How to Know When to Draw a Line in the Sand

I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew it was time to say goodbye. A conclusive departure was the only way for me to be true to myself.

Sometimes the most unsuspecting moments shake us awake. This awakening may begin with a gentle nudge, then a rattle and, eventually, if one does not listen, it will become like a roar from the belly of the jungle’s angriest beast. This usually feels like one’s life falling apart but, really they’re just being summoned to change. Because the truth never stops calling us home.

When It’s Time to Become Who You Are

I was working as a regional makeup artist for a major cosmetic brand, and had been for five consecutive years. It was a relatively fun and eventful job which carried me through college and thereafter, providing me with a decent income and flexibility. But, rather than focus on writing opportunities which would have allowed me to put my hard-earned degree to use, I stayed where I was. The truth is, the job had been a blessing in many aspects. But sometimes we curse ourselves by being hostages to the blessings that are ready to become pieces of our past.

Everything changed one morning — in a most unremarkable way. While preparing for my work day, I pulled my makeup brushes from my car, all bundled together in a plastic cup. Another artist was standing nearby, and took noticed of my obvious disorganization. Amused, he said with a snicker, “You need a brush belt.”

Something inside of me snapped back, instantaneously, saying, “Why would I spend a penny on a brush belt?” Noticing my defensive expression, he said, “Well, they aren’t expensive. You can buy a high-quality knockoff on ebay for literally nothing.” Still, my brain remained cemented in, “Yeah, but why would I spend a single penny on a new brush belt? I’m not really a makeup artist; I’m a writer.”

In retrospect, I now realize it didn’t matter  if owning a brush belt would have made my work days easier and more organized. That wasn’t the point. I would rather have spent my earnings on a pile of books, a new journal or a plane ticket out of there. The point was that I couldn’t admit the truth to myself. Subconsciously, I knew that buying a brush belt would have meant I was truly a makeup artist, and I couldn’t bring myself to face the reality that I was continuing — year after year — to be someone I never intended to be at all.

There I stood, almost three years after having graduated from college, remaining stagnant inside of my creative bubble, all the while holding onto something which felt like wearing a shoe two sizes too small. Then, suddenly, like the first chill marking the end of summer, my truth rolled in and made the decision for me — ready or not. Suddenly, I was cold-smacked with the notion of finality. Wait. If I’m not really something, then I don’t have to be it. Ever. Not even today.

Ding, Ding, Diiing! Lightbulb.

I had become like that carton of milk in the fridge — curdling, stinking and taking up space long after having expired. Each time a client in my chair gazed up at me, usually chomping on gum or swallowing a coffee burp, and said, “Ummm, I think I want to try a smokey eye,” I grew increasingly agitated. Every suppressed eye roll was becoming more difficult to fake-smile my way through. I’d grown allergic to those words; they made my insides nearly go into spasm. It wasn’t the fault of the customers; it was because I had not allowed myself to progress. I was resentful of my own cowardice.

Don’t Be a Hostage to a Completed Purpose

In life, we often become complacent. We find security in our immobility. Our emotions become heightened by the process of making our plans to move forward, yet we continue to hold onto those shreds of comfort. It’s as though we are telling life, “Okay, but not yet…” Sadly, some of us never stop saying “not yet” and so nothing ever changes.

In my situation, I imagined myself in a boat contemplating whether or not I should stop resisting, give my paddle a rest, and begin sailing downstream. I couldn’t see what lied before me. I could plan for it, I could anticipate it, but I could never be entirely sure. I was dressed and prepared for the future. My degree had allowed me to research and rehearse for the future. I had fantasized and grown starry-eyed about what the unfolding of my story might bring, yet I held onto the false sense of comfort which made me a hostage to a completed purpose.

It was as though I was positioned perfectly in my boat, desiring to move forward, yet I had one hand hanging onto a tree branch, and although I could feel the vibration of the opposing currant under me, I could hear the gentle whisper of the water, I could feel it patiently waiting to guide me, I was still clinging to my same old familiar branch. The branch had already served its purpose; it no longer had one. It had done a good job of being available to me when I needed it, but it was up to me to let it go. I couldn’t fully exist in both worlds. I couldn’t progress by standing still, pacifying my appetite for growth by merely dreaming. Progress required action.

So, just like that, I released my grip. I let it go. It wasn’t dramatic. The heavens had not parted. There were no sound effects, no gunshots fired, no credits scrolling. It was not cinematic. It was just sweet release.

When I reflect upon my life, it is undeniable what I was meant to do. The answer always rested within me, yet for some reason I spent my teenage and early 20’s searching elsewhere. Even while in college, I chose to study journalism and media studies rather than pursue an actual writing degree. I knew I did not possess a passion for news writing, yet I made that decision because, as much as I longed to write creatively and tell stories, I feared I could never support myself or become successful doing something which came as naturally to me as breathing. In terms of a career and a future, it was as though I was a gypsy searching for every possible place to call home except for my most favorite place of all. Funny, isn’t it?

So why not let go of any branches which may be holding you back from whatever it is you would like to achieve in this magnificent life we have the luxury of experiencing? Negative thoughts and fears are often branches we cling to out of a false sense of comfort. Many of us view the notion of paving a new path and exploring new terrain as this great, terrifying unknown —  giant black hole capable of swallowing and consuming us, ripping our dreams apart like vultures making us their prey.

The truth is, though, your complacency, your fears and your doubts are the ultimate thieves. When you don’t take action, you are robbing yourself of your own dreams. It’s time to grow up and be brave. Draw a line in the sand, silly. Your life is waiting.


Lacey Johnson

Madam Wonder: Founding Editor

Lacey Johnson is an award-winning editor, essayist and journalist who earned her degree from Belmont University in 2011. She has worked with a broad range of celebrities and entrepreneurs — including the likes of Betsey Johnson, Deepak Chopra, Shark Tank's Daymond John and Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson. She is editor-in-chief for The Connect magazine, and her work can be read in a variety of print and digital media sources including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day, Mirabella, PopSugar, and others. With a deep intrigue for human beings, and fiery passion for smacking her readers in the face with the truth, she writes and reports boldly about topics that challenge the status quo — in the realms of love and relationships, popular culture, travel, spirituality, women’s issues and the nuances of a fulfilling life. She is also deep in the process of co-authoring her first book, which is a gutsy exploration of the illusions of fame, power and success, told through narratives involving some of the people the world most idolizes.

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