Don’t Confuse the Bend on the Road with the End of the Road
I had a dream — and it’s gone. There is nothing I can do about it. It was there, I was getting closer to it — and then it disappeared overnight. And now here I am. Empty. Meaningless. Dreamless. And I don’t know what to do about it.
Eight months ago, inspired by a couple of coincidental events, contradictory feelings crashing onto each other, immersed in the wonder of chance-encounters — I had a moment when I realised that I want to move. Not out of the flat. Not as in going for a run. Not to another flat. I came up with the idea of moving to another country, to a city that I love more than anything — where I keep going back because it’s magic.
It started as a silly mess of what-ifs and why-nots that quickly turned into a fuck-let’s-do-it and if-not-now-then-when. Then I added another element to the equation when I told myself: You are not too old and it’s not too late.
Okay, I can do this.
Think about impossible projects — when everybody shies away just because it’s so much easier not to do it and just wait until the problem goes away — that’s when I am thriving. That’s what motivates me. Looks improbable? Give it to me? Looks impossible? I will go for it. The over-achiever in me bouncing with joy when it comes to problem-solving — especially if it’s my choice of problems.
And it was my choice.
Nobody said it would be easy — three kids, a new city, a new language, the seven circles of hell of administration, with a lot less help and a lot more responsibility.
I doubled up on working, I started to be even more conscious about money. I discussed it with everyone — I got the approval from my ex-husband that I can take the kids, I got the approval from my boss that I can keep my job and work remotely, I talked to my other clients and agreed that everything can be done online and I picked up a few new regular writing clients. After all, I need to have financial stability before I give up my life here to move it to another place.
Perfect timing. I will be 42 this year — one of the magical numbers when things fall into place for lots. The end of the seven lean years that started when I was 35 — and when my whole life turned upside down. My kids are in the right age to learn a new language or two — and in case it doesn’t work out, we can always come back and they can still go to high-school here.
I started to organise the administration for the move, residence permits, school information, EU card for foreigners, social security — and the rest on the list of twenty things to deal with.
I was looking for flats — imagining myself on my new balcony, picturing how I will decorate the kids’ rooms, how I will organise our days. I found a sports club for my eldest daughter. I was looking for playgrounds for my youngest.
And I was planning a life that would allow me to have a fresh start — free from the trauma that is still in me and it’s a heavy burden; free from the places that remind me of my ex; free from the memories and the hurt.
It was the bright light at the end of the tunnel — the end of this gloomy darkness than embraces me only too often.
At the beginning of February, my ex-husband, the father of my two elder daughters wanted to talk to me about the move. I imagined we would discuss the schedules and logistics on how he would be visiting us, how to arrange the travels, how to deal with the move, the packing and I even thought he would suggest supporting us somewhat financially.
The conversation didn’t exactly go as I imagined. He told me in the first 5 minutes that he doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea anymore and he won’t allow the girls to move with me — not now. He suggested that I wait 4 years when the girls are bigger and then we can go.
I was speechless. I couldn’t believe my ears. What was he saying? He just put a stop to everything I have arranged. He just ended my dream-life with one single sentence.
I was so baffled that I couldn’t even argue with him.
He yanked the rug from under me and I was free-falling.
I have been in limbo for the past eight months. I was neither here nor yet there. I was focusing on work and making money to secure our stay financially. I stopped working out. I stopped dating. I stopped going out with friends. I put myself on hold for months and now his sentence was dragging me back to a place that I didn’t want to be.
My mental health was already in bad shape. I was having depressed episodes — a lot more than usual. I isolated myself from people — to be able to focus on what I thought mattered. I let go of my health, I put on weight, I stopped eating healthy. I was drinking way too much alcohol — and what’s worse, I did it on my own. It started to look worrying.
I spent weeks of binge drinking and binge eating, being unable to write anything I enjoyed, suffering through every project I was assigned to, and every morning I woke up with crippling depression. I binge-watched series — spending an insane amount of time in bed. It was terrible. And I felt lonely, ashamed, lazy and depressed.
I met a friend and we had a coffee — he was pushing for it and I just couldn’t find it in me to cancel on him. He wanted to show he cares, and I have been isolating myself forever from everyone I knew.
I told him about my flopped dream in a few words, and he was listening. I was close to tears. I confessed that I let myself go completely. I stopped enjoying writing. I am lonely and bitter. And I don’t see a way out. And now that I can’t move, I don’t know what to do anymore.
He was looking at me, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Who are you and what have you done to my friend? The Zita I know is not like this. She would never let anyone stop her and take her dream away. She knows that the bend on the road is not the end of the road. The current situation might hold you back, but I’ll be damned if I believe that it can stop you. You know, you might have something to do here, and when you deal with that, you’ll figure it out. You always do. There is always a workaround, and you are the best at finding them. Get it together.”
