I thought I had it all—I thought my life was fulfilling.
I went to college. I had a professional career—yet, I wondered why I felt so empty inside. I had most of the things successful people had—I say most because I was approaching 30 and was not married and did not have children.
I felt empty, because I was trying to hide the mishaps I had experienced—thinking they did not matter. They were the very things who made me who I am today.
Our spiritual growth does not necessarily follow the linear path of a growth chart that tracks height. It may rise and dip, and often times it does. When we have low points, it does not mean we have fallen. It is a new opportunity to find what it is we need to rise again.
It took losing everything I thought made me fulfilled to learn this. It was the most humbling experience of my life to admit all the things that once made me feel complete were the very same things making me miserable. Being able to say that I had failed at my own fulfillment connected me to others, because I no longer viewed their success as something to compete with but something to learn from.
Each one of us has a unique path. There is no one right way to grow, and a few dips will not stunt our growth—they only will if we let them. Too often we chart our growth by comparing it to others, that is when we lose our footing.
Events don’t unfold like pages of a story book. They unwind like a ball of yarn we need to untangle. Untangle is the key word. We must sit with discomfort, wonder and let things unfold. We cannot rush life—it happens. We must learn to adapt and to fall down with grace.
The other day, a friend told me that she did not feel at peace until she let go of all expectations. She was not referring to the goals she set. She was referring to the expectations she felt society had set for her. Once she let them go, her life was no longer a timeline—with landmarks to check off along the way, it was her own path.
Expectations are limiting. They are the demands we place on ourselves—the pressure to accomplish things within a set time-frame. But, life happens. It unfolds with wrinkles. Sometimes, life feels as if it stops abruptly at unwanted destinations. We must remember—life continues, and we move forward but not always linearly. We stay on this path by setting intentions, not expecting things.
I learned to accept the twists and turns, to untangle them and to use my intentions to redirect me to my path. This is when I started to feel complete. I learned I could not feel fulfilled by waiting to achieve something or waiting for an event to occur. A fulfilled life comes with knowing that no matter what happens we are okay with who we are. Comfortable, content and not wishing time away—and even more importantly, not wishing our missteps away, for they will teach us lessons.
When I became okay with my own missteps, that is when I was truly able to set intentions without expectations. I felt okay knowing that at one point I had been though hell—confessed to having an addiction, admitted I could not tolerate the stress of a corporate job, had my heart broken and fell into a depression after the death of loved ones. This is real—this is life. And I was not a failure for doing any of the above.
A friend once told me, when someone judges you, say: That’s right, I’m going through hell right now—I am struggling. My life is a bitch. But I am learning.
No formal degree course or training will teach us about our souls. We must breathe, feel and cry to know ourselves. And by setting intentions—no misstep will keep us from moving forward, because we always know that the path is just one step away.
Author: Jane CoCo Cowles
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina