At some point in my life, I had determined (from societal cues as I perceived them) that getting married in my mid-20s would be the ideal American dream life (this way I could be married for five years, travel, and then have kids in my early 30s, of course).
Being so set on this, I quickly married my first serious boyfriend out of college without challenging any red flags because I was so set on checking that off my Do All The Right Things At The Right Time List.
I believed wholeheartedly that I could strong-arm my expectations against my fate (and I did for a while there).
I was thrilled to get engaged and be married by age 25 – it was exactly what I had wanted in my ideal life timeline.
Shortly into our marriage, however, it became clear that we had gotten married too quickly.
There was a lot of anger and resentment that regularly exploded into heated fights. We absolutely could not find a way to grow any further in our relationship.
I had forcefully pushed along this dream life, that much to my surprise quickly turned into a nightmare.
This toxic relationship stunted my growth for years and I became depressed and anxious because I couldn’t even face the idea of divorce - AKA failure of my American dream.
Despite having worked so hard to successfully check a wedding and a husband off my list, living out that life was agonizing in the end.
It was actually one of my own Instagram posts that finally pushed me over a mental ledge.
It was our three-year wedding anniversary, and I posted a happy collage of us with photos from around the world.
As that post was racking up ‘likes’ and well-wishes, we proceeded to fight and cry through our entire anniversary dinner.
That evening, reality hit me like a truck as I realized what a complete fraudulent double-life I was living, and I decided that I needed to finally face my fears and admit the truth - starting with myself.
I had naively and blindly chased down this idea of an American dream without stopping even once to truly consider that my own unique and personal life path and mission might not line up with these messages that society was sending me.
I was so blindsided by this realization – it gutted me and rocked me to my core that I had fallen so off-course.
There is a big difference between chasing after your dreams and letting good things come to you versus stubbornly hunting your dreams down until they happen even if it’s not meant to be.
A few months after that harsh reality check, I left my husband, moved onto my younger brother’s couch in NYC, and hit an entirely new level of rock bottom and self-loathing.
I had no idea how I had ended up as a miserable shell of myself at age 28.
It was truly devastating, and I felt as though my light had been extinguished; but it was then that I learned to accept that without the pain, one cannot grow, heal, and move forward.
It was only when I faced my painful reality head-on that I truly began to heal, fight like hell for my happiness, and discover my true self.
It took admitting to myself and the world that I was lost - a horrifically beautiful experience in itself - to finally find my inner-spirit and gusto to make moves, change direction, and live for myself.
It’s never too late to learn this lesson.
You’re reading this for a reason.
I pinky swear that you are not too young or too old to shake up in your life and begin again.
Stop waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and blow that shit up yourself!
Nothing is permanent.
No matter where or how you grew up, at some point as an adult (several points for a lot of us), you will need to challenge and question your ingrained societal beliefs and perceived expectations in order to heal yourself and evolve as a human.
Chasing down the big dreams and deadlines you’ve set for yourself without properly challenging them along the way will limit you more than you could ever expect.
So while you should absolutely pursue your passions and have your heart set on certain successes - you just as much need to give those opportunities the freedom to manifest on their own - whether they wither or flourish.