How to (not) ruin your life

Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

A few weeks before I graduated from college, I called the editor at the newspaper where I had signed-on to do an internship.

I was over the moon when I got the spot, but then for reasons still not totally clear to me, I decided to move to Spain. “You’re ruining your life,” the editor huffed. “You’re going to regret this.” Before I could respond, he hung up.

So, I went to Spain.

I taught English. I learned Spanish. I drank a lot of red wine. I started taking my coffee black. I traveled. I got lost in Paris. I ended up in Ibiza with Australians I’d met at a Barcelona hostel. I ate space cake in Amsterdam. I slept on a stranger’s couch in Poland. I danced in a cave with Senegalese immigrants as the sunset over the Alhambra. I stayed in a 200-person tent in Munich. I made new friends and fell out of touch with some old ones. I missed home. I decided to move to Mexico.

For being 25 years old, I like to think I’ve done a few things. But one thing I’ve never done is regret backing out of that internship.

I had wanted to be a journalist for as long as I could remember, but when the time came to start my professional (read: traditional) career, I balked at the idea. It just didn’t seem right.

I listened to my gut.

Fortunately, I had supportive family and friends. They didn’t understand my decision 100 percent, but then again, neither did I. It was enough that they didn’t tell me I was making a giant mistake.

One asshole telling me I was ruining my life was sufficient.

When the editor hung up on me, I was definitely stunned. Like are you for real, dude? Ruin my life? It hardly seemed an appropriate response outside heroin addiction and 80s movies set in conservative towns where dancing is illegal.

But, then I was happy he said it. Yes, HAPPY!! Like thank you so much crazy, mean editor man for trying to make me feel like shit. Because your cliched reaction made me realize something:

I didn’t care what anyone thought.

His comment didn’t make me second guess myself in the slightest. For the first time in my life, I was doing something for no other reason than because I wanted to do it.

Not because my parents expected it of me.

Not because it would impress my friends.

Not because it would set me on the right career trajectory.

Being true to myself didn’t ruin my life. It made it what it is.


Hi, I’m Alex! After living in Madrid, Spain, for two years, I recently moved to Mexico. Tacos and sunshine, baby! When I’m not writing, I’m reading, running or drinking red wine. For more of my writing, check out my blog: Backpacking Brunette.