I’m going to go out on a limb here and write about what a struggle this year has been for me.
I had decided to just leave out these details because they’re not fun, and part of me wants to write this blog, put on a happy, successful little front and forget my current struggles. But in the spirit of authenticity and being real, I’m going to write about where I am right now.
And right now I’m struggling.
I am aware that I have not yet provided a proper introduction, so some of this may seem out of context, but I’ll do my best to fill in the gaps.
My husband and I hit a brick wall at the beginning of the year. Last year, it seemed like life was propelling forward. His business was starting to take off. I had finished grad school as student of the year and had my masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
As soon as I graduated, I got a part-time job that I absolutely loved. I was told that the job should go full time early 2017, so I was looking forward to more money and benefits. We were looking at buying a house that was amazing — creative, ideal, surrounded by nature. Everything we wanted.
Then 2017 happened.
We found out that we couldn’t get a loan for the house we wanted because my husband had no credit. At all. This was because he always paid everything in cash and in full. He was so good at managing money that it bit him in the butt. And because my job was only part-time, I couldn’t qualify for the loan on my own. This was a huge blow because we knew we were going to lose the house we loved. It was even more of a blow because we’ve struggled to have our own home for a good 8 years.
The husband’s job then tripled in stress. He was on the verge of meltdowns everyday. He has only recently recovered from PTSD and still has difficulty enduring high stress situations. So, he left his job. It was a difficult decision, but we knew that for his health, he had to leave. This also meant that our income was cut by more than half.
The lease on the house that we were renting was up, and we knew we would have to leave due to external circumstances and our now limited finances, so we were hoping and praying my job would go full time soon.
But it didn’t happen. I was told that the funding did not come through. Another huge blow.
A few weeks later, my husband broke out in shingles, and he is just honestly too young for shingles. But the stress from the job, the finances and years of PTSD erupted and physically manifested in his body. If you haven’t heard, shingles are not fun.
So we’re down two jobs, a home, and now physical illness has struck. We had to move out of our house and in with my parents — this was to be temporary because we didn’t want to get into another lease considering we may buy a home shortly in the future or that we may move away for a job opportunity or for me to pursue my PhD.
And then one day I got a call from a major state university and they wanted to do a phone interview for a full-time position. There was HOPE. As I was doing my interview with that university, I got a phone call from another major university in the state also wanting to do an interview. This was literally in the middle of my phone interview with their rival. So I had two great job opportunities, and hope was in the air — and much needed considering we were living with my parents.
A few lengthy weeks later, both of those doors closed, and we were back to square one.
Then my car bit the dust. So, I have no home. I have no car. We feel completely stuck.
And this is where we are right now. I’m working a part-time job — which I love and that makes great money to be part-time (just not enough to support two of us). I’m driving my mom’s car. I’m living in my parents’ home — and my husband and I are introverts and need significant time alone. We rarely get a moment alone now.
So this is the struggle. This morning I cried on my way to work. I’m tired and want to get out of this hole. I want just a shred of light to shine through and give us some kind of relief.
But this is also the opportunity.
We have no ties. No mortgage. No children. No job raking in money that we can’t afford to leave. No car payment. I have student loans to repay, but besides that, we’re free.
So in the midst of struggle, there is opportunity. When the two full-time jobs with the state universities fell through, I thought to myself, “Okay, you’ve been given time. You may have limited money and limited space, but you have time. How are you going to make the most of it?”
Since working part-time, I started a daily yoga practice which I’ve always wanted to do. Unfortunately, that has also waned significantly since we moved in with mom and dad due to space restraints. I have written a book of poetry and am working on getting it published. I have had such amazing opportunities to do things that have meaning for me and things that I had not been able to do while working full time and going to grad school full time (and just thinking about how I lived through that is amazing!).
For now, it seems like this is where I am meant to be — struggling financially but learning to take advantage of this amazing gift of time.
