If you know me, you know that I'm probably the worst person who could possibly write an article about balance. I'm not talking about balancing on one leg; in fact, most of you know me for that kind of balancing. I'm talking about life balance.
Last year, shortly after I left community college in pursuit of my next degree, I had a mental crisis. The Universe had pointed me in the direction of a school that I never expected to attend, and into a program I never expected to begin (let alone financially endure).
I'm a psychology major with the life goal to become a clinical psychologist, so as I approached the end of my pursuit for what felt like a never-ending yearning for my Associate's degree in Psychology, I expected to take out loans and embark on the grand undergraduate journey. As I stacked these noble plans and anticipated their prompt unfolding, the Universe was conspiring to lead me towards different plans.
In the “in-between” moments of finding a local school I would attend, figuring out how to pay for it, and how to keep my own mental health in check so I could help others with theirs - I was breaking. I was experiencing, for the first time, a loss of control on my future. Depression crept back into my life.
I became increasingly withdrawn, isolated, and everything I typically enjoyed became a chore. Getting out of bed was hard because I would lay there and have anxiety for the future. This anxiety caused me to be mentally absent from enjoying my present - something I used to cherish.
I tend to have two settings. I either work seven days per week, fire through tasks like a cakewalk and push myself to the limit. Or, I run. In my depression and anxiety towards all the things I couldn’t control, I took to the latter option.
I quietly booked myself a plane ticket to Colorado with the intent to escape from my thoughts and explore the mountains. I put my California dream on hold and gave myself permission to escape freely with no reservations for anyone but the forest. I stayed with a good friend there and we spent our days doing yoga and exploring outdoors. For once, I was doing something just for me.
Although this trip was a “drop everything and run” moment coming to surface, it also taught me the importance of giving into those moments for your own sanity. When I returned from my trip, however, I did not feel like I was done “running.” My constant pushing, working and being in school full time through community college, and pushing my body (often beyond its limits) mentally and physically, caused me to take more time to be wild.
I came back to California and quietly hiked 27 county parks in 27 days. I broke up with my incredible boyfriend of four years because I thought that everything OUTSIDE of me was wrong. I considered not going into a university at all, because “maybe an Associate's degree is enough,” and “you can't handle it anyways.” The negative self-talk filled my mind and I went from being sad and isolated to wild and isolated outdoors. I loved it. For a while, at least.
I look back now and consider what made me get to the point of feeling so broken inside. It wasn't just uncertainty for my future. It was pushing myself beyond my mental and physical capacity on a daily basis until it hurt to do anything with anyone. It was holding all of my emotions inside until they bubbled over. I learned the importance of balance.
“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.” - Robert Tew
At that point in my life, what wasn't serving me were my thoughts. Give yourself permission to let go of the negative self talk that you know deep down does not represent the intelligent, valid, and amazing human being that you are.
Today, it's a minimum wage job for me. After months of being unhappy, tomorrow is the day I respect myself enough to walk away, and trust the Universe to provide something greater. Here are 3 steps I have noted down for myself.
Balance means keeping yourself challenged but not too much that you sacrifice your mental health. Balance means taking trips to escape, but not for too long. The most important thing that I learned from the time I spent running is not to make your reality a place that you feel the need to run from it.
Now for the incredible truth about trust. When I began to firmly root myself back into reality, get back into the swing of my life, and apologized to the fabulous boyfriend (who lovingly understood), I let go of expectations and silently tossed them to the Universe. I practiced non-attachment as a means to freedom instead of physically running away from problems.
Breathe. You are exactly where you need to be. Trust that the Universe will provide opportunities for you if you earnestly seek them, but do not get too attached to any one point. True freedom is not within the spaces of being physically withdrawn from the rest of society. True freedom can be found within the mental spaces you create by learning to be comfortable in the unknown and enjoying the present as is.
When I let go and learned to find freedom in the great and uncontrollable beyond, everything fell into place. I'm in college now. I'm in a program that I did not plan, but four months into it and I know it is incredible. I got my Registered Drug and Alcohol Technician certificate and I'm on my way to become a drug and alcohol counselor.
My plan for now is to head into an undergraduate Bachelor's program but life has taught me enough to understand that I am strong and I will do everything in my power to realize those dreams - even if it means taking out loans. You only get one life and one calling.
Trust that you are where you need to be, and let go with abandon because you're worth it. Most importantly, find what you love and do that.
The Universe has this funny way of throwing us in the deep end of life - sometimes with no life jacket and on a rocky boat with a massive hole. Your job is to paddle like hell and use your rusty bucket to throw the water out at your own pace. Some days, you’ll do great and some days would be underwhelming. Eventually, you’ll reach the golden shores you’ve ever dreamed about.
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