Saying Goodbye

She died yesterday. And I was suddenly reminded of how much I already missed her.

For four years she went deeper and deeper into the mental darkness of dementia. Parts of her knew she was slipping. Reminders of things that had been said only moments before were frustrating. She knew she had forgotten, she just didn’t know what. But she was full of compliments about shoes and scarves and nail color. So we simply readjusted what we connected over.

Before it was art. And writing. And the box of magnetic poetry she wanted us to make literary masterpieces with.

Every sleepover started with chocolate croissants in the morning while she perused The New York Times. She would sigh over the state of the world, absentmindedly patting Chelsea, her Old English Sheepdog that was big enough to see over the tabletop. We would sip our juice, and lick the chocolate from our fingers.

Then, it was off to the art store.

We would pile into her lavender Honda, Chelsea between us, and she would pop in the same tape we listened to a million times before. Jay O’Callahan’s “Orange Cheeks” would spill out of the speakers, with words we had long since memorized and a cadence we could repeat in our sleep.

Paints, sketch pads, scrapbook paper, stickers — we didn’t need to explain what we intended to create with them. She simply wanted to make sure we had all the materials necessary when inspiration struck.

Once the paint was cleaned and our creation praised, it was time for movies. The three-story tall video store, brimming with everything except the latest blockbusters, was the only one we’d go to. If they didn’t have the old movie she wanted us to see, they would order it and she’d have it for us next time.

It was the scary movies I remember most. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Wait Until Dark, they weren’t filled blood and gore, but they were terrifying all the same. Huddled in the tv room, I didn’t dare let on that I was scared. I never wanted her to second-guess this ritual my mom wasn’t privied to.

These days when she was young and vibrant and fully capable of navigating the world on her own — I’ve been mourning the loss of them for years.

She’s better now. Freed from the labored breathing and stark nursing home walls. No longer surrounded by the old age she refused to see in herself.

I asked her to remember to come visit me. I hope she heard.

5 Ways Quitting My 9-To-5 Job Jump-Started My Life As An Entrepreneur

(This post originally appeared on Elite Daily)

The day I woke up praying I had contracted some type of illness so I could avoid another soul-sucking day in my cubicle was the day I knew I needed to leave my job.

It had been a full year where simply stepping into the office gave me an overwhelming feeling of heaviness and all-consuming dread.

Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7 am and 4 pm, I felt completely dead inside.

Suddenly, staying put for health insurance and a steady paycheck seemed like an entirely uneven exchange.

So on that day, I set my quit date.

I frantically texted the most trusted members of my inner circle, divulging my plan before I could grasp what a hugely challenging endeavor I had just committed myself to.

I didn’t have another job lined up or even a position I hoped I might be qualified for.

I simply had an unavoidable need for freedom and a few freelance writing gigs with potential.

When I finally gave my notice, I found myself choking on the words, “I’m starting my own business.”

Saying them to my superiors felt childish and naive.

I didn’t have a business name or any legitimate paperwork. I only had the intention to figure it out along the way.

There was no plan B.

Three months later, with a registered business and several bonafide clients, I can say the side effects of venturing out on my own weren’t entirely what I expected:

1. Money seems far less important.

Finance is a broad term encompassing all things related to the study, production, and management of investments and financing. Especially, it encircles the issues of how and why an institution, individual or government gets the capital required to support their activities, known as assets in the fiscal circumstance; and how they spend or invest that capital, learn more at

When I was confined by the walls of my cubicle and churning away at work I couldn’t muster up much excitement for, earning a certain amount of money was essential.

After all, it was my compensation for turning over precious brainpower and the most substantial chunk of my waking hours.

Even when I first thought about starting a business, my mind immediately went to the income potential for such an endeavor.

I crunched numbers and visualized cashing checks bigger than the ones I was currently cashing.

Then, as I dove deeper into establishing a life based on enjoyment rather than obligation, something strange happened: Money didn’t matter as much.

What was once a mindset of, “I better be getting paid to do this” turned into, “I’m so lucky I get paid to do this.”

That was an amazing thing.

2. I’m a better friend, daughter, sister and girlfriend.

Feeling as if I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of loathing my day-to-day life was utterly exhausting, both for myself and those who had to endure my mood swings and bad attitude.

This exhaustion — paired with the monumental task of tackling additional work on the side — led to “busy” being the most commonly used word in my vocabulary.

My work was receiving my energy, and those I loved were receiving the short end of the stick.

Yes, starting a business is a challenge most aren’t prepared for.

But when starting a business is mixed with establishing an overall well-balanced, intentional life, something magical happens.

Relationships flourish.

When I’m happy, I’m more likely to make others around me happy.

An improved demeanor means they are more likely to want me around in the first place.

Enough said.

3. Life and work transition seamlessly.

There’s nothing that points out how much you dread your job than how you feel coming back from vacation.

For me, there was a clear delineation.

Happiness, passion and joy were left in whatever tropical location I was visiting, and obligation, work and an overwhelming feeling would be greeting me at the gate upon arrival.

Now, my mind has deconstructed the brick barriers that separated my work life from my personal life.

Sundays morph into Mondays with nearly as much ease as Fridays into Saturdays.

Work isn’t to be endured in order to reach the weekend, but to be appreciated as something that creates challenges and carries the possibility of feeling really damn good about what I produce.

Feeling steadily content — whether it’s Monday or Friday — is something I didn’t know I would be so incredibly grateful for.

4. Time is no longer the enemy.

I used to hate time.

I hated how it would creep at a mind-numbingly slow place between the hours of 1 pm and 4 pm.

I hated how I had to request it, routinely counting how long it would take me to amass X amount of vacation days.

I hated how weekends never contained enough time to make a dent in household tasks while still having fun.

Time moves much faster now, regardless of the day of the week.

But, it’s in a things-are-flowing-so-well-I-forget-to-look-at-the-clock type of way.

I don’t mind when down time flies by because work is no longer something I need to muscle through.

Time and I now have a cohesive relationship built on mutual respect. That’s how I like it.

5. Guilt is persistent.

I used to wake up at 5:30 am every day, drive the 20 minutes to my office and spend the next eight and a half hours trying to be as productive as possible.

Today, I woke up at 7:20 am and immediately had a small panic attack that if this “laziness” continues, I won’t create the business success I’m hoping for.

It turns out, guilt — especially the type born from the rules of traditional office life — dies hard.

When I pound away at a project for a solid five hours and have a gloriously free afternoon stretched out in front of me, guilt rises up to greet me.

I immediately think of five tasks to complete, operating from the underlying belief being busy and filling a time slot equates to a productive day.

I thought I’d toss out these antiquated ideas when I left cubicle life, but it turns out this is one thing that’s a perpetual work in progress.

But considering how far I’ve come and the world of difference I’ve seen in my life, this is a small price to pay.

I may not receive money at the same designated time each month, and my health insurance is something I now cover, but I’ve been reinstated as the owner of my life.

There is nothing more valuable than that.

Writing Notes: A Deeper Look at Loneliness

When I was in 8th grade, I used to write notes to the new girls in school.

These notes, with hearts above the i’s and perfectly curved cursive, written during lesson plans I wasn’t paying attention to, were an attempt to distance myself from the misery of my first year of middle school.

That was when I marked the start of my long-standing relationship with loneliness.

During these first few months, I tried to escape loneliness with frequent trips to the nurse’s office, carrying tales of fabricated illnesses – a rouse to get a phone call home and the chance to escape another solo walk down the long and intimidating hallway of my school.

Loneliness convinced me daily of my separateness, chiding me for even considering spilling details of its existence to friends or family. Even when I began to make connections with my peers, I continued to feel the pang of “otherness,” of never fully being enveloped in any one group and only having the temporary relief of surface friendships – ones I would try to hop between in order to avoid the dark abyss of loneliness down below.

After inching painfully through this first year, the clouds parted, allowing a sliver of light to poke through. Surface friendships deepened slightly, and I created a makeshift friend group out of shared interests and utter desperation.

So I began writing notes.

I wrote to alleviate the pain I saw in those who struggled to adjust to a new school while simultaneously working through an undeniably tough season of life. I wrote because I had become so acutely aware of my own suffering and my gradual improvement that I wanted to build a wall to properly protect myself should loneliness decide to return. I wrote because, while extending a hand of friendship, I secretly hoped they could help me reverse the damage loneliness had already inflicted on me.

While friendships formed from these notes, I still never managed to shed light on the intensity of this loneliness, one that has continued to appear after a few brief hiatuses, over and over again throughout my life.

Ironically, I’ve never actually been alone.

