“Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.” – Vernor Vinge
I thought that it was never going to end.
Wake up. Brush my teeth. Drive to work. Sit at my desk for eight hours. Count the hours from the moment I sit down: Eight, seven, six… Drive home. Make dinner. Eat. … Sleep. Wake up.
The truth is, at that point in my life, nothing brought me joy any more. I hated waking up. I hated going to work. By the time I got home, I was so drained and frustrated that I got little joy from my family.
Having a small child left me with virtually no time for myself, and so no hope for recovery from the torture of my mind-numbing job. The only escape I found was the make-believe world of video games, into which I’d dive at every opportunity.
As days turned to months, and months into years, I was starting to give up hope. I thought that this must be my lot in life: I was destined to sacrifice myself in the service of others. Although I was dying inside, I held on as best I could in the name of duty.
There was only one little problem—my miserable state affected those around me. While I was sacrificing my life to my family, my wife wanted nothing more than for me to come out of my depression.
She tried to help me as best she could, encouraging me to switch jobs and return to school, neither of which had a lasting effect.
The Wake Up Call
Then, one night, in a final, desperate attempt to help me, my wife looked me in the eyes with an intensity that I’ve never seen before, and said five simple words:
“You have to fix this.”
When I did not respond, she quietly walked away, leaving me to my thoughts.
“I’ve got to do something?” I thought to myself. “Really, me? But I’m already doing everything I can!!! I’ve given up my life for her and our son, and she wants me to do more?” That was my initial reaction.
Then, it suddenly hit me. I understood what she meant, and my life would never again be the same.
I’ve got to do something. It was up to me to change my life.
All this time, I was waiting for something outside of me to change, hoping that someone would see my pain help me out of it.
My wife, my boss, my friends – none of them could do it for me. Even with the best of intentions, other people simply aren’t as well positioned to help us.
How I Changed My Life
I wasn’t sure what to do, but I was determined to do something.
I knew all along that at the heart of my problem was my job. I could no longer ignore the signs that my job wasn’t right for me. So, I started with one small step: I went to a career center at a local university, and filled out a questionnaire to help me identify a career path that matched my personality.
Actually, this was a brand new concept for me: I’d always thought of a job as merely something you do to make a living. The idea that it should somehow be connected with my personality was a real eye-opener.
I came home very excited that evening. All of sudden, everything made sense. I wasn’t crazy or irresponsible. I was simply stuck at a job that didn’t match who I was!
The test results showed me that I am an extrovert. No wonder I was miserable when my main companion at work was a lifeless machine! Further, the test results spoke of my need for creativity, which was badly suppressed after so many years of what felt like mindless work.
This started a long search for my passion, eventually leading me to more than one way of making a living doing what I love.
With my own personality as my guide, I became trained in singing and acting. The arts allowed a level of self-expression unlike anything that I’ve experienced before, bringing me immense joy, and satisfying my natural need for socialization.
Working at jobs that fit my personality led to an incredible amount of self-growth. I was changing from the inside out. I got in touch with my emotions, learned to express how I feel, and even started connecting with others in a more authentic way.
What’s most important is that I became happy. The depression lifted life a veil, and I was once again fully alive and joyful. Life was once again worth living.
Today, I make a living as an actor and singer, and help others discover their passions and make a living doing what they love.
3 Tips To Start Changing Your Life
Let me leave you with three things to help you get started on your path to change, all of which I learned from those five simple words.
1. Realize That You Have the Power to Change Your Life
You have the power to change your life. Whether you realize it yet or not, you can do it. Further, you are only one who can do it. Others can help, but the bulk of the work is up to you. Don’t look at that as a negative—realize that you are in control of your own life, and how important it is that you alone have that power!
Realizing that the responsibility to change your life is yours might seem intimidating at first, but it is actually very empowering. If your responsibilities to others leave you feeling powerless, then keep reading.
2. Quit Sacrificing Your Life for Others
First of all, it isn’t helping them either. Anyone who is worth your time, anyone who really cares about you, wants you to be happy.
When we are down, when our life feels beyond our control, then we cannot bring joy to others. It is when we’re happy that we can bring happiness to the lives of others.
3. Do Something, No Matter How Small
Don’t wait. You’ve already waited long enough. Take a step, no matter how small, in the direction that you want your life to go.
Don’t focus on the mountain, or you may be too intimidated. Instead, figure out the smallest step you can do right now, and one tiny step at a time, you will climb to the top of the tallest mountain that your imagination can conceive.
No matter what change you want to create in your life, others have been there before. My last piece of advice for you today is to seek out the help of others, be it by reading blogs (as you are already doing, I commend you on that!), going to a local resource center, or seeking out the help of a coach. Learning from the experiences of others who have been there is the shortest path to change.
Lastly, if no one else had told you this before, let me be the one say: You’ve got to do something!
I wish you an enjoyable journey in your quest for change.
Photo by Chiara Cremaschi