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The Cold Hard Truth: 3 Reasons We Stay Stuck in Limbo Country

Has your life ever been stuck in limbo? The word limbo comes from that Latin word limbus, also known as “the edge of Hell”. Yup, Limbo is about as far away from paradise and rainbows and unicorns as you can be.

Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve put my feet up in there and accepted that maybe I simply don’t know how to get out of it. I left it only to return to it. I accepted a reality deciding that it was out of my hands to change it.

Fortunately, I slapped myself in the face a few times and got the hell on out of there, but it wasn’t easy.

And I’ll tell you why…

Number 1. We Have No Idea Who We Are and Do Not Want To Know

When my life was residing in limbo a big part of why I was there was because I didn’t want to admit certain things about myself. My main problem was I didn’t understand why I seemed to not want to take the path most of the people around me were taking.

I didn’t understand why I couldn’t buckle down and choose one thing to specialize in, why my interest and passions rotate dramatically, and why I can’t seem to sit still in one place for too long.

I didn’t want to admit that this is the way I was, and therefore I took steps to go an alternate route filled with the security and stability that we’re expected to want.

We stay stuck in limbo because we don’t want to admit who we are. We don’t want to find out what we’re meant to do because we’re afraid we might fail at it.

And because of that, we stay seated, waiting in line, hoping a sign will come or something will be handed to us on a silver platter that will miraculously make the void make sense.

Trust me, that silver platter only comes if you serve it to yourself.

Number 2. We Are Lazy

I don’t care if you’ve tried and tried and tried and somehow something happens and that got in your way. You know what that’s called? It’s called an excuse, and they don’t work in this world.

For instance, oving to another country to fulfill that need for adventure, culture, and change can seem like a huge task. It’s easy to imagine it would be hart to plan, hard to get there, hard to get settled, hard to make a life.

The key word there being Imagine!

Our imagination can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be our worst enemy. It will tell us that doing this or doing that will require so much work that “maybe it isn’t even worth it, it probably won’t even work out. Besides, I’m semi-comfortable here in limbo.”

People get stuck in limbo because they’re too lazy to take a risk or a leap of faith. They become relaxed in their comfort zone, and ultimately don’t put in the effort to step out of it.

Remember. If you’re stuck in limbo you’re stuck in life. You’re going Nowhere to Nowhere. Laziness keeps us there.

Number 3. We Are Scared

CHANGE: It can be the most amazing and inspiring thing in one’s life if they learn to embrace it rather than fear it.

For me, change has always been a vital part of my life. Be it small things like the need to rearrange my room every other month or big things like the need to live in and explore new places every few months. I love change. It keeps me inspired.

But I’ve been quite scared of it in the past. The great unknown can be a scary place, and that uncertainly can keep you tucked hiding away in your safe little casa in Limbo.

A lot can happy out there in this wild world. You can get hurt, beaten down, pushed, and shoved. You could step foot out of Limbo and fall a thousand feet into failure. It’s called the worst possible outcome, and we pay way to much attention to it.

When you step out of limbo you can also learn what it’s like to kick ass, make moves, take names, be the bomb.com. You can learn what it’s like to be veraciously alive, positively inspired, and of course, mad to live.

Don’t mistake the fear. Let yourself be scared with excitement, rather than scared with fear.

GETTING OUT OF AND AVOIDING LIMBO

When I was stuck in limbo I was not the same wild, crazy, inspiration seeking person I am at my root and core. I was stuck inside my head, overanalyzing every aspect of my life, and contemplating only the worst what-if situations.

So here’s the trick to getting out:

1.) Stop beating around the bush. Explore every crevice of the things that make you feel alive, and let yourself find out who you are.

2.) Get your ass off the Limbo Lazy Boy. Drop the shoulda, coulda, woulda bullshit. GO DO IT.

3.) Believe in yourself. Be brave. Give yourself the credit you deserve. We’re all meant to do amazing, big, inspiring things. Remember that’s what life is all about every time leaving limbo starts to get a little scary.

Just like I do not plan to ever go back to the $2/night hostel in Kuala Lumpur that reminded me of the set of a SAW movie, I will never go back to Limbo.

We all deserve to live in a place with inspiring experiences, people, and surroundings as we continue on our journeys.

