Day Twelve: Rock Bottom

Day 12: In Chapter Nine, I hit “rock bottom.” Talk about your own rock bottom moment, and how you found the strength and the courage to rise.

Since I’ve already spoken in depth about the biggest rock bottom moment in my life so far, I won’t go into anymore detail about it. At this point, you all know a good bit about my story and how my rock bottom happened a few years back after the end of both a career and a relationship that I thought I wanted at the time. So, with that being said, I’ll just expand a little bit more about what that rock bottom taught me and why I feel it’s so imperative for people to go through that type of moment every now and then in life.

When I hit my rock bottom, I kept telling myself that there was no way that I could come back from it. I literally could not see how my life could get any better at that point. I kept acting like everything in my life was being done to me on purpose, and it just didn’t seem fair. It felt like everything and everyone was against me, and I was left to fight the battle alone. I felt so defeated. Yet, at the same time, I kept trying to remind myself that what I was going through was minuscule compared to what other people in the world were going through. I knew people battling cancer, struggling with their jobs, and losing loved ones. Yet, there I was, acting like the world was ending because I was heartbroken. I had so many emotions. One minute, I was sad, and the next minute, I was angry. Then, I felt guilty for being angry, but I also didn’t want anyone to feel bad for me, yet I wanted them to ask me if I was okay at the same time. Ugh, it was all just so incredibly annoying.

After the initial hit of rock bottom passed by, and I realized that all of the emotions I was feeling were completely normal, it became easier for me to talk about it all with those closest to me. Despite all the struggles that I’ve faced with some of my family members in the past, one thing has never changed and that is their love and support for me and each other in times of need. I quickly realized how blessed I was with some of the best friends and family on the planet. They wasted no time lifting me up and reminding me of just how good of a person I really am. They reminded me of my strengths, and it got me thinking “if this is how other people see me, then why can’t I see it in myself?” It was pretty eye-opening. In time, I learned more about my own strengths and potentials, and I realized that I needed to hit rock bottom in order to truly find myself.

It is absolutely necessary to hit rock bottom and face disappointment in life. It’s how we grow. It’s how we learn. It’s how we better understand ourselves and the things that we do and don’t want out of life. Without the tough moments to teach us, we ultimately stay complacent, and change won’t happen there. Sometimes, we really have to fall apart in order to find the person that we’re truly meant to be.

Day Eleven: Refusing to Settle

Hi Friends.

I’m now on Day 11 of the You Are Enough 30 Day Blogging Challenge, and man, I’m realizing that some topics are much easier to write about than others. Some of them just come to me, and others take a lot of thought and soul searching. Some honestly make me a little bit uncomfortable, but I also believe that discomfort is strengthening me as a writer. At least, I hope it is. Growth starts the second you get out of your comfort zone, right? With that being said, this next topic is something that I haven’t really given too much thought about, so I will do my best to discuss it through my words:

Day 11: In Chapter Eight, I share all the reasons why I think I’m still single, the good…the bad…the ugly. Talk about all the reasons why you think you’re still single. Don’t be afraid to be really real and raw and honest. If you’re not still single, talk about a time when you were single and lonely and afraid that love would never arrive.

So, I’m officially in my late twenties, all of my closest friends are getting engaged or married, and I’m still single. To be completely honest, I really like it that way. I have no problem telling people that I’m single by choice because I wasn’t single for a long time. I gave all of my time and energy to someone, and it didn’t work out. I came so close to settling for a life that I knew deep down I didn’t want, and I now refuse to settle for anything less than I deserve.

I’ve never been the type of girl that felt the need to have a boyfriend. I know my self-worth won’t be determined by a guy and my happiness won’t be found solely in a relationship. I don’t look at my singleness as a bad thing at all, and I can’t stand the fact that there’s such a stigma against it. I’m constantly getting told that my “biological click is ticking,” and my response is always “I can put my energy into finding a cure for cancer or I can put my energy into finding a husband. Which one do you think I’m going to choose?” At this current point in my life, I am solely focused on my career and just bettering myself as a person overall. I spent the majority of my life living it on other people’s terms and putting other people’s needs before my own. I got so tired of doing that, and now, I’m finally putting myself first. Maybe that makes me selfish, but I’m not ready to give that up just yet. I also really enjoy being single. I absolutely love the freedom of it, and I know that I’m not anywhere near being ready to settle down or date someone seriously. Maybe I’ll be ready for that in a few years, but right now, I’m totally taking advantage of being alone. It’s teaching me so much about myself, and it’s pretty empowering. I think it’s so incredibly important to be comfortable with being alone and just learning how to genuinely enjoy your own company. Our relationship with ourselves is absolutely the most important one we need to nourish in our lives because it’s the foundation upon which we’ll build everything else.

