Hustle culture snatched you up after high school, its venomous claws turning your head the way it wanted. Its mantras replay over and over, a twisted, cyclical trap.
Life's for achieving.
Money is for collecting.
Everyone's opinion matters.
Reputation must be guarded.
More is your standard.
So, woman in your 20s, you keep chasing it all like a discombobulated chicken. You constantly try to improve your looks because pretty girls get ahead. You make sound career choices and never say the dreaded "no." You collect the Instagram photos from worthy locales but also try to remember to save for retirement. You have fun so you can hoard those "wild party moments" to retell later in life but you're also wise because one slipup could mean disaster for your reputation. You make friends and do the brunches. You keep an eye on the biological clock like everyone tells you to. You network and pick a house. You decorate it like you're Martha Stewart and try to keep up with the household while working all the hours. You fall in love and win his heart. You win over his Mama, too. You play house and buy a house and climb the ladder only to climb it again and you never, ever stop for a breath because to pause, even more a moment, is to be left behind.
In short, you run yourself ragged until you barely recognize who you are or even what the hell you want anymore. Because that's what we're supposed to do.
Modern Women Don't Quit
You do it all because you're a modern woman--and then poof. One day, you realize the "best decade of your life" is over, and it wasn't all that great. You realize you didn't use enough sunscreen like your Mama told you and now you've got too many wrinkles. But more importantly, you realize that you spent so much of your 20s doing what everyone else wanted you to do--that you forgot to live for yourself.
You hoarded the things, the moments, the achievements. But you stand in your cluttered house of knick-knacks and collectibles and ask yourself: what does it all mean? What does it matter?
And that, my friends, is how so many of us wake up in our 30s dazed, tired, and quite frankly, lost.
30s are the New 20s...?
I used to be that hustle girl, always reaching for more. I chased the full-time job and the path I thought would lead me to happiness. I collected money and things (and also cats, to my husband's chagrin). I tried to be the "good girl" who did all the things and never let anyone see my frown. I chased the hustle culture, always trying to level up. Most of all, I spent my 20s fearing my 30s--because according to society, 30 was old for women, was the point where you had to have it all figured out.
I cried copious tears over the 30 candles on my birthday cake and fell for the lie we're told in our 20s--we become convinced that success is life's currency, life's true measure.
For some, we measure that success with our bank accounts or the number of designer bags we can afford. Others accumulate job titles. Some of us use houses or cars or lovers as our marker. Regardless, "More," is our mantra, and hustle is both our motivation and our curse in our 20s.
However, as a 34-year-old, I've gotten far enough to learn this: the real currency in life isn't money, fame, or success. It's peace. Because peace is the only thing that can add up to real, genuine happiness.
Peace is that long, slow breath when you look failure in the eye and know you'll be okay.
It's rest and grace for yourself when the world keeps shouting "Not enough."
It's acknowledging that collecting all the bags, money, and titles in the world doesn't mean shit if you're too burnt out to enjoy them.
Peace is understanding second or third or tenth best isn't losing.
It's living in the moment and inhaling the beauty of stillness, of calmness, of satisfaction.
Peace is having the courage to say: I'm enough. It's enough.
Peace is the currency, the true goal, the true answer.
A Lesson of Decades
Sometimes, I think maybe we have to go through the hustle of our 20s to learn this lesson, to really learn it in our bones. Sometimes, I think it was because I was so lost and tired when I got to 30 from trying to be everything for a decade that I finally understood.
But to the women who are in your 20s right now, maybe this doesn't have to be your plight. Maybe you can learn from us. Maybe you can find the answer sooner. Maybe you already have.
I hope so. I hope you can rise above the culture that demands more. I hope you say "yes" to less, to being enough, to living with enough.
I hope you know life is more than collections and money and material things. I hope you find the value of peace early on and understand how many possibilities open up for you when you truly embody it.
To you, women in your 20s, I say: find your peace. Find it early. And then, never let anyone tell you any other way to live.
I left teaching.
That was the word that had started to come to mind when I thought about my days. Not the kind of lifeless that stems from a day or two of being tired or from a tragic time. It was the kind of lifeless that broiled up daily from a deep-rooted, all-encompassing emptiness. I had stopped feeling passion about anything anymore. I had stopped feeling joy. More importantly, I had stopped feeling like myself.
