How Change Made Both My Lives Worth Living

You can’t move forward by standing in one place

My fulfilling life today is dramatically different from my life before I moved to the Philippines and started doing the things I needed to change. I often say I’ve lived two lives. It’s almost like two different people existed in my body the whole time.

In my first life, before the changes, I was childish and wishy-washy. Mental illness marred everything, but other issues were going on as well. I wasn’t satisfied with anything, and as hard as the people around me tried, I always found fault. Neither my marriage nor my work fulfilled me, and I was always waiting for something better to come along.

I thought my life sucked. I was unhappy, unfulfilled, uncomfortable, ungrateful, and a whole lot of other un-words. I walked around in a daze — miserable and angry. I lived for over forty years like this, never doing the things I needed to make my life worthwhile.

Then, I became the hero of my story and started to change. The catalyst was my move to the other side of the globe, but I also started thinking completely different than before. I started thinking forward instead of dwelling in the past. After I started to help myself, my life moved forward quickly. Day after day, good things were happening, and it compounded as I went along.

Life was all about change.

What it was like before I changed

I grew up in a strict religious household. Being a Jehovah’s Witness was as hard as it was confusing. I questioned everything — even while I was told having an open mind was for sinners. I’m not using this as an excuse as to why my life turned out as it did though, because others have lived through the same experiences and did great things with their lives.

What it did for me is give me a screwed-up world view. Even after I moved away from religion and stopped letting other people make decisions for me, I was basing everything I did on the information force-fed to me as a child. Even when I went in the opposite direction and became an atheist, the anger I felt towards a god (or gods) colored my life with poison.

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Photo by Chris Karidis on Unsplash

My most notable bad decisions revolved around my attitude towards women and my feelings about sex. I walked some terrible paths because I was trying to find truth where I was forbidden to look before. I made bad decision after bad decision — whether it was my tainted experience or my toxic ignorance, I will never know.

My bad decisions led to hardship. They ruined my first marriage and my relationship with my children.

There was one more huge driver of chaos in my life. Since I was young, I’ve battled severe and serious mental illness. Several doctors told me I would spend my life hospitalized and never have the things “normal” people do. Again, I don’t like making excuses for bad behavior, but a lot of the reason I was the way I was is that my brain and brain chemicals were so screwed up.

I ended up ruining the first 40 years of my life, and it’s taken me a lot of years to get over it — if I am over it. I’m known to sulk in the dark and write long angsty essays about what a walking clusterfuck I was.

What it is like after I started to change

When I was 43 years old, I made a decision that would change my path. The choice was dramatic and drastic, but I knew if I was ever to have anything in my life that was good, I had to take chances.

I packed a few things, flushed my previous life, and moved halfway around the world to start fresh. The first thing I did was marry again. I knew it was for the right reasons because I was in love. I knew it was real because every fiber of my being was screaming love for her.

I knew she was marrying me because she was in a bad situation and I could save her. She didn’t love me yet. But I also knew if I played my cards right, she would fall in love with me eventually, as I had her.

She did, but it took time.

Our first couple of years were difficult because I had not fully and completely committed to making changes to my life. I was operating by the same rules as I had before and it led to almost succeeding in taking my life in an act of desperation that shocked my family and friends.

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Photo by Aliyah Jamous on Unsplash

I lived (thankfully), and it was the shock I needed to finally make lasting change to myself and the way I was thinking. You always hear about the negative effects of suicide, but for me, the attempt on my life was the match that lit a fire under my ass.

It was all up from there.

Through the hardship, I learned something I never knew before. I finally found out what love really is:

  • Love is doing the things I needed to do to show my wife that I was worth loving.
  • Love is being not just a breadwinner but a father.
  • Love is accepting faults without holding grudges.
  • Love is about adoring someone through good and bad.

During this time of change, I also found something inside of me that I had been looking for my whole life.

I found the writer I always wanted to be.

I started doing the things I needed to do to be a good writer. I am still on the path to greatness, but every day I do something that brings me closer to my goal.

When I became the hero in my own story, my life changed for the better. I say it happened quickly, but it was years of hard work and sacrifice.

If you want to make a change in your life, expect you will have to put in the work before you see the benefits. Don’t give up because the good is usually right around the corner.

Change can happen. Don’t become discouraged. Expect that when your life does start to change, you will think your former life has become alien to you.

For me, it’s almost like I’ve lived two lives.

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Writer | Essayist | Video Content Creator | Future member of the two-comma club | Dreamer - I am doing it my way and it might take a bit longer. Don't wait up.

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