I have a very typical divorce story. The details are unique, but so often, we, men or women, get caught up in bad marriages that take us away from who we are meant to be. We find ourselves consumed in a game of emotional survival and get lost from our own dreams and goals.
As women, mothers, men, fathers, we often find ourselves caught up in the busy tasks of daily life. We often prioritize the needs of others thinking, "I'll get to it when I have time" with regard to our own goals. And weeks, months and years go by.
One of my biggest fears in life was not that my dreams would go unfulfilled, but that I would allow myself to let life go by without fully pursuing them. I could accept that I may not achieve every goal that I set, but I was determined to make sure that I showed up for my own dreams - and that I showed up prepared.
There were many years when I did not pursue any of my dreams. I was caught up in a bad marriage, a divorce, a sick child, raising three young boys by myself. These are all really good reasons to put things off. I didn't have time to write. I didn't have energy to write. I didn't have the creative space in my mind to write. These are the thoughts that steal your dreams. And guess what. You can change them.
As I recovered from my divorce, I began to reevaluate what I wanted in my life. I wanted healthy and happy kids. Obviously that was and is the most important priority. I wanted a healthy relationship that filled me instead of depleted me.
I wanted to be a published writer.
And so I began to write. I became very intentional about writing consistently. I would put the boys to bed, and sit on my bed with my laptop on a pillow in front of me, and I would write. I had no specific goal in mind for what I was writing. But I started with blogging. And then I started with promoting the blogs on social media. And then I began communication with Huffington Post. And then I began to blog for the Huffington Post.
I realized that my blog about online dating resonated with people. After all, who hasn't had a bad date? So I put the blog in book form. I expanded it and began to send out queries. I was rejected - a lot. I kept writing and kept trying to find my voice. I kept updating and editing. I knew that persistence was the key, as I had read many writers' stories of rejection and perseverance.
Many times I wondered if I needed to define a more linear path. I was scattered in many directions blogging about online dating, divorce, blended families and more. Should I try to slow down and focus more? Should I stick to one specific topic? I couldn't answer that, so I just kept on keeping on. And I kept writing.
So when I volunteered to write a script for a local pageant, I was prepared when the essay judge asked to see my book. He just happened to have a publishing company. And he agreed to publish me a week later.
Here is what I have learned by putting my own dreams aside and then rediscovering them. You have to be on your own priority list. People say that all the time. But if you don't prioritize your dreams, you are doomed to regret. First, you have to know what they are. Self-awareness is a big thing for me. I think very few people have it, and I want to be one of them.
Know what you want. And then charge toward it. This means you have to take time, even if it is a miniscule amount on a regular basis, to pursue your dreams.
Be prepared. Do the work. If you do not put in the time to know what you are doing, when the opportunity arises, you will not be ready. I didn't know exactly how to pursue my writing, but I was working and editing and tweaking continually so that when something happened, I was ready.
Talk about it. Don't be afraid to put it out there. Some people feel like putting their dreams out in the world front and center is too big of a risk - that if they don't achieve them, people will think they are a failure. To that I say, "Who cares?" You are trying. And when you put it out there, who knows who will be listening? I had no idea the essay judge was a publisher. Thanks goodness I put it out there.
Don't be afraid to make adjustments. We all have ideas of what our dreams should look like. Sometimes life takes you down a path that looks different but still takes you where you want to go. Be open to different views of the same dream.
Don't let setbacks set you back. They are going to happen. I never expected to be divorced. I never expected to have a kid with a chronic illness. Get through it and get back to your goals.
Don't give up. I started writing about online dating more than 5 years ago. I had time where I was more active than others because, let's face it, sometimes life just gets in the way. But when you prioritize your dreams, even when life gets in the way, you make the effort to get back to it. Five years later, I am published.
To find out more about my book chronicling five years of crazy dates and tips I learned along the way, please visit my website www.sweetenthedeal.com.