When I was hired at my first post-college job, I was so elated to have been given the opportunity. I felt so lucky and undeserving and went forward with the idea that I had to prove myself to them. That I had to make it worthwhile for them to have hired me. The idea that my natural talents, work ethic, or skills could be an asset to them was beyond my comprehension. I became a workaholic.
I ate, slept, and breathed this job. I volunteered for everything. I said no to nothing. And I adopted those same tendencies into all of my relationships and I turned my personal life into a second full-time job.
Four years later, I suddenly realized that I was in a toxic relationship – with my job, with my boyfriend, with some of who I considered to be my closest friends. They were all taking things from me and giving nothing in return.
Granted, they only took the things that I freely offered – my time, my money, my sanity, my self-worth. But with no reciprocation, these relationships had manipulative intentions and I had convinced myself so thoroughly that I had to prove my worth to them, that it took four years just to begin the process of acknowledging the fact that I had needs.
I very distinctly remember the moment I knew I needed to end my relationship. A big, traumatic, blame-filled fight that I swept under the rug for another 3 months before building the courage to end it. From there, they fell like dominoes. Boyfriend – work – friendships. I made plans to quit my job with no other employment lined up. After my two week group vacation in Malawi to visit our mutual friend, Russ, I knew I couldn’t go back to the life I had before he kissed me and I quickly planned to spend another month there together before returning to America unemployed.
My unhealthy relationships were dissolving. I was making the conscious choice to end them and pursue a factor of the unknown that I had never experienced before. After returning from Africa with the man that is now my almost-husband, I was the strongest, happiest, and most confident I had ever been. And from my newfound elation with life, some friends started questioning my decisions, my direction, the stability of this “happiness” and took it as an excuse to exit.
My conscious effort to break free from unhealthy ties continued for nearly two years and included a therapist, Co-dependents anonymous meetings, a reiki master, a Service Dog certification for Piper, an acupuncturist, and the most understanding partner of all time (Mr. Rathroy, of course). As the process continued, the people in my life that weren’t interested in my personal growth disappeared. Mostly, they removed themselves though some went with more of a struggle – a last ditch effort to hold me in their own misery.
It’s empowering to look back and realize the magnitude of the positive changes that I created in my own life. For so long, the harder I tried to keep unhealthy habits and relationships together, the faster my life slipped out of my control – like sand through your fingertips when you squeeze into a fist. I had to face my own demons, acknowledge my own choices, and accept that the pursuit of true happiness is a lifelong process. In the end, it’s obvious to see the common thread in my various transformative steps – Russ had a hand in each one. From a vacation in Malawi to his unceasing daily support in my struggles, he has reminded me of my own courage and made the demons so much easier to face.
I lucked out big time with Mr. Rathroy, but I also know that I was ready and able to make those changes alone. It’s amazing how a shift toward positive thinking can bring spectacular things into your life. And that if you just trust yourself, your true support network will be there with you along the way, lead by your own love for yourself.
In the end, I want to know that I worked for the good life that I lead.
“I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”