Have You Ever Been Stuck In Limbo?
How did you get out of it and why were you stuck there? Share your stories and insights in the comments! I reply to each comment with love and thought and nothing is cooler than the discussion that get’s going from you guys, so don’t forget to Subscribe to the Comments!

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About Lauren Rains

Hi my name is Lauren Rains. I write about the human experience. Through thick and thin, I’m dedicated to growth, adventure, integrity, and love. The Mad To Live is based on my pursuits, experiments, research, and lessons of challenge and triumph in all areas of life, including being entrepreneur, a writer, a philosopher, a traveler, a teacher, a student, a creative, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a significant other, a stranger and the list goes on. At the end of the day, I believe human beings are here for two reasons: 1.) to love one another with total acceptance, and 2.) to see what we’re made of as we create the possibilities for an abundant life for ourselves and for others. No more bullshit, let's just enjoy our lives.

Share with me what you're getting into that matters to you. It could be stepping into entrepreneurial pursuits, embarking on a journey of the self, making a crazy life change, or even if you're totally stuck. I want to connect with, support, collaborate with, and learn from as many people as possible through this blog (that means you!) Click the *Share* link in the main menu and let's connect by filling out the form.

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  • I’ve been in Limbo before too. Unfortunately, getting into it is easier than getting out of it. I think that in many cases people either lack their own confidence or overestimate the difficulty of getting out of it. The best thing to do is just to take a risk and see what is out there. You can only get somewhere better by taking that first step into the unknown. I like how you put it when you said “be scared with excitement and not scared with fear. That’s how I choose to live and it’s makes my life much better.

    • Hey Steve!
      Thanks for sharing. Yea getting into limbo is about as easy as getting into trouble when you’re 16 years old and up to no good haha. And getting out of it is about as hard as convincing your parents not to ground you any longer. 😉

      But yea, it’s all about taking that first step. It’s definitely easier to take it when you consciously chance your perception of why you’re scared. The great unknown can be a wonderful place, ya know? It took me a long time to get out of my own Limbo, and I plan to do all I can to stay out of it.
      Perhaps by constantly “doing something cool” to keep myself inspired, thinking, and exploring. ;-P

  • Hey Lauren,
    You’ve definitely hit on something that I believe the vast majority of our society is stuck in, which is why they choose to remain in dead-end jobs, living uninspired lives. Taking that first step takes guts and when your in limbo and comfortable there, guts are hard to find.
    Our minds are also masters of deception, filling us with fear and that mixed with laziness is a bad cocktail.
    The last time I saw my friend Limbo was about 5 years ago and that’s fine by me. As you said;”We’re all meant to do amazing, big, inspiring things.” That’s the road I choose and thanks for reminding me why.

    Jess:)

    • Hey Jess!
      The “dead-end job” is literally my worst fear in life. In all honesty, I think I was stuck in limbo for so long because I thought if I attempted to get out of it I’d fail and ultimately end up in a “dead-end job”. And then I realized there’s this little thing called believing in yourself and taking a leap of faith. 🙂

      Fear and laziness is definitely the worst cocktail of all. Like going to a juicebar that does not reach the standards of Fresco and getting a concoction of rotten fruits and spoiled yogart followed by food poisoning haha. 😉

  • Oh man I have to be honest I love your blog. Sometimes your post resonate so will with either what i am going through or what I have been through. I can relate to being in limbo especially after I got my DWI. Man after that happened I had no clue in what direction my life was going. I was overwhelmed by all the consequences that came along with the DWI. I had realized that I wasn’t living a life that I wanted to be living. Instead of figuring it out the following months I spent them being lazy & depressed about everything. Until finally I realized hold up this is my life & its going to be up to me to turn this around. Well as you can see now I have turned it around completely and am loving it. I am about to embark on an adventure I would have never imagined. Oh & I will admit I was scared at 1st and still kinda am but if I don’t do it I’ll regret it for the rest of my life!

