Why Does This Even Matter?

Photo by Max Rovensky on Unsplash

Friends, I want to tell you a story today. Best of all, it is a true story, because its mine. I don’t share this as often as I should, but it does need to be told. These things I talk about aren’t just ideas, they are deeply personal. It’s ok to get fairly personal in a public space, right?

I will need to rewind a few years. And by a few, I mean several.

Let me take you back to 2010.

I was 23 years old at the beginning of the year and in my second semester of a new college in Hawaii after taking a 2-year break.

I was super excited for the new year. New Year’s is my favorite holiday, after all. I felt like I had everything under control and headed right where I should be going. I had successfully handled everything life handed me to get to this awesome point in time.

I wanted to work more with and help people, so I left the music major life to apply for and get accepted into the social work program. I had started dating my first boyfriend. I was serving my church in a busy calling, going to the beach, working a great job outside in the sunshine and shoes were optional.

I had everything just picture-perfect.

For a moment. Then it all disappeared. I lost it all and all at the same time.

I was told I couldn’t be placed in an internship (meaning I couldn’t graduate) due to noises I made. So I gave up and ended up failing all of my classes. This was a huge hit to the pride of a straight-A student. Not only that, but my boyfriend broke up with me, I was told I wouldn’t be able to keep my job, all of my friends went home for the summer so I was basically alone as my life started to spiral out of control.

My hours at work slowly being taken away from me, I wasn’t making enough for food and rent… so I wasn’t eating much. I started getting sick without proper nutrition.

All these things weighed on me so much, I wasn’t sleeping well, if at all. I started to get angry. As someone who is naturally happy and optimistic, this fact alone is not normal for me. Then that anger was turned to God. I was so mad He let these things happen when I was doing all this work at church and as many good things as I could handle.

I began to wonder if there was such a thing as God. When I realized this, I felt so incredibly lost. I didn’t recognize who I was anymore. Things that I had used to define myself- my optimism, my faith in God, my confidence that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing- had suddenly disappeared.

I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

I hit a deep depression and I lost interest in anything around me. What was the point, it was just going to disappear anyway. I strongly considered just throwing myself into the ocean for the sea to just finish me off.

I had literally lost everything, including my own identity. I didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted anymore. Where do you go, what do you do when you hit such a low?

Lucky for me, I had a journal handy. With nothing else and no desire for anything, I wrote it all out.

I wrote about how much I hurt.

I wrote about how much I lost.

I wrote until I couldn’t rant or cry anymore.

Then what? What’s next?

So I wrote about those questions. Where do I go? What do I want? What do I do with the rest of my life?

And I realized that as awful as all of this is (seriously, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone) what a great space to figure out what I really want. I had no pressure from a job or friends or family or even invested time in a course of study. I had a completely clean slate to create from with a lot more experience to guide those choices.

I had to start incredibly basic, so I questioned every aspect of my life. The framework and foundation is the most important part of any building. I knew I wanted to be happy, even though I currently was not even close to that emotion.

I started with my location. Should I stay alone in Hawaii? Should I move home to have family support? Should I move somewhere new for a completely fresh start? I opted to stay in Hawaii.

I then focused on school. Should I stay where I am or try a new school? Did I even want to continue? I did want a college degree, and I decided to give this school another shot, even though I was livid with what I had experienced so far.

What should I study? This one took a lot longer. You would think after going through 2 other majors I would have a better idea of what I wanted to do, but I had no clue. I wound up picking a major based solely on the classes I wanted to take rather than where it would lead me.

As I rebuilt my life brick by brick and challenge by challenge. I simply did what had to be done until I reached a point where I was able to stop for a moment, look around, and realized, I wasn’t angry anymore. In fact, life wasn’t really so bad.

In fact, I was incredibly happy. I cried every day I came home from school because I loved my classes so much. I had friends again. I had a reason to get out of bed every day.

I had my life back.

For a moment.

Isn’t it funny how life will constantly keep you in check? Once I was happy and living my life, I got distracted.

How do you not? I was living in Hawaii. I was so busy just being happy that I stopped questioning everything and simply rolled with the punches.

Don’t get me wrong, this was good in its own right, but I still had no purpose and direction. Right before my last semester started, I had not completed an internship, and still had classes to take, so that was no longer an option. As a result, I ended up doing a senior research paper.

I was strongly discouraged in this endeavor.

“You will never find a good job.”

“You will miss out on so many connections.”

“It is a great way to see someplace new.”

While these arguments were valid and true, I hadn’t prepared sufficiently for these opportunities. I ran of time.

I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted and was simply taking what life gave me after I missed chance after chance.

I can be a slow learner sometimes.

However, this paper was one of the best things I could have ever done. Having recently been diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, I used the paper to study it more and how it affects communication.

Using everything I had learned over the past couple of years put so much into perspective and I actually loved my time I put into this paper.

Who knew you could like doing homework? I started to see myself in a new light. I started to see this awkward thing I did not just as a cute quirk, and not as something that got in the way, but as more of a superpower!

I had never realized, especially not in my dark moments, that I had so much power and ability and influence.

When I presented my paper to my college professors, I was shocked by their responses. I couldn’t believe these intelligent men and women were so surprised and supportive.

I was floored to hear their encouragement to publish this paper as there was nothing like it in the field.

Yet again, I allowed myself to be distracted.

For years I said, “One day. One day I will publish this paper.”

I graduated from college, moved a few times following different jobs. Different opportunities.

Nothing ever panned out though.

There was no success, no validation, no joy.

Sound familiar?

Life is hard. It has a way of making us forget. It distracts, entertains, and pulls us away from our best selves and our best life.

This kept up for longer than I care to admit.

One day after one day passed. For year after year.

Times got harder and harder. Have you ever noticed how that happens? What causes it?

It happens when we get farther from our power and strength. And I continued to drift.

After breaking off a two-year relationship, I got tired of hurting. I wanted to feel strong again. Powerful. Validated.

I missed who I was in college. Funny things is, I was still the same person. Just hidden.

I was tired of hiding.

I decided I had to publish this paper, as my college professors had advised.

It took me an entire year. I wrote more, edited, asked questions, paid for online courses and fought my own fear and anxiety about making it public.

Not only that but the risk of failure. Maybe no one would buy and read my book. Maybe they would and they would hate it.

But I had already learned I was tired of hiding.

Sometimes the most powerful things we can do is to let ourselves be weak and vulnerable.

The day finally came. My book was ready.

And I hit publish.

I have never been an adrenaline junkie. I have never been one to do anything extreme. I suddenly understood how it felt though and why people do crazy things.

But hitting that publish button sure gave me an adrenaline rush. And I knew I had to do it again.

I had it back. I had not only my strength but power and purpose.

That college paper my professors raved about became my first book: Awkwardly Strong: From Insecure to Inspirational.

I became a published author. I had found my strength and in an addicting outlet. I wasn’t about to let it go again.

It took me 8 years to find the strength to stick with my personal superpower. Life is crazy and it is easy to forget how powerful we really are. Especially if life has kept our personal superpowers hidden from us.

Now What?

Sometimes it is easier to see our flaws more than we see our strengths. So I have created a short guide to help you see how those flaws can become your superpower.

It’s completely FREE and all you have to do is CLICK HERE and I will send it to your inbox.

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I tell stories. I scream. I like ice cream. paulajeanferri.com

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