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Years ago, I did something really f*cking crazy.
After my divorce, I quit my high-paying Department of Defense job to go travel through Asia, Russia, the Caucasus Region, and Turkey.
I had money saved and a few visas in my passport, but other than that, I was just winging it.
But it wasn’t some “Eat, Pray, Love” fantasy. Far from it.
It was more like a “Dysentery in Vietnam, Arguments with Cambodian Shopkeepers, Crying in Front of Chinese Border Guard, Frostbite in Siberia, and a terrible UTI from a Turkish Guy.”
Was it insane to quit my job, put my sh*t in storage, and have no return date in sight?
Did I suffer mild trauma from some of the sh*t that went down as a stranger in a stranger land?
But those four months on the road taught me something that no amount of books, b*tching to my friends, or therapy sessions ever could.
Here’s what it did teach me:
In order to get back to yourself after divorce, you have to let go of other people’s expectations of you.
The biggest challenge of my clients—professional divorced women who are a lot like you—is that they are still operating on other people’s expectations. They’re still playing by the rules that say a divorced woman shouldn’t desire anything else and that she should be grateful for what she has and not ask for anything else.
Other people’s expectations are brainwashing you into thinking that you’re selfish for dreaming big and that you should feel guilty for setting boundaries with your family.
Those same expectations are the BS that keeps you stuck after divorce, unable to move on, while it feels like everybody else is just passing you by. It’s the other people’s expectations that are keeping you from not having any fun and leaving you frustrated.
But living by other people’s expectations is not going to reward you.
There is no prize for being the Saintly Woman. Nobody is going to reward you for being The Woman Who Never Asked For Much and Stayed Humble and Modest.
Those expectations of not asking for what you deserved, or staying modest, or balancing being the perfect wife and mother and co-worker may have served you when you were younger.
You adapted to them out of necessity.
But they no longer serve you.
You’ve outgrown them and it’s time to create your own damn expectations.
If you continue to live via other people’s expectations (i.e. staying at a sh*tty, toxic job just because it “makes financial sense,” staying in a relationship that you’re not happy in because “it’d be too hard to start over,” spending your holidays with family “because that’s what you’ve always done,” or 1,000 other things that you do that you’re not happy with), you’re slowly trampling on your soul.
It’s time that you started playing by your own rules. Not the rules that you’ve been operating from for decades. They may have helped you navigate your life to this point. But it’s time to let them go.
If you’re scared of letting go of these expectations—especially after divorce—here are a few guiding principles that I know helped me after my own mess of a divorce and existential crisis.
Am I living my life right now to make everybody else comfortable?
When was the last time I actually thought about what I want to do?
What about my hopes and dreams and passions?
What concrete steps can I take today to start focusing on what I want out of life?
Letting go of what everybody thinks you should do after divorce ain’t easy. I struggled with that sh*t for years after the end of my marriage.
But what if you don’t have years to continue playing by other people’s rules?
If anything, your divorce was a sign that something in your life wasn’t working.
Let your divorce recovery be your second chance.
Now is the time that you let go of the expectations others have put on you.
Give yourself the permission you need to get out of your rut and start living the life that you want and that you deserve.
Because if you don’t, how will anything in your life change for the better?