It was my husband who helped me come to my full awakening that the deep despondency I was feeling about my job wasn’t normal. He noticed how it had become an unspoken rarity for me to tell him I had a good day at work. More often than not, I would come home crying from the stress, anxiety, and frustrations from my job. And sure, I had summer vacation—but I found myself living only for those months. Nine months of the year, I had become an overwhelmed, angry shell of who I really was. So, after many job applications, rejections, self-doubts, and months, I did the unthinkable. I left teaching.
I'm an ex-teacher.
I am an ex-teacher. It’s a title I never in a million years thought I would possess. Ever since I was a little girl teaching stuffed animals on the stairs with my tiny chalkboard, teaching was my dream. Mostly, I wanted to teach because I’ve always believed in the power of education. I love the doors and possibilities that open up with education, and I wanted to incite that spark in others. For about seven years, I did just that—and that light inspired me, too. I felt passion for my work and built connections with my students that still stand today. I created engaging activities, graded papers, taught about Shakespeare, and did all the teaching things. I felt alive.
But, for those of you in education, you know there was a shift even before the COVID word began to leak into our daily existence. About seven years into my career, it became apparent that education had changed. The students had changed. And with those transformations, something broke in the education system—and in me.
Why the education system is failing.
I could go on and on about what I think is wrong in the system that is, in many ways, collapsing around so many. I could talk about the lack of respect and the move from encouraging intrinsic motivation in students to extrinsic and sometimes non-existent motivation. I could talk about how our grading systems are diluting all the true purposes of learning. I could go on and on about how we are failing our teachers, but we are also failing our students by not preparing them for the fact that life is hard. I could talk about how the school system has become a giant excuse factory that allows unacceptable, unsafe behaviors to be harbored in our classrooms and how teachers are held responsible for every hostile facet of an environment that surfaces from such naïve philosophies.
I could talk about the scary moments I’ve had and the even scarier fact that so many moments had no consequences for the students. I, like so many educators, could also give you too many stories of times I felt completely de-humanized, disrespected, and even unsafe in the classroom to the point I felt constantly sick to my stomach. I could tell you about how I felt stuck, trapped in a profession with little upward mobility or recognition for hard work. I could tell you things that would make you afraid for the future of the education system.
But if you’re a teacher thinking of leaving, you know all this already, and I’m not here to write a dissertation for a public that already is ready to crucify educators for every misstep, misspoken word, or claim about the faultiness of student behavior. I’m here to tell you about the other side of things—the side so many of us dream of but are afraid to go and explore.
In truth, I made the decision to leave teaching years ago when my heart started to die a little bit each time I walked into that classroom and saw a total sense of apathy growing in the students. It was the final school year when my decision was made. I was trying to inspire students to chase dreams and live their best lives, but at my core, I wasn’t living mine. I didn’t recognize the person I had become—anxiety-filled, tearful, depressed, and often ill. I finally decided to listen to my inner voice and my favorite mantra:
“You are not a tree.” I made the change.
Making the choice to leave teaching
On the other side of the teaching wall, I want to tell you this—I’m happy. Truly, unrecognizably happy. I no longer dread going to work. In fact, I enjoy what I’m doing. I’ve found a job related to my ultimate passion, writing, and it feels like a dream to get to do this work every single day. I no longer find myself napping for hours after work from exhaustion and sadness. I no longer feel sick to my stomach when I walk in the front doors, and I no longer feel disrespected or blamed for things out of my control. I now have opportunities for growth and learning that excite me.
I want to share with you some things I’ve learned from my shift from teaching. I’m sharing these things because I know there are a lot more out there like me—feeling broken-down, despondent, and tired but too afraid to say something. I know there is a hero-complex in teaching where it makes you feel like a bad person to even suggest you want to leave or that things aren’t perfect. I also know there is a deep curiosity about what it really is like on the other side of the education system.
I also want to make it clear that I came from a school with great administrators. The issues I experienced weren’t because of them. They were supportive and kind. It’s just that they, too, are encompassed by a broken system. They can’t be expected to singlehandedly change an entire educational structure, either.
I hope that these insights I’ve had help someone else who is trying to make the difficult decision to leave. I’m not saying leaving is right for everyone. Certainly, we need dedicated educators to stay, to fight the fight, and to make changes. However, I also don’t think that’s the path for all of us. I don’t think it’s selfish to want something different for yourself. So, here are the things I’ve learned these past few months since leaving my classroom for the last time.
