As I sit in the quiet of my apartment, I am just so very grateful for where and when I am right now. 2018 was another shit show of a year politically. But personally, it’s gonna be hard to top 2018.
2018 started with a kind of emotional stress I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I was failing at work, and even worse, I was filled with regret and bitterness and the kind of misery I hadn’t felt since I was nineteen years old.
When I was nineteen, I was in my second year at college. I had no idea where I was going or what I should study or do. I desperately wanted to drop out, but that meant going back to living at home, and that just wasn’t an option. So instead of dropping out, I just slept through most of my classes and drank my way through most of my weekends.
But it wasn’t just my lack of direction and fear of my future that was deeply depressing me. It was the fact that my whole world view had been blown up, and I had to rebuild my emotional life from the ground up. I had to figure out what I believed in; what my values were; and figure out who I was; how I fit into the world, and where I would go from there.
I will write more about this in the coming weeks, but suffice to say, nineteen was one of the hardest years of my life filled with painful emotional work and quite frankly, a lot of suicidal thoughts. 2018 started off as emotionally close to my nineteenth year as any year I have lived since. To say I was miserable is the understatement of the century. For the first time in 26 years, I had to figure out who I was; where I had come from; what my values were; how I fit into the world, and where I was going, and it is a LOT more exhausting and soul crushing to do this at 45 than it is at 19. At 19, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. At 45, you’ve got an awful lot to look back on, and the knowledge of the uncertainty of how much time is ahead.
But this is where I found myself at the beginning of this year. I was failing at work, so for the first month or two, I put everything I had into trying to improve and make it work. I would come home bitter, angry and exhausted, and I took it out on my husband. I spent weekends glued to my laptop desperately trying to learn and keep up and attempting to get ahead. I just couldn’t do it. Even when I managed to catch up and feel like I was in a good position to start the week, I would fall behind by noon on Monday, and nothing ever seemed right. No matter what I did or how I did it, I was constantly told it wasn’t right, or if it was okay, that there “should be a better way.”
I was exhausted and demoralized, and I was beginning to spiral downward emotionally. I knew this job was going to be a challenge when I took it, but the money was insane, so I took it. As I’ve written in the past, I’ve hated being an Assistant for just about my whole 20+ year career, and I was in a lot of debt. I just wanted to get through one year at this job so I could put a serious dent in my debt. If I could last 3 years, not only would I be debt free, but we would likely have enough money for a down payment on a house. I felt I had to succeed here. But as time wore on, I just grew more exhausted; frustrated; bitter and miserable. I began doubting every decision I had and had not made throughout my adult life. I was angry at myself, and I began to feel trapped and like there was no way out or forward.
I tried to remind myself constantly of my John Lennon mantra, “There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be,” but it just wasn’t working. I was growing more depressed and miserable by the day. But then something happened. Mel Robbins, the motivational speaker, came to speak at my job. Now, I am not one for motivational speakers, but I was desperate, so I downloaded her audiobook, and then two more by two other motivational speakers, and I started listening to them on my way to and home from work. They all pretty much said the same things, but they said them in different ways, and the message was essentially the same: you already have everything you need; you just need to believe in yourself; value yourself and act. It was the valuing oneself that really spoke to me.
I had spent most of my adult life actively devaluing myself, and I took job after job where I undervalued myself and in some cases, was not only not valued, but used and abused. In the early years, I overspent out of guilt and frustration, and then devalued myself for not managing my finances properly. As time wore on, I worked countless hours in some very miserable places just to keep up with the minimum monthly debt payments. Eventually, after decades of not having any financial value, I ultimately felt I had no value as a person.
But as I listened to those three books over and over, I started to feel different. I felt feelings inside me start to shift. I began to rediscover my self and find my own value. As I looked back on my life, I realized that for the most part, I never valued myself. Never! For so many years I was trying to get “back” to a certain time or feeling I thought had existed, but that never actually did. Sure, when I was younger, it was easier to be hopeful and look forward, but I realized that in truth, I had never felt good or okay with myself. I had never valued me.
So, while still looking back, I also started to move forward and look forward. I started setting boundaries at work, and I decided I wasn’t going to be mean to my husband; I wasn’t going to take this job so seriously, and I wasn’t going to work myself to death to try to please someone who couldn’t be pleased. I would do my best, and see what happened.
What happened was, my boss, the Human Resources department and I reached an agreement that I would never work out in this position; that I would stay on to help train my replacement, and that I would leave at the end of July, and after a few short weeks of wondering if I had made the biggest mistake of my life walking away from all that money, I haven’t looked back. Me leaving that job was the best thing I could have done. I stopped paying the minimum payments on my debts, and while my credit is shit, and bankruptcy may be in my future, I feel like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, when he got back from seeing how life would be if he’d never been born. I have spent the last five months of 2018, rediscovering myself and finding parts of me I didn’t even know existed. I’ve organized my home; I’ve reconnected with my husband, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the Holiday Season from Halloween to New Year’s Eve.
I am certain that 2019 will present me with new and formidable challenges. But at least I am going into the year valuing myself and feeling more like me than I’ve felt in a very long time, if ever. I wish everyone the same: that beautiful feeling that no matter what life throws at you, that you have the knowledge, strength and trust in yourself that you will come though it because you are worth it. You are worthy. You are valued.
Happy New Year, everyone!
(I knew John Lennon was always right!)
Sharing my thoughts in hopes of defining myself and connecting with you.