In my job as a mental health counselor, I use vision boards as an intervention when some of my clients are having trouble making decisions about the future or are struggling to figure out what it is they really want. And I’ve used vision boards in my own life since starting this job, and it is amazing the accomplishments I can look back and see. I had pictures of yoga, a typewriter and a bicycle on my board. And, again, I’ve started my yoga practice which has been life-changing physically and emotionally. The typewriter was representative of writing — and I’ve completed my book of poetry and am continuing to write. Coincidentally, I have also wanted a typewriter for years (I’ve have a weird typewriter obsession since childhood) and I recently found one for $3 (!!!) at a yard sale. And it is in pristine condition. I also was given a bicycle out of the blue, and that is exactly what I had been wanting.
There are things on there that seem to be taking their time — a house, a car and an increase in finances. And that is discouraging, but when I look at the opportunities and the things that have come into my life, I have to believe that this is not where my story ends.
And I know it’s not where it ends. But some days it’s easier to see the struggle than the opportunity. And some days you just need to cry. Alone. In your mom’s car. In Publix parking lot. Ain’t no shame.
Also on my vision board are the words “start a website about creativity and wellness.”
And here it is — post #2 on my creativity and wellness website seven months after I put it on my vision board.
I have long-term goals for this site. This is only the beginning. And to get it started, I definitely need time to pour into it. Here is my opportunity.
There was something in me that just knew when my job didn’t go full time and when I didn’t get the other 2 positions that this was my opportunity to do what I’ve been wanting to do.
Because when I examine what it is I want in my life — it is not a full-time job. It is not more money for things. What I want is to create, to write, to make a difference in the lives of others by helping them discover their creative identities and embrace their authentic selves.
What I want is a career that is on my terms, one that is flexible and mobile so that my husband and I can travel and enjoy our lives together. That can be living in a van down by the river (no lie… I want to live in a camper van for a while) or it can be in a house nestled in the trees. What I want is to continue learning in my field, to finish my book on creativity, and to coach individuals and speak to groups about overcoming the things in their lives that inhibit their creativity.
And this is my opportunity to create that life. This is my opportunity to invest the time I’ve been given into the things that I want for my life.
But this is also my struggle. Some days are more struggle than opportunity, and that’s okay. It’s just not fun. It’s not comfortable. But transforming and growing are often uncomfortable. It’s hard to see the transformation and the growth sometimes because it feels like it’s going at a snail’s pace. And on those days I cry. I gripe. I eat Mexican food… because let’s face it, nothing says self-care (or self-pity?) like chips and salsa.
Course Corrections: When an Ending is a Beginning and a Struggle is an Opportunity
So, I’m wondering if there have been times in your life that you thought were set backs but then you realized later that what you thought was an ending was actually a beginning — or what you thought was a struggle was actually an opportunity.
Maybe even now there’s something happening — a job loss, a relationship ending, anything that seems negative — that you may be able to see as an opportunity to set you on the path that you want to be on.
We might call these things course corrections — things that bring your life as it is to a grinding halt and force you to re-examine yourself and your current course.
Maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe you’re comfortable, but something in you wants more than comfort. Enter a course correction.
A giant meteor strikes your path and you have to decide what to do with it. Do you stay put and grieve that the meteor has blocked your path? Do you insist that there is nothing else out there for you? Do you wait for help? Do you build a bridge over the meteor? Do you turn around and find a different path? What you do when a course correction enters the picture is entirely up to you.
Initially, I struggled against it. I applied for jobs. I kicked and screamed and griped about how unfair things are. But I also listened. I listened for that voice inside and for words around me. Even a Taco Bell packet told me “This is just the beginning.”
During course corrections, look for synchronicities and words that lift you up. Listen for your intuition. Sometimes it’s smart to wait and listen for some direction. And then when you have an answer, start moving.
And even when you start moving realize that it’s not going be sunshine and roses. Some days you want to give up. Some days you question what you know. Some days you’re too exhausted to keep walking.
When those days strike, allow yourself to grieve but hold on to your encouragement and your words and your intuition. Hold on and know that it’s okay to get tired and discouraged. But don’t let it stop you from moving toward your new course.
So today I’m going to cry. But I’m also going to write this post and continue making the most of the time I have and continue to embrace this struggle as an opportunity.
This is just the beginning (thanks, Taco Bell).