One and a half years ago I started on a journey to discover who I was. I felt stressed and limited by my roles- wife, mother, chef, cleaning woman, behavioral specialist- overused and underqualified for most of these titles. Let me just say that I was and always have been grateful for the choices I made to marry the man I did, have two beautiful children (despite my first having questionable behaviors for a VERY LONG TIME), and stay home to care for them. However, I didn’t anticipate how trapped this could make me feel, and the extent to which my life could start to feel as though it was closing in around me.
The turning point for me was realizing that I hated the person I had become. I was no longer easygoing, forgiving and certainly wasn’t fun to be around. I wasn’t any of the things I had loved about myself as a child- creative, inspired, kind (truly kind), and always looking for a good adventure or a little fun. From the outside it might not have looked like much- I didn’t start doing drugs, I didn’t get a life threatening diagnosis, and I didn’t get depressed- but I was drowning in the life I had created. It had way too much responsibility, too little guidance and support, and too little joy. (Did you know life is supposed to be joyful?)
I still remember the moment when I realized- like consciously realized- that I was choosing this. I was setting myself up for failure by taking on WAY too much and allowing myself WAY too little. I was expecting myself to create a joyful, fulfilling experience all the while sleeping too little, feeding myself mediocre food, having way too many responsibilities, no time to myself to relax, no friends, and no sense of personal growth. This is a disaster scenario for anybody, but it was epic failure for a growth junkie like me.
There are a few lessons I learned throughout this experience, though, and through having the faith to take the first step I am now well on my way to living the life I was meant to have all along.
1. Truly discovering yourself is as much about remembering as it is about actually discovering. So many people start this journey feeling like they are erasing themselves back to the beginning and starting fresh. While this is partially true (I’ll get to that in #2), it is also imperative to know that we already have A LOT of information about ourselves!
There is so much of myself that I have found in the memories of my childhood- photos, videos, stories that tell me more about what it is that truly drives me and what it is that I truly love. Before I started putting on all these layers- before I took on others’ opinions, internalized others’ limitations of what was possible for me to accomplish, and before my own internal dialogue nosedived from ‘yes you can’ to ‘you should be more practical’.
I do believe that we have the opportunity to discover new and wonderful things through new experiences and that is a really valuable part of my growth- traveling, trying new sports and activities, and attacking Pinterest with a lot of DIY enthusiasm (and not a lot of skill). However, I also believe that discovering our purpose on Earth is as much about remembering what it is that we already know about ourselves, what it is that makes us special that has ALWAYS been there, and what are the gifts that stare us in the face each and every day that are so second nature that we don’t realize that OTHER PEOPLE DON’T THINK THAT WAY or OTHER PEOPLE CAN’T DO THAT LIKE I CAN!
2. All the really good, meaningful transformations occur after a crisis. Whether you get diagnosed with a life threatening disease or not, you do need to have a really huge catalyst for lasting transformation. You don’t physically have to get beaten down and you certainly don’t have to almost die (although it helps with the urgency factor), but something has to happen for you to realize that you don’t have your shit together after all or you are REALLY sick of the way your life is going and also a glimmer of hope that life isn’t meant to be this hard.
This ‘something’ has to be big enough to crumble your world into small enough pieces that it necessitates a complete rebuild, and then gives you the opportunity to see the choices you are making as you rebuild it. (‘Do I really want to have this person/thing/responsibility in my life? In my home? Taking up my time? Does it bring me enough joy to outweigh the opposing loss of space, time, or freedom?’) Once you meet your low point, it is worth it to take the time to invite back only what gives you energy- that which is beautiful, makes you feel happy, loved, or invigorated. Your life is your message to the world- what is yours saying? Are these a true reflection of what really matters to you?
3. You have way more control than you think you do. I’m not going to tell you about gratitude, although I believe wholeheartedly that it is a core part of finding happiness in ANY set of circumstances.
Gratitude aside, though, I do believe it’s all about choices. You will have to do some work- to allow yourself to disappoint others, not to feel required to live up to others’ expectations of you, and allow yourself to change your mind and fail as you go through this process, which is inevitably trial and error. People take on so much baggage in an attempt to make everybody else happy and the problem with this is that it rarely makes THEM happy. They end spending their time on things that they don’t care about and certainly don’t enjoy, working at jobs that they dread, and around people who are Debbie Downers.
Once these draining areas of our lives are identified, an inevitable part of this process is to purge the yuck to make way for the good. If and when your life gets desperate enough to make true and lasting change, allow yourself growing room for that best friend you’ve always wanted, the career that makes you want to jump out of bed each morning (even when it is difficult), and the adventures you have always wanted to go on (even if it’s not ‘practical’). This may go against everything you’ve been told to want, like a big house, a shiny new car, a corporate office job with plenty of status attached. However, by making these intentional decisions to focus your time and attention in areas that matter, you are able to realize your dreams more easily instead of scrambling in an attempt to realize your own dreams on top of the dreams that others have assigned to you. Without this created ‘space,’ there is no room for opportunity or magic.
What do you think? Have you hit your rock bottom during your lifetime? What meaning did you find in your rebuilding process? Please share below in the comments! And as always, feel free to pass this on to anybody who is in need of a little guidance and inspiration!