1. It isn't selfish to have a new dream.
In education more than any other job, there is a feeling of guilt for leaving the profession. I think it’s because during our careers, we’re constantly reminded that we’re there for the kids. Every new task, every insurmountable hurdle, every exhausting week, we’re reminded that we’ll do anything “for the betterment of the kids.” We’re told often that you can’t pour from an empty cup—but that’s exactly what we’re encouraged to do. If you’re not sacrificing your health, sleep, and social life for the kids, you’re not doing enough. This “never enough” mentality rules us, plagues us, and preys on us. Because here’s the thing—we go into teaching because we do care and we do want to make a difference. And that’s what makes leaving feel that much harder.
We’re made to feel sometimes like we’ve abandoned the great cause. We’re made to feel like we’re lazy or uncaring for wanting a job where we’re respected and recognized for our efforts. We’re made to feel like we’re terrible teachers for leaving.
I struggled with that for a while when I first left. If I was really such a good teacher, why didn’t I stay and fight the good fight? Shouldn’t I raise my voice and try to make changes? But here’s the thing I’ve come to understand now—the good fight is rigged. That’s not to say it’s hopeless, but I’m here to tell you that if your mental health and well-being is suffering, fighting the good fight isn’t fighting any good fight at all.
The kids are important, certainly. But I’m going to say something controversial in education—you’re important, too. You matter, too. Your well-being, your motivation, your passions, and your dreams all matter. It isn’t selfish to want a new dream.
2. Disrespect shouldn't be a normal part of work life.
When I became a teacher, I knew the kids would be disrespectful. We had entire chapters in our college textbooks devoted to how to deal with students with behavior issues. Still, in the past few years, things have taken a dark turn.
I think we come to a point as teachers where we are inundated with such a toxic, verbally abusive environment that we begin to believe that’s how it is everywhere. We begin to think we aren’t worthy of respect or that somehow, it’s just part of the job. We’re sworn at, accused falsely, told we’re worthless, challenged, and disrespected all in the name of “that’s kids for you.” We’re told that we have no power, told that we have no say in our own classrooms, and told that we’re not even worthy of human decency. This is no longer a rare occurrence, either. This is something that happens multiple times a day in classrooms, to the point that it has become the norm.
The scary part looking back? We start to believe it. We believe it’s normal to be called a bitch or told because we’re women, we aren’t respected. We believe it’s normal to be afraid of being cussed out, having violence in our classrooms, or being told we don’t know what we’re doing despite numerous degrees and years of experience. We take it with a smile because that’s what we should do.
Certainly, when working with teenagers or younger, you know there’s going to be disrespect. But when day in and day out, you’re verbally abused, told you don’t matter, and talked to in ways that would never be acceptable anywhere else, all without consequences at times, it takes a mental toll.
Now that I’m in a professional corporate environment, I want to say this—it’s not normal. Not even close. And now that I’m somewhere with professional standards, I’ve come to walk with my head a little higher. I’ve come to be appreciated for my talents, my skills, and my experience. I’ve come to understand that teenagers or not, it’s never okay to be talked to the way I was on a daily basis.
3. You shouldn't be miserable every single day at work.
This is another eye-opening find I’ve had since leaving the classroom. I no longer dread Mondays. I no longer feel that sickness in the pit of my stomach when I walk through the door. I no longer count the hours until my next day off.
I’m just steadily happy. Every day, I feel like there’s something to look forward to. And most of all, even when I have a hard day at work, I’m not wiped out completely to the point I need to sleep the night away. I leave work, go home, and have the energy and passion to pursue what I love. I’m working on my hobbies again. I’m exercising more. I’m sleeping better. The quality of my life when I’m not at work has exponentially improved. I’m just plain happy—both at home and at work.
Should YOU leave teaching?
It’s still crazy to me sometimes to think I left teaching, the only thing I ever dreamed of doing. But the thing I’ve learned these past few months is that dreams change sometimes, and that’s okay. I know this article might sound like teaching is hopeless or that I think everyone should leave education. Let me be clear—I don’t. If you still love teaching, if you think it’s still worth the negatives, then by all means, keep teaching. We need passionate educators to continue moving the education system forward. We need educators to light a fire for learning in our students. I still am thankful we live in a country that believes in free education for all.