He was kind and harsh at the same time. And I was grateful for and offended by his words.
It was a long-overdue wake-up call. It was clearly going nowhere. And I decided that I can’t do this alone. I need external help to get out of this. I can’t pretend anymore that I can manage it, because it’s obvious that I can’t. It’s not about lack of willpower, it’s about lack of motivation for life.
I talked to a psychologist, who freed up an hour within two days.
I talked to my kickboxing coach, who told me to meet up the next day.
I bumped into the book of Mark Manson about not giving a fuck. I read it in one sitting.
I changed my playlist from gloomy to upbeat.
It seems nothing. And it means everything.
The thing is, my well-being is the greater good that I should sacrifice things for — not the other way around.
I didn’t want to admit that I set out this move to be my dream and I neglected myself in the journey completely. Sure, I was doing a lot. I worked harder than ever. I wrote more than ever. But I ignored everything that was related to me — claiming that this is the time to put my needs on the back-burner — for the greater good.
The thing is, my well-being is the greater good that I should sacrifice things for — not the other way around. No matter how great the dream was, it was but an escape plan — not having to face with my demons. I put my trust in something that I expected to suddenly and magically solve every problem I’ve ever had. I fell in love with an idea of a life that promised me lightness and fun — instead of dealing with the emotional baggage I carried around and instead of enjoying my own company.
The show stopped. And without the dream, I was standing there with the weight of my own situation that wasn’t going to magically disappear. It was dragging me down. But I chose not to see how my single-focused approach was making me miserable.
I once listened to a motivational speaker and during his speech he asked a simple question from the audience. “Hands up, who wants to win the lottery?” All hands went up. “Okay, who thinks that winning the lottery would make them happier? Keep your hands up.” Almost all hands stayed in the air.
He went on explaining that if you think that winning the lottery would change you into a happier person, then you have a lot to work on. Because it doesn’t work like this.
This move was my lottery win. And as it was within my reach I worked for it. But on the way, I completely forgot to deal with what makes me happy here and now. And when the chance was gone, I realised that nothing goes well in my life.
My ex-husband actually gave me a gift with telling me that he won’t allow our daughters to move. If he did, I would be already there renting a flat, getting into the maze of the bureaucracy, working even harder to make enough money — or more than enough — to assure we’d be fine there.
But I would carry the unhappiness with myself — because the emotional baggage doesn’t go away just because you have a lot to do and you are distracted. You just get used to carrying it, yearning for the lightness of the seaside, parties and casual fucks. But what’s really broken doesn’t get fixed on its own.
My shame, my body image issues, my bad habits, my terrible coping mechanisms, my workaholic approach of solving problems wouldn’t just go away. They’d be hiding in the dark, waiting for the first moment of not having anything to distract me from it.
I’d have gone there feeling lazy, useless, untalented, worthless — who happened to accomplish one part of her dream: the seaside city and the eternal sunshine that sounds great but it’s not a cure to depression, self-loathing and worthlessness.
I will be 42 — I think it’s high time I had the time of my life.
I decided to look at it differently. Because that’s the only thing to do.
I can’t change the facts — but I can choose how I interpret them.
I am zooming out of my life for now — I am taking a good look at it from a distance, and I can see that I have more problems to solve than I would have thought. I still need to process the trauma and its effects on my present self — because no matter how light I would feel on the beach, the burden is within my cells and the darkness is coming out of my pores. I still need to start to love myself — because no number of casual or not casual encounters I have, others’ love and appreciation cannot fill the void. I still need to establish sustainable routines and coping mechanisms — because if I move, I just take this current me to another country without changing into a better me.
So, I am going to therapy — and I am learning new things about myself every session. I am facing questions that I didn’t dare to ask and I am looking for answers where I thought was just darkness.
I signed up for a 3+3 months personal fitness coaching — a full lifestyle change, regular exercising (and it’s kickboxing which I love), supervised eating by a nutritionist. I’m ditching, sugar, carbs, binge eating and alcohol.
I’m giving myself six months to turn it all around. Six months of therapy. Six months of exercising 3–5 times a week. Six months of giving myself the attention and care that I’d deserve all the time. Six months, when I allow myself to be a beginner; when I let myself fail and make mistakes without beating myself up. Six months of selfishness that I should practice because being selfless only hurts me and everyone around me.
I replaced my dream for now. My new dream is quite simple. By the time of my birthday I would like to be the healthiest, lightest — both emotionally and physically — , happiest version I have ever been. I will be 42 — I think it’s high time I had the time of my life.
And when I am ready, my new (or old) dream will find me — and no one can stop me. Because I am not one to confuse the bend on the road with the end of the road. If there is a workaround, I will find it.