    • Hey Jaime!
      Thank you so much for your kind words! That means so much to me to hear what I’ve written resonates with you. 🙂
      Ugh a DWI – yea I can definitely see why it’d be hard to find the positives after that. I had a similar experience in college when I got pulled over and long story short got charged with Attempt to Use ID as a minor and Reckless DRiving. (I was on my way to a Chili Peppers concert and running late when the damn bastard redneck cop pulled me over hah). Anyway, after all was said and done with court fees, being late for the show (and then getting kicked out b/c my friend got too wasted), and all that other legal crap, well, I was down on my luck.
      I think I drank a bottle of wine a night for a few weeks straight after that haha.
      But like you, I finally realized the same thing. Shit happens. Life throws us curve balls sometimes. It’s up to us how we’re going to deal with them, ya know?

      I can’t wait to follow your journey on the RTW trip!!!! And yea you’re a little scared but that’s awesome because you’re excited scared! That’s the kind of scared that makes you feel ALIVE, ya know? 🙂

      If I ever run into you stateside or abroad, we’ll have someone be our DD 😉

  • Exactly “Life throws us curve balls sometimes. It’s up to us how we’re going to deal with them.” Shit happens and life goes on. Oh & yes if we ever run into each other we will have a DD so we can have a blast!!!

  • carole

    Excellent post, one of you best. If you think about some of the things that triggered you to get into a slump, in retrospect, they probably weren’t that big of a deal in the big picture (like your trouble with the law in Virginia). It can be really hard at the time, but it’s important to remember that whatever you’re going through is just one moment in time, and it’s not going to ruin your life. (That’s the philosophy I always used in college when I wanted to skip a class to do something more fun.) Being in a slump just wastes the time you could be spending having more life-expanding adventures.

    • Hey Carole!
      Thanks! Funny thing is I was actually planning on publishing a different post today. I had it all written but suddenly decided it wasn’t good enough. So, I started with a clean slate this morning and just wrote what came to mind. This is what I got! 🙂

      And yea, you’re right. Realizing that even if everything seems nothing but grey skies and rocky waters, that to shall pass. We only live once, and to spend that life in a slump is a crying shame. Once that gets into perspective, it’s a lot easier to step out of that limbo.

  • Geez Lauren, you can craft a message!

    I love your description of Limbo – Clueless, Lazy and Afraid – Yikes!

    Clueless:

    Not knowing what you want to do in life (clueless) is a trait that sets in early, usually right about the time you graduate high school or college and you have some tough choices to make. They should have some kind of mandatory class in grade school that begins to draw this out of young people so they’re not ‘clueless’ when they enter adulthood.

    Lazy:

    It’s interesting to see as well how not knowing the ‘what’ and ‘who’ part of YOU leads to laziness. Certainly a big rut to dig yourself out of once slothfulness sets in.

    Afraid:

    So, once clueless and lazy has over-taken your life the fear of knowing who you really are takes over and for many can lead to smoking big joints and drinking excessively. Some call it ‘The Big Party Syndrome’ that never seems to end – and many never escape the hold it has on their life until they’re either dead or their best years have passed them by. Maybe not all enter this syndrome, but a least they’re numb through it and don’t realize what they’re missing out on. This is really a shame when you think about it.

    I wonder if in the high-tech world we live in, they could install a big hand that pops out of your computer screen and smacks the stupid out of you. You could have a professional Jap-slapper blog that wakes people up who are sleep walking through life and get them to start living it.

    Did I say you can really craft an effective message?

    • Hey Mark!
      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! 🙂

      As far as Clueless goes, I firmly believe that high schools should have a mandatory “life skills” class, if you will. How awesome would it be to teach kids to think more seriously about personal development and their overall future at a younger age. Yea, Shakespeare is important too, but I think you’re onto something here. 🙂

      And as for what you said about the afraid part leading to big joints and drinking excessively.. “The Big Party Syndrome” – way too many people get sucked into that. Actually, when you said that I immediately thought of my brother. I love him to death but his excuse is he’s 21 and its okay to screw around right now. He’s numb to the fact that he could be doing such big things right now if he’d only just give himself a little credit and took a little action. It kills me. All he cares about is going out all night and watching football and basketball all day. :/
      But one thing I’ve learned, and maybe I’ll talk about this in another post sometime, is that you can’t force someone out of a limbo if they’re content with being there. You can’t change someone unless they’re open to change. This is a lesson that can be quite hard to learn & accept sometimes.

      Oh, and as far as a “professional Jap-slapper blog” goes, I’ll see what I can do! haha.

