By Deanna De Bara
As I approached the last year of my 20s, it looked like I had it all. I had amazing friends. I lived in my dream city, Los Angeles (also known as perpetually 72 and sunny—no winters for me!). I had a high-paying job working for a phenomenal brand, and had recently gotten promoted. I respected the people that I worked for, and they treated me incredibly well.
And yet. Something was off. After taking on my promotion, my life began to fall seriously out of balance. My early morning beach runs and coffee were replaced by conference calls and endless emails. I began to travel, so much that I sometimes forgot what state I was in and where I was supposed to go next. I spent less and less time in my home and my city, and as such saw less and less of the people that I care about. Most weeks, I spent more time in airports than in my apartment. The month of March is a perfect example. March has 31 days—I was home for four of them.
But wasn’t this what I wanted? Weren’t we all supposed to aspire to the impressive title, the expense account, the jetsetting and the fancy dinners? I had spent two years working day in and day out to land this promotion, to land this salary—so why, now that I had it, did I feel like I was going to have a breakdown?
We Millennials have a (unfair) reputation of being lazy and wanting to avoid hard work, but that wasn’t it. I have always been, at heart, a worker bee. It was just that my heart was no longer in the work that I was doing. The traveling, the constant need to be available, the lack of free time, the exhaustion—it was beginning to change me. Where I had once been a patient person, I know found myself screaming choice words at people who cut me off on the highway. Where I had once been a beacon of positivity, I found myself feeling hopeless and dreading getting out of bed in the morning. Where I had once been the kind of person to “stop and smell the roses,” I found myself on autopilot, always rushing to the next meeting, next flight, next obligation—not realizing that days, weeks and months were passing without my even noticing.
It all came to a boiling point about a month ago. I was sitting on the balcony of my gorgeous hotel room that overlooked the water in Honolulu. The sun was rising, and the view was breathtaking. But I couldn’t truly enjoy it. No matter what the scenery, it was just another business trip. One of many. And I had no one to share the view with: I was alone. I realized I hadn’t spent any time with the people that I care about in weeks; I had barely spoken to them. I was in this beautiful city and I had no one to share it with because all I did was work. All I was was work. And in that moment, I knew that was no longer OK with me.
One of my favorite quotes is, “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of someone else’s life with perfection,” and as I sat in that hotel room it was the first thing that came to my mind. I was living a dream, filled with money, trips, security and a 401K. But it wasn’t MY dream. I could feel my inner most self, pushing at the edges of my being, screaming, “Do not let this become your life. Get off this train and be who you really are. Do what you love to do. Before it’s too late.”
That was such a scary prospect. I never considered myself to be a trailblazer, the kind of person to go against the grain. But I knew if I stayed in the corporate world, if I continued on this path of what I was “supposed to be,” there was nothing good on the other side.
So for the first time in my adult life, I took a look at what I truly wanted to do with my life. I asked myself the question, “If money didn’t matter, what would you do?” And the answers surprised me. I realized that I would prefer to be wealthy in time than wealthy in money. I wanted to cultivate the relationships in my life that make me a better person. I wanted to write about things that mattered to me. I wanted to inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to create my own rules, forge my own path and live a life of freedom.
And so I am. In a somewhat crazy and terrifying move, I am leaving a fabulous job in the middle of recession to establish a career as a freelance writer and consultant. I am going to put all that time and energy that I currently spend working/stressing about working to creating something of my own. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I know that as I approach the big 3-0 it would be a grievous mistake to deny myself the opportunity to try to build my own dreams. I owe it to myself to take the chance to be the architect of my own experience and build a life that thoroughly resembles me. Will it work out? I hope so, but there’s no guarantees. All I can do is take a shot, cross my fingers and go chase my (perfectly) imperfect destiny.
Deanna de Bara is an East-Coast transplant enjoying the sunshine and beaches in Santa Monica, Calif. She previously worked in sales and education for a major brand, but has recently taken the leap to working full time as a freelance writer. When she’s not glued to her keyboard, you can find Deanna testing out new healthy dessert recipes, training for her next big race or blogging at DoEpicRuns.com.