This Thursday marked three years without a drink. And in seven days I will turn twenty-nine.
On that day three years ago, I was starting over. Internally, everything felt wrong. While to outsiders it looked like I was holding everything together, inside I was a mess. I had hit a dead-end. I was more terrified than I have ever been. That day, everything changed. That day marked the beginning of my journey of coming back to life.
What should your twenties be like? A period for hitting the ground running. For freedom. The freedom to live wherever you want, with whoever you want, and to sleep all day after staying up all night. For making money and embracing adult responsibilities. For taking that beautiful college degree you’ve earned, framing it, and landing the career job you’ve put on a pedestal. For home buying and falling in love and preparing to make a family. For coming into yourself.
Let me smash those ideas and tell you what they are really like. My twenties have been painful. They have been a process. They have been full of failures, bewilderment, and feeling constantly behind. My shortcomings and character defects have blindsided me. I have fallen short of my expectations. I have had to ruthlessly edit myself. I came to resent Corporate America in an astonishingly brief amount of time. I sought comfort in the wrong places. I had my heart hurt more times than I like to count. I began to give up on having a family and doing it all. I came into myself, but certainly not in a pristine manner. I earned bumps and bruises and scars and came tumbling through in a glorious blaze of dust.
I suppose that my twenties have gone as well as I could have hoped. I obliterated myself. I began to rebuild. I learned to sit through tragedy and nearly unbearable emotional pain, failure and achievement, false starts and dreams realized.
My twenties brought me through college, the unexpected loss of my step-brother, a move to San Diego which became home, heartbreak, the end of my drinking, the termination of friendships I thought would last forever, the beginning of friendships so deep and strong I count count on them to carry me through any hardship, embarking on my professional career, the blossoming and nurturing of my passion for writing, traveling to destinations around the globe, becoming a dog mom, a reunion with my father that was twenty-two years overdue, navigating the grief that suicide brings, and falling in love.
My twenties have taught me that I can almost lose it all through self-sabotage and fear-fueled, destructive behavior. They broke me down and shaped me and built me back up. They showed me that I can do anything I put my mind to, for better or for worse. I am capable of burning it all to the ground and also of nurturing it all into fruition. I have the potential to run from everything, to stuff my feelings, and to be a victim or to do an about-face and own my wrongs, my rights, and my story.
The past three years have facilitated a re-connection with a fearless passion and confidence that I held in my youth.I have learned how to do, well to do most of the time, what at once was impossible for me- to sit back and appreciate my life as it unfolds rather than fearfully trying to control every moment of it.
And it took the better part of the last 1,097 days to realize what brings me true fulfillment. It isn’t a job title or a salary or the acceptance of others. It isn’t shutting the door on my past and pretending it all never happened.
It’s a deep connection to the world around me. It’s the richness of my relationships. It’s the quality of my interactions. It’s self-care and reflection and prayer that I now make a priority in my daily routine. It comes from admitting fault. It comes from working on the things that need work rather than turning the other cheek and hoping for the best. It comes from a willingness to confront my sources of shame and massage them into a place of acceptance. It comes from facing my demons head on and knowing they won’t destroy me. It comes from honesty and vulnerability.
I have seen the darkest recesses of my soul and come back out into the light. I have experienced healing in the parts of me which I thought were permanently broken.
My twenties haven’t been ideal, or pretty all the time, or what was expected. They ended up being a hunt for inner peace.
What are you hunting for?