Last year I wrote a post titled “A Letter to 2018” wherein I highlighted the lessons I learned from a particularly challenging (and later on a particularly rewarding) year. I carried these lessons into 2019 with me and called upon them when I needed the simple reminder that hard times do end and will always teach you something.
The first eight months of 2019 were amazing. Although leaving home all over again and not knowing anyone in a brand new place was scary and (very) challenging at first, especially when I was leaving at a deeply contented time in my life, I can chalk that up to the usual fumblings and growing pains of new experiences. I got to live out a dream I’ve been holding on to for years; I made incredible new friends, I got to see places I may have never even thought to visit and I had time to myself to do all of the self-care things I felt I constantly neglected in my life in Toronto. When I came home I got to reconnect with the people in my life who mean the most to me and not only that, I got to travel with some of them. I got to see some bucket list places with some of my best friends (which isn’t even a good enough term, they’re more like sisters) and I got to see performances that made me dream big all over again. It’s been a pretty amazing year.
Not that the period described above was all sunshine and roses, but a pretty big chunk of it was. My time on contract had it’s own problems and tough days but they were so manageable and I think that’s for a few different reasons. For one, I had just gone through a period of big growth and learning and I felt strong and closely connected to those lessons so I could check myself really quickly if my mindset started to slip. Secondly, any problem I had would have had pertained to the job I had at that time (because when you live and work on a cruise ship it is your whole life haha), which as I mentioned was a job I dreamed of having and was so happy to have. Not that the job itself was problematic, but there are problems no matter where you go so these just seemed like good problems to have. And thirdly, everything felt manageable because I felt quite secure. I didn’t need to worry about getting a job, I had good friends with me and friends from home were just a FaceTime call away, I could call my family (when I had wifi) and I felt pretty confident that once the job was over and I came home, I had set myself up to be happy and fulfilled there too. So there I was; feeling strong, secure, confident and content.
As I mentioned, I had a pretty great two month period of catching up, travelling and just being once my contract was over. But if I’m being honest, a LOT of that period involved crying because sometimes change and goodbyes are painful (actually in my experience they’re always painful ha) and this period was of particularly heightened pain. But that felt like an adjustment period, only temporary. I had to come to grips with a few different endings and although yes, I was sad I knew that was super normal and okay and I had my friends and travel to help fill up the other aspects of my cup of life. So now we’re here, present day. It’s December and I am in a very different place than where I imagined myself to be.
It seems as though when my period of reunion, travel and recovery ended, crap just started piling on. My life didn’t look anything like how I expected it to during this time and it was seriously throwing me. After a few weeks of feeling like I was getting whacked in the face everywhere I turned, it actually became humorous. It got to the point where I literally couldn’t help but laugh at what was happening and how much was piling on. It may have been a pathetic little whimper of a laugh that managed to crawl its way out of my chest through my stress-crying, but it was a laugh none the less. I don’t feel the need to go into detail about everything that’s weighing me down, but in short, a few big things have not panned out how I expected and in addition to that, a pretty long list of unwanted surprises have piled themselves on top.
At first, I had a really strong headspace. I thought okay, I have these problems, I’m perfectly capable of handing this. This is hard and will take a lot of me but I am strong and I won’t stay knocked down just because things aren’t going perfectly. It was kind of exhilarating at first actually, to see how far I could push myself; How much I could do in a day, how well I could adapt, how positive and intentional I could be. And I kept that up for a few weeks. A few weeks of figuring out, working and pushing seven days a week. But as the unexpected kept piling on and the realization that my plans may not actually manifest into my life the way I thought they would, my belief that things would work out started to falter.
