I spent a good deal of my late teens and twenties being a girlfriend and then a wife, completely skipping over the "normal" behaviors that most people go through at that age, like partying, dating and figuring out who I am. When I found myself divorced at the tender young age of 28, I realized that I had no idea who I was, no idea what made me happy and no idea what I really wanted to do with my life. I was broken and alone, terrified that my heart would never mend and that I would never find real happiness.
Fast forward five years and I'm writing this article in my villa in Bali, my heaven on Earth -- and my new home. Although I've spent the last four years in therapy trying to figure out all of my issues, it wasn't until I started traveling a year ago that I really discovered the real me.
I am actually a happy person.
If I said this to my ex-husband when we were married, he would have laughed in my face. I spent nine years with him, bitching and moaning about a million and one things every day. The tiniest aggravation would send me into a tailspin of worry, upset and anxiety. I was so bad that I developed OCD-level coping strategies to deal with my anxiety (obsessively needing to blow kisses and exhale fully on the last kiss is totally normal right?). Post-divorce, I discovered that I don't need those coping mechanisms any longer. Who knew?! Turns out I'm really happy when I'm living my dream life wandering through Southeast Asia, drinking terrible wine and working on my tan.
Although I sometimes get lonely, I love traveling (and being) alone.
When I first got separated, I couldn't spend two minutes alone with my thoughts and feelings. I spent an entire year drinking my pain away, alternating between drunk and hungover as f*ck. I couldn't face myself or the situation that I found myself in. When I wasn't drinking, I was dating... constantly. There was a never-ending string of men and relationships, most of which were destined to fail before they even started because I was so afraid of being alone -- literally and figuratively.
Now, I'm coming up on my one-year anniversary of traveling all by my lonesome. There have been really tough moments -- like the one where I had to cut myself off from all my friends and lay in a hammock on the beach, reading books for a week straight to re-center myself -- but all in all, I have loved every minute of it. Traveling alone is one of the most empowering things that a girl can do... and for someone who spent the better part of her adult life relying on her ex-husband for everything, even after our divorce, it is an experience that I truly needed to have in order to become the fully-functioning adult that I am today.
Divorce is not an ending. It is an opportunity.
My divorce made me who I am today. Without the personal sadness of my pre-divorce life and the gut-wrenching divorce recovery process, I would never have discovered myself or found happiness. Without divorce, I would have never realized that travel is my true passion and that I am the happiest when I'm wearing a flowy sundress and flip flops, 365 days per year. I would have never started writing for The Huffington Post Divorce section and I would never have had the opportunity to meet and help so many wonderful men and women suffering through the pain of their own divorce. I wouldn't have made the best friends that I have today. I wouldn't have seen the world. I wouldn't have my beautiful dog baby, Osgoode, and because I wouldn't have him, my heart would only be half as full as it is today.
Travel made me see all of these things and appreciate my life for the very first time, ever. I feel lucky every single day because of what I've gone through. My thirties are so much better because of the heartbreak (of divorce) in my twenties. It sounds cheesy to say but traveling was what helped me to discover myself and today, I am the happiest that I've ever been.
And, you know what? One day if you discover your own passion, you will be too.
If you divorced in your 20s and learned a lot about love, life and yourself in the process, we'd love to hear your story for our series, Divorced By 30. Send us a 500-800-word essay or an idea for a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org.