I remember sitting on the predictably uncomfortable couch in my room at one of those godforsaken corporate-extended-stay apartment-ish hotels. I was just about to start a "dream" job, and I was miserable. "What in the hell am I doing with my life?" I thought. I honestly didn't know the answer.
I felt broken.
That was a horrible time. Back in that hotel room – I now know – I was blinded by my relentless pursuit of a templated life. "People would kill for a job like this," I would think. I wondered if something was wrong with me. I wondered if I would ever be content.
The worst part wasn't the situation. Rather, it was my inability to wrap my mind around what was going on – to see a way out.
I thought I was doing everything right. Earning progressively more responsible jobs, making more money, living the popular definition of the "good" life. I couldn't make sense of the ominous cloud that was lingering in the background of my life. Despite a fantastic relationship. Despite great health. Despite having everything one could ask for and more. I felt out of sync.
"Broken" comes in all shapes and sizes. When you feel off, no matter how profound or slight, the only thing you can seem to focus on is the flaws. In a way, it's almost worse when your version of broken seems insane. I mean, "I hate my highly coveted, powerful job!" doesn't garner much sympathy from others. Again, though, it's not the specifics of the situation. It's the feeling "off" that matters. No matter what the reason.
I tend to think of this every January. It's the month that, years ago, I was in that apart-hotel, and it's during January that many people think about renewal and making life changes. I am glad that I didn't turn to drugs or frat-like drinking. I could have. I am sure it would have helped (superficially, of course) to dull the mental anguish and temporarily take me out of my personal hell. To help me feel less broken.
Lately, thanks to a powerful blog post, we've been thinking a lot about feeling broken and those who turn to self destructive behavior. I think of our relative, Joe, a young guy who always felt flawed. He lubricated his life with pot and god-only-knows-what-else in order to dull the pain.
It didn't work.
He died. Suicidal overdose or simply overdose? No one knows for sure. It happened on Caanan's birthday.
If you are feeling broken – whether you hate your career, are in a bad relationship or carry more far-reaching pain – promise you'll do this. Take one positive step forward. Just one step at a time. It'll likely be a clunky process at first. Remember, if you knew the answer, you'd probably fix it. If you are at a loss for that first step, the best advice I can give is to talk to someone. It doesn't matter if it's a counselor, a loved one or a stranger. Just reach out to someone you feel you can trust.
I got out of the weeds and away from that dreadful career track thanks, in large part, to a great partner. We talked to each other and took steps to each feel less broken (Caanan had his own version of "broken"). That's how we ended up caring for ourselves as individuals and then building what is now this fantastic No Vacation Required lifestyle.
Now, neither one of us feels off. Thankfully, we reclaimed our mojo and each got our flow back. It's not about "good days" and "bad days," we each have plenty of both. It's about feeling on purpose and worthy – a feeling that transcends the jolt from a good day or the smack-down from a bad one.
We want the same for you. For everyone.
Joe had reached out to us during a summertime getaway to Glacier National Park. Even if his story doesn't have a happy ending, I know that the long talk we had during a picture-perfect hike was helpful. Like all of us, he wanted to be heard… understood. So he took a chance on us and talked about his version of being broken. I could see the profound relief – the weight lifted, at least temporarily – after that conversation.
We use Joe's story, and each of ours, as motivation to help other people – no matter how big or small the backstory – to get back on track.
Talk to someone if you feel broken. Be available for someone who feels broken.