Here’s the thing, the big point I’m trying to get at with this story: Learning, in life, is not linear. Most often, it’s cyclical – meaning you may have to learn the same lesson over and over again. You may learn a lesson, grow from it, take it with you into your life and then find yourself having to learn it all over again. For me, this lesson is perseverance in the face of rejection. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I had just had a huge growth period. I went through a hard couple of years and learned to never give up and that no matter what happens if you just keep going eventually something will work – whether it’s the something you thought or a different something that ends up being even better. So to find myself back in the struggle of not getting a job I wanted and feeling all the uncertainty and feelings of inadequacy that accompany rejection wash back over me as strong as ever had me looking at myself and my life saying, what the damn hell? (Really hoping I have some HIMYM fans reading this…)
Just because you learned a lesson once doesn’t mean that theme will never come up again. It doesn’t mean that you’ve cracked the code, the door has permanently closed behind you and you will never again have to find yourself in that room. The hard part now is that you have to take your own advice. Remember when you came out on the other side and could finally look back at your past self with reassurance and encouragement? Remember when you actually felt grateful for the struggle and the rejection and thanked it for bringing you to where you are now? Trying to remember that feeling and trusting that it’s on it’s way back to you (on it’s own damn time that’s for sure) is effing hard when you’re back in the thick of it.
But it was silly of me really, to have thought that I would be perfectly unaffected in the face of rejection when it inevitably bangs on my door again just because I had shooed it away before. So that’s it? I’ve solved it? At twenty-four years old I have conquered the feeling of not being good enough and will never again feel inadequate following rejection? Please. How rude of me to not give myself the space to fluctuate. How rigid of me to expect myself to be utterly unaffected. Just because you’ve seen Titanic once, doesn’t mean you’re not going to bawl your eyes out every single time you watch it. But for each subsequent time after the first watch, you get to be more prepared. You know when you need the kleenex or the ice cream or the wine or the hand to hold. And you also know that when the movie is over, you’re going to be fine. Not comparing my life to Titanic, but I think you get it.
So take your own advice. Recall the person that found peace within or at the end of a hard time and remember what they had to say about the experience. If you journal or do any form of documentation, look back on relevant entries. If not, just try to reflect and reconnect with your mindset in that time of strength. If you’ve done it once, you can do it again, but that just doesn’t necessarily mean the second time will be ‘easy’.
I’m not here to be a huge downer and say that life is perpetual, inescapable struggle and we are all doomed to repeat the same hardships for all of eternity. Absolutely not. I’m here to say that it’s okay to find yourself struggling along the same theme again provided that this time, you can struggle a little better. Sure, I got the job I wanted and I got to travel and perform and I got to confirm that I was good enough to do that after a long time of questioning my talent, and I got to live in the mind of someone who had done intense personal work to get to a place of self-acceptance and confidence but that doesn’t mean that I’ll never face those problems again. The beautiful thing, the thing I’m getting at with this post, is that now I get to face problems of that same nature with the knowledge and strength of someone who has come out on the other side in the past. I have a deep sense of trust in the whole process, including the shitty parts.
I have to say, the struggle looks so different this time. It looks different because I know what it takes to get to where I want to go. I don’t have to spend years of my life feeling scared and depressed and anxious and unworthy and uncertain that things will ever pan out for me because I now have the belief that things do pan out for me. They just don’t necessarily pan out exactly as planned, 100% of the time. And that’s just life.
So while right now I do need moments here and there to feel frustrated and sad and even angry, I need a much shorter period of release before I get right back to work on what I’m trying to create for myself. I am the most motivated, disciplined, determined and energized that I have ever been in my whole life. And I feel this in a period where things are tough. So that tells me something. For one, it tells me that I am pursuing the right things. I would not put myself through the constant rejection that is associated with the dance industry if dancing didn’t light me up like a freaking Christmas tree. Secondly, it tells me that I am absolutely, without a doubt going to get where I’m going when I am meant to get there.
So my advice is to look at your repeated struggles and see if you feel different this time. If you do, then you are absolutely growing and have already grown. You are absolutely capable of pulling through this again and all you need to do is keep your intentions clear, put in the work and trust. That’s what I’m doing anyways. I’m going to keep throwing myself at what I want from every different direction using every fathomable method until something sticks. Here’s to struggling better, my friends. I’m right here with you.