“Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” ~Walter Anderson
After high school I moved to the northern tip of Vancouver Island to live with my aunt and uncle and work at their fishing resort. It was a busy tourist destination at the time. Every summer the town filled with young people, home from university and eager to earn money.
I loved my time up there. I met many interesting, colorful people from around the world who came to fish, whale watch, kayak, or merely experience the exquisite natural beauty this area has to offer.
My aunt and uncle were incredible mentors, and I developed a strong work ethic from my time with them. I normally juggled three to four jobs, so most of my waking time was spent working in the service industry.
I stayed there for a couple of winters and went to the community college, while also working at my various jobs. I worked hard to save up money to do a bit of traveling and to go toward my education.
I went on an amazing adventure to Australia and New Zealand with my best friend from childhood. Afterward, I returned to my life with my aunt and uncle to work and save more money to go to school in the city, which was closer to where I was from.
During that time I met a young man who had grown up in this small town. He had a nice family and was a good person, and for the sake of this story, we’ll call him Bill.
While I was working and busy, my life was very unbalanced and there was no time for a social life (outside of traveling). I enjoyed having Bill in my life for companionship and to have some resemblance of a social life that most nineteen-year-olds surround themselves with.
Naturally, my aunt and uncle weren’t pleased about my relationship with Bill. While I didn’t see it at all at the time, I realize now that they saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. I had big dreams for my life and spent hours talking to my aunt about travel, education, and plans for my future.
Bill didn’t have these same aspirations for his life. His looked much different than mine. By different, I don’t me better or worse; we just didn’t have the same passions or much in common other than where we lived at the time.
Nevertheless, Bill and I were convinced it was a good idea for him to move and go to school with me, even though he was most comfortable and happy where he was.
During this time together, it became clear to me, and him too I’m sure, that we weren’t actually a great fit and didn’t really bring out the best things in each other. However, we were young and didn’t have a lot else to compare our relationship to. We had become a security blanket to each other during this transitional time of life.
We separated for a short time and instead of parting ways, which would have been the most natural and reasonable thing to do, we got back together and got engaged!
Looking back, I so clearly see how lost and stuck I was. My inner voice was screaming at me to take chances, be bold, and chase my dreams, but my lack of confidence and fear of pretty much everything made it so much easier to play it safe with Bill.
By safe I don’t mean comfortable and content. I mean it was a good distraction and reason to not be true to who I was.
I was so stuck and suffocated by my fear of being seen and dreaming big that it was much easier to put my blinders on and hide away with someone who didn’t at all want the same things that I truly did.
I remember our wedding day so clearly. I was twenty-three at the time, and the overwhelming sense of fear and dread was paralyzing, I felt like a fraud in my own life. I was in tears and couldn’t articulate my feelings of regret to my bridesmaids and grandfather, all eager to walk me down to Bill.
We chalked it up to nerves, and once again I stuffed down my inner voice that was screaming to me to wake up. Besides, at the time I would have never in a million years risked disappointing the people who had come that day to wish us well, even though I knew in my heart it was not right.
I was so lost that I didn’t want to admit my mistake to myself or to wake up and begin living the life I yearned to live. I am pretty sure I may have carried on unhappily and lost forever after.
I was so deep in the muck of denial that I don’t know if I ever would have made the brave choice to let Bill know we had made a mistake.
Instead, we stayed together, he living on one end of the island working, me on the other going to university. After a year of this, it was Bill who mustered up the courage to admit we weren’t a good fit and that he didn’t want the same things I did.
I’m sure there were many people waiting to see me crumble after being ‘dumped’ by Bill. I was just so relieved that I couldn’t bear to spend time giving thought to anything other than the fact I felt like I could breathe again.
While it did take a bit of time to get on my feet and back onto my path, I was finally starting to listen and honor my inner voice.
I made a pact with myself to start trusting myself and begin doing things that were uncomfortable and out of my reach to stretch and grow. I didn’t ever want to return to that place where I allowed myself to lose faith in myself.
I use this failed relationship story as an example because it had a huge impact on my life and learning. For me, the lesson isn’t just about what a happy, healthy relationship looks like vs. an unhappy, unhealthy relationship.
It’s so much more about the importance of allowing our inner voice to be heard and honored, not just in relationships but in everything we do in life.
Trusting myself has been a huge life lesson and one I continue to practice and learn from.
Life looks different for me now. I have been very happily married for eight years and am on the path that feels right and natural. We bring out the best in each other and are supportive of each other’s hopes and dreams. I now listen and give my inner voice the respect it deserves.
Of course, life still presents challenges, but when I find myself feeling unsettled or staying in the place of self-doubt for longer than necessary, I do what I can to get clear and be honest with myself, instead of hiding or stuffing away my true feelings.
Writing is an excellent tool that I use to help me gain clarity in situations, or when I need to make big decisions. I also find it helpful to go for a run or exercise to clear busy thoughts and create the necessary space to be able to tap into what feels right.
I believe that when we allow ourselves to find the space to hear our own truth, more often than not our inner self will have the answers and wisdom that will steer us in the direction we most need at the time.
Photo by Graeme Law