I was having a conversation with my brother Keith over Christmas, and at one point he said something rather profound. When talking about our lives – things we’ve learned, where we find ourselves now, and so forth – he remarked: “You know, I used to think once you reach a certain age as an adult, you’ve ‘arrived’ in life. But now that I’m getting older, I’m realizing I don’t think we ever ‘arrive’. There is no such thing. We just keep moving forward all the time. We’re always moving to the next thing. The next goal. It never stops.”
When he said this I instantly found myself applying the sentiment to my upcoming birthday; the big one. The third decade. Yes…on a Friday the 13th in January I’ll be turning thirty years old. (And I’m not sure yet if it’s a good or bad omen to start a third decade on such a notoriously superstitious day.)
I thought about where I’d once envisioned myself being when I reached this milestone. How once upon a time I’d imagined at thirty I’d own a home, be married to my soulmate, possibly have a child or two, and starting to make all kinds of money from my various ventures that were succeeding (writing novels, singing opera, and working on business/entrepreneurial ventures).
Lofty goals, as it now turns out. And most of them not realized. (Then again I also once thought thirty was “old”…and I now understand that isn’t true either. So some unmet expectations are welcome.)
Instead of owning my own home, I’m currently living with my parents as I recover from an eviction that occurred as part of the end of an abusive relationship with a man my therapist is classifying as a Cluster-B Personality (sociopaths/narcissists/psychopaths). Instead of married to my soulmate, well…I’m single, and at the moment downright terrified at the prospect of ever opening up my heart again. So one could say I’m in the antarctic as far as finding a life partner right now; just me and the penguins, and they’re already paired off for winter.
I don’t even own a car; having sold my adorable little blue beetle about eighteen months ago, instead driving a car that belonged to Randall’s ex-girlfriend that she’d given to him (but still owed money on, so in essence I ended up having to take over the monthly payments…one more thing as I look back that I’m embarrassed about). He ultimately drove that car into the ground; got into a few minor incidents (including one time where he decided to go ‘gliding’ around on icy roads and ended up colliding harshly with a curb), and ultimately it was determined all the damage meant the car had to be totaled. His ex, Blanche, got out of the car payments, so her life was pretty damn good, and also got rid of the car; while I have nothing to show for that $600 payment each month other than a whole lot of anger and shame.
Not exactly anything I’m proud of so far.
Instead of confidently striding into my future, I often find myself questioning my abilities, my intelligence, and my talents (all courtesy of Randall, the abuser who managed to tear down almost every shred of self-respect and self-love I once had). I find myself feeling afraid a lot, chasing the feeling of being safe even as it stays maddeningly out of reach. I wake up in the middle of the night when I hear noises, worried Randall or his minions are breaking down the door to rob and violently harm us all (something he vowed he’d do by the end of our relationship). Lots of fear. Lots of shame. Lots of emotions that aren’t necessarily rational, but they are definitely powerful and difficult to control.
In short, I don’t feel anywhere close to “an adult”. I still at times feel like a lost, confused, scared child who simply yearns to feel safe and loved.
Still, that having been said, the one thing I do have at this point is a career that is blossoming beautifully. It’s taken many years of hard work, earning my stripes through failures as much as successes; but I’m there now. Working with Lasting Connections is a pure joy as it expands nationally, my personal success coaching with clients of my own is extremely fulfilling for my soul, and while I’ve had many moments in recent years where I experienced abject poverty (bank accounts being closed down due to lengthy overdraft fees, eviction for non payment of rent, bills discharged to collections, hungry a time or two because the fridge was empty, you name it I experienced it), I’m moving away from that now in rapid fashion. Speeding away is more accurate in fact.
I knew it would be that way; I knew there would come a moment when it would all click. That’s just how it works in this industry. Still, I almost didn’t make it; I almost threw in the towel many, many times, particularly after I was in a relationship with Randall, seeing as how he was constantly breathing down my neck about why I wasn’t getting big results yet, and ultimately saying I needed to walk away because according to his ‘expertise’ it was a business venture that was dead in the water. (Read: The Myth Of The Overnight Success)
Thankfully, I was able to hang in there. And now the checking account is healthy again, the savings account is no longer dry, and I am surrounded only by people who love and support me as I move toward the future. No more leeches making themselves fat while leaving me dry.
