We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Persephone Wells and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I define Risk as the willingness to thrust oneself into the realms of experiment and experience, without attachment to – or even awareness of – a specific outcome. Risk is often times defined in terms of reward – “I’m willing to ‘risk’ (meaning sacrifice) X in order to potentially gain Y.” But I’d say that’s a gamble, not a risk, and they are different. The risk lies in the journey, not the destination. To risk is to enthusiastically embrace the unknown, and to take pleasure in the potentiality of the undetermined. Risk is characterized by trust, curiosity, courage, and vulnerability.
I think the times in which I’ve embraced risk were times when I knew something desperately needed to change but I didn’t know what or in what way. I had to trust my gut and take action from a place where the rules of reason didn’t necessarily apply; I had to be curious to explore “different” without the assurance that it would be better. In just over two weeks, I moved across the country to LA leaving 90% of my possessions, my job, my friends and family, to try living in a city I’d never been to – in a state I’d never been to – only knowing 3 people there, moving in with a stranger, and having no job lined up. Leaving NYC was the easiest part, and that’s not to say it was easy. But figuring out how to make it here, relying on my own resourcefulness and resiliency, as well as gradually connecting with people who’ve tremendously influenced my personal, professional, and spiritual growth, was all part of the risk. Risk is not a single choice or event; it’s not a roll of the dice. It’s a process, an unfolding, and an awakening to a bolder, wiser version of yourself.
The caution I’d exercise around risk isn’t the losses or hardships one might encounter; rather, it’s around power. It can be tempting to derive power from risk – to wear it like a badge of bravery or toughness or accomplishment for others to see and admire, or to identify ourselves as “special” because we chose a different path or defied some set of perceived expectations or odds. Risk isn’t about other people and how we compare to them, or them to us. Risk is being so in harmony with a truth that is so completely our own that only we can understand it and fulfill it. I’d say, most times, true risk is a pretty lonely experience, because just about everyone thinks you’re crazy, stupid, foolish, or selfish for doing what you’re being called to do.
So has risk taught me things about myself that I may not have learned any other way? Absolutely. But learning when to pause, when to be patient, when to clarify, when to question, and when to say “No” have been equally influential. Risk, whether acting upon it or declining the opportunity, has helped me to discern my ego from my intuition, to know the difference between when I’m fulfilling my own desire vs. fulfilling a ‘should’ to look good in someone else’s eyes.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career has evolved as I’ve evolved; there have been periods of reinvention, of stepping back to rest and recalibrate, of feeling lost and being stuck in limbo, of creative solutions and innovation. Soul work is not something I can be separate from – my work is inextricably tied to me because I am the conduit of the information and experience. So I need to be personally strong, centered, and sensitive so I can objectively hold space and effectively offer guidance to my clients, which requires a commitment to always be working on myself and growing. Healing is hard. It hurts…and it’s an ever-unfolding journey; there’s no “There” to get to, because there’s always a new aspiration with a corresponding depth to explore.
That all said, I think I’m most proud of not giving up on myself. Some of the depths I’ve had to uncover and explore have been pretty dark – addiction, abuse, abandonment, and a really deficient sense of self and self-worth. There are plenty of points while doing this work that I doubt if I can do it in a way that will sustain a lifestyle that I find pleasing and fulfilling, and there have been times I’ve put my career on hold for a job because that’s what I needed to do to take care of myself. But I’ve always kept my work going in the background, I’ve always returned to it. And in doing so I’ve preserved and prioritized my own truth, my own calling, and my own versions of happiness and success, rather than giving into what others – be they people or systems or social constructs – think is right for me.
I’ll say I’m also proud of being willing to change. I’m not afraid to reinvent myself when I feel that something new is ready to emerge, and I’m not ashamed to say “y’know what, this isn’t working – f*ck it.” I recently rebranded to more authentically reflect the way I work and to be more recognizable to the types of people I can really, truly help. And up until recently, my work has been primarily with 1:1 clients. While COVID didn’t impact my business as far as being able to see clients, because I’ve been doing my sessions remotely for several years, it did put into perspective how I can better leverage my time and energy, as well as create more affordable, accessible ways of working with people who can’t afford my private rate. Everyone who’s willing to put in the work and effort deserves space and support to heal. So I’m developing new programs that provide high-quality teaching and guidance in a more communal or self-directed structure. Later in the year I’ll be launching a monthly membership, and I’m also putting together online courses – some of which will have live components, and others will be downloadable so you can do them at your own pace. This way there’s a lot more equity across income levels, learning styles, readiness. Not everyone is ready for the type of transformation that happens in 1:1 work – that’s OK! It’s OK to meet ourselves where we’re at and work from there. I realized I needed to do a better job of that, of offering people ways to meet themselves, so I’m putting things in place. I don’t expect immediate success, I expect to have to iterate on these concepts as they are shaped by the experiences of the people who participate in them, and I honestly find that really exciting!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
COVID has obviously changed this concept so much… I think one of the best ways to celebrate this city is to support local artisans and businesses. It’s a powerful way to support local communities, experience new cultures, and share good ideas.
Hey Hey in Echo Park is an amazing place to enjoy some incredibly delicious and creative tea cocktails – honestly one of the best Thai Tea’s I’ve ever had, and they have dairy-free options as well. Chris, the owner, is so friendly and innovative, and really cares about cultivating a space people can feel good in. Pre-COVID, Hey Hey hosted musical acts, poetry readings, and food pop-ups that were awesome for bringing people together and fostering creativity. I hope they’re able to bring that back!
If coffee is more your thing, Bloom & Plume Coffee in Filipinotown is. a. VIBE. Go there! And it’s about much more than coffee – it’s about culture, community, creativity, taking care of ourselves and each other. Beauty saturates and relates every fiber of this place, from the food to the flowers, from the colors to the coffee. The feeling you get here is that everything is connected, everything is part of a greater whole. This is a great place to be inspired – not in the manic, erratic way that inspiration can sometimes strike, but in the calm, influential way happens like when you’re in nature and you’re tapped into something so much bigger than yourself.
Eszett in Silverlake is a local restaurant that elevates its food through the quality of its ingredients and the care they put into everything on the menu. Spencer and Sabrina have put every ounce of their hearts into this place, and their warmth and passion for celebrating life through food just radiates throughout the space. The wine is also amazing! Having opened shortly before COVID hit, they’ve gone through great lengths to keep their dream alive by pivoting to delivery and take out, and running the place almost entirely by themselves. Now that restaurants are opening back up, check them out – I’m confident you’ll be so so pleased! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
As a healer, you can only take your clients as deep as you’re willing to go with yourself. My shoutout is dedicated to my therapist, Anny Papatheodorou of Triple Moon Psychotherapy, who has the intellect, insight, compassion, and fortitude to guide me through the darkest corners of my consciousness. Her capacity to hold space for even the most tumultuous emotions inspires me, and reminds me of what’s possible for my clients when I show up in the same way for them. She has taught me self-acceptance at a new and transformative level. I trust her to hold me accountable for doing the difficult work, and appreciate her reminders to laugh, be playful, and prioritize pleasure.
I found Anny through an important resource, Open Path Collective, which partners with private practitioners nationwide to offer low-fee therapy to people without health insurance. Mental Healthcare is crucial. So many people think they have no choice but to suffer alone because they can’t afford professional support, and I was one of them. Open Path Collective gives more than equitable mental healthcare access; it gives hope. I encourage everyone to get familiar with this resource – you or someone you know may need it, now or sometime in the future.
Headshots & styling by Tori Amoscato. Cards being dealt: Devin Pedde. Other shots/graphics by me (no credit).