      Thanks for the insightful comment Mark! I really enjoyed it 🙂

      • “You can’t force someone out of a limbo if they’re content with being there. You can’t change someone unless they’re open to change. ”

        Truer words never spoken.

        It’s a particularly poignant one, for those of us who’ve been in Limbo, but recently escaped.
        We SO want to go back and put our epiphany into everyone else’s heads.
        We SO want to drag them, kicking and screaming, out of Limbo.
        Knowing they’ll thank us once they cross the threshold.
        But alas.
        They look at us, and think we’re the strange ones.
        What can you do.

        One of the biggest determinants of getting into Limbo in the first place, AND making it out successfully, is one’s reference group.

        Who are you hanging out with?
        Are your crew renters or landlords in Limbo?
        Are they firmly entrenched in the Limbo Lifestyle? Living La Limbo Loca?
        Or are they dissatisfied with Limbo’s status quo… and looking to better themselves?

        Growing up, I was fortunate to have a core group of friends that were pretty unique.
        We were all book-smart. So some wanted to call us nerds.
        We all loved sports. So some wanted to call us jocks.
        But we made friends with everyone. So we didn’t quite fit in with clicky popular crowd.
        And we all had varying levels of shyness / with the lehdezzz (ladies)… so we really didn’t quite fit in with the clicky popular crowd.
        And we all had a similar moral code – thanks to our parents (who all knew each other).

        That moral code kept us from losing our heads (completely), even when we had many an opportunity. We did some wild things, but always returned to the center of gravity of “the crew”.

        As I find more people of like mind online, I’m realizing that these folks are a lifeline to anchor me on the other side of Limbo… and to provide me with encouragement on the days when the lazy life of Limbo starts to look good again.

        Great post, Laur. 🙂

        Bolaji.
        At age 35, we’re mostly all still friends.

  • Hey Lauren!

    Our favourite quote for the day: “Let yourself be scared with excitement, rather than scared with fear.”
    Love it! We used to be so afraid of letting other people down and of course, failure. However, like you said, stop making excuses and just DO IT! We like how you’re so firm with yourself and you’re not afraid to mentally smack yourself back on the right track. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

    Tariq and Shaheera

    • Hey Tariq & Shaheera!

      Thanks for the kind words!! After I typed that quote, ‘let yourself be scared with excitement, rather than scared with fear” I was like, damn, I need to look at life like that more often! Writing this blog has really helped me to understand myself and understand the way I want to live my life. 🙂 But even better is that along the way it hopefully does the same for others.
      If you ever need someone to help give you a mental smack, I’m here for ya! 🙂
      Thanks you two! It has been great connecting lately!
      -LAUR

  • I’ve absolutely, positively been in limbo. That is the exact reason I started writing again and decided to do it in the public manner that is my blog. I want to understand what I gave away to fall into that placeless place, hold myself accountable towards wholeness, meet people along the way (like you!) to share experiences, and hopefully inspire others in the same situation to take steps toward regaining their inherent awesomeness.

    What you say here is what I just wrote about and so chime in with you right now:
    “I didn’t want to admit that this is the way I was, and therefore I took steps to go an alternate route filled with the security and stability that we’re expected to want.”

    I didn’t want to admit it. I was scared. I wanted to live an ‘alternate route’ but didn’t have the support or strength in myself to do it. But that’s all changing, and I’m about ready to get mad to live again!!!

    Thanks for sharing,
    Quinn

    • Hey Quinn!
      How’s it going?! It’s pretty amazing that blogging can really help someone get out of limbo. Something about being honest with yourself and your readers when you’re writing helps you to organize your thoughts and find inspiration in so many ways.

      Sometimes today I still don’t want to admit that this is how I am. I still hear myself saying, “Lauren, why don’t you just take a secure job that has more stability”. But I know the limbo I’d reside in if I went that route. I’m just like you in this manner…I am so read and am doing everything I can to be mad to live!!!

      Thanks Quinn!
      LAUREN 🙂

  • Luckily I awoke from my limbo quite quickly. After graduating college in 2007, the economy took a crap and the job market was nonexistent. I found myself working at my meaningless job 50 hours a week and [incoming nerd-dom] competitive gaming on World of Warcraft for another 30 hours on top of that. A little over a year ago I realized that I had lost so much time and that I really needed a more inspired life.

