I've always heard that your 20's were to be spent finding yourself. Finding who you truly are, what you're made of, and what you're going to spend this rest of this chaotic thing called life doing. Not long after my 20th birthday, I thought I had it all figured out. I was in school chasing after a degree and counting down the days until I could graduate and get married. See, I wanted the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and the dog named Buddy. I wanted every cliche thing that this world had to offer me, but it wasn't because it actually made me happy. I wanted all those things because I thought it was what I was supposed to want. I thought I needed to be married by 23 and have a kid by 25 to be looked at as having my life together. I longed for adventure, while I let the world tell me that all I needed was normalcy. It wasn't until I hit the dramatic crossroad in my life caused me an unfaithful boyfriend that I really discovered what I wanted. I wanted to live in a reckless abandonment to whatever things life threw at me.
Once my mediocre relationship ending, so did my mediocre life. Once I started living my days chasing after everything that I thought I shouldn't want, that's when I found myself. It sounds cliche, but let me tell you, cliches are cliche for a reason. And that reason is because no matter what, they always show the truth. See, while in my relationship, the future and stability was all I could focus on. I began to rush. I dreamed of diamond rings and walking down the aisle, baby names and nursery colors, being a wife and mom. I dreamed of everything a girl is trained to dream of from the time she takes her first step. I wanted to be the woman the world thought I should be. Problem is, the world wanted me to want the American Dream. Sorry world, but from where I'm standing, the American Dream seems more like a prison cell.
Instead of living and breathing my relationship and everything that came with it, I started thinking about myself. I started thinking of every terrifying aspect of life that my heart actually desired. My first thing was friends. I had always had a few somewhat-friends. You know, those friends who you talk to at school or text from time to time but never really get below the surface area. Those friends weren't enough for me and the universe heard me out. Out of nowhere, the world placed two incredibly wonderful girls in my life that would guide me on my new journey. These were two girls that I ran to crying when the truth about being cheated on hit me, or when the possibilities of life got too overwhelming, two girls that helped me discover my self-worth and in turn, my true self. These two girls came at a perfect time. A time where everything was changing for me, a time where I needed more support than ever. These girls delivered everything I needed and then some. In two previous stranger, I found two life-long friends. I felt better knowing one part of my life had already improved drastically.
The next element of my life was the most terrifying. I knew I was pursuing the right career, I just didn't know where that would now take me. See, when you date someone, long-term, of course, you start to think of how your lives will collide. For me, that meant moving to a small town that I wasn't even slightly interested in. But hey, that's what the American Dream called for. Well, when I stopped answering that call, I had a choice to make. A choice all my own, for once. Once I started to really think about what forever would look like on my terms, I starting realizing that town would never make me happy and neither would my home state. I realized that the dreams and opportunities that always seemed too dramatic and far fetched, were now sitting right in my lap. I decided to stop pursuing a life in the deep south and start thinking beyond the borders. Thailand. Europe. Australia. Basically any country or place I could imagine had a spot with my name on it, and honestly, that was just as terrifying as it was exciting. But terrifying felt good, it felt free. For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel suffocated by ideas of settling for what everyone thought I wanted. The rest of my life was a complete question mark and that too was a huge improvement.
The most important part of my discovery was to discover who I actually was and not who my community wanted me to be. See, for as long as I can remember I've been a pageant queen, farmer's daughter, back-pew in a baptist church, deep south girl. That was until I had the chance to figure out who I was for myself. I found that I wasn't as cliche southern as I thought and that I actually longed for adventure outside the states. I found that I would be better described as intelligent, ambitious, and above all fearless. I had the entire world at my fingertips and if I had to drop every label I had previously embodied, then that was okay with me. I was able to take some time to myself and figure out who I was and more importantly, who I wasn't and didn't want to be.
I will say this, for some people the American Dream is more than enough. I believe that everyone is wired differently. I believe that everyone is set to take on a different version of life. If not, then there would be no diversity or interesting aspects to this life. I believe that everyone must go through a heart-wrenching transition period to figure out which side of the picket fence they're on and if they want to stay on that side. For me, it took losing everything I had ever known to figure out I was standing on the wrong side of the fence. The transition to the other side of the fence, and life, hasn't been easy and I don't suspect it ever will be; life is meant to be uncomfortable. What I do suspect, is that the discomfort I will experience in life will be the right kind. The kind that will make me smile, dream, and laugh. The kind that will assure my ever beating heart that yes, this is where I belong. I was never and never will be white picket fence perfect.