Five years ago, I was where I am now, but in a hellish version of it. I had a job I loved, but was being paid shit. I had a boyfriend I loved, but he was abusing me. I had friends I adored, but deep down, I felt empty and unloved. I was in graduate school and trying to start my own company, but was spinning my wheels.
Eventually, everything failed. I was let go from the job, my abuser showed his true colors, my “friends” betrayed me, and as the despair set in atop my chronic depression, I had to drop out of school and put my dreams of entrepreneurship on hold.
I desperately wanted a do-over.
The thing was, I’d felt this way before, and its inevitability terrified me. I felt suicidal, feeling like I couldn’t escape my cruel existence, of which déjà vu was the theme.
A few years before, I’d been in the same hellish place. Again, it seemed good on the surface. I had a job — I didn’t love it, but at least I had one, and a boyfriend, who was a complete narcissist if not a sociopath. I had a huge friend group, but they were superficial and toxic. I was in college and trying to rock it, but was endlessly distracted by the drama and my ever-worsening mental health issues.
I had a do-over — or so I thought. I moved to a new city and cut ties to toxic people. I was celibate for awhile. I focused on building my portfolio and searching for a good job. I imagined that the simple act of starting over would bring me happiness and fulfillment.
I was wrong.
I fell into familiar patterns: being a doormat for manipulative “friends,” getting into relationships with fixer-upper men, and prioritizing other people’s dreams over my own. I was eventually so lost that I once again dumped every part of my life. Déjà vu.
I despaired. I left parts of myself to rot. I avoided any search for new friends or lovers, any reckoning with my own qualms, any quest for meaning.
I wish I could say that when I stopped searching is when happiness found me, or the other way around, as the saying goes. But that’s not how it was. I continued to crumble as my hopes shriveled.
It was one friend — who I assumed, in my impressive self-doubt, didn’t care much for me — who gave me that proverbial shimmer of hope. She let me know she saw potential in me…and because she had nothing to gain from little ol’ me, I believed her.
I started to crawl back toward the edge of the hole I’d dumped myself in.
Could it be? Could I have a do-over?
Now. I have a job I love, with not only fair pay and benefits, but a sense of purpose. I have someone, beyond a boyfriend or husband, a partner. I have friends I adore who lift me up, even when my depression strikes. I got back into graduate school and succeeded this time, and I launched my own company.
I turned my life around not by stripping myself down, but by examining my wounds. Not by ripping out the old, but by acknowledging and learning from the past. Not by adopting a bunch of new things, but by rediscovering the things I had always loved.
A do-over is just that…when you get Life’s “game over” message, you’re not actually out of the game. Rather than jumping to the next arcade machine, it might work best to shake yourself off, think about what you did wrong, and try, try again.
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