The Non-BelieverAug 18, 2022
This is my story about how a street-smart kid with absolutely ZERO interest in anything spiritual for the first 33 years of her life became a meditation teacher and still remains a wise ass kid from NYC. How now at 41 years old she has found her own parallels between meditation and the modern world that the majority of us live in. My name is Alexis Guttridge (formerly Gelburd-Kimler) and this is my unfolding of how the belief I had within me for money and bigger things in life came full circle. Always believing anything is possible.
I grew up in a household with a college professor who has and always will have very strong point of views. Everything my mother spoke about was very philosophical. Luckily for me my mother is a professor in art history, so there’s gratitude it wasn’t politics or math. At a pretty young age I was exposed to not only works of art but continual boredom as I pretended to listen to conversations about Tibet and Buddhist traditions.
I always leaned more towards the practical ways of living. I wanted to go to the office with my dad. I loved to organize his files, answer the phones, watch businesses grow. I dreamed about wearing a black suit and being apart of the hustle and bustle that is NYC.
A spiritual practice of any sort, including my families religion (Judaism), understanding other cultures, yoga, meditation and so on was of absolutely of no interest to me.
In fact I could not for the life of me wrap my head around it. So I didn’t.
For 33 years of life I chased my dreams. As soon as I finished my time at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst (USA) I could not wait to get a job. It’s funny looking back I didn’t want out of school to travel or live with my mom or dad rent free. I wanted out of school because I desperately wanted to be apart of the “real” world. I wanted to pay rent, wear a suit and make money. Because this would make me HAPPY, right?
So in true Alexis form with my B.A. in Communications I went right after what I wanted. A job in television. Which I of course landed because I have never taken NO literally. I have always believed anything is possible, truly.
I entered into my entry-level administrative assistant job at CBS television with so much pride. Even though I couldn’t afford shit for rent, let alone a life of any sort on that salary back in NYC. I babysat on the weekends to make extra money and I quickly made my bosses realize how valuable I was. Even though at 21 I had no fucking idea what I was doing in this role. But somehow when you want something bad enough, you learn, you find your way. It was through this job that I quickly learned that I actually wasn’t cut out for a “desk job”. A place with rules on what to wear. So as you do in your 20’s finding yourself, I quit. With no real plan. It’s interesting to think back to your younger self and how often you went with that “gut” feeling. When you didn’t over think every move?
Ok, so you’re probably thinking at this point in my story this is where she goes off to a retreat and finds herself or some shit like that. Oh no it was about another 10 years or so later until any of that became a reality for me. I still wanted to push myself to the edge. I still wanted to make money and drive a nice car. Because this would make me happy?
So, I started working with restaurants after I left CBS. Why? I have no idea. I guess I needed a job and it was something I had never really explored. What started out as a host position quickly turned into management. Again having no fucking idea what I was doing. But I had fallen in love. I had found my place in the world. I loved the fast speed of the industry. It was as though each night I was the conductor. Finding the rhythm between servers, guests and the kitchen.There was a community. I was apart of something. I made people happy each and every night and I loved that responsibility. I loved that pressure. In fact I thrived on it. The late night parties were pretty fun too for a single gal in her 20’s. And I was making people happy, so I must of been happy, right?
As in true Alexis form I quickly worked my way up the ladder transitioning into the world of fine dining in Boston. Once again finding myself in new roles, now as a General Manager and having no fucking idea once again what I was doing, but I loved it. I remember calling that philosophical mother of mine after I got my first GM job with a guy who was currently on the cover of Food& Wine Magazine hysterically crying. Why you might ask? Because I had no idea why he hired me, I was so scared. And in full transparency I knew very little about this celebrity Chef. But the love I had for this industry grew and people saw the fire inside me.
Not just every night on the floor, but I found a passion for the business side of this very complex industry. One day I am running the floor of a fine dining restaurant, the next day I am interviewing and firing. Learning how to do payroll and at the same time learning how to deal with the city for licensing on a new bar. And all of this in my mid 20’s.
After about 10 years in the Boston fine dining scene an opportunity presented itself. Someone wanted me to build and open there restaurant. The girl with all that fire in her belly and still thinks anything is possible, thought this person was nuts. Why would you want to invest in me. Never having thought about going off on my own the conversations began. Ultimately I turned down the offer of a life time. Here take my money, build a restaurant and call it your own.
