In 2007, I was broken. I had finally left a long, horrible relationship. At just 22, I was starting my life over.
I spent several months in a deep depression. Broken, physically and emotionally. Every night after work or school, I would come home to my empty, three-bedroom new build in the suburbs and lay on my RC Willey sofa, my cheek pressed to the cushion. I’d stare at the wall for hours, and as the sun set, I’d stay there in the dark, with only the light of the laundry room behind me. Sometimes I would remember to eat.
I stayed in this state. I didn’t know how to get out of it. I didn’t understand how I would ever return to life again. Was life even worth living?
As a child, I was vivacious, precocious, full of smiles and questions. My mom always talks about our trips to the grocery store when I was preschool age, and how I’d walk up to people in the aisle and ask them a question, or strike up a conversation in the checkout line. I looked people in the eyes. I was curious about them—wondering about their lives. Mom says I made people smile, and that she admired my courage and ease in talking to people.
All through elementary and into junior high and early high school, I almost never wanted for a friend. I could go to any situation and make a friend. I recognized inherently—though I of course couldn’t give language to it yet—that others wanted what I wanted, which was to feel like they belonged. I sought out friends wherever I went, and I made them, easily. When my mom dropped me off at new events or school functions, I never hovered in the car; I’d hop out with a wave and practically run in to meet my new friends.
So what changed as I grew up? In sophomore year of high school, the relationship that broke me began. I won’t go into detail about that five-and-a-half-year journey of brokenness, but I will say this: I lost myself. I lost faith in who I was. I became a shell of a person. Even me, even the strong, take-no-nonsense kid who showed up big, got lost.
I stopped believing I deserved better.
When it all ended, I had to unlearn the things about myself that I’d started to believe were true. I wasn’t stupid. I wasn’t worthless. I wasn’t destined for a terrible life and future.
Instead, as I lay on that couch for those months, and let my mind reset and my body rest, I began to realize something: I don’t have to let the past dictate my future. I can create a new life.
Eventually, I got off that couch. I started eating entire meals again. I began running. Soon, running became part of my healing, and my recalibration. It was meditative. This was before I began listening to podcasts, so the only distraction I could manage while running was music.
I was alone with my thoughts for miles and miles. I was getting strong physically and also mentally. And I began to sort out a belief I carry with me today, more than a decade later.
I don’t just deserve better. I deserve beyond better. Everyone does. You do.
With each mile, I started to think things like: What if my life could look completely fresh and new? What if it was not just better but amazing? What if I could not just live the prescriptive life I saw my friends and classmates defaulting to, but what if I could create a life I wanted, from the ground up? And I started to imagine, with clarity, what that life could look like.
And guess what? I’m living that life today. It’s not perfect, and we have our hardships and moments of pain like everyone else, but I am living a life that is created and designed, instead of defaulted. I wake up every single day of my life grateful to have another chance. To get to live a life I love.
The thing is, so many of us never get to that realization. Maybe you haven’t undergone a situation like mine, or maybe you’re living through worse right now. Perhaps you feel limited by any number of things: your relationships, your financial situation, your education level, your health. Those are real things. Some you can control, and some you can’t directly control but you can influence.
My challenge to you, as I reflect on 22-year-old me, is this: what if you could not just have better, but you could have beyond better? What if you could design a life and career you truly love? What if you could have adventures and experiences not just once a year but regularly, that light you up and make you feel on fire for life? What if you could wake up each morning and sit down at your desk excited to get to that day’s work because you love what you do?
I have so many conversations with people who say things like “In ten years, I’ll retire and then . . . ” or “I’ll stick with this job for five more years, and then I’ll go for my real passion.” Why wait? Life is not a guarantee. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Don’t wait to crash out or break down or fall apart like I did. We all deserve beyond better. We are all worthy of lives we love.
Not perfection. Not rainbows and bunny rabbits every day, all day. But a good life with financial stability and strong relationships—we all deserve that. Everyone. Yes, me. And yes, you.
I’d love to hear your story. What moments transformed or changed you—caused you to break apart an existing belief and build something new? Share with me in the comments. I love learning from you.