Tying Your Worth To Things Out Of Your Control (a story about life not going the way you plan)
I'm graduating next week. Honestly, a part of me doesn't believe it. A part of me doesn't want to consider it.
I started college in 2014, I was 17. I was innocent. I mean... I was a fucking virgin for godsakes. I'd never been away from my parents for longer than 3 weeks. I'd never lived on my own. I'd never really known what it was like to have free time, actual free time that I could decide what to do with. I'd never really gotten drunk, and trust me, I quickly remedied that. I ... don't recognize the person I was when I started college. And now here I am, 8 years later finally getting ready to graduate and holding my breath at the same time hoping that it doesn't actually happen.
I have spent the last 6 years working full time and going to school full time pursuing an education, sometimes in something different than what I'm actually getting my degree in, but always busy. I have been busy for 6 years now and for the first time in 6 years, I'm finally getting a break. But it's not really the first time in 6 years, honestly, it feels like the first time in 12 years. When I was in high school I always had an extracurricular. In my freshman year, I did soccer and the school musical. In my sophomore year, I did soccer, cheerleading, and a church program for my quinceanera. In my junior year, I did student government, soccer, and cheerleading, 2 AP classes, and I did a program for traveling abroad, and confirmation classes for church. In my senior year, I was ASB president, cheer captain, and soccer captain, and I was a youth lector for my church, plus 2 AP classes. I took a small break my freshman year of college to have a slight mental breakdown, and then I was raped... so I had to emotionally deal with that, plus deal with a small substance abuse problem. And then I spent a year and a half working full time and going to therapy and learning how to get over the PTSD of what happened to me. Then I spent the next 6 years after that working full time and getting 3 associate's degrees before finally transferring to a program I wanted.
So I haven't had a break in 12 years. I've done all that and I've built this blog and started a freelance photography business, and an art print shop, and I wrote a book, and I have done a million other little hobbies while being an amazing friend and a great aunt. I haven't had a break. And I don't want one. Honestly, I'm kind of freaking out about having time off.
Here's some background. After I was raped I got a job at a juice bar inside a gym because I was horribly depressed and drinking away my sorrows and my sister told me that if I wanted to keep living with her, I had to get a job, and the juice bar was the first place that hired me. I worked there for a little over a year before moving to work at the gym itself at the front desk. During this time, I started to work out as a way of trying to feel comfortable in a body that no longer felt like my own and I became a personal trainer. But, then the hours became too hectic and my Dad got sick and I needed something a little more reliable, so a client from the gym hired me to do social for them. I did that for over a year, expanding into some PR and email marketing. All the while, I'm going to school for political science. Work slowed down for her, and needing, consistency, I got a job with an after-school enrichment program pretty much doing the same thing. Focusing on organic growth and some community relations.
That's... when I had my first negative corporate experience. Working as a small girl. Sucks. It did when I worked for the gym, but the difference then was that my bosses always had my back and it was the customers who made my job kind of shitty. At this company, the bosses made my job shitty. Working on social media can be frustrating, especially as a young female with no degree. Men won't take you seriously, they won't take what you do seriously, they won't put money behind what you're doing, and yet they expect to succeed more than any department. I had to deal with all that, plus a CEO who was stalking me online. This creep was married and was making me jump through hoops for a promotion that I didn't want or ask for, a promotion that he created for me, ALL while he was stalking me on Instagram. And then the day I was supposed to go sign paperwork for my promotion, he "rejected" me for the position... a position that didn't exist before he called me into his office two weeks prior. I put my two weeks notice in that day.
