4 minute read
: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
: harmony in personal relations
Turning 30 wasn't a magical moment for me. I was out with 4 friends down the Jersey Shore completing an Amazing Escape Room challenge when the clock struck midnight.
I didn't feel any older, wiser, or more womanly. I was just me, Ashley. Still. I hadn't paid off my student loans. I wasn't married. I hadn't had any children. I hadn't finished paying off my car. I didn't own my own home.
There were many milestones I hadn't reached just yet. In the moment, it didn't bother me but as the year marched on, it did. I saw my friends rising through the ranks, persevering in jobs they hated to become top-ranking employees. Lawyers. HR administration. Producers. So, I started pushing myself. Hard. Success hadn't shown itself to me in the form of debt freedom or home ownership or starting a family but I could find it at work, couldn't I?
That was the one area of my life I felt I could most immediately control. So, I threw myself all up and into it. I volunteered for more than I could shoulder. I made myself available around the clock, often getting phone calls in the wee hours of the morning. I hopped on planes here, there, and everywhere to show I was dependable, diligent, and down for the cause.
I worked, honey.
Work was what I could find solace in at 30 years old. Work was what made me really feel like I had grabbed a hold of this adulting thing. It made me feel like I was one of the ones who had done something worthwhile.
I worked and worked around the clock. The one thing I thought about most was work. Did I do this effectively? Are we going to get that grant? I have to keep my phone on just in case... I hope that newsletter came out alright...
What I didn't recognize is that when you allow your entire life to be engulfed by others' agendas, there is nothing keeping everyone else from using your life in the exact same way. So, it became expected that I would do the most for the least. It was expected that I would disregard all else for the sake of work. And that expectation started to kill me.
I was 30 years old and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. My weight dropped. I wasn't sleeping well. I had abandoned all else for the sake of trying to show up in the world as accomplished in the shallowest sense. I was holding back tears on the train ride to work every day and counting the minutes until I was home again.
What really did it was the weekend I chose to work over attending my cousin's funeral.
Yeah, you read that correctly.
I went to work and I don't even remember how I rationalized it in my head but it was a low point for me. As someone to whom family is a top priority, I don't know when I'll forgive myself for that extremely poor choice but I do believe it was also a wakeup call.
During the weeks that followed, I had some time off from work. I went to visit a friend in DC to get away for a weekend and clear my head. I journaled and prayed a lot more than I had made time to do in the past few months. All I kept thinking was, "Do you want a life or a job?"
It wasn't so much that I was choosing between income and living my life, it was the question of what I valued more. Sure, I could continue to run myself into the ground at a job that I was no longer passionate about or I could step out on faith and believe that there was something wonderful waiting for me beyond that immediately tangible occupation.
So, at 30 years old I was presented with the opportunity to leave the job I had taken so much pride in having to start new on my own as an entrepreneur of sorts. At 30 years old, according to my old way of thinking - I had set myself back yet on the road to being "successful."
And I was ok with that.
I was ok with it because I could breathe. My jaw wasn't perpetually clenched. I didn't wake in the morning grabbing my phone, afraid I had missed a call or a text from my supervisor. I wasn't missing family members' birthdays. I could sleep through the night without fear.
I know that in this life there are mountains and valleys we will have to champion if we want to grow and get to all the wonderful next levels that await us. I also know that the God who created us for purposes higher and grander than our finite minds can comprehend did not create us to suffer in silence for the sake of reaching shallowly crafted levels of man-made success.
I couldn't prosper in all things or be in good health, because my soul was not prospering and it took a lot to revive it.
I'm 30 and I don't have it all figured out but there are some things I know for absolute sure:
- There is nothing like having absolute peace.
- There is nothing like defining success on your own terms.
- There is nothing like walking away from anything that tears away at your ability to look at yourself straight on in the mirror.
- There is nothing like rejecting society's and advertising's timestamps and markers.
If I learned nothing else this year, I learned that my peace is the greatest success I could have asked for and one of the greatest treasures, for which I'll spend the rest of my life giving thanks.