I’ll never forget the feeling I had that March afternoon in San Francisco.
I was just dropped off at SFO, heading to my gate for my return flight to Michigan. Tears in my eyes, I got out my phone to call my parents.
“I don’t want to go back,” I declared. “I’m going to call off the wedding.”
It was 2008, and I had been engaged for exactly seven months. Although the engagement was quick, and I thought I was happy at the time, it didn’t take long for me to see the reality before my very eyes.
The day in, the day out. The daily traffic into my corporate job. Coming home to the same routine, every day, to the same person- at 23 years old.
I knew it wasn’t the life for me. Two years earlier I had plans to move to New York City as soon as I graduated. I didn’t expect to meet someone later that year, on my 22nd birthday on December 22nd, who would swoop me off to Kauai for Valentine’s Day and move me into their beautiful suburban house once I finished college. I’ve always been a big believer in signs, so I thought, “maybe I’m not supposed to go to New York after all.” There had to be a bigger reason for meeting this person on such a significant day to me.
Back in 2006, my partying was getting out of control despite my grand plans for finishing school and heading to the city. At the time, it seemed like he was an angel saving me from myself.
I would later learn no one could save me but me.
When I told my father, he thought I was insane. Of course, any father wants their daughter be taken care of and to have a good life. A good life to me looked a bit different than my parents’ view, though.
The day before my flight, my half sister (who worked in SF at the time) and I talked about my relationship and my goals for life. Before I even realized it, she knew the marriage wouldn’t work. She challenged my views and helped me realize I should take some time to reconsider. She helped me think differently about what I really wanted- because for over a year, someone else was trying to make all my decisions for me.
As the plane took off, I thought about how I would wait a couple of weeks before telling my fiancé that I didn’t want to get married. I thought about what types of jobs I could apply to in San Francisco, where I would live, and who I could become. I day dreamed of freedom, making new friends, and exploring the magical, quirky sights of the city. My gut told me moving was the right thing to do- and from the moment my fiancé greeted me at the gate, I knew it was over.
I didn’t wait two weeks.
I told him right away.
Of course, he tried to convince me it was a phase and how my sister was envious of me. He attempted to tell me I didn’t know what I was doing and how I was meant to be with him. All of his efforts to control me- from my diet to physical activities to what I wore- filled my brain, and I no longer felt sorry for him.
I began to have a deeper compassion for myself.
For the next week I stayed on a friend’s couch, who took a day off work with me to pack up my things. I left my princess cut diamond on the dresser, leaving behind all the furniture I helped buy with my graduation money. No physical object was worth sacrificing my dreams- or my future.
Who knows what would have happened had I not taken that trip to see my sister in 2008. Perhaps the wedding would have happened, and maybe I would be divorced now. We will never know. However, despite the judgment I received from others, I knew deep in my heart that I was making the right choice. I knew, at 23, that I didn’t want to take the easy way out and allow the wrong man to take care of me. I simply refused to do that.
I would have to spread my wings and fly.
I would have to make mistakes on my own.
I would somehow, someway, succeed- and despite the failures, I would learn from them- because I finally had my freedom.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I do know I will never have to mourn the chances I didn’t take. It’s been nearly 12 years since I took the leap, quit my job, and blindly moved to an apartment on California and Commonwealth Avenue. Over the course of those 12 years, I’ve lived in a dozen more apartments, several other cities, and did eventually move to New York…
All because I chose freedom.