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Debbie Rae Does...Being Left Behind

A younger friend had broken up with her boyfriend, was moving out of their flat and into a flat-share with 3 strangers, and had to fly solo to her cousin’s wedding that weekend when she said, ‘You couldn’t possibly understand; your life is perfect.’ I wasn’t surprised she was upset, but I was amazed that someone considered my life perfect.

I considered what she saw; I have a wonderful husband, two scrumptious children, a job I love and few significant worries in life. I’d be a fool not to count my blessings, but like a duck gliding on a calm pond, its legs fighting furiously below the surface, the scars of my past may be hidden but are nevertheless crucial to keeping me afloat in a world that I too once felt had left me behind.

I was 29, only a year older than my friend, when I lost the man I had thought I would spend my life with, my job, all of my money, and every once of self-respect. Turning thirty a few short months later was a dismal experience.

At 40, I realise how young I was and how much potential was waiting to be grabbed. So I write this so that others, in the same spot, might find hope, humour, and, if nothing more, a kindred spirit in hard times.

I was about to embark on a wonderous time of rebirth, but in the depths of my misery, it was unfathomable. All I felt was the weight of failure and the loss of the life I had strived for. The one I had been told to obtain my whole life: Grow-up, go to uni, travel, meet a man, get married, buy a house, pause my career (only for long enough to knock out 2 kids), and be settled by 30.

All of my peers appeared on track, so where did that put me? On the sidelines, like the useless kid at football?

I had spent my 20’s travelling and ‘finding myself’; so I was shocked to realise I didn’t know who I was at 30. My partner, job and lifestyle had defined me. I no longer had the money to travel and was unemployable due to my breakdown. On top of that, anyone silly enough to date me had to endure hours of talking, perhaps even crying (vast amounts of cringing at this admission) about my ex. It was all too easy to fall into a pit of self-despair, which I did for 9 months.

My first step to getting back on the life ladder came when I saw an ad for my dream job. I knew I was underqualified and not really in the right headspace to get the job, but I applied, safe in the knowledge it would come to nothing. I was as stunned as those around me that I got the job, especially as I had turned up for the interview hungover and tearful after a night spent on the phone with my Ex.

It turned out my interviewer had done his research/internet stalking. He was not only impressed by my back catalogue of work, he had got the gist of some of the troubles I had been struggling with. He had been through something similar. For the first time, someone saw me as a survivor and not as a victim. The chance he handed me changed my life.

I had a team of people relying on me to get out of bed each morning, turn up to work and not fall apart every time someone mentioned weddings or babies.

The pressure of having a team to lead did not weigh me down in the way I had feared; it breathed life into me and I felt my confidence returning. I was connecting people from all walks of life, age groups and nationalities. Finally, I was in a place where not all of my friends were getting married and having kids; Some were finishing uni, getting divorced, travelling the world, setting up businesses, changing careers.

I had not been left behind, my path had changed, and given a chance it could prove to suit me far better than the one I had thought I wanted so badly.

My newly acquired lifestyle may not have suited everyone, but I loved exploring London through the eyes of my new colleagues and friends. I went to countless new places and found myself blossoming, to a point where I was no longer ashamed of how my life had turned out, and I was ready to rebuild bridges with people I had shied away from.

I will never forget one of my best friends, calling over and over for months; After numerous ignored attempts, she gave up. I am ashamed to admit I had stopped taking her calls, as her life was everything I wanted, and it broke me to hear her happy news each time we spoke. In short, I was horribly jealous. Finally, when we sat down for our first lunch in over a year, she was friendly, but I could see something was bothering her. Eventually, she told me she had suffered a miscarriage, heartbroken she had tried to reach me, but I had inexplicably dropped her. She had needed me, and I had failed her due to my own self-absorption.

This was one of the most powerful lessons I have learnt in my life. No one’s life is all roses, no matter how much they, or Instagram, might suggest.

If a friend is lucky enough to be riding high on life, embrace their happiness. You never know when it could come crashing down. No matter how down you may feel, you would never wish your sadness on them.

Sometimes life falls apart, but it’s important to realise that if the structure had been strong, it would have held. I might not have gone on the path I had planned, but it turned out to be an adventure I’ve relished. One that’s been packed with torment, grief, happiness, friendship, laughter and a very unexpected path to love.

Don’t judge yourself against others achievements. Instead, take inspiration from and learn from them. Never be intimidated by your friends or scared to talk about your failures; you’ll be surprised how many they may have encountered along the way.

“And just as the Phoenix rose from the ashes, she too will rise. Returning from the flames, clothed in nothing but her strength, more beautiful than ever before.”— Shannen Heartzs

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