Strong enduring relationships are actually something I excel at. Really.

Yet, over the years I’ve learned loneliness doesn’t appear in the absence of relationships. It can appear in the middle of them, in between phone calls and get-togethers. It is just as likely to appear in the middle of a crowded room as it is in a solitary night at home.

I’m just not sure why it continues to find me.

When I opted to leave my regular 9-5, along with the regular potlucks and lunchroom chats, I knew loneliness would be the side effect. Yet, struggling with this familiar emotion seemed far more bearable at the time then enduring another hour in my cubicle and counting down until another vacation day – so I leapt anyways.

Suddenly, self-employment has become life’s way of challenging me to confront my relationship with loneliness and my tendency to pad it over with temporary solutions, breathing a huge sigh of relief when it inexplicably disappears again.

At one point, I thought taking any job with people present – any job at all — might be better than forging this complicated path alone.

But I don’t want to feel as powerless to loneliness as I did when I was 13. I don’t want loneliness to be the reason why I throw in the towel to my creative endeavors and seek the more populated path.

In the past, when I’ve had conversations with those who were brave enough to expose their own relationship with loneliness, it has morphed from a feeling of shame and isolation into one of understanding and connection.

Loneliness is one of the greatest equalizers we will ever know.

Everyone, no matter how successful or famous or brilliant, has felt the familiar stab of loneliness — even if they didn’t recognize it as such.

Google “loneliness” and you’ll find a long list of tips for pushing this feeling down just below the surface. I should know – I’ve spent hours combing through the search results, looking for my own relief.

Yet, tips like calling up a friend or sitting at a coffee shop don’t approach loneliness head-on, they simply skirt the issue, hoping for it to quiet down so we can simply move on with our lives.

I don’t want to quiet it, I want to understand it. I want to know why we have this intrinsic need to connect with others and why we are so clearly steered towards doing so. I want to know why I can have a million people to reach out to, yet still feel isolated. I want to know why my life can be beautifully full and happy and I can still wake up one morning and feel inexplicably alone.

So I’m going to sit with it. And explore it. And allow it to take up residence long enough for me to understand why it’s there in the first place. I don’t believe there is a long-term solution to loneliness but a loving acceptance – one I haven’t reached yet.

This is the beginning of my loneliness journey — one I’m taking less to push loneliness out the door, but accept that it will likely always have a room in my house.

Perhaps the greatest relief is in starting a dialogue – finding human connection in the shared experiences of an emotion that is far more common than we all let on.

Follow this journey through loneliness and towards greater connection here:

A Little Bit Dramatic: 5 Ways True Love Should Never Feel Like Lust

(This post originally appeared on EliteDaily)

My last relationship — one that spanned nearly a decade — went something like this: a blissfully happy beginning with no fights, a tumultuous middle punctuated by a few breaks and breakups and a life-shattering ending with several incidences of cheating woven in.

This love was a battleground, and I spent years down in the trenches, operating from the faulty premise that relationships needed to be fought for every single day.

I was on a roller coaster of emotions, from one dramatic incident to the next, and things between us seemed incapable of running smoothly for an extended period of time.

Instead of seeing this as a reason to pack my bags, I chalked it up to being the natural state of any relationship, and I tightened my grip a little more.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), a death grip on the status quo can’t keep a relationship that’s intended to crumble stay intact. So, this period of my life came to an end with a heartless text and the gnawing feeling that maybe I just didn’t fight hard enough to make it work.

After swearing off men altogether for a good six months (followed by plenty of awkward dates and a growing belief I would be alone forever), I stopped searching.

Then, as the cliché goes, I met someone.

It wasn’t love at first sight, and I didn’t immediately start planning our wedding. In fact, I was convinced date number three would be the ending point, but I was wrong.

The reasons for staying far outweighed the reasons to keep looking. Then, I was in love.

But this wasn’t a love that felt like war.

It felt like sweat pants, messy hair and a dependable excitement every time we saw each other. It felt like comfort and safety. Everything moved with ease, and conversations were never followed by a lengthy session, in which I had to decipher the meaning behind every word and inflection in his voice.

It wasn’t that dramatic. In fact, it was completely void of drama. That, I realized, is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

As a reformed drama-addict, remember this next time you think real love feels exactly like emotional pain:

1. Real love doesn’t require game playing.

There’s a certain amount of self-protection involved in dating. In order to keep our egos intact and to avoid rejection, we hold our cards closely to our chests, and wait for the other people to reveal theirs first.

