Updated: Jul 13
Have you ever felt so deeply disappointed in the path your life has taken, you wonder if you'll ever feel the zing of gladness and glory again? As though you're traipsing along your chosen trail, kicking the dirt, nagged by a feeling that once tasted so ripe and reeked of such promise has come to feel so disconcertingly wrong?
Maybe the realization of your dream isn't nearly as fruitful as it promised to be. Or, you might feel as though your efforts aren’t flowing within the same enlivening rhythm in which they once did. As though you've stalled in your journey toward the gorgeous vision on high.
You might wonder if you’re in the right relationship, in the right job, aligned with the right belief system or mingling within the right social circle. Whatever it is, it’s a miserable, restless feeling that you can’t shake away, and so you try even harder to invite magic into your world. You purchase more books and courses that vow to bring clarity. Outline fresh goals. Scribble bold mantras into your journal and double your efforts to the brink of emotional exertion. Except everything you’ve always done isn’t working anymore.
For nearly a decade, I’ve worked ambitiously as a journalist for women-geared magazines and lifestyle media. I've been fiercely devoted to my craft and believed it was my calling.
In the early days, before I experienced any success, I wasn’t swayed by how many editors overlooked or rejected me, or by the number of doubters who chirped about the odds of catching a break. I continued trekking no matter how many times disappointment knocked me sideways. Because I was in love with the view. While I was sure about what I was getting into, I was equally as sure about what I was going to accomplish.
After graduating from college, I launched a beauty, wellness and lifestyle blog that became fairly celebrated, and that I ultimately leveraged for future opportunities. My blog posts were syndicated and featured on The Huffington Post, YourTango, and beyond, which then opened doors for me to write for a variety of small and moderately popular publications, later serving as editor-in-chief of an inspired living magazine for two years, where I secured cover artists like Deepak Chopra and Shark Tank’s Daymond John, and landed a feature with the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Over the years, I signed multiple contracts with Hearst, one of the top magazine publishers in the world, writing essays and explainers, and reporting a few deep-dive stories for nearly half of their brands, from Marie Claire to Oprah Daily, which then led my work to being featured on the front page of Oprah.com several times.
I interviewed mental health experts, bestselling authors and spiritual thought leaders that I’d long admired or would come to admire, from the likes of Julia Cameron and Gabby Bernstein to Dr. Caroline Leaf and Dr. Shefali Tsabury. And, as it happens, I developed relationships with some of them–being invited to their their private masterminds and serving as a featured guest on their podcasts.
I was so deliriously in love with my chosen path for so long.
Until I wasn't.
Although I was trying so hard not to know it, a couple of years ago, my passion began diminishing in a way that I couldn’t resuscitate. The flame I'd long held for my work grew dimmer with every trending idea I didn’t feel like pitching and every assignment I didn’t feel like writing.
I kept trying, but failing, to convince my creative reserves to stay in the pilgrimage with me. Except it felt like they were kicking up their heels to dance in other directions–most significantly, in the creation of my first book, Radical Life Renovation: Heal the Past, Reclaim Your Power & Build a Future You Love, that I released last year.
A path that once felt like miles of delicious greenway stretching far ahead of me began to appear cloudy and feel confusing. Or, perhaps, as though my nose were pressed against a glaring red stop sign.
In those quiet, late-night hours, just before drifting to dreams, whispers often found me, begging, “There’s something more for you than this…”
It was so extraordinarily inconvenient to feel that way. I didn’t want to burn down my whole professional life and abandon the connections I’d worked so diligently to build. And, quite precariously, so much about my life as a writer had been braided through my identity.
Who would I be if I were no longer a journalist?
Still, no matter how stubbornly my ego fought to renegotiate with my instincts, my disenchantment only grew louder. The whispers in the night were becoming roars that followed me into the daylight. And, so, one day, I decided that maybe I should have a conversation with them.
Early this year, on a shivering January afternoon while driving toward my daughter’s preschool for pickup, I asked myself, aloud, “What if I were to open myself up to the possibility of being more than a writer? What would it look like to use the fullness of my gifts, instead of confining myself to the ones I’ve grown comfortable using?”
I was kind of taken aback by my own daring question, but also inspired to continue the dialogue. I started to pray, asking, “God, if I’m on the right path, make it clear and I’ll keep going. But, if I’m not, change my heart so that I can let it go. Point me to where I’ll most serve your plan for me, and the world. Even if it means making changes that scare me.”
Only twice in my life do I recall having prayed in this way. The first time was in the desperate throes of trying to squirm free from the kind of toxic relationship that had stormed across nearly every landscape of my life. More than five years in, I feared here was no way out, until, one day, after having spent a half-hour ugly-crying into my steering wheel, a foreign peacefulness found me. I got eerily still and asked myself, “What would it look like if I were to be totally free from this? How would it feel to no longer be afraid?”
What happened next is what I can only describe as a supernatural paradigm shift–one that cleared the necessary space for me to meet my future husband only months after.
