Everyone has their own thresholds, rock bottoms or breaking points. These are the moments in our lives when we realize that we simply can’t keep going the way we have been. I reached a pivotal one in my late 20’s. Looking back now I realize that I saw it coming but I chose to ignore it. When you decide to bury your head in the sand and you eventually come up for air, you realize that ignorance is really only temporary bliss. And reality has a way of smacking you right in the face when you least expect it.
I was a young woman climbing the corporate ladder, my husband and I owned a cozy home in the ‘burbs and I had a sweet ride to get me from A to B. To anyone on the outside, I looked like a successful young woman owning it. But I knew I was ignoring red flags left, right and centre for years in both my personal and professional life. I was discounting that little voice inside that was letting me know that things just weren’t right.
I rolled over in bed one morning and looked at the man snoring next to me. I’d known him since I was 17 and we’d been married for 3 years and yet, I felt like I didn’t know him at all. I didn’t recognize us. Looking back now, I realize that it wasn’t him that I didn’t know. It was myself. I had no idea what I really wanted and needed in life and that brought me to the point where I realized I had to make some big changes. Up until then, I was going through the motions and letting life happen to me as opposed to getting clear on what I wanted from it all.
Getting hitched was something we decided to do because it was time. It was a Friday night. We decided to go to Red Lobster for dinner and he proposed seconds after the waitress served us a basket of semi-warm dinner biscuits. It went something like, “Hey, why don’t we just get married.” “Whoa. Wait. What?” I thought, “Did I just get proposed to?” I’ve never dreamt of my perfect wedding gown or babies and white picket fences but I couldn’t help but wonder: was this really how it was going down?
Well, yeah. That’s how it went down. And that experience epitomized the way I had been living. I was living from a place of routine – I was going through the motions. As I moved through the world robotically, I didn’t stop to ask if what I was doing was making me feel good. I didn’t take the time to enjoy the little things. I made decisions not because I thought they were in my best interest but because I figured it was just time.
So there I was. When my husband’s career moved him out of the city, I followed right behind him and we moved to the ‘burbs. I found a job from a posting that he came across in the paper. Even though I wasn’t really made for a stiff corporate environment, I wore a buttoned-up shirt and blazer every day. I figured it made sense. You move to the ‘burbs, settle down, get a good job and get married. Done deal right?
Sure, if that’s what you want. But I had a nagging feeling that there was something different out there for me. And so came that fateful morning in bed. As I realized that I didn’t recognize myself and the life I had built, my initial reaction was, no doubt, akin to a mid-life crisis. I decided to overhaul my entire life. We landed back in the city in a downtown condo and I found a new job at a cool agency within walking distance. I think I was under the impression that changing my surroundings and work would cut it but that wasn’t enough. After months of couple’s therapy, countless yelling matches, slamming doors and flying expletives, we decided it was time to call it quits.
And that was when it hit me. At 29, I was a freshly divorced woman and I was building a new sense of self. I had moved through my relationship for years without speaking up about what I wanted because I didn’t want to look selfish or needy. I suppressed the experiences of my emotions because I didn’t want to be too complicated. I tempered my opinion because I didn’t want to be too bossy. I allowed the fear of what others might think of me to rule my actions. And I knew that all had to stop. It was time to rediscover who I was.
I started with adding small things to my life to feel better. Small stuff – like being aware of the sun shining on me on my walk to work, the smell of a fresh cup of coffee or the first bite of cheesecake for dessert. When I started to feel good again, I decided to explore different things in the city. I went out to different events, met new people and took a chance on novel experiences. For the first time in a long time, I was able to see what resonated with me and what didn’t. And I continued to follow the stuff that felt good.
I think we’re constantly changing as our circumstances shift around us and we have to be open to change. But when we feel good about ourselves and understand that life is more than routine and going through the motions? That’s when the magic happens. That’s when we can create a life we love.