I am no stranger to being different. I’ve learned that being different can change your life exponentially and in the most beautiful ways, if you let it.
I once showed up to Easter dinner in a patent leather dress. I created a YouTube series in my 20s with one of my best-friends built on the theme of nonsense. I got engaged after 8 months of dating, and planned our wedding in 2.5 months. I even gave up everything I spent years building to pursue one of the most sought-after dreams in the nation. Maybe some of this sounds normal to you, and maybe some of it seems a bit daring. No matter where you are on the crazy-to-traditional life-living spectrum, I wanted to share a pinnacle moment of heartbreaking failure that happened in my life a few years ago. It changed everything, and truly altered the course of my life in ways I never expected.
Let’s go back a few years. I had just finished my master’s degree in education, and I felt like I had the world in the palm of my hand. I settled down into a teaching role, and had my name engraved on my “office” door. I had a stellar 401K, decent benefits, and was officially deemed successful by the world’s standards of you made it. I had worked extremely hard, given up so much, and followed the cookie-cutter road map to success. Everything I thought I wanted was finally mine.
And then it hit me. I was unequivocally miserable.
Why wasn’t I happy? I did everything right. But I had lost myself completely in the process. I was sacrificing so much of my time and my one-and-only God-given life to live out a vision of my life that was not my own. The problem is, the world teaches us to pursue jobs and careers, not opportunities. It doesn’t take much to look around and notice the countless numbers of sincerely miserable people riddled throughout corporate America. And yet, somehow, I had become one of them.
After what felt like an eternity toiling with my unhappiness, I decided it was time to take a chance on ME. Since I could remember, my soul passionately yearned for the entertainment business. As crazy as it may sound, I decided to go for it. Despite my family’s fervent disagreement and clearly utter disappointment in me, I gave up everything about my safe and normal life and moved to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue my dreams.
The minute I arrived I was invigorated with excitement and then immediately crippled by intimidation. I allowed these emotions to control my actions, and I felt paralyzed beyond understanding. What began as an awakening pursuit of happiness turned into a 4-year bartending career. With a few side-gigs behind me, I realized the destination I meant to arrive at had somehow turned into something else I never intended. So there I was, 30 years old, facing a terrible reality: I failed, and I let myself down. I actually felt satisfied (and still do) knowing I could at least proudly say that I tried. Eventually I made my way back closer to home with my head held high and a scar the size of Texas (err, Tennessee) on my heart.
What happened next is pivotal.
Unfortunately, it’s not a common trend to see people IN LOVE with what they do for a living. In fact, it’s quite rare. I settled into another 9-to-5 job in Charlotte, NC. Despite my greatest efforts to make the corporate glass-slipper fit again, it wasn’t feeding my soul like I craved or deserved. Luckily, a good friend approached me with a non-traditional opportunity that, at the right time, finally lifted me into a place I knew I belonged. I chose to grow from my past experiences, and refused to let my darkest valleys of disappointment negatively shape my future.
My life today seems like a dream, one I want everyone to experience and share. It’s not about what my decisions have done for me, rather it’s about what the right decisions could do for YOU. Stepping out of the world’s traditional perception of what it means to be successful is uncomfortable at first, but the reward is too great not to genuinely try.
You just have to dare to deviate.
Editor: Brit Langlois