So, suffice it to say that I’m too busy falling in love with myself right now to be falling in love with my future husband. I have faith that that next chapter of my life will come to me exactly when it’s supposed to. In the meantime, I’m embracing my singleness and living my life to the fullest.

Day Ten: Emotional Battles

Day 10: In Chapter Seven, I talk about my experience with spiraling into clinical depression. Talk about your own experiences with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health struggle. If you haven’t been affected personally, share your insights into how you stay mentally healthy.

It’s no secret that I’ve been through my fair share of emotional abuse throughout my life. It’s something that started pretty early on for me. I’m not an outwardly emotional person at all. I internalize things a lot. Although it may not seem like it on the surface, I do feel things rather deeply. It’s a big reason why I’ve always struggled with letting things go in the past. I’d hold grudges against people who’d hurt me, and it kept me in an angry state of mind. With that being said, it also made me constantly question if something was wrong with me. That anger that I felt towards other people and situations would eventually manifest into feelings of guilt and sadness, and then, I’d spiral into this completely negative headspace where I’d just constantly knock myself down. All the time. It wasn’t healthy.

The first time I really took notice of this in myself was when I was about fifteen. Of course, I had the typical teenage angst, but there was more to it than that. I had pushed my dad pretty far out of my life out of anger and fear of getting disappointed again. At the same time, it really upset me because all I longed for was to be close to him again. I fought with my mom and sister all the time. I just often felt very misunderstood. I went through a phase where I would only eat one meal a day, if that. I quit dancing at the studio I had been going to since I was five years old because my dance teacher moved away after Hurricane Katrina. She played such an important role in my life after my parents’ divorce, and dancing just wasn’t the same for me without her. I turned to writing a lot back then because I really didn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling. Looking back, I probably should have. It would have been nice to know someone cared enough to listen. There were definitely moments during that part of my life where I truly wondered if anyone would care if I were gone. To be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever admitted that to anyone out loud before. It’s only ever seen the pages of my journal and now, this blog.

I went to a counselor for the first time as a child. I was five when my parents separated and six when they divorced. To say that I took it hard and it affected me deeply would be an understatement. My parents were concerned enough to get a counselor for me. I remember seeing two different ones. The first one was terrible. All I remember is sitting in her office one day and she told me something along the lines of me being to blame for my parents’ divorce. At least that’s how I perceived it at six or seven years old. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure I left crying, told my mom about it, and never went back to see her. Eventually, I saw another counselor. Her name was Ms. Heidi, and she was very kind and patient with me. I was going through this phase where I was refusing to really talk much to my parents or go to my dad’s house on his scheduled days and weekends. I literally told my first grade teacher that I felt sick every single day, just so I could go home. I was at a brand new school, adjusting to a whole new life, and it was all just a lot for me to handle. I constantly had heart palpitations, too. I would start hyperventilating, and the only thing I could do was put a cold rag on my head or neck, take deep breaths, and sip on water to calm myself down and prevent the nausea that often came along with it. Looking back on it, I think they might have been mild anxiety attacks because no doctor could ever figure out what was wrong. They just said I’d grow out of it when I turned fourteen. Such great advice.

When divorce happens with young children involved, no one can ever really predict how they’re going to react to the situation. In my case, my dad expected it to be difficult on me, but I don’t think my mom did.  So, all of that was really the onset of my emotional struggles in life. I don’t really remember how long I went to counseling as a child, but I do know that it helped a little bit. To be honest, I don’t really talk about it with my parents, but I’m sure their memory would serve better than mine. Eventually, things got much better as I got older. Until disappointments and heartbreak struck again in my early twenties. I sought help from a counselor again from ages 24 – 26. This time, I had definitely sunk into a depression. It was like everything that I had been keeping in over the previous 20 years just came exploding up all at once. My very first session, I literally just cried for an entire hour straight. She literally asked me “so what brings you here today?” and you wouldn’t think that question would set off the infinite waterworks, but it certainly did. I won’t go into all the details of my second experience with counseling, but I will say that it was one of the best decisions I ever could have made for myself.

