How it all fell apart

November 15, 2016:

Today I feel like a fraud.  You may not realize this because I’m active on social media but I haven’t written a *new* blog post since May 2015.  Not May 2016… 2015!  

That’s 537 days.  F I V E – H U N D R E D and thirty-seven days. 

Why?

[deep sigh]

…I was lost.

I didn’t know how exactly, but I knew something wasn’t right.  Back in June 2015 something just wasn’t clicking in my life.  On the outside, I had everything going for me— a great job, a thriving business, a wonderful boyfriend, awesome friends, and a body I was finally proud of, yet something still didn’t feel “right”.  I had lost my spark, my desire to move forward and my desire to start anything new. 

I started to turn down work opportunities.  I put the blog on hold “for the summer”.  I started to revert inward.  I read countless personal development books.  I tried everything to reignite this fire I once had.

In July 2015, I saw an ad for a Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within event and something inside me screamed, “I HAVE TO GO!”  If you don’t know Tony Robbins, google him, he’s a personal development superstar.  Anyways, a few mouse clicks and several thousand dollars later, I booked 2 plane tickets to Chicago for my mom and I to attend.  We packed our bags and headed out that week.  Yes, that same week.  I was desperate.

After 4 days of fire-walking, booty-shaking and soul-screaming excitement, I finally started to feel like me again.  A little piece of me lit up— there was hope.

August 2015 was GO GO GO.  I couldn’t sort the blog mess but I was booking clients left and right, charging insane amounts for my life coaching packages, and even touring the country to speak in front of young women entrepreneurs.  When the first person called to ask if they could pay for my flight and accommodations to have me speak in front of their sales team, I was in shock.  Me?  You want me?  Is this real life?

The requests started pouring in.  My calendar was packed, my bank account was on the up-and-up, lives were changing, and yet I still felt like something was off.

Cue September 1st, 2015— the day I got engaged.  With tears of happiness, I said yes. 

Of course I loved this man, love was an understatement.  We were perfect for each other, a magical ying and yang.  He brought so much happiness and joy into my life. I couldn’t imagine a day without him, yet why did I feel so scared?  I was happy, but also, so very scared.  Why?

Wasn’t I ready?  What was I afraid of?  Was it him?  Was it me?  Was it money?  At 26 years old and having dated 6 years, this was our time.  This was the next logical step.  This is what we were supposed to do— get engaged, get married, buy a house, have a baby.

And all of a sudden, I felt trapped.

What about traveling?  What about all the things I wanted to do before having kids?  What about all the adventures?  [Side note, I know having children is an amazing adventure and I am super excited for it, one day.  To all my mommy and daddy friends, you rock and I love you and I can’t wait for all your tips.  But for now…]  Time warped into hyper speed and all I could see was me, my wonderful stay-at-home husband (because let’s be honest I suck at kids) and a baby, all sitting inside a messy house.  Just sitting.  Sports in the background, dinner on the stove and toys scattered across the floor.  Smiles and laughter filled the room, but there I was, just sitting.  I couldn’t.  Not now at least.

I told myself this would be years down the road— a long engagement, renting before buying, spending time to ourselves before officially “settling down”— but I couldn’t shake the fact this is was my semi-soon future.  I wasn’t ready.  I needed another adventure.  I craved it from my deepest parts.  A wild adventure, around the world, seeing everything I’d always wanted to see.  And somehow, I got my fabulous fiancé on board for a 4-month honeymoon traveling the world!

So with the hopes of a honeymoon to satisfy my soul, the wedding planning was on.

Unknowingly I fought the process every step of way. I dragged my feet through dozens of venue appointments only to find something wrong— bad carpets, ugly walls, a menu that lacked any interest— there was always something wrong.  Why?  I was excited for this.  I am excited for this, right?

I told my married friends about my fears and each responded with, “This is normal, it happens to everyone.”  Wanting to scream?  Normal.  Cry?  Normal.  Strangle your family members?  Normal.  Run off and elope?  Normal.  Have a huge wedding?  Normal.  Change your mind a dozen times?  All normal.

I’m not alone, this is normal.

As time passed, I couldn’t make a decision.  Weeks turned into months and no progress was made.  It was all me, I take full responsibility.  I felt as if I couldn’t get the puzzle pieces to fit.  The venue lacked meaning, the date was arbitrary, nothing felt right.

At the turn of the 2016 new year, yes folks we are 4 months post-engagement with no decisions, we started to crank up the pace.  Contracts were drafted, things were moving, yet somehow I felt like we were drifting apart.  I kept trying to tell myself this was normal.  I kept trying to tell myself this was because I got another job (working for someone else) and I was cranky about that.  I kept trying to tell myself a million things because I did not want to see the truth— what if this wasn’t meant to be?

It pains me to write this even today.  I’m actually holding back tears and yet, I’m so far removed from this situation now— months, almost a year— but it still hurts.  I think it always will.

I remember one week so vividly in February 2016.  It was the week everything spiraled out of control.  Within 6 days, my entire world came crashing down.  6 years unraveled in 6 days.  Every hope, every dream, every aspiration— gone.

After something so stupid happened on Monday, I remember going home and saying to myself, “I need to think about all of this, the wedding, everything.”  Tuesday was a mess.  Wednesday, I had to tell someone what was going on.  Maybe I’m crazy to be thinking about this?  On Wednesday, I told my mom.  Thursday and Friday were a bit of a blur.

But Saturday… Oh Saturday…

While sitting at a coffee shop catching up with one of my closest friends, she asked me how the wedding planning was going and immediately I burst into tears.  Full waterworks.  Ugly cry face.  Hyperventilating.  All of it.  At that moment, I knew my decision was made. Two hours and way too many tissues later, I left with such a broken heart.  Broken doesn’t even begin to describe it.   