However, if you’re connecting with some of the negatives I mentioned, then I hope this article gives you pause. There are all sorts of reasons we tell ourselves we need to stay in education or in any job, really, that we’re no longer happy in. We think about the wise choice, the less risky choice, the comfortable choice. Was leaving teaching easy? Not at all. I sacrificed some things like my summers, my pension, and the stable comfort of knowing exactly what I was doing. Change is always slightly uncomfortable and terrifying, and this was no exception. It was hard starting over and learning a new job. It was hard leaving my friends. It was hard leaving behind the students I had connected with.
Still, do you know what’s harder? Going to a job every day where you feel dead inside. Going to a job where you don’t remember your worth anymore or where you feel sick to your stomach every day. Going to a job you no longer fully believe is right for you.
Leaving teaching will never be easy. There will be internal and external struggles. But, standing here on the other side of my choice, I can tell you I made the best one for me. I’m now in a job I love, a job that lights me up again. I’m in a job where I walk through the door and feel respected, heard, and appreciated. I’m in a job where I feel like I am empowered to make a difference without swimming upstream all the time. I’m in a job where I feel energized and not exhausted.
Teachers do have career options.
There will be some who will read this and be angry. There will some who will read this and think I’m a bad teacher for leaving. There will be some who will be rooting for me to fail. But that’s okay.
I’ve learned from leaving teaching that especially when you’re an educator, everyone will have an opinion about your choices. The only important one, though, is your own. So, to the educators who are thinking of leaving teaching—I hope you learn to dismiss everyone else’s opinion and listen to yourself. And, if that inner voice tells you it’s time to go—I hope you go with your head held high and excitement for what’s to come. Because the greatest lesson I’ve learned since leaving the classroom? It’s a great big, wide world out there beyond the classroom, and when it feels like it’s time to go, it’s okay to head out into the great unknown and explore. As the Walt Whitman poster that was hanging in my classroom said, “Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.”
Sail thou forth, dear teacher. There’s a wide horizon waiting for you.
Lindsay (L.A.) Detwiler is a USA Today Bestselling thriller author, former English teacher, and a Communications Specialist from Pennsylvania. Her novel The Widow Next Door, published with HarperCollins UK, hit the USA Today Bestseller's list. She has numerous other bestselling published novels, including The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter and Remember When.
*If you are looking for help and courage to make the change, I highly recommend checking out the Teacher Career Coach (This isn't an ad at all...I just followed her on IG and loved her content). She really helped me find the courage to chase my new dream. Check her out on Instagram @teachercareercoach
Staring into the mirror, a popular quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding came to mind: “Look, I was going through a phase. I was Frump Girl.”
If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s essentially about a girl who wakes up in her thirties to realize she’s not living the life she wants. She goes through a physical transformation, starts taking classes, and falls in love. It’s a movie about blossoming, essentially–but at the beginning of this year, I felt like I’d made a transformation into Frump Girl, not from it.
So many of us have our own stories of struggle from these past few years. The pandemic didn’t really do anyone any mental health or physical health favors. So many of us gained weight, got depressed, and struggled with who we were. Years later, we’re still living in the aftermath. So many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances I know have expressed struggling with their identity and confidence in the past year.
I also fell prey to the pandemic in some ways. Staying at home, while a blessing for my introverted nature, also led to some unwanted side effects. Weight gain, unhealthy habits, and social isolation played their part in my transformation into Frump Girl. Add to that a husband who lost his job right before the pandemic and my mastiff, my best friend, dying, and it was a recipe for a mid-thirties crisis.
In the past few months, though, I’ve managed to crawl out of my frumpy, slumpy mindset–all without spending thousands of dollars on quick fixes. I wanted to share what worked for me in case you, too, find yourself in a season of frump.
Check out my best tips that worked for me to get me out of my slump. To be clear, it wasn’t about looking physically better like so many posts tell you on Pinterest. This isn’t a post about how to be the sexiest version of yourself or how to meet society’s beauty standards. It’s more about confidence. It’s about rediscovering who you are and how you can show up in the world as your best self. Check out what helped me do just that below, and steal any ideas that inspire you.
