Throughout the second half of my twenties, I poured myself into professional and academic challenges as a distraction, as a way to try and control my way out of an untenable reality — that my life was not as I wanted and needed it to be. I thought if I am professionally successful, if I can earn enough money, I will be able to create a happy life. Unsurprisingly, the result of those choices was dissatisfaction and discontent. Thankfully I realized I couldn’t continue on the path I was on and I began a course correction.
Over the past two years: my marriage ended, I became a single-mom to a toddler, I bought, renovated, and sold a house, I moved (with my daughter) numerous times, and my work has metamorphosed. From the outside looking in, these years probably resembled rock-bottom, and intermittently, it felt that way. And while I’ve endured hardship, heartache, and pain over the past two years, I’ve also experienced tremendous growth, clarity, and happiness.
More than at any other point in my life, I’ve been cognizant that our lives are, largely, as we perceive them. The idiom you’ve likely heard: reality is what you make it, is an idiom for a reason – it’s the truth. But, while our realities are largely in our control, we also need to acknowledge the tremendous influence of the people with whom we interact and the environment we place ourselves in. Jim Rohn’s declaration: “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” is accurate, but I find more value in Celestine Chua’s revision, which includes your own consciousness among the list of influencers. This distinction has been particularly valuable for me – you can work hard to keep your mind right, but if the people you spend the most time with don’t share your values and aren’t aligned with the direction you want your life to go, you’re never going to get there. Recognizing those relationships and taking action (including letting them go if necessary) is hard, but when the alternative is drowning emotionally and slowly mutating into someone you’re not – the choice becomes clear. For me, a turning point was realizing that I could not be the parent I wanted to be, nor could I provide the childhood my daughter deserves, while continuing my life as it was.
I’ve spent the past twenty-four months taking actions, both small and large, to redirect my life. Central to that process has been simplifying — I’ve made room physically, mentally, and emotionally for the truly important things: my health and family, growth and community. Wherever you are in life, it’s never too late to adjust your direction, align your actions with your values, and create change. My partner recently stated: “people overestimate how much they can accomplish in a year, but underestimate how much they can achieve in two years.”
I am eager to see where my life will be in two more years.