After that, I took a break from marketing. I felt like I had done enough organic social, I'd played the game of not being taken seriously and I knew that I wanted to do more than post photos that faded away after a day. I got an assistant job at a company that would connect me to different departments, I got some more project management experience, and then I went back to school (after getting my associate's in political science, an associate's in liberal arts, and an associate's in business administration) to finally get a degree in advertising and public relations. I started this blog, I grew my social presence, and I learned by doing. And then... after a brief (not super great) internship, I needed to get a job again. I was so blessed to get the job I have now, I really really do like my job. But, my job is in social media. I've done this before, I didn't go back to school to do this again. I would LOVE to stay at the company I'm at right now, just transition to a different role. But I don't know if that's going to work. So I've applied elsewhere, just in case. And it's sucked. I've gotten 2 interviews (and one of them was more of a networking thing than an actual interview. )
I've spent the last 2 days feeling so depressed. Wanna know why? Because I've had the time to feel depressed. When my 8 hours of work are done, I haven't had the mountains of homework I'm used to distracting me from time. What have I been doing instead? Obsessing over the fact that I'm not getting interviews. Feeling sorry for myself. Questioning the loads of debt that I put myself in to get this degree. And reading. A lot. While I was doing all that I realized that... I don't know why I'm allowing this to affect me so much.
I started vision boarding last month. I decided I needed visual reminders of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to focus on each month, also I wanted an excuse to buy magazines again. But this month's vision board is covered in photos of boss-looking girls, inspirational quotes about happiness, dreams, habits, and challenges - and all that to me was becoming a corporate badass. That's what I wanted May to be, me working my ass off to be this version of a corporate badass that only exists in my head. And maybe this was my way of overcompensating for the fact that I didn't, and I will never, get the college experience that I once dreamed of. I have a tendency to get pictures in my head and get hurt when those pictures don't come to fruition.
I'd like to take a small second to talk about that. I'm someone who loves movies and TV, I've watched COUNTLESS programs about the college experience, and nothing excited me more than leaving my house to go to college. And my college experience was nothing like I thought it would be. That makes me sad. Every. Single. Day. A part of that was my fault for the partying, but I was getting it all together... until the night I was raped. I don't really talk about that night anymore, I mean it's been almost 8 years now. But every so often, when I think about what my college experience turned out to be, I think about that night. I think about what he did. I think about the fact that nothing happened to him after and the fact that my whole life was changed because of what HE did. I think about the fact that the DA decided not to pursue the case because I was just another college girl to get drunk and to get raped. I think about the fact that I had detectives who asked me if, while I was blacked out, could I have asked my rapist to have sex with me. I think about the fact that my Dad had to pull out his 401k plan to pay for a semester of college because I was put on academic suspension for missing 2 finals because my rapist chose the night before my finals to rape me. I think about all of it, and while I love the person I am, the journey I have been on has turned me into the person I am today. I can't not think about all of that as I'm getting ready to finally graduate. Because I never thought I would. So. Many. People. Never thought I would graduate. I love my Dad, but even he didn't think I would get a Bachelor's degree, he thought I should be happy to get an Associate's and be done.
So nothing turned out the way I thought it would. And all of that hurts me. And it makes me feel upset and not good enough and all of these feelings... but all of those feelings are because of things I can't control. I could never control them. I couldn't control what my rapist did to me, or that creepy boss who stalked me, or a hiring manager not looking at my application. I can't control any of that. I know all that, and yet I have been allowing all of this to define me and to make me feel bad about myself. I have allowed the choices of other people to be me... there's no other way to say that. I've started to hate myself, at a time when I should be really fucking proud of myself.
I could have given up after I was raped, I could have dropped out of school and been done with it and I don't think anyone would have blamed me. But I didn't. And the thing is... it wasn't just me. I had so many people behind me, supporting me, and believing in me, especially in times when I didn't believe in myself. And those are the people that I should be focusing on, instead of these strangers who don't know me.
I submitted for a scholarship recently, I usually don't submit to things like this, but to be able to graduate early I took a winter course and it cost me almost $1,000 out of pocket... so I needed the extra money to pay it off. It was a scholarship for outstanding students, which I don't usually feel like one, but my professor told me to apply. Spoiler: I didn't win. That's okay because through the process of writing the essay I realized that I had two very important people to thank for making me the student I am today. The first is my sister Jenny, who fully supported my decision to go back and get my bachelor's degree, who dragged me out of my depression after what happened to me and forced me to get a job, and who I know would be at my graduation if she could. The second person is Scott, who told me at the beginning of this bachelor's program to work my ass off, and get all A's, because "what the hell else am I going to do". I've asked myself that every time I've considered skipping an assignment or giving up, and he's probably the reason I'm graduating summa cum laude with a 3.66 GPA.
