The night I changed my life, I turned out all the lights.

I embraced the darkness that fought to keep me bound in chains, circled candles around me, and summoned forth enough light to be bathed, but not enough to be consumed.

I sat with a beating heart, my mind alight with an unfathomable number of questions.

How can I make a change to my life? How can I make the best of this broken heart? Why can’t I seem to find any happiness?

What am I going to do?

A constant dark and dreary state had consumed my world, but my desire pressed forward. There were times when I thought I’d lost everything, and any sense of hope seemed laughable. Other times I wanted to give up or start over in desperate attempts to turn my life into anything but what it was.

Yet through the darkness, underneath my surface level of consciousness, a small voice urged me forward.

Some described the life I led as a dream, but nothing had ever felt more like a nightmare.

Money was anything but an issue as I worked in a high-end fine dining restaurant, though I had no problem throwing it out as fast as I brought it in. People looked at my income with jealousy, but that didn’t matter to me. Those who were jealous didn’t have to learn the real meaning behind money can’t buy you happiness.

Was the income worth the suffering I put in to acquire it?

I did nothing but work, and the dream I lived out may have been idolized and fought over for hundreds of years —

But it wasn’t mine.

Mine came from somewhere deep in the pit of my existence, where I found a yearning.

A beckoning.

A calling to experience something more.

Something different.

Something completely out of this world.

The flicker of the candle’s light reminded me of my impending decision.

“What am I doing?” I whispered into the night.

I’d lost track of how many times I’d asked myself that, never mind the amount of topics it had pertained to throughout the years. I’d spent too much time thinking I had no purpose, only a dark future.

The negative thoughts tortured me until I realized my life — more importantly, my mind — was mine to control.

The course of the day that led to my decision was the same as any other.

I slept until I went to work, put myself through another night of getting yelled at for things I couldn’t care any less about, and walked out with money I considered filthy because of the ass-kissing I had to do to make it.

The spin-cycled routine from hell.

I’d lost any concept of what real life even was as I stayed stuck in a constant nightmare, a continuous coma that held my dreams in a permanent paralysis.

Something has got to change.

The voice whispered through my rage, and a new resolve spilled over the impending darkness within me.

A change lay on the horizon.

My life needed to start.

I needed to wake up.

But how?

For years, anytime I had decided I wanted a change, all thoughts of “how” held me back.

How could I do it?

How was there any way to make a change in my life?

Did I have the strength within me to just… drop everything and go?

Live my life the way I feel I should?

How do I know I even deserve happiness?

Any thought that came with any negative connotation became the only one I clung to, day after day, sleepless night after sleepless night. I purposefully put myself through endless torture on constant repeat that allowed evil thoughts to berate every sense of my self.

I always knew, on some level, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. After all, aren’t we all our own worst critics? Besides, according to everyone else, I had it all: At just shy of 25, I had a freshly published book, my fine dining job brought in nearly thrice the amount of money as any of my friends, and I had the support of my family.

What the hell did I have to complain about?

Nothing more than the fact that while everyone else thought those were reasons to be happy, I didn’t.

I was not one to carve into some mold stuck in a vicious cycle of psychosis. The dreams defined for me were the exact opposite of the ones that meant the most to me — the ones that brought experience, adventure, and a life not commonly followed.

And tonight, on the 11th of October 2014 of all nights, I decided to chase the dream I had for myself.

Immediately upon my candle-lit decision, the devil on my shoulder sneered, “$1600 for a round-trip ticket to New Zealand is way more than you’ve ever had in your life. You’ll never be able to do it.”

I was mere seconds from submitting to the fear implanted in me when, for the first time, an angel appeared on the other shoulder.

“Not at once.”

I sat frozen. What internal devices brought forth this voice that fought back?

“You may not make $1600 in one night,” the angel continued. “You, however, make more money than anybody you know, and I’d wager if you started cutting out the things you don’t need and saving the costs of your unnecessary spending, you’d find yourself in New Zealand within a year.”

My eyes widened.

A year?

Is that possible?

That seemed so far — how could I be certain I would even want that in a year?

The angel crept further into my thoughts. “Do you honestly think you’ll prefer your current life over that of the adventurer by this time next year?”

“Well, no, of course not, but I want change now.”

“And the first part of change is making the decision to do so. Instead of hating what you’re doing every day and loathing your life on your couch every night, decide that within a year’s time you’ll be doing something your heart is calling you to do.”

What an implausible thought. Who was I to deserve any happiness? Why should I think I deserved to follow my heart’s desires?

“What about a passport?” I retorted, searching for any excuse to fight back.

“$100 out of your savings and you’ll have ten years not to use that excuse again.”

“Don’t listen to him,” pushed the devil. “What will you do after you get a passport? You and I both know you’ll wait ten years until it expires so you never actually do anything with it.”

“That will only remain true if you let it,” insisted the angel. “You’ve always given in to the darkness — for the first time, perhaps you should try the light.”

I sat back and rested an elbow on the armrest. The candle’s glow flickered across the walls, and the shadows danced a call that urged me to agree.

But how could I possibly do it?

“You’ll need to get ahold of yourself sometime,” finished the angel. “If the negative qualities are all you search for, they’ll be all you’ll find, as well.”

My mind quieted on both sides. For one, blissful moment, I was neutral.

And in that neutrality, I found peace in my decision to follow my heart’s desire.

How about you? What ways have you decided to take your life into your own hands? Share with me in the comments!