100: My Secret Love Affair

100: My Secret Love Affair

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

My Secret Love Affair

You’ve got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you’re not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.

~Steven D. Woodhull

The co-worker who sat behind me was getting married. He proudly tacked the corners of his engagement photo onto his cubicle wall. He looked over at me and observed, “Did you ever notice that what people put up in their office space is a reflection of what they care most about?” I realized that my cubicle was the only one in the office that wasn’t covered with photos of chubby babies or other loved ones. In fact I didn’t have any family photos on display. My show and tell was a collage of postcards from cities I longed to go to and places I had already been. Puzzled by the difference, I asked him what my area said about me. He matter-of-factly responded, “You want to escape.”

How was it that a work acquaintance knew me better then I knew myself? It should have made me question myself, at least a bit. I’m not sure why I ignored the red flag, but at the time I was in the business of missing the obvious. After all, I had carefully crafted every aspect of my life, from the city I lived in to the company that I worked for. I’d actively pursued a career in advertising. I put myself in a graphic design master’s program and graduated at the top of my class, all in an effort to live the dream of working for a big advertising agency and living in a fast-paced city. For all of that, I wasn’t happy.

I didn’t know that the majority of people in the world didn’t cry themselves to sleep at night, the way I was. In fact, my tears even crept into my workplace. I thought it was normal to cry in the bathroom. The fact that I had lived in five different cities in a span of three years didn’t seem odd to me. Or the reality that everyone I knew was collecting wedding registry lists and picking out house paint colors, while I was far more interested in collecting new passport stamps. It never dawned on me that my real happiness was waiting for me elsewhere.

After my co-worker opened my eyes, I decided to figure out why I wanted to escape, and why I was alone and loveless while everyone else was planning weddings and having babies. I figured there might be something to this love thing; I should give it a try. I finally got up enough nerve to ask myself out on a date.

The first encounter was simple; I took myself to coffee along with my laptop. Within seconds of typing my first sentence, I knew. Like any transformational love affair I wanted to spend every waking moment with the object of my affection. I hadn’t taken any sick days or vacation in over four years, but all of a sudden I was calling in sick so I could spend the entire day with my new love — my writing self.

I had found my passion. It was time to declare my love to the world, so I took my writing on a honeymoon. We arrived in the most romantic city in the world, Paris. I spent two glorious weeks on this honeymoon, filling it with exploration, amazement and awe. I wrote every day.

On a whim I sent some of my travel blogs to editors and book publishers. A few months later I received a letter from an editor that read, “Congratulations, your story has been selected to run in our upcoming book.” Before I could finish the letter, my knees collapsed and I fell to the floor! For the first time in my entire life, tears of extraordinary happiness poured through me. There was a light at the end of my dark tunnel. I was going to be a published author. I hadn’t known that this was a dream of mine until my heart sang out.

I knew what I had to do — it was time for me to break up with advertising. Like leaving any involved relationship, I got scared. I worried about finding money to pay my bills, and where I would live as a travel writer. So I stayed where I was, miserable and depressed. Finally I got lucky and I was laid off from my job and I received a healthy severance that gave me the confidence to launch my new career and to travel the world.

~Shannon Kaiser

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