With another transformative year around the sun and feeling my twenty-eighth birthday around the corner, I would’ve never imagined that my mind would be consumed with such reflective scrutiny.
“I’m not enjoying my days. I’m not happy with what I wake up and do every. I’m tired and anxious, and I don’t look or feel like the ‘me’ I know. My creativity is suffering. I feel extremely lost.”
What does it really mean to live your best life; not just post a photo on Instagram trying to convince others that you are? This question continued to linger in my mind, as I tried to figure out where I stood. I remember asking myself the same types of questions prior to graduating college, thinking about where the future would take me. At the time, I was terrified of losing my freedom as I navigated the real world and obtained a “grown-up job.” Up until that point, all I knew was freedom. At 23 years old, I really did as I wanted with every aspect of my life.
Now, I was 27, and sitting uncomfortably in my own skin. It hurt as I came to the realization that for the first time ever, I was overcome with complete envy. Envy toward my earlier self. This had to be one of the weirdest feelings I had ever felt. At first I was upset, because this meant I had allowed the obstacles of life tear me away from what made me happy. This was something I promised myself I’d never do.
I didn’t know what to do or how to feel, but after the self-disappointment and anger subsided, I felt a sense of relief. One, because the person I was jealous of was me, and I was glad to not be comparing myself to others. And two, because I knew that if this was a space I had already been in, I knew I could work toward achieving that feeling of freedom and contentment again.
The hardest part about my new realization was accepting that at this point, I wasn’t happy, because I didn’t possess any self-love – a feeling completely new to me. I thought I was a confident person.
“At which point did I stop having self-love?” I asked myself.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I wouldn’t stop until I had an answer. I needed the answer in order to make a change. After months of being in limbo, I had to keep it real with myself. I learned that the moment I stopped loving myself was the moment I began neglecting myself and I felt guilty.
I accepted that I couldn’t continue to neglect myself if I hoped to regain self-love, because loving oneself actually takes a lot of work.
Life happens to everyone, every day. Bosses are crazy, coworkers try us, the patriarchy is draining, we feel fat, and we’re just so busy and tired. Understandably, I went through my days allowing everything, mainly my career, to take priority over myself.
I’d tell myself “I didn’t move to New York City to meditate and chill. I came here to work,” and that’s exactly what I did.
I found myself fully absorbed by my job at a magazine, ignoring what I cared about and putting everything my boss cared about above everything I cared about. For almost an entire year, I ignored every other aspect of my life, and allowed many of the things I valued to deteriorate. I sat back as my health, stability and creativity deteriorated.
I found myself in an argument with the world about what I feel (self) productivity truly is. I was constantly working, but was I being productive? These days, it’s admirable to be busy and to do a lot of things. But I began to ask myself – what are you doing? And for whom are you doing it?
I was disgusted to conclude that I didn’t like how my days were going, and I didn’t wake up every day doing things for “me.” I couldn’t continue to do this to myself.
I started doing as I always do when I feel stuck, and in need of inspiration. I read. I read everything I can, especially books by my favorite people and favorite authors. While reading a book by one of my idols, Elizabeth Gilbert, I realized I needed to get creative about how I’d turn my life around, and that’s what I did.
I took a break from the media world and secured a different way to earn an income, while I focused fully on becoming better. I pulled away from a lot of noise, and I concentrated on doing things that I knew would make me feel happy.
At the end of the day, my job didn’t make me happier than reading did. It didn’t make me happier than exercising did. It didn’t make me happier than spending time with my loved ones did. Why would I ever choose to put it in front of so many things that made me happy? It just wasn’t worth it. I think I was trying to fit into a mold of “media career woman.” When true happiness is really about being you and doing you.
Reaching self-love is a different journey for everyone, because different things give different people peace of mind. I think it’s less about “telling people exact tasks they need to do to be happy, and more about allowing people the freedom to do what makes them happy.
It may always be a struggle for me to find a happy balance between successful work and my sanity. But at 28 years old, that’s where I am right now. I’ve taken the last half of 2018 to concentrate on myself – physically, mentally and emotionally. I feel better, and I’m finally feeling like myself again. And after a long break, filled with personal work and building, I am excited to continue using this good energy productively.