Not too long ago, I was living the “perfect” life.
I had a high-paying job; I traveled to fun places for work (and play); I had a boyfriend I was in love with; I had a side gig that was growing.
People told me they sometimes could not stand being around me because of how rosy the world seemed through my lenses.
And, then, it all came crashing down. I didn't know what was happening at first. I just knew, suddenly, I was unhappy.
I felt like something was missing from my life. What was it? I had no idea. But, I knew it was missing.
I had this awful feeling that the further I traveled down the path I was treading, the farther I was from finding it.
Eventually, I realized I had hit a “quarter-life crisis” and the “missing thing” in my life was a sense of purpose. A sense of "here's how I'm making my own little dent in the universe."
So, I decided to take some time off, go on a backpacking adventure in Thailand and rethink my priorities. The trip did wonders, and when I came back, I started making changes to my life. Big changes.
Since then, a lot has changed. No one calls my life “perfect” anymore, probably because I don't have any of the celebrated things I used to: no high-paying job, fun travel or boyfriend.
But, although there have been many lows, the highs have been unforgettable. When I was in Thailand, I figured out how to make my own little dent in the universe.
I found that missing thing, and although it is still a work in progress, my "dent in the universe" was recently named among “The 15 Most Anticipated DC Openings of 2015."
If you haven't guessed yet, I quit my job to start my own business. And, although it hasn't gotten off the ground yet, I've never been happier.
My quarter-life crisis was the best thing that ever happened to me, and it taught me some big lessons worth sharing.
Our definition of success is fragile -- it shouldn't be that way.
Success should mean something different to each of us, but we're living in a world where success is mostly defined as our ability to acquire material possessions and the titles we hold.
The problem with having a universal definition of success that's based almost entirely on things that feed our egos, is that it's fragile. And, it's not our fault.
This definition of success has been shoved down our throats by our parents and our schools. But, think about it: When you feel successful simply by following standards already set for you and by comparing yourself to others, that feeling is fleeting.
You can feel incredibly successful after receiving a big bonus, but go back to feeling unsuccessful and unworthy when you hear the guy in the cubicle next to you got a bigger bonus. Feeling successful should not be that temporary.
Want a tip on how to solve this problem? Define success on your own terms, and don't base it off how big your house could be in 10 years.
Everything you do is a choice. Think about that: Every. Single. Thing.
From the job you don't like to the unhealthy food you always complain about but keep eating anyway.
Big memories > Big paycheck
Don't sacrifice the moments that make you feel alive for the moments that make you feel secure. It's not worth it.
We're all mostly averse to risk, and it's hurting us.
I love traveling. My favorite travel memories from this past year? Dancing all night in the California desert, scuba diving off islands in Thailand, bathing elephants, hiking part of the Canadian Rockies, chasing after a dog outside a Mexican bar, island hopping in the Virgin Islands and that doesn't even begin to cover it.
The new friends, the laughter, the curiosity, the amazement and the lessons traveling has taught me could never truly be pinned down.
But, I've also been stranded and deathly sick in the middle of a remote town where I couldn't speak the language.
I had no friends and no medicine. I spent all night vomiting and shaking violently in a hot, tiny room with mosquitoes, a creaky ceiling fan and a cold, hard bed with nothing except a plain bag of rice to eat and a short visit by someone I met on the road for comfort.
I've curled up and cried at an empty dock at 5 am with the weight of isolation and sickness heavy on my shoulders.
But, could experiences like that ever stop me from backpacking alone or traveling to new places? No way. I'd redo that night many times over to find myself curled up in an elephant's trunk again.
Don't be afraid of the lows; the highs are worth it a thousand times over.
You need to break up with three things you're currently in love with: convenience, conformity and comfort.
These guys are a deadly combination, and probably the main culprits behind our aversion to risk.
Get uncomfortable in life. Throw the rulebook out the window and laugh at the odds.
Go after something without knowing what to expect. Make yourself vulnerable to getting in trouble, finding yourself in a sticky situation (trust me, you'll manage to get out) and being ridiculed by others.
You are capable of SO much more than you give yourself credit for.
Don't wait until you feel 100 percent ready. It's never going to happen.
You will never be fully ready. There will be missteps, losses, failures and painful experiences, but that doesn't mean you have to roll over and play dead. Pain is a great teacher, not something to be afraid of.
So, instead of waiting, just trust in something -- yourself, destiny, whatever -- and take the leap.
There's something out there that will light up a fire inside you.
Seriously, there's something out there that will make you jump out of your bed every morning. You owe it to yourself to find it.