December 31st, 2012.
Let’s time travel back to New Years Eve six years ago, shall we?
We’re on a cruise with my family to the Bahamas and look how happy we are! All dressed up and smiling for the camera because that’s what you do for photos, especially fancy cruise ship photos!
But you know what? Behind all of those gold sequins and warm lighting I’m barely hanging on. I’m going to drink way too much on this night (and not even make it to midnight) because I’m not really in a good place here. What the photo doesn’t tell you is that about three weeks previous I was just laid off from the third job I’d had since moving to Chicago. The first I quit, the second I was fired, and now we’ve got job loss number three. Bingo!
If the cruise hadn’t already been paid for (partially by my parents because it was a Christmas gift) we would have cancelled. I had enough money saved to cover January and February rent, but March was up in the air. And for anyone of you who’s ever been in a similar situation, you the know what a terrible crippling feeling this is.
So I floated through this trip; enjoying the free cruise drinks and free dinners as much as I could, while secretly hoping I could hop off on an island and never get back on because I was terrified for what was waiting back at home.
Reality. Reality was waiting.
It found me the first cold dark morning we were back in Chicago. Chris had returned to work and I was sitting in our tiny little garden unit (it was about 900 square feet max) knowing I had to go grocery shopping, but also knowing I couldn’t afford to buy much and I felt so damn suffocated I couldn’t stand it. I feel the pressure of that moment even as I type this now, six years later, and I have to pause and take a big breath.
I felt trapped and isolated and lost and sad and every other shitty word you can think of when you want to make a change but you don’t know how.
So I did what I always do when I need to make sense of my messy thoughts. I started to write. I filled notebooks with every single goal, aspiration and day dream that came to mind.
I wrote down one number over and over and over that I wished I could have in my bank account someday. It was $10,000. That was my dream number. It seemed so unreachable I was almost hesitant to write it, but I did anyway.
I wrote it ten times a day. Sometimes twenty. Sometimes a hundred.
I also wrote down things I was thankful for as if I already had them. I started it like this, “I am so thankful I…”
work for myself.
can pay my bills.
can give back to animals.
can buy what I want.
live my life as it’s meant to be.
(That last one is a Mumford lyric that was pretty popular at the time. When I hear the song today it still gives me chills.)
When you write stuff like that it doesn’t just magically happen, but it does fill you with a good energy that makes you want to get shit done.
Nothing happened over night, I had some really shitty months to endure. When it was a struggle just to get up because the moment I opened my eyes a weight of fear and anxiety rested on my chest, I’d barter with myself. “Just write one positive line in your journal....” and then I could go back to bed if I still felt like shit.
I can do this. (That was my go-to.) Followed by, I got this. Or, “I’m creating the life I want,” and then I’d get up.
Now we’re at the part in this post where I want to say I’m writing this today just in case someone happens to stumble upon it who might be feeling a little lost or shitty amongst all of the fluffy New Years posts floating around right now. If the idea of writing positive stuff down about yourself doesn’t even seem feasible right now, I get it. But I’m going to tell you what worked for me.
I lied to myself. I lied a lot. I lied over and over and over, until I finally believed the things I had been writing.
Looking back, it was during this shitty year when I took some of the biggest risks of my life that led me to where I am now.
I signed up for Second City classes one night when I was feeling particularly bad back in 2013. I felt like I had nothing to lose so why not? (I paid for the classes on a credit card, not a move I suggest… but it worked out.) Taking improv classes didn’t change my life, but the people I met there did.
And improv led me to stand up which led me to believing in myself in a new weird way. It was one of the most terrifying things I had ever done, so once I did it, I was kinda like, hmmm wonder what else I could do…
I announced to Facebook that I was a “social media strategist,” and started taking on clients within my small circle.
I announced to blog world that I was “taking ads” and people started to pay me to advertise for them.
And then one day I announced I was going to “sell t-shirts.”
I put myself out there however I had to in order to scrape by because I didn’t want to find a “real job.” I wanted to work for myself. I’d hustle and then I’d day dream. I was building a life in my notebooks I knew I wanted, but wasn’t sure how or when I’d get it.
I’d get really detailed with the stuff I wanted; one thing I wrote down kinda blew my mind when I went back and read it. I dreamt about the house that Chris and I would own someday, more specifically the “big bedroom with really nice Crate and Barrel furniture.”
I know that seems like a silly detail, but during this time I’d browse the Crate magazines and dream about having the luxury to be able to shop there someday. It’s not like buying nice furniture was my end goal; it was more about what it represented. A life where I could do as I pleased.
This past summer I did a collab with Crate and they redid our entire bedroom. I still have no idea how I got so fortunate to have that happen, but I feel like the Universe was giving me a little slap on the back.
I hit the 10k mark in my bank account about two years after I started writing it down daily. And I’ll admit I was really proud of that, but not as proud as I was when I surpassed donating $10k to animal shelters this past year. I really believe money is energy and the more you give the more it continues to come back to you.
Here’s the real kicker though, once you hit your number you’re going to want more. So you’ll set a new higher one. And I think this is okay, constantly working toward a goal keeps me motivated.
But what I didn’t realize, is that even though I can now pay my bills and “shop for nice furniture,” I still wake up and feel anxious from time to time. But it’s a new kind of anxious, one I can’t quite explain. I think it may just be called life? It’s something I’m constantly working on, but luckily I feel like I’ve got some good practice thanks to 2013. Turns out that “worst year of my life,” actually served a purpose. Who knew? 😉
Happy New Years, friends. Make 2019 the year you believe in yourself.