By Angie Mizzell
My husband and I met in college. We graduated with matching degrees in broadcast journalism and got married in our mid-20s, just as our careers were taking flight. We worked at the same television stations and were on the same path. Everything was in sync. But eventually, the physical, emotional and mental demands of anchoring and reporting for the local news started to weigh on me. I no longer wanted to cover scandals and crime and move to a new city every few years.
This newfound awareness was sparked—at least in part—by a guy I’d recently watched on “Oprah.” He talked about living an authentic life, and it was like I’d heard the words for the first time. Until then, it didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t living an authentic life. But suddenly, I knew. Something felt “off,” and I’d been denying it for quite some time. I’d masked the feeling by staying forward-focused; my mind preoccupied with moving up and moving on. But I couldn’t deny it any longer. I wanted to discover more joy and happiness in the here and now.
One night at dinner, my husband and I were describing what we wanted out of our lives and our careers, and it was clear: Our vision was no longer the same. Without giving myself a chance to consider the implications, I said, “It sounds like we want different things.”
He replied, “I think we do.”
I paused, the truth punctuating the moment. And it was strange, how calm I felt. Finally I said, “What do you want to do about that?”
With the same sense of calm, he answered, “I want to stay married to you.”
That was 17 years ago. We still look back on that moment and see it as a turning point, because it was when we really started to understand what it takes to build a life together. It’s nearly impossible without compromise. Of course the conversation could have gone in a completely different direction. We could’ve decided that it wasn’t going to work. But what would’ve happened if I’d continued to pretend that I wasn’t feeling the way I felt? What if we’d chosen not to tell the truth about what we wanted?
In the past 17 years, I’ve had a lot of time to consider what it means to live an authentic life. I don’t always get it right. In fact, quite often, I get it all wrong. I open my mouth and speak words that are better left unsaid. I sometimes show up as the persona instead of the person—self-protection and the desire to be accepted are two big reasons for that.
There are also many other days when I remember to calm down, breathe and remove the mask. Letting myself be seen is the scariest, riskiest and most important thing I’ve done to improve the quality of my relationships. Some relationships have grown and others have fallen away, but that sort of pruning is necessary.
Over the years, the relationship with myself is the one that has flourished the most. To discover what I was seeking—more joy in the here and now—I had to find her first.
Angie Mizzell is a contributing writer for Skirt. She’s also the co-founder of Charleston Storytellers, which directs and produces the “Listen To Your Mother” show. A former television news anchor and a mom of three, Angie writes a personal blog about creating a life that feels like home. Connect with her at angiemizzell.com.