On Healing Your Heart With a Big Life Change

02/10/2016 03:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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A few Septembers ago, I was digging out of the trenches of a broken heart. Crawling around on my hands and knees in the dark, banged up and bruised by a love that had let me down. And, just like that, my old life didn't seem to fit anymore.

As it turned out, that love wasn't what I had thought, as first loves often aren't, and my future was suddenly nowhere near what I'd been neatly drawing out. For longer than I'd like to admit, it was like I was swimming underwater and couldn't come up for air. Days became weeks became months, and eventually my heart began to try to patch itself together, my outlook on life slowly coming along with it. And I came to realize that in order to feel whole again, I needed to find myself... the real me had gotten lost somewhere along the way, possibly before my heart ever splintered. There was nothing anyone else could say to me, no perfectly written card from a best friend and no so-fitting-I-could've-written-it-myself song playing on the radio to get me over that hill.

So, like any self respecting Type A, millennial gal, I ate a lot of frozen yogurt and wrote a lot of pro/con lists and thought hard about what I actually wanted.

A whisper eventually grew into a shout, urging me to pack up my things from Washington, D.C., the city I'd called mine for four years, and head back home to the west coast. My mama had always warned me against making big life changes as a gut reaction to a, well, big life change, so I waited. I dried tears, blogged my feelings in an exhaustingly transparent way, and deliberated.

That following spring, I wrapped myself in positivity and put in for a transfer with my company.

"Anywhere on the west coast, please!"

Life often has very different plans for us than we can ever fathom. I never could have imagined that - just a few weeks after I'd put in that initial request - I'd receive an email asking if I could move to San Diego in two weeks.

Two weeks, to pack up my entire life? To a city I knew next to nothing about and had only visited once on trip to scout colleges back in high school? Um, sure... And by sure, I meant YES.

Absolutely yes.

And people thought I was nuts.

Heck, part of the time, I thought I was nuts too. But deep down in my heart, I knew moving, and starting new, was exactly what I needed. My soul was desperate for a new chapter. I handed the reigns over to the universe, and crossed fingers and toes that everything would work out for the best.

As soon as I stepped off the plane onto the jetway in California, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Like suddenly I could breathe a little easier, and start fresh. It was intimidating not knowing {literally} anyone in a new city, but the scariness was exciting, like I could suddenly do - and be - anything. I hung up photos, bought a car, and joined a running club, inching my way toward making myself a new home.

Don't get me wrong - it wasn't all sparkles and sunshine immediately; it wasn't easy. But my heart knew instantly I'd made the right choice to take such a leap, and I never questioned my decision. Slowly my fists began to unfurl and my heart no longer felt like it was drowning. I felt like myself again, and started doing the things I'd been interested in for years but had been too unhappy to attempt that brokenhearted year: training and running half marathons, working on my writing, and heck, even singing in the shower (always a sure sign of my personal happiness). As much as I cringe when people try to comfort you with "everything happens for a reason" when your life feels like it's spiraling into a tornado (note: send wine and cookies instead), I started to realize that life had gone off course from my expectations with a purpose. The unanticipated obstacles I had faced my last year in D.C. - the out-of-the-blue broken heart, amongst others - were life's way of revealing my real path.

Here I am now, three years and change later and still in southern California, and my life is so very different than I could have ever dreamed a few years ago... and I'm happier and more alive than I've been in ages. Packing up and moving to a city by myself unleashed an amount of joy and light that I was a teensy bit afraid no longer actually existed within me. And sure, the proximity of palm trees and ocean views guiding the way hasn't hurt.

Sometimes, we need to push ourselves beyond what is comfortable. Force ourselves to stretch, to try, to give it a shot. To do something that scares the hell out of us, because it makes us better. Big life changes (granted, done with thought and care) can be the best soul soother out there. Pinky promise.