If I was going to do that. It had to be all me. It wasn’t about playing it safe. It neever has been for me and I don’t think that will ever change (hopefully). It became about this idea of building an amazing team. Taking all the ideas I had in my head over the last 10 years and making it a reality. So that’s what I did. With the best people in the business. From my business partner to my lawyers to my investors. Now in my late 20’s no real money to my name and I had to raise 1.4 million US dollars. I used to hear whispers about how people thought I came from money and that’s how I did this. The truth is for 6 months straight I knocked on every door pitching my idea. To complete strangers. The pitch became a new part of the high for me.
I am not sure if I will ever fully understand why people invested so much money in me. The few I asked this question to at the end said that West Bridge (that was my baby-my restaurant) was you. We weren’t investing in a restaurant, we were investing in the person behind it. That is and always be some very powerful words to hear. When people can see and feel your determination.
Unfortunately while they all continued to invest in me I didn’t invest in my self. As the walls of my restaurant were built. As we hired the fancy design teams out of Brooklyn the pressure began to build. Remember I was not even 30 yet. I am not going to lie there were moments while I sipped my bourbon alone in my little apartment, not able to sleep that I wondered what the FUCK have I just done. That girl that cried when she got her first GM job was now secretively crying from fear. Petrified of disappointing all these people that took a chance on her. But of course I never actually cried. Because that would be a sign of weakness.
So I kept everything in and persevered. Our restaurant West Bridge opened May 2012. I had made it. We were getting amazing press. And like my first GM job now my Chef and business partner was on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine. I even got my fancy car. So I should be really fucking happy, right?
I wasn’t. I used this new place of power and success to party. To have countless sexual relationships. People wanted me and I liked the attention. But I wasn’t happy. In fact it was as though I was living in a permanent fog.
I remember the day I tried to stop drinking. For over 10 years I drank every single night. Of course I didn’t see this as numbing myself at that time. But now in my early 30’s the inner voices were getting louder. I didn’t want to wake up in a strangers bed having regrets anymore. The reality is I was severely unhappy. So I said to myself just take a break from drinking for 1 night. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t even go 1 night.
AND THAT IS WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED.
If you have made it this far in my story you might actually believe me when I say that the person that believed anything is possible, took that belief and sunk it into sobriety. Without wasting a minute. I got professional help immediately. And started putting it all on the table. That shit was really hard. It was as though each meeting she (my therapist) held up a mirror in front of me. It wasn’t very pretty.
I had built my dream. I had the suits, the fancy car and the attention. But I was miserable. I couldn’t feel happiness but I also could not feel my own sadness. I used alcohol and sex to deal with life and not feel so alone. Around that same time I began sitting in the corner of my bedroom floor every morning. Just 15 minutes followed by writing my thoughts down. I never called it meditation. I never told anyone what I was doing. But it helped. Seriously! If I am being totally honest I began sitting because I was desperate for change.
Within a matter of a few months I was no longer yelling at employees. I was sitting down to eat instead of shoveling food down my throat. I was reading entire books. I wasn’t staying up until 4am. The shifts were so noticeable that even my business partner and employees began to make comments. I was smiling. Quite possibly for the 1st time in over 10 years. I was beginning my own journey to feel. But I still never uttered a word about meditation to anyone until years later.
Ultimately I decided to sell my business. Let me be very CLEAR on this part of the story though. I didn’t sell because I had found a spiritual path. Remember I was still keeping that a secret. Never in a million years did I have plans to teach this practice. I sold because while I was very good in the business, the restaurant industry was no longer good for me. I had to figure my shit out. And so I let go of everything I knew. I walked away from a community I had been with for 15 years. I moved out of my home and I began to travel. I needed to wrap my head around this new person. This was the hardest decision to date I have had to make. I cried. A LOT.
I needed to learn what it was like to have sex sober.
I needed to feel laughter in my belly.
I wanted my love for hospitality and for people to find a new home.
And so it goes.
After 4 years of wandering. Letting go of that person who was so attached to ego. I found my way to help others. To hopefully help others not get so far down the rabbit hole as I did.
To appreciate the medicine that comes from laughter and tears.
And just maybe closing down your eyes at the kitchen table and breathing.
This practice, is just that a practice. It will always evolve and shift, but it is a practice that can cultivate more kindness towards ourself and everyone around us.
I decided to teach meditation for 2 reasons:
- To teach the dreamers no matter how big or small that you can have it all if you just commit to some sort of balance and learn to listen to yourself.
- That the practice to sit is for everyone. It doesn’t have to look or sound like what you see in social media. You can wear your favorite jeans and drop the occasional curse.
With love + gratitude