Some of that is normal. But doing things to intentionally seem aloof or spark someone’s jealousy is not the way to test someone’s level of attachment for you.

If the person you’re dating can’t simply use his words, you’re likely in for an emotional roller coaster of relationship game playing. That is nothing short of exhausting.

2. Real love doesn’t require convincing.

After enduring several lengthy conversations (around year seven of my previous relationship) about getting married and his lack of enthusiasm at the prospect, I vowed to never again beg someone to make a commitment to me.

That alone should have pushed me to move on.

Real love is about people who are thrilled by the idea that they have theprivilege of spending their lives with each other. It’s simple: If you don’t both want it, you should never have to try to convince someone you’re the right person for the job.

Your partner should already know it.

3. Real love makes you feel powerful, not powerless.

My last relationship — especially during the slow downturn before the official breakup — impacted all areas of my life. I was so consumed by this overwhelming feeling of powerlessness and lack of control, and my work suffered immensely.

Now, the rest of my life is positively impacted by the solid foundation of support I have in my current relationship. I feel powerful because I know I’m being emotionally taken care of.

If your relationship makes you feel like someone else is constantly in control of your emotional state, you’ll eventually reach a state of burnout.

Cut the strings now.

4. Real love doesn’t make you afraid of what’s going on behind your back.

It’s funny how quickly you can become used to the anxiety that’s spurred by the ding of an incoming text message, or the pit in your stomach when certain social media posts prove you don’t actually know what’s going on when you’re not around.

It’s easy to become consumed with remedying these situations in the short-term (getting to the bottom of each text and Facebook post). But the reality is, real love doesn’t have these daily stumbling blocks.

You don’t feel the need to uncover the truth because you actually can trust your partner. What a concept!

(Side note: The suspicion is your intuition speaking. Listen carefully; it’s usually on top of things before you are.)

5. The bottom line? Real love doesn’t feel like a war zone.

In a twisted, self-destructive type of way, drama — especially in relationships — can be addicting.

It can quickly convince you an emotionally draining and damaging relationship is really just passionate.

Real love is straightforward and simple. It’s not devoid of issues and hurdles, but it doesn’t leave you feeling like your world is on the brink of collapse every other week.

I can assure you, real love, the kind that brings two healthy individuals together, isn’t that dramatic. And that is a good thing.

Financial Infidelity: 5 Reasons to Keep Money Separate in Relationships

(This post originally appeared on Elite Daily)

I memorized the phone number after about the third call.

From that point forward, I wrestled with anxiety every time I saw it light up my caller ID. The call came once in the morning and at least once more in the afternoon. Sometimes, it would come as late as 8 pm.

The caller was looking for payment on a credit card issued in my name, one I had naively handed over to my boyfriend because his poor credit could afford him nothing more than a small, prepaid debit card.

By the time the card was maxed out, and the charges were compounding due to missed payments, our relationship was on the outs. Despite the shaky ground we were on, I still believed him when he said he was handling it.

He had told lies about his financial situation since the beginning of our relationship.

Bill collectors, ones I could hear clearly on the other end of the line, became “telemarketers” when I asked him who was calling. Our finances were separate at the time, so I chalked his monetary problem up to being another issue in his long line of life woes.

I brushed it under the rug.

This separation made it his — not our — problem. Yet, even without a ring or a marriage license, relationships have a way of intertwining two people’s lives in unplanned ways. Because money is something we all deal with on a regular basis, it weaves itself into the fabric of relationships, before both parties even give it much thought.

In my mind, lack of money was the root of all that was evil in our relationship. If he simply had more, we could patch up the issues that were constantly adding stress to our life together.

Yet, when a sudden influx of cash found its way into his bank account, it quickly slipped away on purchases he would later lie about, and if you want to transfer money, learning with the expert money reviews can be really useful for this purpose.

Money, even before we signed mortgage papers or acquired a joint checking account, was saying something about us that I was taking great care to avoid: We would never work.

1. Lies don’t stay quarantined to one area of the relationship.

Once our relationship ended, I realized the lies about his monetary struggles were just an iota of the total sum of lies he told me.

In the beginning, I never challenged the lies because they seemed small and, by relationship design, none of my business.

