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I disappeared for a while. Depending on your perspective, that while was anywhere from a few months to several years.

So what happened?

I’m sure I’ll be sorting that out for years to come, gleaning life lessons from revelations along the way.

In any respect, I recall being a happy, carefree girl. I recall being a romantic. I recall following my heart no matter what that meant. I recall never putting myself through any undue misery or heartache.

What is hazy, what I don’t quite recall, is the day this shifted. When did I first put perceived societal values and expectations ahead of my own happiness? When did I stop living in the moment in the hopes of achieving some all too planned out expected happiness?

I don’t know how, or why, but I was on auto pilot. I recognized this feeling a few years ago, but as things were going well enough at the time, I shrugged it aside.

Yet, allowing myself slip into auto-pilot had a storm of ramifications I could not directly identify. My smile waned. My fuse shortened. My self esteem plummeted.

Who was I becoming? It wasn’t me.

Yet, whoever it was, life was heading down the path I had always wanted and expected it to. I graduated college at the top of my program, and was engaged to my high school sweetheart. What could go wrong?

The answer? Everything.

Aside from academics, my dreams were but an empty shell. Their purpose, their foundations, were long since forgotten and worn away.

Something was eating at me inside. Although I did not yet know what it was, I cried. I cried, and cried, and cried. I have always been an emotional girl, but I honestly did not think I was capable of so many tears. It felt like a slow, emotional death.

Friends cautioned. I ignored. I could not deviate from my path. All would be better. All had to be better. I bit my lip, crossed my fingers, and marched forward.

Subconsciously I believed a ceremony would fix it. It would be my magical potion for happily ever after. My insecurities would vanish. The stress and the arguing would vanish. Poof! Voila! Happily ever after! Right?

Wrong.

Although school had its stressing moments, it made me feel more alive, more accomplished, more me. The jitters before being handed a test was never anything compared to the serenity and relief after turning it in. Academically, and otherwise, I feared hurdles only before jumping them.

But this was one hurdle I feared more the further I was past it. One hurdle that ate at me more every day. One hurdle that, in hindsight, I don’t know why I jumped.

Was I too young? Not necessarily.

I wrote a map for my life so long ago and stuck to it like glue. The problem lies in that maps become outdated. Our destinations and the paths we take there change.

Life happens, and we can’t force it otherwise, no matter how much we try.

If I learned anything from all of this, it is this:

You can’t force love, and you can’t fake happiness.

I never wanted any of this. I only wanted to be happy. I wanted to be happy so badly that I lost sight of what that was. The result? Pain and agony, and not only on my part.

Alas, those dark hours have past. They’ve been washed away by a sea of relief. A breath of tranquility.

I cried more in those last few months and the first weeks after than I ever care to again. Yet, they were tears that needed to fall. This was a lesson that needed to be learned.

And I’m happier than I’ve been in a long, long time for it.

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