Chapter 1 - Part 3

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Being the gentleman he appeared to be, he proposed right after I finished school. We moved in together shortly thereafter. We had a little family thing going. Once again, everything was picture perfect on the outside. Unfortunately, the more I looked at it, the more I saw him living another life, one that didn't involve me. Once my eyes were wide open, I saw more than I ever could have imagined. Two-faced does not even begin to describe him. Six years of my life wasted. I had been just a career milestone to him.

After we got engaged, my father offered executive positions and stakes in the company to both of us. I wanted to try doing things on my own, but I was again pushed and, as always, I gave in. My parents talked about me being ungrateful for all they'd done for me. The least I could do was work for and help expand the family business. They said it hurt them to think a stranger, meaning my fiancé, was more eager to work for the family business than their own daughter. I felt, yet again, obligated, and ashamed I didn't see it this way myself.

The reality is, I've been living up to someone else's standards my whole life. The harder I worked, the harder I was pushed. I graduated high school having already completed my first year of college, then finished my bachelor's in less than three years. Finally, I got my MBA from Kellogg. Through it all, I was working, interning at the family firm. To say I had no social life is the understatement of the century.

I'm grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity, but the cost was way too high. I had to grow up all too fast, skipping some of the steps to adulthood completely.

Here I am at twenty-seven, dead tired and totally confused about who I am. I never lived the life of an average teenager or partied my way through college. I feel too old, too serious, and desperate to change something before it's too late.

I'm taking this trip to get away from my reality, to try and be myself withoutthe pressure of expectations. I want to relax and stop looking over myshoulder all the time. I want to have time to meet my own self.

Back in Chicago, people expect me to behave a certain way, to be mature andcontained, act with dignity and grace—a shining example of a perfectly raiseddaughter, top student, aspiring business woman, and heiress. There'sno room for anything else, and that's how I've lived my whole life.

Unfortunately, outside of these confines, I don't know who I am. I've yetto start living on my own, making my mistakes. I need to rethink mylife, reset my priorities, free my mind of the constant guilt trip.

I love Miami! It was the first place my thoughts went when I decided to getaway. It's so different, so easygoing compared to Chicago. I lovethat the ocean is endless, and the air is hot and humid. I wanted toenjoy everything, from the sand and the palm trees, to the freedom to bemyself. I refuse to be judged by my looks and actions. I've beenliving up to an image for as long as I can remember. Either I need a break, orI will break.

I spend most of the three-hour flight thinking about my life and where I wantit to go. I'm conflicted about what exactly I want to achieve by going toMiami. I know I need an outlet, but I'm not used to having days tomyself. I had to work hard to clear my schedule for the next threeweeks. This is how long I gave myself to relax, rethink my life, and tryto determine the path I should follow. It is too ironic to have toreevaluate your whole life in three weeks, having the schedule filled threemonths in advance. This is the first time I'm going somewhere alone, andby far the most free time I've had in my adult life. You could call me aworkaholic, except they usually enjoy what they do; I just do it. It'sjust business, just obligations.

I tense as the plane starts to descend and grab the armrests all over again. Ishut my eyes tight and breathe ever so slowly. Just a few more minutesand I'll be on the ground. The plane makes a rough landing, and I bite mylower lip to fight back the anxiety attack. I gnaw until I can almosttaste the coppery blood. The pilot announces our arrival, and I open myeyes. My heart rate is slowing and I take a few full, deep breaths. Finally, I'm safe on the ground.      

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