    While I wish I could help others with their limbo, I think some people won’t come out of it until they are good and ready.

    • Hey Erica!
      There must be something about graduating college that flings people into Limbo! I too got stuck in a similar limbo life.
      Although, World of Warcraft I didn’t play. I was actually addicted to that back in 5th grade when I played War Craft 2! I had all the cheat codes…”Glittering Prizes!” haha.
      THen in middle school I got addicted to the SIMS. Had to uninstall lit to stop.
      I don’t let myself play computer games b/c I get obsessed haha.

      And yes, some people just aren’t quite ready to come out. That’s absolutely true. I know I’ve been in points where I didn’t want to. Coming out of limbo is hard man. You gotta face yourself and test yourself and prove yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to say, “Eh. F it. I’m gunna go kill some ogres” haha

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  • Oh, this so speaks to me! I call it being comfortable in my discomfort. I’ve been stuck in a couple of places and I can see the green grass but don’t want to leave my mudpile. For me it is a little about fearing failure, so I sit frustrated and unable to do it.
    This is great, thanks to Andi for sending me over!

    • Hey Walker!
      I know exactly how you feel! I’m currently putting myself on the line and facing a lot of my fears regarding failure and it is scary as hell! But my life before when I was in limbo was so dull. At least if I do screw up I’ll have a story to tell my grandkids when I’m older 🙂
      I’m glad you hopped over here from Andi’s blog! I love her Saturday 6 and was honored to be on it!
      May it be a year of limbo crushing for you Walker!
      – LAUREN 🙂

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  • Jen

    This post deserves a much more thoughtful response, but it’s 10:30 ET and it’ll be the first night in many days that I’m no longer plagued by procrastination and paint-by-number bar graphs that have kept me up working until 1am and later. So, I’m going to say two things and go to bed:

    1. This post resonates with me. So, thank you.

    2. I’ve been talking lately about how I’m in limbo, like it’s something to be proud of. But you’ve ruined being in limbo for me now that I know what the word actually means.

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  • Scot

    I have been searching endlessly trying to find my AHA moment for my life, I have been separated for almost a year now, left by my wife for the second time, no finger pointing, faults on both of us. I have been in limbo since May 4th, when she decided to move out. Asking myself over and over “what do I do now” do I wait, do I move on, do I wait, do I move on. I dont know how many times a day I ask myself these questions, it just beats me down. The emotional limbo I believe is the most devastating and difficult to climb out of. I am at the edge of the cliff trying to take the next step to moving on, yes, it is sooo very scary. I feel I have failed at a 20 year marriage and as a father to my three sons, when in fact I havent, but accepting that is a large pill to swallow, sometimes it gets stuck half way down and I choke it back up again. Thanks to all the posts, I find pieces of hope in all of them.

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  • What’s that Thoreau quote? “Walk confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined, SUCKA.” It’s something like that. In other words: BUST OUT OF LIMBO!

    Speaking of Kuala Lumpur, the last time I was there, I bought this t-shirt:

    http://hatyao.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/img_0855.jpg

    Thoreau totally rocks.

  • Hi Lauren 🙂

    I really enjoy reading your thought provoking blog.

    Even though I’m a nomad myself, I wonder if it’s possible to get stuck in a traveller’s limbo too. It’s idyllic to travel slowly but sometimes I wonder how long is too long before you kinda feel stuck and restless, not being able to enjoy the moment and getting stuck in a rut of a routine even while travelling.

    Thank you for giving me something to think about while I start my next journey next month 🙂

