Before I left for France I had a routine. Every morning I read scripture, and then journaled for about an hour. I read self-development books every chance I got and attended conferences on the regular.

I also had a lot of structure to my life. I didn’t eat gluten, dairy, or eggs (thanks to food sensitivities), I worked out in the evenings for about an hour. I didn’t drink caffeine (it made me too shaky) and I always went to bed on time (it’s a work night!).

But then I went to France. In France, I had no rules. I rarely slept. I ate all the gluten (croissants everywhere!) and the cheese (how could you not). I had espresso every morning and even though I was well meaning and bought myself a journal, I never once wrote in it.

My structure went out the window, and in it’s place, I found freedom.

I realized I didn’t have a reaction from the food, or the caffeine. And I felt just fine without a journal. But perhaps greatest of all, I found that the problems American Elle had created for herself, simply didn’t exist for French Elle.

Part of it was, for sure, that France was a dream come true. I can’t underestimate that fact. For ten years I lived in longing of France, and now that I had finally been, and with my girlfriends no less, I felt like my life had finally become complete. It wasn’t an idle dream. It was a real one. And my life felt full as a result of that fact.

But I also realized that I had put a stop to all the self-development I was doing on a daily basis. Self-development that began during a serious bout of PTSD in my early twenties. But continued unfettered well into my 30’s.

When it was no longer my mental health that needed saving, it was my physical health. When it wasn’t my physical health it was my job. When it wasn’t my job it was my marriage. There was always something to fix and I was determined to spend my life fixing it.

The problem is, self-development asks you to fix what’s wrong, but if nothing is, we’ll invent something. And I did that, in some form or another, for far too long.

Until I went to France and realized that my life was perfect. That I had everything I ever wanted, and lemon macarons besides. Perhaps when I got back, I thought, I wouldn’t do self-development anymore. Perhaps, I thought, I wouldn’t need it.

And that is how my life has been. Since returning from France I have been shaken into a new form of being. One that still eats the occasional baguette and stays up late when the time is right. One that savors the daily sip of caffeine and no longer journals every morning.

And best of all, one that realizes that life is a treasure. That it doesn’t need fixing. And that it’s perfect just the way it is.

This article was originally published on Patheos Magazine.