But the small lies, the ones you didn’t think were worth telling and didn’t seem worth challenging, are actually the scariest of all.

If someone, especially a romantic partner, lies about even the smallest things, then he’s likely already worked his way up to the really astronomical lies.

We may all lie to some degree, but those who habitually lie about one area of their lives generally aren’t discerning when it comes to lying about other things. In this case, his money lies were just the beginning.

Still, years later, I come across other things he lied about. In my case, money was just a physical representation of the deceit present in all other areas of our relationship.

2. Money represents far more than the balance in your bank account.

A few years older (and what seems like a million lifetimes wiser), I realize our lifestyle desires were so far removed that we could have been from different planets.

Money has always represented safety and security to me. I’d rather give up owning a million different possessions for the guarantee that I could stop working at a reasonable age. I’d also rather fork over a chunk of money for a trip I’ll remember forever, rather than buy a bunch of small things I won’t remember I own.

I found freedom in saving, and he found it in spending. No amount of forceful pushing and prodding could make these two vastly different priorities align.

The way someone manages and spends his or her money is a direct reflection of his or her priorities. If this person’s concerns don’t align with yours, it’s important to take note of that now, not once you’re considering combining financial lives.

3. A lack of transparency is a nail in the relationship coffin.

Most relationships don’t begin by laying a whole deck of cards on the table. Instead, we’ll lay a few out, let those sink in and then move on to the next. A healthy relationship will continue with this transparency process, eventually reaching a point where both parties feel comfortable enough to disclose the entire deck, skeletons and all.

Some people, however, have no intention of disclosing everything at any point.

The problem with my relationship was transparency was never a requirement. We both knew there were things I didn’t know about his life, but I silently accepted it, believing it wasn’t as catastrophic as it seemed. He would tell me when he was ready, I told myself.

But that never happened.

Real, healthy, long-lasting partnerships are transparent because the other person lends necessary support. You’re open open with your partner because you want help with whatever you’re struggling with.

Whether it’s a massive load of credit card debt or student loans in the double digits, monetary woes can be a heavy burden to bear.

If one person doesn’t feel comfortable disclosing this information, or the other person makes it clear he or she isn’t ready to handle the ramifications of this disclosure, beware. This could be too much pressure for the relationship to shoulder down the road.

Anything less than full transparency, concerning money or otherwise, can quickly become a nail in the coffin for any relationship.

4. Nothing makes up for a lack of self-awareness.

No one is immune to financial struggle, and chances are that we will all have our fair share of it at some point in our lives. The differences between those who have a period of financial hardship, and those who are on a lifetime rollercoaster of financial hardship, are often separated by a few key traits.

There are those who have the ability to see the issues and have the motivation to change, and there are those who have neither.

Self-awareness is not something we are inherently born with, and not everyone learns this trait along the way. Looking back on my relationship, I now recognize that lack of money wasn’t the issue. It was his lack a self-awareness and his inability to recognize the astronomical issues that came with how he managed money.

Add this to a lack of motivation to change, and we were doomed from the start.

5. Money lessons aren’t cheap.

Years after the last payment was sent in on the credit card that never should have been used, I checked my credit report. Even though I had healed from the most substantial relationship wounds, black marks on my previously blemish-free credit score served as a reminder of how money and relationships sometimes don’t mix.

Now, long before wading through the marriage and baby conversation, I’ll talk debt, money habits and long-term financial goals.

It’s not sexy or romantic, but somebody has to do it.

A Fear of Being Noticed (and a Fear of Being Unnoticed)

A few days ago, as I mindlessly stepped into the shower with one hand occupied by a large bottle of body wash, my foot slipped, causing my face to careen into the side of the hanging soap dish. The tumble, while relatively minor compared to the catastrophe it could have been, immediately made me burst into a loud, ugly cry.

Aside from the painfully large bruise on my shin and a knot above my left eye, it wasn’t the unexpected ass kicking that prompted this sudden burst of emotion. I woke up that day, and the three days prior, with a gnawing sense that I was generally sucking in all areas of my life, and the shock of physical pain seemed to suddenly bring all these emotions to the very raw surface. I was consumed by a mixture of fear and guilt, compounded by an overwhelming feeling of self-doubt.

Before that point, I had been relatively upbeat, sending out pitch letters and charting out a month’s worth of business goals that I was actually excited about. Then, I was struck by one, panic-inducing thought: What if I’m never noticed?

In writing, there is a well-deserved sense of pride that comes from structuring words in a way that brings the physical and emotional world to life. But that satisfaction is one-dimensional if, as writers, we are both the creator and the audience. Writing doesn’t come full-circle until there is someone consuming said writing and having some type of reaction to it.

As solitary as it seems, there are multiple players in a good piece of writing.

Therefore, it’s not just about creating – it’s about hoping someone will notice your creation. It’s about validation and being recognized as a well-deserved player in the game. (If that sounds exactly like the ego speaking, yes, it often is.)

Writing may be personal, but sharing it is all business. And what if I’m not good enough at the business to ever be noticed?

Since I started my full-time, frenzied journey into creating a business and meaningful work life, I’ve thought of at least ten different directions I could venture. I’ve come up with ideas that, at the time, seemed to be divinely-produced “aha moments,” only to lose all confidence and the drive to bring them into fruition some 24 hours later.

My fear is I will never stumble upon a plan of action with any real possibility of carrying me to where I so desperately want to go and I will spend a lifetime hoping that, eventually, the right person will recognize my work and the possibilities behind it. And, if that day never comes, it won’t because I’m not skilled at writing, but because I didn’t market myself to that person in the right way.

After stumbling through a conversation with my business coach in which I tried to put words to the overwhelming feeling of self-doubt I had been battling, he summarized it perfectly – “You feel unnoticeable.”

This, he explained, is a limiting belief created with the purpose of protecting yourself. There is a payoff to being unnoticed.

Yes, I thought, because in some twisted way, being noticed is equally as terrifying.

Being noticed means allowing yourself – and your writing – to be openly critiqued, picked apart, criticized by anyone, not because they are an authority, but simply because you asked them to read it. Because putting yourself out there means you must in turn have skin thick enough to weather the blowback. Because not everyone will think you’re great, or even mediocre. Some really will believe you aren’t talented enough to be in the game.

Sometimes, hanging out in the waiting room is something we secretly accept because jumping off the ledge opens up the very real possibility that we’ll smack our face or break a limb on the way down. We might speak about feeling stuck, but being stuck is just a little bit easier to stomach than being in a free-fall.

This need to protect yourself, my coach explained, is well-intentioned. However, in the future, we’ll need to push you to move forward, knowing protection can be found in other ways. You are noticeable and it’s safe to be noticed.

Playing with this concept that I feel an aversion to both being noticed and being unnoticed, still brings about an overwhelming sense of fear. Because I just want my chance at greatness — I want it to be offered and I want to be brave enough to run with it.

It’s a balancing act of being bold and still carrying a shield should things go awry. But maybe one can’t exist when the other is present. Maybe it really is all or nothing.

Why Your Plan Isn’t Always the Best Plan

A few years ago, I struggled with a constant, nagging feeling that I wasn’t actually living my life. I didn’t have the community connection I craved and week after week would pass looking exactly like the one before. I had this deep-seated fear that everyone was experiencing fulfillment that I could never quite tap into.

So I became attached to the art of planning.

If things weren’t going to happen spontaneously for me – as I was convinced they did for everyone else – I would make a valiant effort to fill my calendar and say “yes” far more often than I said no. I imagined my future to be filled with realized goals, and I created smaller plans to fill larger plans.

For all intents and purposes, it worked. I was busier than I ever had been in my life, doling out chunks of time left and right because I wanted my life to be brimming with, well, life.

Having a plan gave me direction, predictability and the reassurance that I was moving towards something I could feel good about.

But what happens when the plan we’ve created isn’t the one in the cards for us?

In my last position, I started to feel this persistent itch of boredom and a gradual drain of fulfillment around the two-year mark. These feelings weren’t in the plan. I attempted to shift my attitude, believing I was experiencing an overall life-burnout that was driving this unhappiness at work.

Then, in a conversation with a friend, a no-filter moment found me saying this, “Every time I walk into the office I feel dead inside.”

And clearly, there’s no coming back from that sentiment.

It wasn’t in my long-term plan to ditch a steady and more-than-enough paycheck to pursue the hazy and hard-to-define goal of freedom. In fact, if someone would have told me a year ago to consider adding that into my plan, I would have laughed. That’s not concrete enough for me.

But believing we can always create the best plan for ourselves is ignorant at best.