  • Anna

    Hi Lauren! This was such a good post. I know its old but I really hope you still get this comment.
    I’ve been in limbo for around a year and a half now ever since I graduated college. I went to a great school and kind of exactly did what you said, expected my dream to career to show itself to me on a silver platter.
    I’ve always wanted to sing and do something in performing but was really scared to do it. I’m going to start today but its going to be scary.
    One thing though that kind of keeps me in limbo are my parents…I was wondering if you have advice about that? Right after graduation I went on a plane and left to Rome, Italy where I started a new life. I was in a new city, with a new language, (chasing a boy I fell in love with – stupid decision lol) – I faced many challenges, including a non existant job market and culture where the boss wouldn’t pay you on time, would bribe you etc, as well as a health issue that landed me in hospital.
    My parents were kind of shocked and said that I was extremely lazy and incompetent and that they would have made it if they were in my position :S. It is true that I have trouble making decisions and sticking to one path, its because I just find the adult world so unhappy and stressed. My parents (stepdad and mum) are my prime example. They make a lot of money but spend all their time working and being “busy” waking up at 6 every day, even on sundays. My mum couldn’t even change her schedule (she doesn’t work anymore) to come and visit me in hospital while I had an operation even when she promised. (She lives in London so its only 2 hours away).
    I just can’t stand the idea of not being there for people when they should ever need and am so afraid that a career will bog me down and make me unaccessible. Which is why doing odd jobs seems so much more appealing than going for a career that I don’t enjoy that will take up 50 hours of my week.
    Does this sound silly?
    Oh and another thing, my mum tells me that I am the only person in the world who is like this and wishes I weren’t her daughter. Am I just spoilt and silly? (I don’t get any money from my parents by the way and only asked to borrow around 500 this year and a half which I will pay back). I’m a bit silly but sometimes I believe it and I’m so so afraid because I feel like it might be too late to quit limbo…it wierdly feels safe in here right now lol. 🙁 Help!

    • Hey Anna!
      Thanks so much for the comment! It’s quite a coincidence as I’m just about to start writing on my blog again and randomly decided to check the comments and here you are. I have a lot I could say in response to you!

      But I think the first thing I will say to you is this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 🙂
      That’s one thing I’ve grown to love about the online communities – I’ve met people all over the world who are doing a different path than what our parents did, and what the status quo tell us will make us happiest or most fulfilled.

      All I can say is, the road will be bumpy, but you have to follow your heart and your gut. Stay true to who you are at your root, and the rest will take care of itself. In that, just work hard at each thing you choose to dedicate yourself to, and opportunities will just come out of the woodwork magically. I promise you that.

      And as far as paraents – I very much relate. When I graduated college I moved to China for a year and when I returned to the US, I moved in with my father and step mom to sort of “get my life together”. I was working hard on my business (I’m a web designer) but my father just didn’t see it my way. He and his wife didn’t support my dreams at all, and ended up kicking me out of his house as if I were a drug addict who stole from them. It was the hardest thing I ever went through. I don’t share that story often, but in this case, I’m sharing it because I want to say that because you can only do what makes you happy, you can’t do what’ll make your parents happy.

      So please, go on your path. Do what is in your heart and gut. Try as many things out as you can. Experiment with life. You live only once. It is going to be incredibly hard at times. And at times you will wish you hd just settled down and taken a job in the US and wnet on the same path as the status que and your parents tell you is the best one. But don’t listen when those thoughts come up. DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO!!! Chase boys, and dreams, and ideas, and creativity! I promise you, if you stay true to who you are, you will come out okay, and you will live a life that is a story you love to tell, reread, and add too.

      Good luck chica 🙂
      Email me anytime at Rains506@gmail.com if you ever need someone to tell you to keep going or to just share some awesome news with me! 🙂

  • ms Ga35

    Wow! I am so in this position right now. Wow.. I have team members that I love and we work awesome together but there are other people that work with us with no integrity and no fairness. I want to leave because I have a lot more opportunities outside the job. I an still at this job because if I guess comfort and my great team members. But I’m truly not living my life. I know this. But standing ovation to this article! It really has opened my eyes

  • CB

    Thanks so much for this post. I realize it was written 3 years ago, but I just Googled “life in limbo” (because mine is), and this is one of the blog posts that popped up. What’s the most frustrating to me is that I’ve realized for a couple of years that my life is in limbo, and I’ve been working to get out of it, but things keep holding me there. People try to tell you that there is a reason that you are where you are, but dang it’s frustrating when you’re kicking and screaming trying to get out. Stuck in a house that I can no longer afford that has been on the market for months with no bites. Stuck in a job that is mind-numbing and beneath my ability because interviews get me to aaaalmost getting the job, then they hire someone internally. Maybe there is a reason I’m stuck, but I’m beyond ready to see the outcome!! This comment is really more venting than anything, but it feels good to put thoughts into writing, so thanks for the therapy. 🙂 Inspiring read.