“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” –Oprah
In my last therapy session this past Tuesday, my therapist and I started talking about my position in life. I discussed how I felt this immense burden to ultimately oversee the family as my parents get older. Mind you, I am not the oldest of my siblings. I’m the youngest, so it technically shouldn’t fall on me to take care of them. But you know, family gonna family. It’s a long story. I’ll share another time.
This long story led to me sharing how I often feel inadequate and super unprepared to help my family because I’m not employed. As I was talking, it just came out: I feel like a failure.
I laughed at first, as I’ve never heard myself say those words aloud. I’d felt this way MANY times, but I’d never said it. My therapist paused from her usual nodding, and had a quizzical look on her face. She asked why I felt that way. I said I didn’t know. I just did. She looked at me and gave a supreme side-eye. She said, “Failure is such a strong word though. I don’t like that word, but let’s just say you are a failure. What does that mean to you?
I said, “It would mean not being successful or accomplishing my goals in life. Frankly, I feel like I have zero goals.”
“Ok. You may not have a goal, which happens. We all go through times where we may not have a big, sweeping goal to accomplish. But to be a failure, wouldn’t that mean you’re simply not trying to do anything at all?? Like, you’re just… existing? And surely you’re not just existing.”
“Well geez, when you put it like that!!”
She laughed and began digging into my sense of failure, asking questions to understand when I started feeling this way and what had I done in the past when I felt this way. Lots of detective work was done here and I gave my honest answers.
As we got to the crux of the investigation, she said I had shared something about my past that made her think of a story and a quote.
She told me a story about an Oprah show she had seen years ago. (Note: she revealed that she did NOT like Oprah’s show and did not watch. But a friend of hers called her to tell her to watch this particular episode.) It was the show where Tyler Perry was on, along with 12 male guests that had been sexually abused as children/teens. I remembered the show, but didn’t watch. I meant to watch, but didn’t for whatever reason. Anyway…
My therapist gave me a quick synopsis and said that one male guest recounted his story, seemingly without being affected by what had happened to him. Oprah was baffled and asked the young man how he could retell such a harrowing experience without shedding a single tear. The man then stated the quote above. (That’s Oprah’s spin on it, but definitely the same sentiment.)
Right after my therapist shared it, I said, “Wow, that’s deep!” She agreed and said it blew her mind too when she heard it. She then shared a quick story about her mom and how she was able to see how her mom hadn’t truly forgiven someone she was close to because her mom hadn’t truly let go of these hopes she had for that relationship.
As for me, the reason why my therapist shared this was because of the story I was telling her regarding my last job NYC. Many of you know that I was let go and it was the first time that I had been so in life. And while I hated that job with a passion, I was devastated to be fired. To this day, I still replay that time in my life, from the moment I got the call for the interview, to the moment I got called into HR and was let go. I have been trying to tell myself for the longest that I wasn’t bitter, that I didn’t care. But I finally realized during this session that I did care. However, it’s not why you may think.
You see, that was my first advising job. At that point in my life, I had longed to be an academic advisor. Some back story – It took me nearly five years before I decided what I wanted to study in grad school. I took such a long time because I didn’t want to jump into any old program and regret it. Also, friends of mine who had gone to grad school, told me to really take time choosing a program. It’s not like undergrad where you can take a year and figure things out while you’re there. You go in ready to jump right into your program. (I think I knew this, but I guess I didn’t know how serious it was, so that prolonged my decision.)
Meanwhile, I was working at in advising (as support staff) and loving my job and the measly
pennies paycheck I brought home, so I wasn’t in a rush to head back to school. But once I finally decided, I was thrilled because for the first time in my life, I felt like I had found my calling! Advising students was what I felt like I was born to do. It was such an invigorating feeling.
Fast forward to getting fired.
I was in shock and I couldn’t believe that after being unemployed for nearly two years prior, I would have to start my search all over again. I only worked as an advisor for a year and a few months, which seemed like no time at all. So I got back on the horse, only to be met with more and more frustration as several months went by without a single interview. Two years went by and still no job. I gave up. I haven’t applied to a job since 2014.
That quote hit me HARD because that has been me for years. I wasn’t upset about losing the job. No, I hated that damn job! After several months, I PRAYED to get fired (plot twist!) Rather, I was upset that I lost all the time and money (ugh, the MONEY!!!) trying to accomplish what I thought was my calling in life. I kept thinking about all the time I spent in school, having to take out more loans, and struggling to pay bills (car, cell, etc) on a meager assistantship salary ($300/biweekly ::cries::). I was doing all of that while I was putting off what I really wanted to do, which was write.
I’ve said this a million times that writing has been my ultimate passion. And I’ve always said that I put writing on a shelf for what I thought was a “good” reason — society/family saying it doesn’t pay enough money. So it was always intended to be the thing I did on the side for as long as I can remember. I envisioned having this great 9-5 and then I’d come home and write that great American novel. And I thought, eventually I’d get a best-seller and I could quit that 9-5 and spend my days writing at home, in my cozy office. Or go to a local coffee shop with my laptop to be the ultimate cliché. 🙂 Writing was my real dream, but I kept deferring it because, you know…
*sigh* Everything got ruined (in my mind). And up until now, I thought I wasn’t bitter. I thought I had moved on. But apparently, I haven’t given up the past I wanted.
*whew* Definitely shed some tears writing that, but this…this is the breakthrough I’ve needed. This is why I’ve been stuck in the biggest rut for the past six years. And this is why I came to therapy.
Now that I know this, the work begins to either try to pursue advising again OR move on. I have to do one or the other. So, since I cannot even fathom working in higher ed ever, I will be putting forth the effort to seriously move past that dream for my life. Guys, this will be SO hard. Just thinking about it all… I get so mad at myself. I don’t think anyone understands how much I’ve beat myself up over it for YEARS. But I feel like I can see a little light. I just pray the light gets brighter and brighter as I work through this madness.
Thank you to everyone that has reached out to me over the course of this journey. I appreciate your support!! I especially want to thank those of you that have shared your own stories with me. Not to take away from anyone else that has shown me love, but the stories help me so much!! I know I’m not alone, but there are many, many days when I’ve felt/still feel like no one else is going through anything. So thank you for sharing your own feelings/stories with me! 🙂
No therapy until May!! But I have a LOT to work on until then, so I’ll be busy. 🙂