Amazing Grace: My Story (Part 3)

Struggling with depression or looking for some inspiration? Read my depression story where I reflect on childhood trauma, self-destruction, and healing.

Part 1: Falling

Part 2: Clouds Lifting

Part 3: Changing Paths

Three days after Hurricane Charley we boarded up our mangled house and drove to St. Louis so I could begin law school.

After a year-and-a-half of single-mindedly focusing on getting myself there, I was so excited to start I could hardly stand it. So  I was stunned to realize, just a few months into it, that I hated law school. With a passion.

I despised everything about it:  the intensity, the subject matter, the cut-throatedness of the people around me, the fact that every book cost $150, the Socratic method of teaching….all of it. It was nothing like I had expected–certainly nothing like my favorite movie, Legally Blonde–and I found it not even remotely interesting.

As the months trudged on I found myself more and more miserable, and felt more and more stuck. I dreaded getting up in the morning, could barely force myself to study or pay attention in class, found myself counting the minutes until I would graduate. 2,484,000 minutes is a lot of minutes.

But I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me, how much it had changed me, until one Sunday, about three-quarters of the way through my first year, Chuck and I went for a walk in Lafayette Park.

As we walked, I talked about how much I hated school and how unhappy I was. He mostly just listened to me complain, without having much to say in return. Then suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks. He grabbed my shoulders, turned me towards him, looked me straight in the eye and said something that would change my life. He said:

“You know you don’t have to finish this, right? It’s okay to quit if you hate it.”

It was, perhaps, the biggest “aha” moment I have ever had.

Until that very second it had never even occurred to me that I could quit. I had worked so hard to get there. I had quit my job, not to mention been the cause of him quitting his, moved us all the way across the country, and taken out massive student loans to pay for it. How could I stop? In my mind, it was impossible. I would’ve carried on to the bitter end, probably until I had made myself crazy again.

Because if I quit, who would I be? And how would Chuck ever forgive me?

But there he was, telling me it was okay. That he wouldn’t be mad at me for uprooting his life. That he wouldn’t stop loving me no matter what.

The next morning I went to the Dean of Students and told her I was withdrawing. She said, “Normally I would try to talk you out of it, but this is the first time I’ve seen you look happy all semester. You’re doing the right thing.”

It was an expensive but invaluable lesson, one that I have never forgotten:

If you don’t like how things are going, get off the path.

The next few years were a whirlwind of different paths for us, as we tried to find our way. We alternated working and moving and having babies and moving again. And again. And again.

Our new path first brought us back to Florida. We spent a year repairing the damage from Hurricane Charley. We got married in our backyard, and had our first child, a gorgeous, perfect, healthy baby girl named Maggie, then packed up a few things and headed back to Washington State.

We spent three years in the Seattle area. Chuck worked for a while and I stayed home. Then we switched roles and he played Mr. Mom while I worked full time, then switched back again when we decided that wasn’t working.

We made a lot of changes in that time, always looking for that thing, that place, that job that would fulfill us. It wasn’t that we were unhappy–we were financially secure, always had plenty of friends wherever we went, and no shortage of nice things or fun activities to fill our time.

In 2009 we added another beautiful little girl, Annie, to our family, rounding our number to 4. We had everything I thought I had ever wanted, and from all outside appearances, our life seemed perfect.

But something was still missing. I hadn’t yet found the right path.

{Read Part 4: But For Grace}

Don’t miss the complete series here:


Remaining Struggling with depression or looking for some inspiration? Read my depression story where I reflect on childhood trauma, self-destruction, and healing.

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  1. Your writing is beautiful. You ought to think about writing a book. I look forward to coming home from work and finding your story to read. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  2. Your honesty about your life is very inspiring. I know it takes more courage to speak the truth than to live a lie. It is freedom from the past and a bright future ahead. I believe that.

  3. I just read your three posts and I’m doing everything I can to not cry. Thank you for sharing and putting yourself out there for us. I’m thinking I’ll be sending you an email soon.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to write. I admire you so much for writing this with so much honesty and openness. Many of us, me included, have sides of our lives that no one could ever imagine happened to us. You will help many people I am sure who think they are alone in their suffering but you give them something no amount of money could buy….HOPE. Thank you for sharing. You are truly a remarkable woman.

  5. love that quote at the end. A very hard thing for goal-oriented people, hm? still, what beautiful freedom to make out own lives. xo

  6. Hi there…

    I randomly stumbled upon your blog today and I’d just like to say thank you so much for sharing some of your history with the rest of us. I always continue to be amazed at how great god is, and I love love hearing about everybody’s different walks to and with Him. Your testimony is beautiful.

    God bless you and your family. Keep fighting the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12).

  7. Your entire story is amazing and I admire your courage – not just in telling it, but in telling it so well. I believe you will never know how many people you have touched and helped by sharing this part of your innermost self.

    This part of your story, I can relate to. All my life, I wanted to get a doctorate. I finished my BA in 1984, my MA in 2001, then started my Ed.D. in 2003. After 6 years in a 4 year program, I just decided I was done. People thought I was crazy – I’d wasted my time and money – why didn’t I just write my dissertation, what was the big deal for someone as smart as me? On & on. I have never regretted the time I spent in the program and what I learned in those six years, and I have never regretted that I didn’t finish my dissertation, either.

    It is liberating to realize we can make choices. You are so blessed and I appreciate you sharing this story.

  8. Hi there! I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your story, I know it takes a crap load of courage to be able to put yourself out there like that. As someone who also struggled with major depression at a time, I could totally relate to what you were saying and I have nothing but respect for you.

    PS – I have no idea how I came across your blog but I’m glad I did! 

    Stay strong and I hope you continue to thrive and live a happy life. Namaste(:

    – Mikayla 

  9. Reading how you felt about law school is the exact way I feel about my current job. I have no interest in being here, I am constantly late becuase I have to drag myself to work (my mind feels like it is kicking and screaming “don’t take me back there I don’t want to go”). I know I need to find a new Path but I am just not sure which one to take so i just stay stuck, and I HATE it.

    1. Hi Shellie,
      I’m so sorry to hear that you are struggling at your current job. I’m attaching a link to a post I wrote about how to Make a Dream Come True:
      I’m also attaching a link to the post 5 Time Management Tips That Will Change Your Life:
      At the end of the post you can register for my weekly newsletter and receive a free Goal Setting Workbook! I hope these help. 🙂

  10. Thank you for sharing your story so openly. I find comfort in it. A few years back, I found myself hating law school. Like you, I found the courage to leave and so began my journey on my own yellow brick road. 😉

  11. A year or so ago I heard someone say “be careful of what you think you KNOW”. It has come to be a true statement. I have followed your blog for awhile Ruth and never in a million years would I have said this was your story. You are bright, beautiful and giving of your time and knowledge and I just assumed you had always been the Ruth you are now. God has a plan for us all.

  12. Ruth, I appreciate very much your sharing your story. Have been passing through my own depression, though not due to abuse but due to a difficult marriage. I know that feeling of only being able to go to bed and not wanting to get out of it though I did, at the worst of it, and still do go to the gym daily. I could relate to what you said about agreeing between you and God that He would leave you alone, at one point. I am also a Christian, have appreciated the verses in Hebrews that Christ is our High Priest, appearing before the face of God, always interceding for us. Am taking your Elite Blog Academy course, love focusing on that; I go to Whole Foods eating area every day, since it is a cheery place, reading your written material, researching some things online. Gives me a gaol (and keeps my focus off of myself) as I begin my new blog under your great guidance!

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