So……it’s true, I’m not where I once thought I’d be when I turned thirty. I’ve had a lot of failures in my life I didn’t anticipate all those years ago when I allowed myself to fantasize about my future. I’m a convicted felon. I’ve spent a little bit of time in jail. I’ve made fairly big mistakes and left a few potholes in my wake. I’ve allowed myself at times to be completely and utterly walked over by others; standing silently to the side as boundaries that meant a lot to me were blown to bits, instead of standing up and advocating for myself the way I deserved.
And love? I guess as the song says, love hasn’t done right by me so far. I gave my heart, my virginity, my everything to a man who ultimately proved himself unworthy in almost every way. Right now I feel like all innocence and light has been stripped from me, and I just count myself lucky to be alive and able to move forward. I won’t lie, I have days where I despair that I’ll ever find love; thinking perhaps I’m branded somehow as dirty or tainted by everything that happened. And that saddens me; because I’m still also at my heart a deeply romantic person. (I know…figure that one out.)
But as I often say to my clients, I’m trying to just put that to one side and keep marching forward. If you can continue to put one foot in front of the other, no matter what is happening, that’s all that matters; because it’s when we move forward that good things can come into our lives. Standing still doesn’t invite anything in.
So I’m endeavoring to do my best.
Besides, there’s a way to flip all those negative experiences on on their heads. Instead of being something horrible or dark or twisted or embarrassing or shameful (as it sometimes is when I reflect), it can all be seen as something empowering. Because I’m still here, despite everything that happened. I have managed to find incredible success for myself despite being unfairly labeled as a felon, when so many others carrying that burden are unable to for one reason or another (and I do have to thank my wonderful family and friends for helping me pull it off). I’ve stayed clean and sober despite the difficulties presented over the years, and only tripped up with one relapse along the way right at the end of my abusive relationship; but I hopped right back on the wagon afterward. And in spite of the abuses suffered, and the shame I felt in my heart due to Randall’s actions and words, I still ultimately left him. There are many in abusive relationships who never quite manage to get away, so that is something to be proud of. All kindness and humanity hasn’t been taken out of me; I still overall am who I’ve always been…albeit a little battered, bruised, and perhaps a bit more cynical than I once was.
I can relate to people in ways I never used to be able to. I’ve always been an extremely empathic person, but now it’s grown to a place where I’m able to truly offer comfort and help to not just friends and loved ones, but also to clients through my personal success coaching. I understand addiction, and how it can take over your whole life whether you want it to or not. I understand what it means to be depressed, to the point where even getting out of bed feels impossible. I understand what it is to feel hopeless. To feel lost. To feel completely and utterly invisible and alone in a world that seems harsh and cruel. I understand shame; and how you can say or do things that later you would give anything to erase from your life story. The oppressive kind shame that can make looking someone in the eye next to impossible because you literally view yourself as “less than” whoever it is you’re talking to. I understand the cutting sting of betrayal; the kind that is traumatic in the sense that you go to bed an entirely different person inhabiting a whole different world than when you woke up that morning. I understand what it means to struggle to trust others, and to be suspicious. I understand what it is to be overweight, and feel out of place or inadequate due to my dress size. I know what it’s like to feel ugly; to hate what I see in the mirror. I understand trauma, and the way it can haunt you and reach out and bite you when you least expect it.
And most important of all…I understand what it takes to pull out of these low points in life. I’m able to offer my knowledge and help to others. And I’ve also gained a new appreciation and love for myself that I never had before; my boundaries are firmly in place at this point and no one will ever get them to budge again. That is a gift in and of itself.
So…thirty? You may not look like what I thought you’d be, but that’s okay. You’re actually looking pretty damn beautiful to me precisely as you are. A shiny new decade to play with, that is free of abusers and jail sentences and trauma and pain. A decade that can instead be celebrated as the time when I come into my own and truly start to live life the way I was meant to: empowered, wise, and confident.
This is me at thirty. Let’s do this!
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.
**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities