I was told throughout my entire life that “God never gives us more than we can handle.” With everything that happened to me; the open heart surgery, having to give up drinking and change everything in my life, failing businesses, and getting my heart destroyed, I was still standing there, but it was getting exhausting; continually picking myself back up and fighting through another day.
I am sure I was having the thoughts that a lot of people have on a daily basis…”When is it going to get easier and when was the next time I was going to be pushed to the ground? Was I going to have the strength to pick myself up again, dust myself off and continue to fight?” I didn’t know. Trying to remain strong through all these trials and tribulations was killing me inside.
I needed to adjust my overall vision about life and what would actually make me happy. Growing up in the USA and in the world in general, programs your brain to think that your life’s path needs to go a certain way and only that path will bring you happiness. The illusion that I was raised with and I think most people are taught is go to high school, go to college, get a good job out of college, get a high paying job, find a spouse, get a house, have kids, and all of these things are what you are supposed to do in society to play by the rules and find happiness. There is a problem with that though; I do not see many people that are happy with that life.
Sure, when you meet someone there is that fresh love, romance, passion and hormones that come with meeting someone new and finding out who they are, but can that last for a life time? I know that for some people this life has made them happy but for a majority, this choice in life has led to a loss of passion and the inability to follow their own dreams.
About 50% of marriages end in divorce, so obviously the union between 2 people forever is a coin flip on if it will work or not. While you are figuring out if you truly want to remain with this person for the rest of your life, most couples have a child as that is what society says you are supposed to do. For the 18 years, the task of raising a child and financially supporting the family puts strain on the relationship and many couples do not make it through this. Then, the ones that do seemed relieved when the kids finally go to college so they can start living their lives again…normally over the age of 50.
Others that had been “staying together for the kids” can finally stop faking their loveless marriage and go their separate ways. PS you are not fooling the kids, they know that you are not happy and it will affect their decisions on all their future relationships. There is a problem though; starting to try to date or start a new relationship in the twilight of your life is a daunting task. I always remember the scene from Before Sunset when Jesse and Celine are talking in the taxi about how their lives were not what they wanted them to be. “I just… I don’t wanna be one of those people who are…getting divorced at 52, and falling down into tears, admitting that they never really loved their spouse, and they feel that their life has been… sucked up into a vacuum cleaner…But we’re just living in a pretense of a marriage responsibility, and all this…just..ideas of how people are supposed to live.”
I needed to finally internalize the fact that this life which had been presented to me by society was not my utopia and that it was time to refocus realize that finding my happiness was in my own hands. It was time to redefine success and what constituted achieving success to me. I had spent my entire life trying to live the life that everyone told me to live instead of the life that I wanted to live. What was it that filled my life with passion? What was it that stimulated my mind and heart?
Each day was a process to allow myself to grasp and internalize that I was not going to get married and I was not going to have kids. This was hard because as humans, we crave companionship, and have the need to be with someone else, if only for sex. But as the days went on, letting this go allowed me to start enjoying life more.
When you are thinking about your future and making sure that you are on the right career path to be able to have and support a family, your decisions are not made from your heart and what sparks your passion. There are those around the world that wanted their lives to be different and had such high hopes of following their true dreams growing up, but as the reality of financial responsibility and the costs of family set in, those dreams are pushed aside and in many cases forgotten. I had been given a second chance at life and I wanted to start finally living for myself. Not my parents. Not my friends. Not society. Just me.
As I assessed my life, the things that I most enjoyed were writing, teaching, marketing and creating things both tangible and in cyberspace. I began to refocus on these items in my life in hopes to try to let go of my anger and find internal peace. Filling my life with these things that brought me passion was the only way to start taking steps in my life to find my own destiny.
The newspaper had been a kind of pastime which was fun to play with and see how many people I could bring to the site each day. I had already surpassed the other online media I had worked for in a matter of about 6 months, but I wanted to learn as much as I could about social media, sites like Reddit, SEO, and whatever other knowledge I could digest. It was fun learning all the information, applying it in real life and seeing the results.
This also gave me the chance to write on a daily basis. Any frustrating occurrences in Costa Rica that had happened to me that day could be expressed and published. It was both cathartic and started giving the online newspaper a reputation as a source that spoke the truth and in many cases pissed people off. But many others were going through the same experiences as I was so it connected on a personal level. The number of daily readership kept growing each day.
Although the newspaper felt like my child having to nurture and tend to it each day, I could not let my personal connection to it affect me when people would comment on articles. That is one thing you have to remember, you are not going to please everyone with opinion pieces. Someone is always going to disagree with you and those are normally the people that will comment. They are not attacking you; they just disagree with what you are saying. It was an incredible feeling seeing something that I had created grow and have such enormous reach in a short period of time.
While continuing the newspaper, I picked up other jobs that I could fit in my schedule and that I enjoyed. I still needed to pay the bills and the newspaper was more of a pastime than something that generated capital.
I started marketing for a shipping company, began dental tourism marketing, began tutoring English on the side, and pieced together an SEO team. All of these employment opportunities I could do at home and most importantly, I enjoyed them. I was not getting up in the morning dreading the day of doing sales calls or having to go to work at an office, I was my own boss with the ability to do my job where and when I wanted.
It was about being happy with what I had and not what I thought I needed. I had a roof over my head. I had food in my stomach. I enjoyed my work each day and it was bringing in enough money to pay the bills. I no longer had the monkey on my back of thinking about having enough money to support a child or get married. I had freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. As I heard old friends and new friends talk about the problems they had in their lives, I knew I had made the right decision to start following my own path and my own dreams.
Going through the open heart surgery and the fight of recovery had shown me that life really can end at any moment. Why waste moments not doing what you love or staying in a relationship that does not make you happy?
Next Up - Putting the Pieces Together