As my girlfriend pleaded with me to give it some time and not make any rash decisions, I knew my decision was already made.  I didn’t need time because I had been thinking about this for months, I just didn’t know it.  This was the part of me that I couldn’t fix.  This was it.

I left the coffee shop in a million broken pieces with no one there to pick them up.  What do you do when your go-to person is the one person you can’t go to anymore?

I had tentative plans with 2 of my other girlfriends for a spa day in Miami but we all knew I wouldn’t go.  Not because anything was wrong (they didn’t know yet), but because it was an hour drive and an expensive day. That’s just not something I’d normally agree to.

When I came home from the coffee shop, I told my mom everything that had happened and she insisted I make my way down to Miami.  “You need friends right now, this is a god moment (her term for perfect timing).”

Unable to gather enough words to speak, I texted my girlfriends and jumped in the car before I could change my mind.  I warned them that I was upset and really needed to talk but they had no idea what was about to ensue… actually, neither did I.

Like any best friends, they snuck me into the spa, got me a lounge chair by the pool and were ready with open ears to hear what was going on.  For the next few hours I poured my whole heart out.  Every.  Last.  Drop

They too encouraged me to wait it out and not jump to any conclusions, but my decision was made. I knew this was right. 

I called my sister on the car ride home and left my final bestie for a call on Monday (another god moment and perfect timing).

I was doing it.  I was telling my people.  This was really happening.

FUCK.  

My intention was to call off the wedding but stay with him.  I loved him.  I wanted to get married one day, just not now.  That was the plan.  Call off the wedding.  Stay together.  But then Sunday happened… 

Sunday, it was over. 

6 days and it all came crashing down.  

In the following days there was no pleading, no conversations of hope, nothing.  Was it really over?  I know I said I wouldn’t change my mind, but deep down I still had hope.  There’s always hope, right? 

3 days later and it was done.  That was the last day I saw him, and shockingly, at the time of writing this, it was the last day I ever heard his voice.

How could someone so permanent in your life just disappear?

Another week passed before we spoke.  And by spoke, I mean texted.  We exchanged a few cordial texts back and forth sorting bills, disassembling our joint bank accounts, paying off credit cards, and returning our belongings.  We casually changed our profile pictures, hid our relationship status, and took down the engagement posts.  This was happening.  This was real.

12 days after giving the ring back, I finally had the courage to tell my friends.  It was a group text.  Actually several group texts, each with one person in charge to answer questions.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  I couldn’t believe this was real. 

My parents told our family.  I have no idea what they said.

I was numb.

I had 3 weeks left in a hectic freelancing project so I dove headfirst into my work, another god moment my mom says.  I carried on as if nothing happened, or at least I tried to.  I would lie when I saw people around town and they asked me how the planning was going, “Great, everything is great!”  I’m sorry if I lied to you, I just couldn’t cry anymore.  I didn’t know what else to do.

In public, I kept the facade going— the smile on my face, the inspirational posts, the kickass fitness challenge groups— I did it all.  I don’t know how.  I give all the credit to my most amazing friends.  Thank you.  Really, thank you.  I pushed through the best I could because that’s what I had to do.  That was me.  That’s what everyone expected.  Happy, bubbly, positive Max.  How could I possibly be anyone else?  How could I even think about letting anyone down?

This was March 2016.  It got harder before it got better.  Much harder.  But it did get better.  And it still does.  

So in a very long-winded response for why its been 537 days since my last blog post, this is why.

I was lost.  I was broken.  I was hurt.  

I was healing.

When I stopped writing in May 2015, I didn’t know this elaborate chain of events would occur.  I didn’t know how one thing would lead into the next.  I didn’t know how tangled everything would become.  I didn’t know how quickly time would pass.  I just didn’t know. 

What I did know was something didn’t feel right in my head and in my heart.  I listened.  I took action.  I fought hard.  I didn’t give up.  I faced every fear imaginable.  I kept going.  And in the midst of all the chaos, I lost myself.  I lost everything that made me come alive.  I lost everything that made me feel like me. 

I lost my light.  I lost my passion.  I lost my love.  

I lost it all.

How It All Fell Apart - Max Pankow Adventures

So 537 very long days later, I finally feel found— not all of me, but enough.  Enough to share.  Enough to persevere.  Enough to write the story for the next chapter of my life.  

Life is either a great adventure or nothing at all.  Where will your life take you?  What actions will you take?  

I’m excited to be back!

 Max Heart Signature

p.s.  Thank you for letting me share this with you.  It’s been so challenging to “get started” again and honestly I don’t even know the first place to start.  If you’ve been following me on social media or snapchat, then you’ve probably seen some awesome international adventures over the past few months— I want to share all that with you, but how do I possibly start?

You may think I have it all together, but I don’t.  And I don’t want to.  I want to make mistakes, I want to learn and I want to grow.  I want to face fears and challenges and share those experiences with you.  I want to be transparent.  I want you to know that you are not alone. 

Life is too short to live someone else’s dream. It’s too short to let a day (or 537) pass you by.  I hope to inspire you to take control over your life in some small way and start living the life you dream and deserve.

I challenge you to be fearless in the pursuit of your happiness. 

Believe me, I know you can.

p.p.s.  It really has been 537 days since I’ve written an original post other than magazine articles.  I’ve backdated some posts and revamped old articles, workouts and recipes to keep the site alive.  Sorry, but that’s the truth!

If you are reading this as part of the “About Me” page, click here to return to the story.

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