I want to say that I am not sponsored by any of the brands or items I mention ( I wish!). I am sharing things I truly love.
It’s a common mantra in the motivational field that you become who and what you surround yourself with. While watching The Kardashians all day might be a fun escape, it might also not be what your struggling mental state needs. When I was at my lowest, I sought out podcasts and social media that made me feel like I could conquer the world–not like I was lacking.
My all-time favorite podcast is definitely the Rachel Hollis podcast. I know she doesn’t resonate with everyone (who does?), but I love that she is a high-achiever who speaks to women. She really talks a lot about chasing more in your life and going after your dreams, which is something I love.
I also recently found the Manifestation Babe, which is a bit more of a hippie-trippie ride. Still, I found myself interested in spirituality in different versions in the past few months, and manifestation was something that kept coming up in a lot of my social media feeds.
Whatever you choose to listen to, find something that you look forward to listening to and that fills you with motivation. Instead of watching the news before work, I started listening to podcasts to start my day off on the right foot. It’s made a world of difference in how I see things.
2. Add three healthy habits to your routine
Unless you’re living in a celebrity-sized mansion, it was almost impossible to get enough steps and physical activity in during the stay-at-home phase of the pandemic. For many of us, the habit of lethargy followed us even into 2022. Weight gain was a common issue with so many of us as a result of 2020.
I am not a fitness junkie by any means. In fact, my family likes to tease me that the only ‘B’ I ever got on a report card was in gym class. Still, there have been enough studies and my own experience to tell me that staying physically active and healthy improves your confidence. I don’t care how much you weigh or what size your clothes are, and you shouldn’t, either. Still, when you work on your health, you walk differently. You feel better in your clothes, and you feel better period.
For me, as someone who hates eating healthy and working out, I challenged myself back in February to add three healthy habits to my routine. I picked:
This felt doable, and it’s something I’ve stuck with even now. This summer, I worked more on cleaning up my nutrition to support these three, but to start, this was what I focused on. Nothing crazy or impossible.
I challenge you to pick three healthy habits as well. They don’t have to match mine. Maybe one of your healthy habits will be to journal every day in support of your mental health. Maybe you’ll trade your iced coffees for green tea instead, or maybe you’ll add a salad to your dinner each day. Pick three smaller health goals and run with them–and be sure to give it time before you discount the benefit. I didn’t see a change in my mood or health for several months. It takes time, truly.
If you are looking to add fitness to your routine, one app I loved was FitON. I still am using it because it has so many workouts…and the FREE version is absolutely perfect. You can stay on the free plan forever and still have plenty to do. None of the workouts are locked (the paid version just gives you the ability to choose different music and to download the workouts). I never get bored, and there are seriously workouts for every level. I’ve been loving the Pilates workouts lately.
3. Turn to Non-Fiction
As a bookworm, another way I know to get out of a slump is through reading. During my hardest periods, I picked up non-fiction specifically to boost my mood. You can find books out there on any topic you want to get inspired about.
My favorite is again by Rachel Hollis: Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. I love these books for women because they help you get out of your own way.
I also picked up several manifestation books about positive mindset that really helped. Another book I strongly recommend is The Gap and the Gain by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy. If you are a high achiever who feels like you are never accomplishing enough, this will change your whole mindset.
4. Make a Goal Wall
You’ve probably heard of visualization boards or manifestation boards. I’ve turned my bathroom mirror into my own version of this so that every morning, it’s the first thing I see. It’s also what I look at while I’m getting ready, and this helps me stop negative self-talk.
On my mirror, I have several things:
Sometimes, when I find a quote I love, I’ll put a post-it note on my mirror. Sometimes, I change my goal wall or add to it. The point is that every morning, the first thing I see are my goals, what I’m aiming for, and things that light me up. It’s hard to feel frumpy or like you’re in a slump when you’ve literally got your eye on where you’re headed.
Don’t limit yourself, either, when you make your lists or goals. The bigger the better. I firmly believe that goals and dreams are what keep us inspired, motivated, and get us off the sofa.
5. Change up your fashion
After the pandemic, I found myself in a fashion slump as well. Sweatpants and baggy shirts had become my uniform, and this frumpy style did nothing for my confidence. To get out of this rut, I did a few things.
