I got my BA when I was 20, my MA when I was 21, was a marketing manager at a major magazine publisher before I turned 23, and the Director of Audience Development at an A-list celebrity’s lifestyle company before I turned 25. I liked working hard for things and achieving them at my fast pace. In addition to my career, I was very spoiled with amazing friends, a long-term boyfriend, a great apartment and a close-knit family.

And then my mom was diagnosed with one of the world’s rarest incurable cancers, and I came to realize how little control I actually had in life.

There I was, 24, and switching roles with my parent – becoming the caretaker I hadn’t planned to become for another 30 years. I was her right hand, spending half of my time at her house, another chunk of time in hospitals and doctors’ offices, always trying to be five steps ahead of whatever she needed.

Unhappy at my job and questioning my priorities, I took a leap and diverged from my fast-track-to-success game plan that had been going so smoothly. I quit my shiny job and started my own company with a former boss (and role model), helping brands grow, engage and convert their audiences. It gave me sanity. It gave me freedom to be with my mom. It gave me a sense of control again.

My mom passed away 27 months after her diagnosis, very unexpectedly from side effects of her treatment. I miss her daily.

In the fourteen months since then, I’ve grieved a lot. The immeasurable loss of my mom was exacerbated by the loss of some best friends, a boyfriend and too often the ability to relate to people my age. From that grief, I learned a lifetime of lessons. I’ve learned what true friendship looks like and what I want out of love. I’ve learned that truly nothing is more important than family and health (both physical and mental). I’ve learned that a small, scruffy rescue dog can single-handedly save your life. I’ve learned that success can take on multiple disguises, as my small-but-mighty company – once simply a means for more flexibility – soars past its 25th client, 15th employee and all revenue estimates.

I have a tattoo on my left arm that reads “take the world by storm” in my mom’s handwriting. I’m on a different path than originally planned, but living those words nonetheless.