I have the not-so-attractive quality of believing my way is the best way to get things done. When I was faced with a group project in school, I would often take over the entire thing because I felt that was the best way to create a cohesive final product. Not only did this disregard the talents of the other people in my group, but it left me with a ridiculously heavy workload.

In the same type of I-know-best fashion, I have come to believe the plan I carve out for myself is the absolute best-case scenario. But is that really the case?

If I would have followed through with my plan and what I deemed the “best case scenario” five years ago, I would be in a miserable marriage with a man who didn’t love or respect me in the way I deserved.

Thankfully there was a much grander plan that I would have never had the ability to piece together from my limited vantage point.

That’s the key: sometimes we can’t see the bigger picture from where we’re standing. We can’t create the best plan possible because we don’t know what will enter our path a week, a month, or a year from now.

So sometimes a plan is not having a plan or trusting that the perfect plan just hasn’t revealed itself yet.

Waking up without a set schedule and a workload that’s fluid, I’m learning something important about creating a plan: it’s not all about taking action. Sometimes it’s far more beneficial to listen and wait to be guided to the perfect next step by feeling. This is how we can allow ourselves to let the perfect plan reveal itself, instead of muscling it into fruition.

And, it’s always good to remember — sometimes the plan you spent time perfecting just wasn’t that great to begin with.

Finding the Excitement in the Missing Puzzle Pieces

For me, goals have never been concrete mile markers but fluid ideas of what I want my life to look like. They may not be formally documented or discussed, but in the mind of a perfectionist, they are serious business.

Turning these ideas into a tangible reality is messy. I tend to be on a constant roller coaster of confidence and self-doubt, wrestling with the notion that there are some things I can’t control and others that I may not be doing enough to try to control.

Most of the time I trust in the process. Other times, I’d much rather have a breakdown over all the things that just don’t seem to be moving in the way I’d like or deem necessary.

Yesterday, when I received an email that could positively impact the reach of my writing, I was thrilled. This was a clear light on my path to creating a sustainable business.

Then, life continued on, and my mind started churning with all of the next steps I needed to take over the next few weeks.

Large goals are quick to overshadow small victories

Keeping your eye on the prize is great – necessary even – and a big downer when you’re trying to remember all of the amazing victories that are substantially smaller in size.

When I had just turned 25, a breakup and a newspaper job with an embarrassingly small salary forced me to return to my parent’s house. Priority number one at this point was landing a new job and larger paycheck. When I landed said job with a nearly 100% pay increase, the celebration was muted by the next step – landing a killer apartment I could handle on my own. When that was accomplished, my attention was already on to the next thing before the ink could even dry on the leasing papers.

Large goals or a larger life picture often force us to look ahead when there are amazing things happening right now in front of us. Without these small steps and minor victories, those larger goals wouldn’t actually have a solid foundation to sit upon.

The joy in finding the missing puzzle piece

When I was younger, my sister and I went through an intense puzzle phase. We would spend hours putting together scenes of Ariel’s underwater castle or Beauty and the Beast’s elaborate wedding scene, with no desire to leave the table or change out of our pjs.

Once we finally managed to reach the end, it was always somewhat of a letdown. We didn’t care about seeing the scene fully intact, we could already tell from the box lid what it would look like.

It was the process that we enjoyed. The process of scouring hundreds of puzzle pieces for that one specific piece that somehow miraculously fit after we swore they must have forgotten to put it the box. Those were the moments of genuine elation.

What do you have without small victories?

If I stop to think about the goals I’ve worked to meet, it’s exactly the same. The real excitement comes from the small victories that renew my faith in all that’s possible, that create forward movement towards a new realization or discovery.

The excitement and anticipation has dissipated substantially once that finish line is reached. That’s human nature – we quickly adapt to things that at one point seemed novel. We are on to the next once we see an outline of what the final picture will look like.

So really, if we don’t enjoy the process, we’re skipping over the really awesome parts – all the small pieces of good news you want to share with those closest to you, all the small steps that spur your imagination for what might happen.

Without these victories, we only have a fully intact puzzle without the really enjoyable hours of putting it together. And where’s the fun in that?

You Can’t See the Future (and That’s a Good Thing)

When I was in the midst of a life-shattering breakup, I didn’t lay awake at night wishing for the relationship to return to solid ground. I didn’t even wish for him to have a change of heart. Instead, I prayed for the ability to see one year into the future. I simply needed to know that eventually, at some point I would be in tact – breathing, enjoying life and as far removed from the painful present moment as possible.