I am whole-heartedly an advocate for therapy. I know there’s a stigma against it, and I think that’s a whole load of BS, to be blunt. I was in therapy as an adult, and my own mother told me that “only people with certain kinds of problems” go to a counselor. I never spoke with her in detail about my sessions for that reason. Therapy taught me how to dismiss that kind of negativity, and it helped me realize that often people’s words say a lot more about them than they ever do about you. I also know that people who look down on those who go to therapy are more than likely just afraid to admit that they could likely benefit from it themselves. People are afraid of things that they don’t understand, and if they’ve never experienced the benefits of therapy, then how could they possibly understand the good that can come out of it?

I could get on a soapbox here about my stance on mental health in this country, but I won’t. All I will say is that I know what it’s like to deal with depression and anxiety. I’ve hit rock bottom before. So hard, and I truly didn’t think I could get myself out of it. However, I did. In time, I became strong enough to recognize the fact that I needed a little bit of help to do so. I also realized that there’s no shame in doing something to better yourself, even if those closest to you can’t understand. At the end of the day, it’s your life, and you have to do whatever you feel is best for you, even if it involves sharing your heart and deepest darkest emotions with a professional stranger who is bound to become one of the greatest advocates for your success and well-being.

Days Eight & Nine: Have a Little Faith

Since I missed yesterday of the #YouAreEnough 30 day blogging challenge, I figured I would just combine the last two days into one post. So, here we go with Days 8 and 9…

Day 8: Also in Chapter Five, I talk about unanswered prayers and how they can often be the biggest blessings in disguise. Share an unanswered prayer of your own and how it helped you see that sometimes God’s “no” is the most gracious answer of all.

Day 9: In Chapter Six, I talk about the end of a relationship that sent me spiraling into a dark place. Talk about a heartbreak of your own that you experienced, and what it taught you, about yourself and about life.

An unanswered prayer for me kind of goes hand in hand with a heartbreak I experienced from the end of a relationship. I won’t get into too much detail on that specific heartbreak, as I’ve written about it in depth before. However, I will say that when I was going through that relationship in my past, I was constantly asking God if it was the right thing for me, especially towards the end. Deep down, I had felt an extreme sense of doubt for a pretty long time, but I kept telling myself to ignore it. I just kept thinking things would eventually change and everything would be okay. I convinced myself that the doubt I was feeling was really just a normal fear of letting myself get too vulnerable. Just a side effect of having a guarded heart. It was expected.

Once things really started going south in that relationship, I found myself constantly asking God why? Why are you putting me through this? This isn’t fair. What lesson are you trying to teach me here? Are you ever going to help me get through this? Where are you when I need you the most? I kept asking for answers that I knew I wouldn’t get responses to right away. I grew up pretty religious, but at this point in my life, I had certainly strayed away from going to church. I prayed occasionally, but not near enough as I should have. To be quite honest, I’ve only started to regain my full faith again over the last year. It’s been quite a journey. After that relationship ended, I found that I started praying to God more. Funny how we only seek Him when we’re going through the hard times, isn’t it? Even though His presence is always with us, we’re just sometimes too blind and stubborn to see it.

I kept praying for that relationship to work out. I kept praying that my ex would realize that I was enough for him, but I also kept praying for guidance on the whole situation. The guidance is what He followed through with. It was like the blindfold was ripped off of my face, and I was finally able to see that relationship with open eyes. All those red flags and gut feelings I had ignored in the past slowly started making more sense. If I had really wanted that relationship to work out like I thought I did, then I would’ve made more of an effort to make it work. I would have fought harder to make it last. I would have wanted to put all of my energy into its success. But, I didn’t. I had reservations about it. Something was holding me back, and for the first time, I trusted that something. Whether that was God or my intuition, I finally took it for what it was and realized that that relationship had simply run its course. It wasn’t adding any more value to my life. In fact, it was doing the exact opposite. It was taking absolutely all of my energy and de-valuing my life in every way possible.

I thank God everyday for steering me clear of all of the things in my past that were not meant for me. It certainly took some time for me to realize that that heartbreak was truly a blessing in disguise, but once I finally did, I knew in my heart that there was no going back. I always say to trust the process. In life, you have to trust the mistakes you’ve made, the experiences you’ve gone through, and the lessons you’ve learned because it all brings you one step closer to discovering the person that you’re meant to be. God has always known, and His plan for us is far bigger than one we ever could have dreamed of for ourselves. So, while you’re trusting the process, be sure to put some faith and trust in God, too. He’s got your back, especially in the moments when you doubt Him the most.

Day Seven: A Letter to My Younger Self

Day 7: In Chapter Five, I write a letter to a past version of myself to share with her the struggles she would soon face. Write a letter to a past version of yourself, at any time in your life, letting her know that whatever is up ahead for her, she is ENOUGH to handle it.

