I blew up my life for the chance at happiness

by Hayley Jade

A person stands in a big cloud of yellow smoke. We can barely see them, except for their head and their arm which is held straight and up.
Caption:

Sometimes meeting someone blows up your entire life. It changes the course of who you thought you were and what you wanted.

Credit:

©Natali / Adobe Stock

I am terrified of turning 30

Sometimes meeting someone blows up your entire life. It changes the course of who you thought you were and what you wanted. It gives you the courage to seek more for yourself — when you were previously scared to move forward. And for the last few years, I’ve been terrified.

Although I’ve been working as a sex worker and some could say that’s not exactly a conservative choice, the rest of the time I was living in a very secure way. I had a long-term boyfriend who took care of me — waited with me at doctors appointments, drove me to buy groceries and held me when I was sick. I was on permanent disability that I fought for years to get on, and I lived alone in my own beautiful apartment. I spent years putting everything together just the way I liked it — from the white walls to the white dishes to the white sheets. I was used to everything being just right. But I was deeply unhappy.

Because I was often ill, if I wasn’t with my boyfriend or a client, I was usually alone in my apartment. The only other time I was around people was when I went out to run errands. There weren’t many close friends I had left who understood what it meant to have a chronic illness. People often became disappointed when I canceled plans and stopped inviting me out — so I stopped making the effort to nurture friendships. I relied heavily on my boyfriend, even though I didn’t want to.


Read more: I’m an escort living with chronic illness


Escorting was what started to get me out of isolation. The money motivated me to socialize, and conversing with others made me feel better. You know the saying ‘fake it until you make it?’ It really works. My job was to show clients a good time, and in doing so I had a good time as well — how can you not while dressing in fine lingerie, drinking sparkling wine and getting eaten out? But of course, it was more than that — just like my clients, I needed human connection as much as they did. My clients saved me as much as I saved them.

But after the clients left and the endorphins wore off, I was unhappy again. I wanted so many things from life that I didn’t think I could have — and I felt so ungrateful for what I did have.

I received disability allowance, had a supportive partner and a great home. But I wanted to travel the world, and I felt trapped in a city I didn’t like for a relationship I wasn’t happy in. Although my boyfriend was supportive about my health issues, being a sex worker and even being polyamorous, I felt something in my gut that it wasn’t working. We fought too often and didn’t have sex enough.

We didn’t have the deep conversations that I needed from another partner. And I was too preoccupied with trying to make things work between us to focus on other areas of my life that I desperately wanted to change — closer friends, further postal codes and wider comfort zones.

As much as I wanted to be content with what I had, I just wasn’t. For me, life was about so much more than financial stability. But as a disabled woman with limited resources, it was impossible to imagine a better scenario. I told myself that I was too greedy and I was lucky to even have the things I did. So I stayed put in my home and relationship — planted but thirsty, like a fern that was outgrowing its pot– until one day I heard someone who cracked me open and made me feel alive again.

A person stands in a big cloud of yellow smoke. We can barely see them, except for left side of their body as it emerges from the smoke.
Credit:

©Natali / Adobe Stock

I heard him on a podcast. He was so intelligent, well-spoken and funny. I was instantly drawn to him, and knew I wanted to be friends on social media. I added him online, and we started talking. But I had no idea it would go anywhere. He lived across the country — having any kind of relationship in real life seemed impossible. But we kept talking online, and then moved to the phone. We talked for hours at a time — and even that felt too short. I started listening to the podcast episode over and over just to hear his voice — until one day I realized I had a client where he lived. We had been talking for a month, and it felt insane, but I booked my ticket across the country to meet him. Now I know how all my clients feel when they fly me to meet them.

You know how when they say you know, you just know? I never thought that was true until now. We had the type of chemistry that doesn’t happen often. I laughed more with him than I had in years, and being in a new city invigorated me. My time away from home solidified more than ever that home was wherever I was happiest. So when I returned to my beautiful apartment and perfect-on-paper life, I felt even more lost than I had before. I felt like I had left a part of myself across the country: The part of me that had been longing for a different life and didn’t know how to make it possible. Suddenly, I needed to make it possible. There was no going back.


Read more: Diagnosis? It’s literally in my head


So I broke up with my boyfriend and packed my bags again. I wanted to see if this could be a real relationship and not a fantasy. It only took another week across the country to decide that I would be happier blowing up my life than living the way I was. I was terrified, yes — but If I’ve learned anything from the last few years of having stability, it’s that a life that’s safe isn’t a life at all; it’s a prison. Even if things didn’t work out with my new partner, there was nothing left for me in my old life.

Before, I saw my health issues as the reason to live safely. But as my health began to deteriorate and a possible MS diagnosis loomed over me, I slowly became braver as I saw that I had to take advantage of the health I did have. I had been frightened to break up with my boyfriend because I didn’t know how I was going to survive without him — but I’ve since learned that I can hire people to do all of the things he did for me without relying on my new partner in the same way — including a professional cuddler — and instead focus on enjoying our time together.

I’m turning 30 in October, and I’m not at all where I thought I’d be. I’m moving out of my beautiful apartment, across the country and off my disability allowance — something I never thought I’d be brave enough to do. I’ll no longer have everything just the way I like it — as I sit here writing this, I have mismatched sheets and eclectic dishes that aren’t mine and I’m imagining a future where I paint a wall my favorite color: Turquoise. I’m more scared about the future than I ever was — but I’m also happier than I’ve ever been. Sometimes you need to tear down everything you have to truly find yourself. I’m certain there will be tears and stress and panic attacks — but there was before too.

I used to be terrified to live my life. I kept my guard up because I was scared to lose everything. But you can only protect yourself from life for so long until it comes to you. And in the future, when I feel like I want to die because of some symptom or test or medication, I want to remember these times I lived in fear but was so joyous at the same time. That I didn’t stop myself from being happy because I was scared of how it could go wrong. Because there’s no joy without pain.


“I am terrified of turning 30” is republished here with the kind permission of Hayley. If you like this article please consider supporting Hayley’s writing on Patreon. 

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Hayley Jade is sitting on a wool pile rug. She is wearing a black lingerie body suit (sometimes called a teddy). Hayley, whose face is cut off below the eyes, is laughing at her dog. The photo is for an article about Hayley, a sex worker with a chronic illness.
Article by Hayley Jade

Hayley Jade is a sex worker, disability advocate, non-fiction writer, and dog-lover.

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