The second time was about seven years later, from the crushing hollows of infertility. My husband and I had been trying to conceive for more than four years, with no luck and no answers. Having no further stones to turn, I asked myself, “What would it look like if I moved beyond a spirit of determination into a spirit of allowing, should this be meant to happen? How would it feel to trust a power greater than my own, while accepting either outcome?”
To my shock, from somewhere that was both strangely familiar and wonderfully foreign, my question was immediately answered with another question, “Do you believe you deserve to be a mother?” which instantaneously invited a limiting belief–one I’d been unconsciously hoarding for years–to crawl from the shadows of my psyche and introduce itself so that I could send it on its way. Five weeks later, almost to the day, I was standing in my bathroom, holding a positive pregnancy test in my hand.
Which is to say that, obviously, on that icy afternoon only weeks ago, I was aware of the kind of power that daring questions hold. But I also knew the risks, which is why I’d practiced them so rarely.
When you pry your ego from the reins of your heart and invite God to take over instead, you better brace yourself.
Because while you might get a simple nod of confirmation that provides you with the encouragement to keep inching toward Greenland, you also might catch a knowing that you can’t un-know–a revelation that flips your entire world upside down. Something that surprises you with breathtaking clarity or, perhaps, with ones that are accompanied by grief. Either way, you can bet that you’ll be led to a far more free and wonderful way of living. Even if there are initial stretches of disillusionment or pain.
Within a week of tossing said question into the ether, my life began pulling me in a dramatically different direction, as though its answer had long been chanting for my arrival.
I was finally able to admit what I’d been trying so hard not to know: being a journalist didn’t serve me anymore. The reality was, I didn't even like it. Except I'd failed to realize I no longer liked it because I'd spent so many years liking it before. My truth had changed.
I no longer wanted to merely interview a slew of experts in the realms of mental health, relationships and empowerment; I wanted to become one. Being an artist at heart, I knew I'd never want to stop authoring books and conceptualizing worlds of content, but I decided that, going forward, I'd do so with greater agency and knowledge, and proper credentials behind my name.
Which would involve schlepping back to the classroom and earning my master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy so that I can become a licensed psychotherapist. Which is exactly what I plan to do at Lipscomb University, starting in August.
YES; THAT'S RIGHT. I AM GOING TO BECOME A LICENSED THERAPIST!
And, truth be told, my previous and future career paths feel like the difference between infatuation and true love.
You know what’s funny? Though I'd been trying so hard not to know it, the cause of my swelling disenchantment was hilariously less obscure than I’d previously made it out to be:
My path had simply come to an end.
Nothing had ever been wrong with the path. It had been a wonderful path, in fact. A divinely appointed one, perhaps, that was deserving of my ongoing appreciation. But all of its miles had already been traveled. There were no more to trek. My footsteps were itching to evolve beyond it.
We often forget this, but not all paths are meant to be traveled for the entirety of our lives, or even necessarily for long at all. When a path is shorter than expected, it doesn’t mean it didn’t serve a consequential purpose or that it wasn’t meant to be. My journalism career had been meant to be and it'll always be a thrilling and worthwhile part of my story. It led me straight into a fertile garden of self-discovery, passion and clarity about the kind of work I wish to do in the world. It afforded me so much time to explore the landscape of my true calling and vocation.
Those years of long, late hours spent researching for story topics and strolling through the minds of therapists, psychologists and spiritual thought leaders had not only inspired my first book, but had safely and lovingly carried me to the edge of my next–and providential–path.
In retrospect, every step had made beautifully perfect sense. I was being prepared for my future, even though I didn’t know it. And, yet, most hilariously, for nearly two years, instead of considering that the path I’d been on was drawing to a close, I stood frozen at the end of it, scratching my head, kicking the dirt and wondering why TF I wasn’t moving anymore. It had completed its purpose, but I was holding myself hostage to it. I needed only to lift my gaze and see the new and fertile greenway that was in plain sight, gorgeously awaiting my footsteps.
Let me tell you something. You’ll know you’re on the right path when your authentic zest for life returns. Even if you're scared and unsure of how it'll play out. You'll feel a burning desire to contribute and serve in ways you haven't in so long. And, should you reach deeply into yourself and conjure the courage to ask whatever daring question you know you need to ask, you can relax in faith that you’ll be supported within whatever answer you receive. I believe that.
God doesn’t give you a heart for something without giving you the opportunities and resources to see it through. And you don’t have to know how something is going to work out to believe that it will. When you try to predict every detail of every outcome, you not only rob yourself of life’s great wonders and surprises, but you make no space for God to be God. And that’s way less delicious than a life of enchantment.
So, friend, if disappointment has you by the ankles–if you’re feeling deeply, inconsolably frustrated or, worse, utterly wounded by your life path right now, I urge you to pause and lean into a spirit of surrender. Ask daringly for direction. Ask from the part of you that knows it has an earthly mandate to meet. Instruct your ego to step away for a moment so that your higher self can have the floor.
Ask for guidance from your creator. As from your gut–from the most sovereign corners of your soul.
And then brace yourself. Because you might be surprised at how quickly life starts pulling you in a livelier direction.
©2023, Lacey Johnson, LJ Media, LLC
**No portion of this content is to be used without credit to its owner, and a link back to laceyjohnson.com.