Self Doubt And 20-Something Reality Checks

I’m not sure when or how it started, but at some point in my late 20s, I got lost. And I’m not talking in the figurative sense, I’m talking literally. As I started inching towards 30 and found myself seeking clarity, all I found, instead, was utter confusion. Life was buzzing all around me, and I was lost.

My father was a polarizing figure, and he and I had a difficult relationship. And though people might argue that when someone like that passes away and leaves your life, things get easier, it wasn’t the case for me. I recently spoke openly to my family doctor about this, and in a few short sentences, she explained what I’d been struggling to articulate since he passed away nearly four years ago:

“You have unresolved business. You never got to say what you needed to. These are the hardest kinds of deaths to come to terms with. You need to forgive him. You need to forgive yourself.”

I didn’t know it then, but losing my father and my issues with self-doubt began around the same time. It all happened at once — I started my dream job. He became sick. I got my new apartment. He passed away. I moved into said apartment. I was lost.

Meanwhile, all around me, it felt like friends were beginning the natural next chapters of their lives. The ‘wedding season’ of my life had begun, and for the next few years, I found myself shopping for dresses, attending pre-wedding festivities, showers, parties and celebrations. And with each event that passed by, I grieved. I was happy for my loved ones, and celebrated with them as best as I could, but I was sad. Time was passing me by, and while others were experiencing happy milestones, I was still struggling to come to terms with the giant, gaping hole in what was supposed to be the next phase of my life.

Two years later, more loss. My aunt, who was the closest thing I had to a grandmother, passed away in a similar fashion as my father: an illness that lasted for about a month, followed by her passing. And if losing my father was tough and difficult to get over, this blow was that much harder on all of us. I had yet to heal my wound from the last time, and here I was again.

But when my aunt passed away, I noticed something very serious. Unbeknownst to me, I had stopped doing the one thing that brought me through some of the toughest times in my life… I had stopped writing. And I now know it’s because I didn’t have the words. And to an extent, I still don’t. I’m rambling along in this post, without thought or structure… So if you’re still reading, I’m sorry… but also, thank you!

As friends and family began settling down with their lives — marriages, cohabiting, having kids, purchasing properties, going on expensive vacations — I began getting more restless. I didn’t know why, but the more it seemed like people around me were falling into a rhythm, the more angsty I got. Sadness, anger, fear, heartbreak… they were my constant companions.

From 26-30, I experienced more loss than I’ll care to admit. It didn’t just come in the form of deaths; it came in the form of layoffs, too. During my stint at said dream job, I experienced approximately 40 layoffs that affected me directly. The magazine industry was suffering and cuts were being made all over the place. Anyone I became close to at work were soon given their walking papers. I went into self-preservation mode and began closing myself off at work, too. What was the point of getting close to people if they were only going to be taken away from you?

These were my thoughts.

I spent more time alone than I had in my entire life. I didn’t want to be around people because I was tired of revelling in joys when all I felt was sadness.

I didn’t want to be Ms. Debbie Downer, though I felt like I was president of her fan club.

In an effort to try and find myself again, I did the only thing I knew I could control… I took a few trips — London. New York. Montreal. But despite the reprieve I felt while away, I learned very quickly that the old adage of ‘you can’t run away from your problems’ is very true.

Now, there’s something to be said about time and experiencing pivotal turning points in life that help you find direction — especially when you’re lost.

My turning point happened in November 2014. I was stranded in Buffalo, NY, in a Red Cross shelter with my mum and brother. We were caught in a snow storm on our way back from a short family vacation. I was lying on an army green cot, staring up at the ceiling of a church basement, as a winter wonderland built around me. Three days in, with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company, I began to dissect how I had gotten to that point in my life.

First, I realized that I had to deal with my loss. This wasn’t one of those situations where time healed old wounds — my wounds were raw, fragile and painful. I made a promise to myself that I’d seek help once I got back home. Bear in mind, that up until that point, I refused to even talk about what had happened, and downplayed the severity of what the losses were doing to me.

Next, I knew I had to quit my job and move on. My dream job — what I came into three years ago — was far from what I was ready to leave behind. It was a heartbreaking thought process to accept, but it had to be done. This job was a vessel for all of my losses, and I didn’t want it to shape me anymore. I had lost all of my professional confidence, despite becoming a very integral member of my team. I began second guessing myself with every idea, every task, despite knowing one truth deep down to my core: I was an award-winning journalist, and I had earned my spot on the career ladder.

Finally, and with great difficulty, I made the decision to shuffle my circle of friends. It had become very apparent that the certain friendships had outlived their seasons, while others began to blossom. I craved the company of a few familiar faces instead of those who were drifting away because as time passed, we found lesser and lesser common ground to stand on.

So this marked the end of my 20s — a decade that flipped on its head from start to finish. A decade that looked so different at 20 than it did at 29. A decade that hit home the hard truth that you can plan and plan and plan your life, but more often than not, things will rarely turn out as you plan them. You just have to do the best you can, hope for the best, and believe that things will work out as they’re supposed to (even if you’re not happy with the way they do).