These people are the people that matter, this is what I should be tying my worth to. Not things out of my control, but the people around me who are a direct reflection of the person that I am now.
Now... there are some other people that I want to thank while I have the time. I've thanked them before MANY times in my mind... but life's short and I think we, as a society, need to be better at expressing gratitude to people. So, here's a list of people who I would like to thank for a lot of different reasons. (Ideally in some sort of chronological order but time is a construct so sorry if I got it wrong.)
I'm sorry for not thanking all of you sooner, and if you're reading this and I didn't thank you - it doesn't mean I'm not grateful, these are just the people who popped up in my mind at 2 am while I'm writing this. Also, I hope this gives you some hope that you're someone in someone else's story.
Mr. McCaffrey - Mr. McCaffrey, I don't think I ever thanked you for switching me from being a forward to a defensive player. To this day, soccer is still a huge part of my life and I believe that is because of the potential you saw in me. The potential as a bulldog on the field, and the potential as a captain. Thank you.
Ms. Albright - Ms. Albright, your ethnic studies class changed my life. While I'm longer in the sociology field that I was in years ago, you made me excited about learning in a way that I never had before. I don't think this blog would exist if I hadn't taken your class. Thank you.
Ms. Navarro - Ms. Navarro, I don't think I appreciated what you did for me when I was in high school, but having a strong and smart, and well-read Latinx staple in my educational life has inspired me today. Also, every time I pick up a book I think about you. Thank you.
Diana - Diana, you gave a 19-year-old with only 3 months of Taco Bell experience a chance and you changed her life. I was always more than happy to pick up a 5 am shift when I was working with you because it didn't feel like work. I will never forget having a conversation with Justin Baldoni with you. Thank you.
Leah - Leah, you gave me my first marketing job. Nothing will ever mean more than that, you were a great friend, a great mentor, and a great boss. I learned a lot in our time working together, and I still think about all the beautiful houses I got to see with you. Thank you.
John - John, you becoming my mentor (even if it was a short bit of time) still means a lot to me. Personal training wasn't right for me, but the fact that you saw something in me enough to take the time out of your life to mentor me still means a lot to me. I wish I could've stuck with it. Thank you anyway.
Armin - ARMIN! When I think about bosses that had my back you are at the top of the list. I would have left my job a lot earlier if it wasn't for you, and I would go back any day if you asked me to. I wouldn't have gotten my first two associates without you or your understanding. Thanks for always letting me study at work.
Shelby - Shelby, we went through a lot at our job together. You put so much faith in me and I don't think I would have the experience I do today if you hadn't seen the potential in me when I came in for that Cheer Coach interview. Thank you.
Dayna - Dayna, I never thought I would care about retail until I worked with you. You saw something in me and it made me feel safe and valued at a time I didn't feel safe or valued. I still cherish the time that we had together. Thank you.
Tara - Tara, I wouldn't have learned Pivot tables if it wasn't for you. You also saw potential in me, and every little side project and small assignment you gave me added a little bit of hope inside me when I had none. Thank you.
Jen - Jen, you're the reason I went back to school to study advertising and PR. I will never forget the day we worked on stocking the store together. I had already worked 10 hours when you asked me to help, but I would've been happy to work 10 more after getting to talk with you. Thank you.
Judy - Judy, you are the unexpected joy of my time at that job. I never expected to come out with such a great friend from that job. Your unwavering support of me these last few years has meant so much, you were there the day I got my acceptance and I can never forget you being excited with me. Thank you.
If you're still here. If you're still reading this, I hope you give yourself some compassion and some love today. Life doesn't work out the way you plan, but having a strong set of people behind you, having a strong sense of self, and always knowing why you're doing the things you do matter more than any outside opinion. We can't control other people, but we can control ourselves. Take some time to thank yourself for being there for the person that matters most, you. Then take some time to thank the people who support you when you need a little extra help.
Until next time!
A Whelmed Christy