I was standing by the bathroom sink, washing my face and as I looked up in the mirror, I started to cry.
Nothing particularly bad or negative happened to me that day. I just found myself feeling incredibly lost.
This is something that I’ve been going through and struggling with over the last couple of years. To the point where I feel tired of bringing it up- both in my personal life and on this blog. Serioulsy, I am so over it.
On the outside, my life is a dream. It is a life for which I feel incredibly grateful, every single day. I have an amazing, true saint of a life-partner, wonderful family and support system, a dog who’s been by my side since college and who probably understands me better than some of my friends, a beautiful house, I work with great people. And yet, there is this internal struggle that takes place in my head on most days.
As a child, I got sick a lot. I remember once waking up in a hospital bed in the middle of the night, hearing someone scream in the room across the hall, not knowing where I am, feeling lost and scared. This is kind of what I’ve been feeling these last few years.
I never really had a “plan” for myself…
For most of my life, I kind of just went with my gut and hoped for the best. Things, or my life I should say, turned out great. The right people, events and places just always somehow found their way into my life. Then, a small injury turned into a bigger issue, which turned into living with pain, which then turned into a battle with chronic stress, that (oh, you thought I was done?) turned into more serious health issues. All of that combined led me to feel not only scared, but also like I’m slowly losing the person I once was- and, after a very long time, it was finally a person I loved and felt proud of. I found myself feeling like a different person. Her… I wasn’t so sure how I felt about her. No longer a health-nut who at any time could be found either working, exercising, cleaning or going out for a run, always doing something productive and exciting.
See, even though I never really had a plan, I did know what I wanted out of life- and I was getting it all. Then, I felt like someone had pulled the rug from under me. Time and time again. I felt like I was losing control.
When you feel lost in life, despite it being something that we all go through at some point, not everyone will understand. “Why do you feel this way, why are you upset? Your life is great!” Well, yes, I don’t deny that whenever I hear my friends or family say it. The thing is, sometimes our biggest struggles happen deep inside- in a place invisible to others.
If this is something you’re going through- don’t give up, because I’m not planning on giving up either. Be gentle with yourself. That’s what I keep telling myself. It was easy at first, but the longer this “feeling lost” lasts, the more impatient you become with yourself. The important thing is that you keep trying, and remember some of these things:
7 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU FEEL LOST
YOU ARE NOT BEHIND IN LIFE
There isn’t some invisible or “unofficial” timeline by which your life has to move. You don’t have to go to college right after graduating High School, you don’t have to go at all. You don’t have to get married by the time you’re 25 and have a house and a family by the time you’re 35. I got married at 23 and six years later, the thought of starting a family hasn’t crossed my mind and I don’t know if it ever will. Yet other people still feel obligated to point out my or my husband’s age and stress the importance of producing an offspring at every family function, making me feel like I’m doing something wrong, or like I’m less of a woman because of our current child-free status.
If you’re nearing 25, or 30 and you still don’t know what you want to do for a living, which path to take- you are not behind in life. You are not behind in life if you haven’t yet found “the one” (there can always be “another one” so who cares?) This made up schedule, this invisible timeline is just that- it’s all made up, it’s not real. Despite what the people around you might think or say you really don’t have to do anything. You can’t beat yourself up over feeling “behind” on anything in life, because you’re not behind. Your life is different from mine and it’s okay for us, all of us, to follow different paths. Doing things differently is not doing things “backward” and it’s not falling behind.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME
Sometimes, when life throws you a curveball, all you want to do is for things to go back to “normal.” You want it to happen now. Unfortunately, that takes time. Whether you’re dealing with loss, an injury, a heartbreak or any other personal challenge, you have to give yourself time. This can be difficult because, as we just established, we often feel like we have to follow “the plan” and falling behind usually isn’t a part of one. You don’t have to try to force yourself to get better, to feel happy. Give yourself time to heal.
IT’S OKAY TO BE “NOT OKAY”
Feeling lost doesn’t mean that you’re weak. Allow yourself to feel negative emotions that suddenly come over you, allow yourself to fall apart and maybe even ugly-cry a little. Don’t look at it as a weakness. You can’t shove those feelings somewhere deep inside and hope for the best.
The more you resist those “bad” feelings, the more power they will hold over you. It’s okay to be “not okay.” You can choose to leave a situation, to change your mind, to back out of a plan. There is no need to feel bad about feeling lost, confused or frustrated. I will repeat something I wrote before in an older blog post: we should all allow ourselves to fall apart sometimes so that we can find ourselves all over again.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
I know that feeling lost can sometimes leave you thinking that you’re all alone, that you’re the only person feeling this way.
You are not. Trust me on this one.
We all get lost, we all go through tough and challenging times. Problem is, we don’t always talk about it. Most of the time we only share the highlights of our lives with other people, we don’t show our weak moments. We all have them though. Don’t feel frustrated, embarrassed or hopeless- what you’re going through is something that happens to us all.
SOMETIMES GETTING LOST CAN HELP YOU FIND YOURSELF
Making mistakes is just another way to learn an important lesson. Getting lost somewhere along the way can help you learn new things about yourself. Over the last two years or so, I’ve learned that a lot of us, myself included, are a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We find ourselves in situations that seem hopeless, and yet we somehow find a way out. It doesn’t mean that we won’t ever feel like giving up- it means that we simply won’t do it.
If you find yourself feeling lost, not knowing what to do next, try as many new things as possible. Don’t be afraid to spend time alone, to step out of your comfort zone. You might learn something new about yourself, you might discover that you have a skill or a talent you never knew existed. Or, you might remember something about yourself- maybe there are some things that used to bring joy to your life but you simply forgot all about them. Feeling “lost” doesn’t have to be a bad thing- now and again, it can end up being one of the best things to happen to you.
IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO START OVER
I don’t care how old you are or how much “baggage” you think you carry with you. It is never too late to start over. Both in my personal life and through blogging, I’ve met people from all walks of life. I know someone who was depressed, sickly and struggled with weight his entire life and turned it all around- got healthy and found love after turning 50. I know people who left abusive relationships after years of suffering in silence and finally started living their lives on their own terms. People who completely reinvented themselves, changed their career path, found passion again. It is never too late to start over- no matter who you are.
YOU CAN’T BE AFRAID OF CHANGE
Change can be intimidating, confusing, frightening and… a breeding ground for self-doubt. There are some setbacks from which you think you can’t come back- sometimes, you go through situations that not only challenge you but also change you. Some things might never go back to being “normal” and that’s okay. That is when you have to come up with a new plan and maybe reinvent yourself a little.
Don’t be afraid to press that reset button and see things from a different perspective. By being afraid of making a change you can hold yourself back. You don’t have to resist it, you have to remember that you are the one in charge- even when it doesn’t always seem that way.
There won’t come an age or a time in your life where you’ll finally have it all figured out. That’s something we believe to be true when we’re very young. Then you grow older and realize that just because you’re a “big girl” now, with a “big girl” job, a mortgage and a dog, it doesn’t mean that you have an answer to everything. It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever feel lost again; it doesn’t mean that you won’t ever again find yourself in a place where you have to pick up the pieces.
That is not what life is about. It is not about having it all figured out. It is about growing, learning. It is about enjoying every small, beautiful moment and fighting through every ugly and “bad” situation, and coming out stronger. And, sometimes, just sometimes, it’s also about getting lost and not knowing what to do next. That is okay. You are okay- and if you’re not right now, you will be.
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