I grew up in a small town, and I was known for being smart and high-achieving.

I was in band and choir. I took AP classes and then college classes concurrently. I graduated salutatorian of my class and received a full scholarship to a regional university.

As an undergraduate, I was in a sorority and countless other student organizations. I held offices in almost every group I joined. I was a go-getter. I graduated with honors receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English Education.

None of this is to brag at all. This is all to say that, from a young age, the expectations I put on myself were high. I knew that I would get my master's degree one day, because, after all, why couldn't I?

At the beginning of my third year of teaching, I felt confident enough in my ability to juggle both work and school. I found a sweet scholarship for an all-online program for "Leadership in Education," and I couldn't wait to get started.

I was not bad at grad school; please don't misunderstand. As someone who studied English in college, researching and writing was not even remotely a problem for me. What was getting me was motivation.

Every single week, it was a challenge for me to even get myself to log on to the student portal, even if it was as simple as an opinion post. At about the third-of-the-way mark, I realized that something was wrong. I was coming home from work and dreading doing grad school work so much that I would sleep to avoid it.

This was resulting in sleeping 14-plus hours a day. I allowed myself to lie to myself and my loved ones about just being worn out from school for a few weeks, but then I had to own up to the fact that I was experiencing severe symptoms of depression.

I finally worked up the courage to admit to myself that school wasn't making me happy.

No, that's putting it lightly.

Sometimes school work in my undergraduate years made me unhappy. Grad school was making me miserable.

I asked myself, "Why did you start grad school in the first place?" The only answer I could come up with was that I wanted a master's degree just to say I had a master's degree.

Was I really getting a master’s degree because it felt like that was just what I was supposed to do? I decided that just didn't feel like a good enough reason for me.

It took me a while to work up the courage to do it.

For a solid week before I actually sent the email to ask my adviser to the start the process, I just didn't log on to the student portal at all. I did, however, write a lot that week. I blogged, I worked on fiction projects, and I published a few articles.

At the end of the week, I realized I was happier than I had been in months. Even though I had the weight of the decision to be a "quitter" or not hanging over my head, I honestly had gotten out of bed happy and ready to work every day that week. On Friday, I finally pulled up that email and clicked "send," and I've never looked back.

I've learned in life, you cannot make decisions based on expectations, and I mean both others' expectations and those you've always held for yourself. We have to be brave enough to choose what is best for us and what will make us happiest.

To hell with all the people I was trying to impress; I'm happy now.