Unfortunately, we can’t glimpse into the future. And we can never be certain that on this date, one year later, we will be in a better emotional, physical, or mental state than we are today. I, however, was. I gained perspective over that period of time I didn’t think was possible. I reconnected with myself and realized how capable I was of living a vibrant life all on my own.

Some three years after that ordeal, the struggle is in creating the professional life I can only imagine would feel better than the one I have been living over the past year. In exchange for creative freedom and ownership of my time, I handed over a steady paycheck and a cushy safety net of healthcare benefits and a pension.

And I found myself, again, wishing I could see one year into the future, to know that the decisions I’m making today won’t leave a gaping hole in my financial security. To know that this leap would leave me with a full plate of work, but also the flexibility and freedom I had been dreaming of.

A glimpse into the future and a lack of growth in the present

No matter how much I want the ability to know everything will be pieced together in a way I deem perfect, there are no guarantees, only room to exercise faith. Faith that each step will be illuminated once I get there, and not a moment before. Faith that I reached this moment for a reason, and no journey can be authentic if I already know the ending place.

If I would have known at the onset of my breakup that 15 months later I would meet my best friend and begin a relationship so perfectly suited to me and what I needed in my life, I wouldn’t have worked as hard to establish my own independence. I wouldn’t have accepted dates or worked to figure out what type of partner would compliment the life I wanted to have.

Why the past solidifies the need to believe

Knowing the future would have made me complacent in the present and stunted my growth in ways I wouldn’t have even been aware of.

For this reason, I choose to trust in this journey to establishing a career I am happy to reunite with on Monday mornings. I trust that every door closed and every struggle to gain some kind of solid footing is simply preparing me for the next step. And the next step will resemble more and more of the life I want to live.

We may not have the ability to flip the calendar, but we can see how things in the past have unraveled themselves in the most perfect way, and trust that we will look back on the current situation with the same 20/20 vision.

Changing My Relationship With Time

Since leaving the 3.5 walls of my cubicle and the comfortable paycheck I received in exchange for spending hours in what felt like a timeout corner, time has taken on an entirely new meaning. Time used to be what I wasted as I wrestled with the gnawing feeling that I would never feel passion towards anything work-related again. Time was what I counted as I waited for the next Friday to appear. I hated time and its insistency that it could only move at a glacial speed.

Now, with no walls surrounding me, time is something I’ve come to both respect and fear. Days that used to feel like years suddenly disappear at lightening speed, leaving me with the pit of anxiety spurred by a perceived lack of activity. Before, lack of activity would still result in a paycheck — now there’s no such safety net.

As I push forward into this new, foreign way of living, time has come to represent so may things – what was wrong with where I was, and what I will have to overcome in order to build a fulfilling life.

Time doesn’t have to be sold to the highest bidder.

We willingly hand over the vast majority of our lives in exchange for a steady paycheck. A forty-hour workweek is the accepted norm, and every pay raise just means your time is seen as slightly more valuable than before.

Instead I want to sell my work in exchange for a paycheck and have my time be my own. I want to determine when it’s best for me to allocate my time to work and when it is better spent growing the other areas of my life that are equally as important.

Time shouldn’t take center stage every day of our lives.

Yesterday, as I moved from appointment to meeting to conference call, I realized that my day had passed smoothly without any consideration given to time. It was the end of the day and it felt like it had just begun.

While some days this feeling sparks a sense of overwhelm, in this instance it suddenly felt like I had been so fulfilled that I didn’t need to wish for time to do anything else than just exist.

Passion and a sense that there are so many amazing, fulfilling things to be accomplished makes it completely unnecessary to long for another weekend or a later hour. It is entirely possible for each weekday to be filled with the satisfaction vacation can bring.

Time will pass in exactly the manner it is meant to.

I am neither ahead nor behind, I am exactly where I need to be. That is precisely what this new relationship with time is pushing me to trust.

I have always been a firm believer that life unfolds exactly at the right time in the exact manner it needs to. Therefore, a certain day on the calendar or time on the clock can not indicate to me that I have allocated my time in a way that is anything other than perfect for what I need in my life right now.

Time can just be one small indicator of where I am on this crazy journey I find myself on.

What’s your relationship to time?