Dear 2016 Jordan,

This next year is going to be an interesting one for you. You’re going to be tested many times. Literally, you have a full year of graduate school ahead of you, and there will be moments when you’re going to want to pull your hair out with all of your studies. You’re going to make a lot of sacrifices. You’re not going to have much time for a social life. You’re barely going to see your family or your friends. You will live, eat, breathe, and sleep school and work for the entire year. Your packed schedule will absolutely get the best of you some days. You will have days that end in absolute tears.

You’re going to doubt yourself. A lot. You’re going to question if you’ve made the right decision. You’re going to get frustrated and want to throw in the towel. You’re going to wonder if it’s all going to be worth it. Just as you’re starting to get some kind of routine going in your Spring semester, your dad will have a health scare that will throw you for a loop. You will worry, and you will be scared, but he is strong and will be okay. You’re going to realize just how amazing your family is as a support system.

Your little sister will graduate college, and you’ll be so proud of her. You’ll make it just in time for her graduation, even though you’ll have to leave and be back at work not long after it. Again with the sacrifices. They’ll certainly test you, but they’ll force you to prioritize what’s really important in your life. You won’t realize this in the moment, but it’s something that you’ll look back on in your later years and be grateful for.

The end of 2016 is what will really test you. Not only will you be in your toughest semester of graduate school to date, but you will deal with your own health issues that will really set things into perspective for you. These health issues will worry you and consume you for awhile. Honestly, it’s going to take a hard hit at your self-esteem that will linger for the following year until you finally receive an all-clear from your doctor. Still, you won’t ever fully look at things the same way ever again.

However, despite the trials and tribulations that you will face this year, it will end on a positive note. You’ll graduate with your Master’s with a 4.0, and you will make the move of your dreams in 2017. I know it all seems impossible right now, and you think that there is no end in sight, but I promise you this too shall pass. This won’t be one of your most fun years. It’ll be one of your hardest working years to live through, but it will certainly pay off in the end. You’re going to learn so much more about yourself and your strength. So, even though it will be extremely hard, you will handle it all with grace. You will overcome it and pave the way for your future successes. Don’t give up just yet. You’re worth it. I promise.

Love,

2018 Jordan

 

Day Six: An Old Soul

Day 6: In Chapter Four, I share my journey of “Looking for Love,” and how a dating app helped shake up my romantic life. Share your thoughts about online dating or an experience you had while doing online dating that made an impact on your life.

Looking for love is not something that I’ve ever really been big on in life. I’ve always just believed that the right love would come along for me when it’s supposed to. That being said, I’m pretty old-fashioned when it comes to dating. I’ve tried the whole online dating thing, and I personally don’t like it, but that’s just me. I know people who have had great success with it, yet I’ve also heard horror stories from others. In this day and age, it seems like the easiest and most convenient thing to do, especially since most of us live such busy lives. We shop online, apply for jobs online, heck, some people even get their groceries online, so why not date online? That seems to be the notion that we’re living in now.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m literally just an old person trapped in a young person’s body. I’m often told that I’m an old soul, so it makes sense that I’m not really a fan of online dating. As I’ve stated before, I don’t trust people easily. Side note: I also have a huge fascination with true crime, so that also makes me paranoid when it comes to meeting people online. You seriously never know who they could be, so I just stay away from it. I think it’s better to actually go out and meet people in person. I just prefer a face to face interaction. It helps to give me a better understanding of someone, and overall, it’s just more genuine. It’s hard to get to know a person online, and it honestly is more stressful, in my opinion, because you’re overanalyzing every single word of what to say via text and impatiently waiting on a response. You’re questioning your self-worth before even knowing someone that you could potentially date, and that just seems a little backwards (not to mention pretty unhealthy) to me. Instant gratification is what we in the millennial generation have grown accustomed to, and the use of online dating is no different. We send a message and expect an answer right away, then get disappointed when that doesn’t happen. No wonder studies have shown that the use of social media leads to higher rates of depression and anxiety. It’s something that was intended to connect us, yet the amount of disconnect that it has created is astounding. No one lives in the moment anymore. People are always looking forward to the next thing, stressing about the next thing, and completely ignoring each other when they’re in the same room because it’s become such a habit to just have your phone in your hand at almost all times.

It truly makes me wonder how much more technology will evolve in the coming years, and how much more of an impact it will have on us. I don’t think it’s necessarily the healthiest thing to rely on apps and technology as much as we do, but I also don’t know what an alternative would be. To keep this post short and sweet, I’ll end it with saying that although online dating isn’t for me, I think it does work for some people. It’s just a matter of what you prefer.

Day Five: A Lesson in Losing

Day 5: In Chapter Three, “Your Life Will Be Different, But It Will Be Amazing,” I talk about how life can be beautiful again, even after unimaginable loss. Share a time when you faced unimaginable loss, and how you came to realize that you were ENOUGH to handle it.

Losing things in life is quite interesting. In the moment, you feel like the world is falling apart around you, and there’s no way that it could possibly get any better. In my blog post from Day Three of this challenge, I talked about the loss of a career that I had always envisioned for myself. I also touched briefly on the end of a relationship, and how that affected me. If anyone out there reading this has been following my blog over the last few years, you’ll know that I wrote in more detail about that specific relationship a few years back. However, I don’t read those early posts too often because they were written from a place of anger. A lot of it. It’s kind of like an old Facebook status – you’re not exactly proud of it, but it’s already said and done, so why take it back?

Anyway, back to my story about loss. More specifically, my story about a loss of love. I haven’t really talked much about this chapter of my life in recent years, mainly because it’s better left in the past. I’ve moved so far on from it that it doesn’t cross my mind often, but for the sake of being transparent, here it goes.

I met him on my eighteenth birthday. I was not in any way looking for a relationship then. I had plans to go to college and strictly stay focused on my studies. The last thing I wanted was any kind of distraction. However, my best friend at the time kept telling me about this guy she wanted to introduce me to, so I finally gave in. In all honesty, I actually avoided meeting him a time or two before we finally met that night on my birthday. I don’t remember much about that night, other than something about him telling me I had a beautiful smile, and my friend giving him my number. We made plans to go to a school dance a week or two later, and from then on, we were pretty much inseparable. It took me awhile to fully let my walls come down around him. To be honest, looking back, I’m not quite sure that I ever fully let them come down completely. Trusting people has never been easy for me, and it always takes a long time for me to let anyone in. That proved true with this relationship, but eventually, some of those walls did come down. We ended up dating for nearly seven years after that.

I learned a lot in those years. A lot about love, life, and myself. We moved in together about five years or so into our relationship. It was a mutual decision. We both wanted to make sure that we could handle living with each other before moving forward with an engagement and marriage. For the first year, it seemed like everything would go according to our plan. He had a stable career, I graduated college and started a decent job, and we experienced all the highs and lows of home ownership together. We were seriously discussing marriage. I had a ring picked out and a Pinterest board full of wedding ideas. However, in time, I think deep down we both knew that we had changed, but we just didn’t want to admit it. Not to ourselves and certainly not to each other. We attributed it to the stresses of adulting, so to speak. We went from being carefree young adults to suddenly being responsible for a mortgage, bills, the overall upkeep of a home, and working opposite shifts from each other. His job required him to work a lot of shift work, including nights, so I was home alone a lot. Probably too much, to be honest.

I started noticing that I would get frustrated with little things, like him not doing the dishes or putting his dirty laundry in the basket when it was clearly in his line of vision. Normal things that couples who live together argue slightly about. Yet, for me, I felt a stronger sense of agitation toward him and wasn’t sure why. He could sense it. Looking back, it was deep rooted unhappiness on my part that I deflected onto him, and that wasn’t fair. It’s no surprise that he started to withdraw from the relationship when all I did was push him away. Eventually, it got to a point where he would stay out late some nights, always choosing to be with his friends, instead of with me. Sometimes, I wouldn’t really know where he was, but I’m not sure that I really cared that much either.

We went on a cruise together about a year after we had moved in together. It was a belated birthday trip for us both. We fought the majority of the time. I mean seriously, we had the worst fight of our relationship to date at that time. Up until that point, we hadn’t really fought much because neither one of us liked confrontation or dealing with our emotions. It was completely unhealthy. That trip was the turning point of what would be a downward spiral of our relationship over the next few months. We got back from the trip and didn’t speak to each other for a few days. We lived together, but avoided each other at all costs. It was kind of brutal, and one of those moments when we truly realized that we were no longer the same two young kids that had fallen in love all those years earlier. That should’ve been a sign right there, but we both chose to ignore it. Prior to our trip, we had started looking at another house that we wanted to move into. So, after that trip, when we came real close to ending things, we didn’t. Sure enough, we stayed together and moved into the new house. That trip was in February. We moved in May, and by August, I was gone.

The fighting got worse after that trip. For whatever reason, we thought moving into a new house would somehow fix things, but it didn’t. We were both putting on a front to each other and to all of our family and friends. Eventually, I realized deep down that I wanted more out of life than he ever could’ve offered me. We were both just existing in a relationship that we had grown comfortable in, yet neither one of us really knew how to end it. It didn’t help that he had been somewhat unfaithful to me either. Word to the wise ladies: if he tells you not to worry and that she’s “just a friend,” don’t believe him. Trust your intuition. If he can lie to you with a straight face, then he isn’t the one.

Lo and behold, the fact that there was someone else was the last straw for me. I remember it was a night that he didn’t come home, and I had cried myself to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night and decided that something needed to change. We couldn’t keep going on like this. Two days later, I told him my feelings through a letter because the words were too hard for me to say out loud. I sat on one end of the couch while he sat on the other reading it, and the tears just started streaming down his face. We both knew that was it. I left the next day. Two weeks later, I moved my stuff out for good.

I’d love to say that was fully the end of it, but it wasn’t. Not completely. I saw him one more time in October, and we talked seriously about working things out, but that didn’t happen. We kept in contact for about a year after that, which was stupid on my part because I knew better. He was on and off dating the “friend” that he had told me never to worry about, yet still telling me how much he loved me and missed me, behind her back. It was absolutely ridiculous, but I was young and dumb, and I thought I was in love. I realize now that people who truly love you will never hurt you like that.

That relationship left me feeling worthless, unloved, and just downright miserable for awhile. The end of it was pretty tough, and I eventually made the decision to go see a therapist a few months later. Mainly because that breakup stirred up a lot of emotional wounds from my parents’ divorce as a child that I had never fully dealt with. I had also grown accustomed to putting a lot of blame on myself for all of the things that had gone wrong in my life, so that was something that I really really struggled with. Fortunately for me, my therapist was an absolute Godsend, and she helped me work through it all tremendously over the next year and a half. Eventually, I learned forgiveness because I knew that I deserved peace.

Now, I often say that the relationship with my ex wasn’t necessarily a loss. Everything that that relationship taught me was a gain. It broke me, yes, but only for a moment. I picked up those pieces of my broken heart and made a much better life for myself than I ever could’ve imagined. That heartbreak was exactly what I needed to find my strength, even though I didn’t know it back then. I went to graduate school, moved away, started a great career, and found that I have a wanderlust heart. I realize now that I was never meant for settling.

But most importantly, I’ve found a happiness and love for myself and my life again.

And that is one of the most empowering things in the world.

Day Four: When I Heard the News

Day 4: In Chapter Two, a phone call one Monday morning changed the course of my entire life and my family’s lives. Share a time that you received life altering news, good or bad, and how it impacted your life.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the first semester of my freshman year in college. It was a Monday. I was forcing my reluctant boyfriend at the time to finally watch The Notebook with me. We weren’t even halfway through the movie when my phone rang. It was my mom, and I could hear the sadness in her voice. Through tears she asked me “have you heard from your Dad yet today?” (It’s important to note here that my parents are divorced, so when they talk on the phone, it’s a big deal. It usually means something has happened, and from my experience, it usually isn’t something good.) Instantly, I thought something was wrong with him, and I became a little panic-stricken. “No, I haven’t,” I replied. “Why, what’s wrong?” My mom started crying again and simply told me “your grandmother died. Your dad went back up to Canada to see her. You need to call him.”

At that point, I was trying not to get too distraught. I listened to my mom and immediately called my dad. Like I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t cry often. When it does happen, it means something big has happened to make me react that way. This was a big thing. Next thing I knew, I heard my dad break down crying on the phone, and that did me in. I was curled up in a ball on the couch with my phone to my ear in one hand, and my other hand trying to cover the tears from my face and hide the absolute mess that I was becoming. After I got off the phone, I was pretty inconsolable. My boyfriend at the time had kept asking me what he could do to help, but I could barely think straight to even respond. He eventually got me out of the house, and we went for a drive, finally landing at Sonic to get some ice cream. You know, since ice cream solves all emotional breakdowns.

I’ve always been a person that shuts people out when I’m dealing with some pretty intense emotional stuff. I never want to be a burden to anyone, and that’s exactly how I felt after hearing the news that my grandmother died. You see, she and my dad had a complicated relationship. She was his biological mother, but she never raised him. There’s more to that story, but at the time of her death, she was literally the only living grandparent I had left. I was eighteen and hadn’t seen her in about five years. Again, it was complicated. The heartbreak of losing her was only intensified by a surge of grief and regret, and I didn’t feel that I could talk to many people about how I was feeling because they wouldn’t understand.

A few days later, my sister and I flew up to Buffalo to meet our dad, then we drove about two hours to my aunt and uncle’s house in Canada. It was my first time being back up there since I was four, and the entire trip was extremely bittersweet. I saw family that I hadn’t seen in years, and I learned more about the place where my dad grew up. This was the first trip that he, my sister, and myself had gone on just the three of us. Although it was extremely difficult for all of us emotionally, it was also a great bonding experience. We experienced real snow and saw the beauty of Niagara Falls. My dad has always had a way of making the best out of any situation and always cheering us up when we’re down. He definitely made sure to follow through with that on that trip.

The loss of my grandmother is something that I’ll never forget. November 17th will make ten years since she’s been gone, but it feels like it just happened. Losing her made me see my dad in a different light. When you see your own father break down emotionally for the first time ever in your entire life, it sticks with you. It made me realize that I had been holding onto anger towards him for too long, and it wasn’t okay. Although it took some time, my relationships with both of my parents improved tremendously in the years that followed. I didn’t know it then, but it was one of the first steps for me towards letting things go.

Death has a funny way of making us realize what’s really important, and grief has a way of reminding us of our strengths, even on the days that we’re feeling our weakest.

Day Three: Losing Dreams and Finding Strength

Day 3 Blogging Challenge: share a time you felt lost, and how you got “found.”

I’ve gotten lost and found quite a few times throughout my life. I’ve talked about some of those experiences in previous blog posts, but for those who haven’t read anything about my story, I’ll talk about one of them here. Honestly, this is a chapter of my life that was a little brief, and I really haven’t spoken in much detail about why I eventually chose to give it away. So, here it goes.

Aside from always having a passion for writing, I’ve always had a passion for helping people. Growing up, I knew that I always wanted to be a nurse someday. More specifically, I wanted to be a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse. That desire came from being born a preemie myself. I impatiently forced my way out into this world three months early, and I stayed in the NICU for seventy-seven days before finally being released to go home. The first year of my life was a critical one, as I was on and off of both a heart monitor and an oxygen monitor to keep me healthy. I rarely ask for all the details of this time from my parents. However, due to the complexities of my birth, I’ve always grown up hearing my mom sing the praises of the NICU nurses and doctors who played a role in saving my young life.

When I was fifteen, we had to do a job shadow of a career we were interested in for one of our classes. Of course, I chose to shadow a NICU nurse. My mom actually still had the contact information for one of the nurses who cared for me, and I was able to shadow her. That day, I also met one of the doctors who had taken care of me and remembered me. Needless to say, it was a pretty cool experience that solidified my desire to someday become a NICU nurse. From that point on, that’s the only career I had my sights set on.

Fast forward a few years later to college. I’ve always been very studious. I was that girl that was more focused on making good grades than partying in college. I was also very determined to get into nursing school on my first try of applying. I applied in the summer of 2010. It was agonizing waiting for an answer on whether or not I would get an interview. Until one day, I got a call and next thing I knew I had my interview scheduled for 12:15 on a September Friday afternoon. Good Lord, I was a nervous wreck that day. So nervous, in fact, that I literally got lost on my way there and found myself aimlessly driving around the streets of New Orleans in a panic because I just knew I was going to be late. Thank the Lord for a family friend who gave me directions over the phone (this was before gps was a big thing.) Anyway, I made it to my interview just in the nick of time. I literally cried in my interview because I was just so overwhelmed and my stress and anxiety levels were at an all time high. Seriously, they had to stop the interview for me for a few minutes, so that I could get some water and regain my composure. I walked out of that interview absolutely convinced that I blew it and my dream of getting into nursing school was gone and shattered in that moment.

Looking back, I should’ve recognized that as red flag number one, but I didn’t.

On October 25th, 2010, I got the call that I got into nursing school. So did one of my best friends. We were so excited to begin this journey of becoming nurses together! We started the following Spring semester in January 2011. I was so happy to finally be at LSU, and it was pretty cool to be in downtown New Orleans everyday and go to different healthcare facilities in the area. However, by December 2012, I realized that the nursing career I thought I wanted for myself wasn’t what I wanted at all. I had spent the last two years of my life essentially forcing myself to excel toward a career that really wasn’t meant for me. I was terrified to tell my parents that I wanted to leave nursing school because I was scared of disappointing them. More importantly, I was scared of disappointing myself. I had had this plan for my life for as long as I could remember, and there I was, making the extremely difficult decision to walk away from it all.

Little did I know then, that this would mark the beginning of the life-altering decisions I would make in the years following my resignation from nursing school. So at 22 years old, I left nursing school with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do next. I was absolutely devastated, and I slowly sunk myself into a mild depression. I won’t say that it was severe by any means. It would get worse about two years later, but it was definitely the start of a decline of emotions for me. Those closest to me noticed it, but I always just said that I was okay and everything was fine. Eventually, I graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree the following year, and started working a job outside of the healthcare field.

Over the years since then, I certainly lost myself. I lost a piece of me when I left nursing school, and I lost a piece of me later on when I walked away from a relationship that was no longer adding any value to my life. Or at least I thought I had.

In time, I realized that neither one of those chapters of my life were meant to be a permanent part of my story. They were always meant to be temporary and to be some of the best teachers of the most difficult lessons I’ve ever had to learn. A career never defined me. A relationship never defined me. And it’s completely okay to wake up one day and realize that you’ve outgrown those things and need something more. So, in those moments, yes, I felt like I completely lost myself. I’ve said in the past how I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person staring back at me, and that is the absolute truth. However, I found myself on the other side of those heartbreaks and disappointments.

And what I found was a woman who was strong enough to let go of all the things in her past that were not meant to have a place in her future.

Day Two: Guardian Angels

Day 2 Blogging Challenge: Talk about a time in your life when you have been “touched by an angel,” or had a God wink moment that helped you get back on track or see something in your life through new eyes.

I recently went on my very first trip overseas to Italy. My friends and I had been talking about it for over a year, and we finally made it happen. The excitement of this trip was unmatched by anything else I had experienced so far in life.

I’ve always believed in guardian angels. I’ve always believed that my guardian angels are, in fact, my grandparents. I was fortunate enough to actually have six grandparents in my life, as my dad was adopted at a young age. However, without going into the complex details of my family history, let’s just say that I really only knew one of them. Two of my grandparents died well before I was born, one I never knew existed until after they died, and the others died when I was too young to fully establish a relationship with them. The one that I was closest to was my Pops on my Mom’s side. He passed away from a heart attack on Easter Sunday when I was four. My parents found him in our bathroom. Needless to say, Easter hasn’t really been the same since. It’s not one of my particularly favorite holidays.

I’ve always envied people who’ve had their grandparents in their lives because I’ve never really had the opportunity to know what that was like. The grief I feel for all of them never goes away. To be quite honest, I don’t think it ever will.

With all that being said, I’ve had quite a few moments in my life when I’ve really felt their presence with me. This happened most recently on my trip to Italy, specifically on my last night in Rome when I was at the Vatican. Growing up in South Louisiana, I come from a very traditional Catholic family. My Granny and Pops were very involved with their faith. I have my Granny’s rosary that’s well over fifty years old, and I keep my Pops’ bible on my nightstand. As I was walking through the Vatican that evening, I became pretty overcome with emotion for the first time in awhile. It’s hard to explain exactly what I was feeling at that moment. It’s also important to note here that I am not, by any means, a crier. It’s so rare to see tears fall from my eyes. Seriously, it never happens. However, in this moment, I felt my eyes water a little bit because I strongly felt my Granny’s and Pops’ presence right there with me. Here I was, standing in the Vatican feeling more connected to them than I ever had in my entire life. It felt like they were both right there walking right beside me and taking it all in with me. Until I realized that they weren’t physically there. They were there with me in spirit, but that was it. I quickly realized that that particular moment of the trip wasn’t for me at all. It was completely for them. Their first granddaughter was standing in a place that they had only dreamed of going to, but never had the chance to make it there during their time on Earth. But, they certainly made it there with me.

I had been doing a lot of soul searching prior to this trip and most certainly during it. Feeling their presence that evening just gave me such an immense feeling of comfort and reassurance. It was almost like I could hear them saying to me “it’s okay. You’re going to be fine, and we are just so proud of you. Please stop worrying.” These were the words that I needed to hear when I didn’t even know I needed to hear them. Something changed in me in that moment. It was so freeing. I felt like I had finally come full circle. I accomplished something that was once only a dream. I visited the place that my grandparents would have absolutely loved to have gone to. I did it for myself, but I also did it for them, and I wholeheartedly believe that it was no coincidence that I ended up there when I did. No coincidence that I had met my friend less than a year earlier who shared the same travel dreams as me. No coincidence that I survived as a preemie early on in my life. No coincidence that I’d defied a lot of odds in my twenty eight years of living. My grandparents have been with me every step of the way. Guiding me in the right direction, protecting me from the things that aren’t meant for me, and loving me, even when I may not always deserve it.

So, yes, I like to say that I’m touched by an angel all the time. Several actually, and I hope and pray that they stay with me for as long as I live.