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Living and working in London was something that I had never considered before, but then again, I never thought that I would leave Australia to travel around the world by myself at 25 either. I guess I wanted what I thought all young women wanted – to fall in love with their best friend, to raise a family, travel the world together and give back to society. An idealistic view, I know. However, that’s exactly what I received once I started listening to what I really wanted out of my life; rather than pushing my life in the wrong direction as I continued to do what I thought I was supposed to. Breaking free from the environment that I had grown accustomed to, was the very thing that set me free, mentally, physically and spiritually.
The path that I was on before I left home was one of order and expectation; it was predictable and ‘safe’. I went to a good private school, I started working as soon as I could at 14 and 9 months of age, I was a dedicated, hard working employee, I bought my first car and got my drivers license, I went to university straight out of high school and worked as a professional in an architectural practice. I attained a Masters of Architecture degree, and on my graduation day I went back to university and enrolled to continue to my Landscape Architecture degree. On top of all of that, I had been suffering internally in a very unhealthy, negative relationship for years. What I was actually doing, was trying to fill a large void in my life by diverting my attention to my career. I acted as though the path that I was on was what I wanted and what I was supposed to do with my life.
I felt like I had to keep going, keep distracting myself so that I couldn’t stand still long enough to really feel it. I was trapped by my choices and didn’t want to disappoint my family. So, I built a strong façade as an attempt to fool others, and worst of all, myself. I was very good at expressing happiness, helping others and finding a positive in everything. I told myself ‘I had it together, and everything would be okay’, no matter how empty and unfulfilled I felt inside. Although this positive facade possessed numerous benefits and kept me afloat, the benefits were heavily outweighed when equally suppressing pain and negativity to conceal the ugly truth.
I pretended that I was okay with continually being pushed down, under appreciated and disrespected. I became a self-sacrificing people-pleaser who was driven by making others happy, often at my own expense. I rarely gave myself a moment of my own time, afraid that I wouldn’t find what I was looking for. Most of the time, I was drowning in emotional stress trying to live up to personal and social expectations, persistently forcing myself to make these life choices work. I longed to feel accepted and happy in my personal relationships and professional choices, but the false sense of security that these people and choices gave me, is what broke me when I finally let go.
I reached a turning point in my life when everything fell apart. Trying to distract myself from feeling worthless and lost, I reacted with self-destructive behaviour, which made every situation worse and lowered my self-worth faster than ever. It took a lot of reflection and self-evaluation to put my life choices into perspective and realise how unhealthy this constant strain of high expectation really was. I discovered that the sense of security and acceptance that I longed for relied on external sources and was manipulated by a false representation of what life should be like.
I desperately needed to leave the unhealthy environment that I had constructed to find my true self, a new perspective and experience the beauty of the unknown. So, I set out on my own for what I thought would be eight months travelling around the world, experiencing diverse cultures, cuisines, languages and climates. During that time, I put myself into situations that I never would have been able to comprehend or learn about through the conventional education system back home. As a result, my real life education was immensely heightened in a practical sense without the traditional ideology of teachers, bosses or structure that make up our schooling and work life. It was like being reborn and given a chance to start again with a clean slate and see life in a new light.
The invaluable insight that I gained into people, places, culture and various environments in which we are conditioned to helped me gain the new perspective that I needed. I saw and did so much more than I ever thought I would achieve in my lifetime; a world full of beauty was laid out before me. I met and became engaged to the love of my life, my husband, Halmat (the most handsome, compassionate and generous man in the world) and I couldn’t be happier; not only because of the love and support that I have found in the people who I now surround myself with, but because of the newfound love and strength that I have found in myself. Applying these experiences to my life as I step forward with my mind in a healthy place, I now believe that I can reach my potential and be the person that I was always meant to be.
It was only when I slowed down and sought after internal acceptance and gratitude for the blessed life that I have been given, that the whole world opened up to me. Life became clearer and fresher; and the world, a whole lot bigger. I received the love and grace that surrounds us all everyday because I was ready to feel it and let it into my life. I was ready to learn to love, forgive and accept myself. I realised the true value of life and understood more deeply the privileged life I had lead. We are all so valuable and deserve all of the love, peace and joy in the world, however, it must start within ourselves.
There is no straight line or path in life
- We are all unique individuals with different skills, talents, interests and dreams so don’t expect to fit inside a box or follow a path that feels expected of you.
- Take time out from your daily routine or activities to slow down, allow yourself to breathe and think more clearly through your circumstances and what you want out of life.
- Experiment and explore alternate options in life by trying new things.
- Take small steps toward what feels right for you and follow your heart.
- Introduce small changes into your life so that you can cope better with big changes.
- Rely on your own judgment and trust yourself rather than relying on others opinions or approval.
- Find your joy rather than fitting into someone else’s, purely to feel accepted or loved. True love and friendship accepts and appreciates your qualities, wanting joy for your path too, whatever that may be.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes as it is okay and very normal to be wrong or make unfavourable choices. All that matters is that you learn from them.
- Expecting or seeking perfection is subjective, unrealistic and harmful to yourself and those around you. So, be more lenient and flexible with your expectations as the emotions inflicted on yourself and others are more important than being right or achieving ‘perfection’. Learn to be more accepting of the varying levels of capacity that each person possesses.
- Set realistic goals and only do what you have the capacity for, accepting and appreciating even small successes in life.
- It is better to be honest with others and yourself about how you feel as hiding your true self and emotions inevitably prolongs unnecessary suffering.
- Accept and be true to yourself not allowing others words to affect you, knowing that their opinions and judgments can’t harm you unless you let them.
- Accept others for their unique qualities, never judging or harming them, for you too possess an equal uniqueness. They have feelings, pasts, troubles and aspirations just as you do.
- Be open minded and willing to learn from others, for they offer invaluable insight through their experiences, just as you do from yours. Sharing stories and learning to understand each other is a strong form of life education.