I may unburden myself. So I may live the life I’m meant to live. After all, it’s the things we hold against ourselves that weigh us down more than anything.
When the moment feels right, I throw the rock high in an arc into the water. It splashes in a quick plop, then it’s gone. The waves rush over and around it. That easy. I watch for a while, wondering if the water will return it to me. It doesn’t.
I hike back up to the grove, sit on the trunk again, and pull out the notebook. This time, I write a different letter to myself. Short and to the point:
I vow to love you fully and completely and deeply in every way, in all thoughts, in all actions, in all my desires, and my being. I vow to love you, Kamal.
I sign and date it.
I put the notebook down, stare out at the sun. It’s moved halfway down the sky. The wind shimmers through the tall, brown grass. It’s getting chilly. I throw on my jacket, take it all in.
Then, back to my notebook, and I read out aloud. My vow to myself. From a clean and pure place. This, my starting point. It feels beautiful. It feels, well…it feels right.
That’s how you know when you’ve hit it. When it feels right. No one can teach you this, you just have to do it. And the more you do, the more you develop a trust in this feeling, the more you listen to it, the more you live it. And this transforms your life.
The novel I’ve spent the last few years working on is finally coming out. Based on my life, it’s a story about love, forgiveness, and following your heart.
If you pre-order it, that would mean the world to me. It’s available online here: