How My Life Began the Day It Ended

by GEM Magazine / Jul 22, 2015 / Comments

I found myself sitting on a park bench down by the river, smoking a cigarette (a habit I had given up years earlier), contemplating jumping in the river, damn well knowing that I couldn’t swim… I'd snapped.

Am I actually saying I was suicidal?

The answer to that is…yes. Painfully, honestly. Yes.

I hated my life. Despised it. I was in a job I disliked. Actually, I had hated the career path I had chosen. My marriage was in shambles and I was miserable in my own skin; I was devoid of hope and couldn’t remember the last time I was actually happy. Or even moderately comfortable.

It was a feeling I'd had for as long as I could remember.

The final straw that lead me to that park bench by the river was the failing health of my beloved grandpa; he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier that month, and the weeks leading up to that were absolute hell.

I was juggling a hectic work schedule, my failing marriage and kids, alongside navigating hospitals, nursing care facilities, emergency rooms, and my own shattered heart.

My grandpa was my world, and my closest family member. Losing him was unfathomable.

Every day after his diagnosis, I woke up and wondered how I was going to manage it all. Every night I went to bed, I prayed I just wouldn’t wake up.

I was so tired of faking it; the life I had created was based on the expectations of what I thought everyone else wanted me to be, not what I actually wanted for myself. I had no idea who I was, why I was doing what I was doing, or why I was even here. Most of my life up to that point had been me struggling to convince everyone I was “normal,” even though things were just a mess.

And here’s the kicker; on the outside to everyone else, I appeared to have an ideal life:

Good job.
Nice husband.
Two beautiful, smart kids that went to private school.
A condo, two cars in the garage, etc.

But I was a fraud. Things sucked. Everyone was suffering due to lack of authenticity, poor life skills, generational dysfunction, and spiritual brokenness.

At that moment in time, on that park bench, I knew I had 3 options:

1. Stop being a coward and jump.
2. Pick up a drink and slowly drink myself to death (another nasty habit I had given up almost 7 years prior).
3. Change everything.

I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was God, maybe it was self will…maybe it doesn’t matter. But I snuffed out the cigarette, and I chose option 3.

I chose to change my life.

I walked into my bosses office the next day and I put in my notice. With absolutely no idea what I was going to do. And I just didn’t give a shit.

Then the moment came that I had been dreading. I held my Grandpa’s hand as he took his last breath on Earth.

Something about that event shifted EVERYTHING. Watching him die made me realize that I have one shot at this life, and I better stop fucking around and wasting it. My grandpa had worked hard his whole life, and had some stuff to show for it. However, his last days, he spent his time telling stories about his life, his adventures, and his regrets.

There were some things he didn’t do right, and he knew it; he spent too much time working, and not enough time with his family. He didn’t adventure enough. He didn’t take enough risks, and love fully with his heart wide open. I watched him regret these things, and it was heartbreaking.

The material possessions, the house, the job, the cars… none of it mattered. When he died, we gave away, threw away and sold 85 years worth of 'stuff'.

Love, connection, experiences. That’s what mattered.

Losing him was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. The last of my already broken heart had been shattered.

The beauty in something that is totally shattered is this; it can’t be repaired. It has to be remade.

And that’s what happened. My heart was made anew that day. My life began the day it ended.

My irreparable relationship with my husband was remade. I burned my bridges with my old career and made a new (and amazing) one.

We got rid of all of our stuff. We sold our condo and we started over.

Our entire life was made anew. Including how we live it. I started doing what my grandpa regretted not doing in his last days; I started loving with my heart wide fucking open.

These are some other things I do differently today vs. two years ago:

I no longer do things that don’t serve me.
I say no to people A LOT.
I no longer spend time with people who are toxic, judgmental, and don’t love me for exactly who I am.
I say what’s on my mind.
I embrace my authenticity and never, ever fake it.
But here’s the biggest change: I stopped giving a shit what other people think of me.

This has not been easy. The past two years have been a painfully, wonderful journey.

Shifting the way we have shifted doesn’t come without pitfalls.

When your energy shifts, sometimes it no longer gels with the people in your life. I have lost a TON of “friends” through this journey as they couldn’t understand what was happening to me. Even family too.

Some people think I’m stupid for living my life so off the beam, for giving up my career, my home, my so-called “stability.” Some people think I’m a fake bitch. Some people think I’m just flat crazy. They dislike my live-out-loud, fuck-what-other-people-think approach to life as it makes others really, really uncomfortable.

But I don't care because I no longer have to put up with it.

I spent most of my life without an authentic voice, and engaging with people just because I thought I had to… no matter how poorly they treated me.

There is so much truth in the saying, “You accept the love you think you deserve.”

This is where the whole “not giving a shit” thing comes in. I do NOT care what others think of me anymore and I flat-out refuse to surround myself with people who are toxic, unkind, and unsupportive.

Losing these relationships is actually a blessing. The people that have left my life have been replaced by a new tribe of amazing people.

Today my life is rad. And it’s mine. It’s the life I tried to manufacture before but could never get quite right, because it wasn’t coming from a place of authenticity.

I’m done living my life to please other people. And hopefully after reading this, you are too. Fuck that. Seriously. One life. One shot. No regrets, no excuses.

Change is scary. But you know what is worse? Regret.

That fateful day two years ago, I had three options. But the beauty lies in the fact that there WERE options, There are always options. There’s always hope. There’s always Option 3.

You can, in one moment, in one decision, change everything. Just be willing to love with your heart. Wide. Fucking. Open.

I did. You can too.

By Stephani Perin-Earling

Stephani is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and a Yoga Alliance certified yoga instructor. Her passion is to help others achieve optimal health and wellness, and encourage them to live life to its full potential.

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