I started looking on Pinterest for outfit ideas. I thought about what the best version of myself would wear, no matter how ridiculous it seemed. I stopped worrying about what others thought I should wear or what was practical. I thought about what outfits would make me happy.
Next, I started upgrading my wardrobe. One of my favorite places to do this is Stitch Fix. Yes, it’s very pricy. Truly. It’s not something I do all the time. Still, the stylists are great at sending pieces that fit your style but also push you out of your comfort zone. There were so many pieces they sent that I never would have tried on but that looked great and made me feel awesome. They are always my favorite pieces. They are an investment, but I can tell you that all of my Stitch Fix clothes are my favorites and have lasted years. I swear I am not sponsored by them, but if you want to give them a try, I do have a code here where you can get $25 when you order your first Stitch Fix Box. (Full disclosure: I do get $25 if you sign up as well, so thank you in advance if you do sign up and help me add to my wardrobe.)
You don’t have to spend a fortune to enhance your style, though. I also adore shopping at T.J. Maxx, Ross, and Burlington because I get so many amazing brands and styles for a fraction of the price. I actually bought a few top-notch brand shoes at Burlington for only $30 total. Poshmark is another place to look for high-quality brands at a fraction of the price. I just bought myself my dream Michael Kors purse for $50.
It’s not about how much you spend or the brands, though. Truly. It’s about dressing in a way that makes you feel confident. Sometimes, it’s just about mixing up your look to something new and exciting.
6. Take some quiet time to think
This sounds like a ridiculous tip that is too simple, but one of the best ways I got out of my funk was to take some quiet time to think. I used this time to think about the following:
Sometimes our “frumpy” feelings come from the disconnect between who we were and who we have become. Our sense of identity doesn’t always catch up with our changes, so taking time to really reflect on these questions can help us feel more steady and stable. I try to take a few minutes by myself to go for a walk with the dog and just think–no technology, no music, just me. Another place I love is my hammock. I find that if you can find a place outside to do your thinking, it really does soothe the soul somehow.
Find your own quiet space and take at least ten minutes a day to just be. I promise you’ll see a big difference.
7. Invest in beautiful undergarments
I used to think buying bras and underwear that were nice was a waste of money, but truly, if you’re looking for confidence, this is a great way to give yourself a boost. Ditch the grandma panties and find something that makes you feel sexier or more put-together. Get fun patterns or colors you wouldn’t normally. Invest in luxurious feeling fabrics. This is a simple way to boost your confidence without making a big show of it to the world.
8. Try something new
Monotony is a confidence killer. If you need to break out of a slump, try mixing up your routine in a small way. This can take on so many forms.
I have found that the best way to get out of a funk or depression was to try something new. A couple years ago, I finally checked off horseback riding from my bucket list–and it was my favorite day. My soul literally felt lighter after that experience because it was new, exciting, and challenging. In the fall, I also started candy making, which was something I always wanted to learn but never did. It’s something I do just for me (and for family and friends so I’m not eating all the candy), and it’s just soothing.
Find one small way to mix up your routine today. Do something that scares you a little. Take a class to learn something brand-new. Trying new things truly does feed the soul and gets you out of your boring routine.
9. Makeup and skincare
Having a skincare routine has helped me feel less frumpy, even on days I don’t wear makeup. There are so many options out there for every budget. I love Drunk Elephant for a splurge, but the Inkey List at Sephora has tons of affordable options that I think are great dupes. Get into the habit of taking care of your skin, though. Even just the ritual of layering on the serums and creams, something you do just for yourself, can help boost your confidence.
I also find that makeup is a fun way to get out of a rut. I love trying new looks. Pinterest and TikTok are great places to look for fun, achievable looks. Get a new palette with bright colors to try or, my personal favorite confidence boost: a bold, red lip. I think a red lip makes every woman strut a little differently.
Again, it’s all about trying something new and boosting your confidence. Little changes go a long way.
10. Talk to a friend
The best piece of advice I can give you if you are in a slump is this: talk to someone about it. I think so many times, social media makes us feel like we have to only show our smile to the world. We see all of our friends’ successes, gorgeous vacations, beautiful photos, and we think we can’t be vulnerable. We don’t want others to know we’re struggling. We lie and say we’re great when inside, we’re dying.
