A vacation I took in July of last year awakened me to an unforeseen issue regarding a recurring, discordant sadness I couldn’t shake or understand. I traveled out to Italy and explored through Venice, Verona, Siena, Assisi, Sirmione, and Florence. Traveling had become a part of my life. In Italy, I got lost in ancient artwork and marveled at the intricate architecture.

The moment I arrived back home, this familiar, lingering sadness hit me like a wave again. I wanted to get back to what I loved doing, but I couldn’t. This nagging feeling or notion, this thought sitting on the back burner of my mind paralyzed me for a while. I sat at my work desk my first day home, and said: “I just got back from a fabulous vacation! What’s wrong with me?” I assumed it was post-vacation blues, but that wasn’t it.

Inevitably, my unidentifiable and unexplained sadness resulted in me unplugging from everything. Pulling away from work was the hardest thing for me. It came to the point that I had obsessively worked before my Italy trip (months before). It felt like I was shooting arrows in the dark each day. Since I’ve taken time off and broke my obsessive working habits, three pivotal things happened.

The lingering distress and sadness resolved

The long break made me discover the core of where my emotional, out-of-place pain originated. I was seeking things outside of myself that weren’t fulfilling me. This vicious cycle of constantly doing and doing without purpose caused my unhappiness. I wasn’t moving forward and kept thinking some person or thing would make or break me. I had fallen into the trap of chasing external things; other people, material things, and of course, distractions.

Creative juices flowed in, and new doors opened

The creative juices rushed upon me, and I began engaging in activities that challenged my mind in an empowering way. I gave myself permission to take another path and not stay stuck in a place that’s causing stress or tension.

Stopped seeking and started living

I envisioned my future five and ten years from now. My values and the things I sought out had changed. In this healing time off, I began looking from within me. Now, I do things with intent, purpose and an aim. I’ve started living with meaning.

I like doing many things, but if my health and work-life aren’t in proper alignment, I am robbing myself of the wondrous life I want to live.

Originally published at medium.com