Be brave enough to talk to someone–a spouse, a friend, a family member. Tell them the truth about how you’re feeling. Or, if you don’t have someone you feel comfortable talking to, find a group online that you connect with around a common interest. Feeling a sense of belonging and being able to be honest with others is what life is all about.
I think you might be surprised, too, to find that if you are honest with others about your struggles, you perhaps will find you’re not alone in feeling like you are.
At the end of the day, whether it’s because of a world pandemic, a personal struggle, or just adult life being hard, we’ll all fall into a funk at some point. The key, though, is to avoid staying there. You do have control over finding ways to escape your funk, and they don’t have to break the bank. Still, if your funk is lasting a long time or if you’re just not getting out of it, don’t be afraid to seek professional help as well.
Life is hard, and we all struggle from time to time. Still, life is also beautiful, and you owe it to yourself to feel that beauty again. Pulling yourself out of a rut or a funk and getting back to feeling fabulous takes work. Still, I hope that you find the strength to do just that because, truly, you already are fabulous. You just need to believe it again.
For more inspiration, please join me over on Instagram or check out my motivational poetry on Amazon under L.A. Henry.
Nervous jitters coursed through my body as we pulled up to the familiar building. All 140 pounds of our black Great Dane was wiggling, thrilled to see his dog school we’d been going to for months. This time, though, things were different.
After several courses of obedience, I’d decided to enroll Edmund, our Great Dane, in a class we’d never taken before: agility. I knew the instructors and the building, but I knew nothing about what to expect. It was foreign territory, and I was terrified of how he might perform. Still, along with the nervousness was another feeling–excitement. There was something thrilling about doing something completely new, something out of our comfort zone. And although Edmund still has so much to learn, we both had a blast learning new skills.
It might seem crazy that my dog’s agility class had such an impact, but honestly, in the past year, that’s what I’ve learned about life–small changes can make a big difference.
From taking a new class with my dog to learning to make candy, I’ve been branching out in small ways these past few months. I’ve read books in genres I usually don’t. I’ve listened to new podcasts and tried new makeup looks. I’ve bought new clothes and spent a lot of time on Pinterest seeing what appealed to me. I’ve tried to get back to the notion that used to be so familiar in my childhood–the idea of exploring, trying, and adventuring in any way I can.
Still, I hear so many friends and acquaintances talk about the state of monotony they find themselves drowning in. I completely understand because in my thirties and especially these last couple of years, I’ve felt the suffocating feeling of being stuck in a rut. Maybe you have, too.
Maybe you’ve experienced the sensation where every day blends into the next, and you feel like you’re stuck in a black-and-white movie. There is no passion, no spark, no joy, and certainly no element of surprise. It feels like your life is stuck on repeat, and you can’t find the remote control to pause it. A hamster on a wheel, you keep running the race without a destination in mind.
Growing up, people always told me how tough the “real world” was and how hard adult life would be. The thing is, I don’t think anyone really focused on the other difficult aspect of being an adult: monotony.
I know, I know. Being bored is, in some ways, a blessing. It means your life is stable and safe enough that your mind can rest. You aren’t in survival mode, running on pure adrenaline. If you have the mental capacity to be bored, you probably are living a life that you should be grateful for.
Still, I’ve come to learn in my thirties that there’s more to life that being stable and safe. There’s something else we need that few of us focus on–which is why I think so many of us feel lost.
Passion is the spark that lights us up from within. It’s the igniter for our soul, the element that keeps us going. It’s what keeps the days from blending into each other. It’s what keeps our world in vibrant color instead of dull gray scale. It’s what keeps life worth living.
So many of us, though, once we’re settled into our lives, find ourselves lacking just that. We get stuck in a rut in our careers, our relationships, our own personal development. We fall into routines and can’t find the energy to leave them. Our days become repetition cycles that keep us alive but don’t actually bring us to life.
It’s understandable, though, that we fall into these patterns. Routines can be comforting and also helpful. They keep our minds at ease. Furthermore, adult life is exhausting. Between housekeeping, paying bills, the stress of job, our social lives, taking care of family, and everything else we are pulled to do, who has the energy to mix things up or find excitement?
It’s easy to fall into a routine and a rut. It’s hard to get out.
Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking lately that we owe it to ourselves to try. We owe it ourselves to find ways to mix up our lives, spice up our routines, and challenge ourselves to find something new to excite us.
I don’t think you have to go to extremes. You don’t have to sell your house tomorrow, buy a camper, and travel in a foreign country. You don’t have to quit your job and learn to live off the land next week or change your entire look and personality. Getting out of your rut can truly happen if you focus on the small things.
Take a new route to work.
Go on a walk somewhere you’ve never been.
Get your coffee from a new place.
Find a recipe for a food you’ve never tried on Pinterest and make it.
Take a class, free or paid.
It isn’t about how much money you spend or how radical the change is. It’s simply about trying something new. Challenges, new experiences, new skills, and new views feed the soul.
Too often, when we hear motivational speakers or experts talk about breaking out of a rut, it all seems so drastic. They tell us how to reach for the stars and be brave enough to trade in our lives for something else. I think all of that is great and can be the right move for some of us. Nonetheless, I don’t think you have to chuck out your entire livelihood in order to feel alive again.
Sometimes, it just takes a dog agility class or a Pinterest craft or a slightly new hairstyle to make us remember that we aren’t done exploring yet. I hope that this week, you take some time to try something new, to learn something new, or to be something new. As my favorite quote of all time says, “You are not a tree.” So I hope this week, you feel moved to move away from the sights you’re used to and discover something new.
I fell for the 30 lie when I was in my teens and twenties. You know, the lie that says you'll have your life all figured out and perfected by that third decade.
Maybe it was the movie "13 Going on 30" that did it. I just pictured myself at 30 with a life that reeked of fulfillment, joy, and purpose. I would get up everyday with my sleek body, put on a professional outfit, and step outside of my home worthy of a magazine to greet the day with a smile. I would know exactly who I was and what I wanted. I would have achieved my goals and be living a life where everyday felt full of purpose and passion.
I fell for the 30 lie...and then, when I turned 30, it all sort of crumbled.
I realized very quickly after blowing out those 30 candles that the movies, society, the magazines that seem to suggest your 20s are for exploring and your 30s are where it's at....well, they missed some important points.
Like the point that no one really figures it all out by a certain age. Like that, as cheesy as it sounds, it's truly about the journey.
The thing is: there is no endpoint in our self-fulfillment journeys. We are always evolving, changing, growing, and learning (if we're doing this life thing remotely right). What we think we want at 30 might not be what we want at 32 anymore. And that dream we had in our teens might not fulfill us any longer in our 40s. Life is truly about changing, and, thus, we sometimes must change our visions for life, too.
Then, of course, there's the fact that life never quite goes as we expect it. Unexpected tragedies, surprises, and opportunities crop up. Sometimes, the path we thought we were on falls out from under us and we are left floundering.
I've come to learn in my 30s that this thing called life is a winding journey. It's never done. It's never flattened out.
I think the best we can do is commit to a life where we constantly assess what we want, what makes us happy, and where our passions are. There is no such thing as a perfect life, but there is such a thing as perfecting our reflective powers to figure out where are passions lie at different points in our life.
So, this year, I hope you take some time, no matter what your age, to reassess.
*What do you LOVE?
*When are you happiest?
*Do you have more good days than bad?
*What are the blessings in your life?
*What do you wish you had more of in your life?
And then, once you've reflected on that, I hope you find a way to bring more into your life this year--more joy, more passion, and more moments that make you feel peace.
If you're doing that, no matter what age you are, I think you'll find that this life is crazy beautiful and fulfillment although everchanging, is possible.
There's something magic about this time of year, the days right before the calendar switches.
I know, I know: You can set goals and change your routine any time of the year. You don't have to wait for January 1st.
Still, I love the symbolism in that blank page, that whole year ahead. I love the idea of setting goals, of dreaming dreams, and of trying to set intentions for a better version of yourself.
This year, in 2022, I'm getting focused on my truest passion: writing. I'm chasing my big, wild dream of being a NYT bestseller. I'm focusing in on my writing and paring down my schedule to chase my biggest passions.
I'm making self-care a priority, which means saying "no" to some things and simplifying. It means prioritizing and asking the hard question: What truly makes me happy?
I'm going into 2022 feeling ready to live more passionately and to stop apologizing (thank you, Rachel Hollis) for being my truest self.
I hope that you are doing the same. I hope you have your eye on 2022 as well, and I hope it fills you with excitement.
We've got this. Let's go get our dreams, friends.
Stay Safe and Be True,
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books