When I graduated from college (gasp) 10 years ago, I basically said as a journalist, I wouldn’t need graduate school. It would be a waste of my money and frankly anyone who was doing it who didn’t want to teach journalism was down right crazy.
10 years ago, I thought I’d be a journalist forever, working into old age and migrating to the editorials, sharing my wisdom until I finally died. And the world would mourn the loss of my great voice that led them through their days, that analyzed the issues and the moments we’d hardly forget.
I would be one of the great contemporary American voices.
Eh, that didn’t happen, or it just may happen. But not in the way I thought it would.
I thought that I’d never go to graduate school or even need it. The life I planned for myself seemed to suggest that, and for that life, coming to that conclusion just made a whole lot of sense.
It amazes me how life shifts. If you’re smart, you’ll take a step back, and look at the broader picture and how what you were doing ten years ago, or six years ago was leading you to right now, whether you are in a good place in your life or a bad one.
Three years ago I was miserable. I saw nothing but darkness. I was broken, I was sleep walking through my life and my job, collecting a check and just getting out of the bed each day was a major accomplishment. I was heartbroken and angry. I felt the rug was swept from under me when my relationship ended and my engagement was suddenly over.
Once again, I had made plans for my life. I thought I knew what it was supposed to look like and that’s what I was going for. That’s what I knew to do.
Out of one of the most lengthy painful experiences in my life, I had to be broken all the way down, to be rebuilt. I had to learn about humility, and the amount of control I truly had over MY life. No one else’s. I could only be in control of me. I could only be in charge of my emotions and how I reacted to a situation.
I had to learn that there is no dishonor in failure, but in truth there is strength. In my truth, in my self-discovery and in my self-correction, there was strength.
When you are broken down and in the pit, you have no one but you to look at, because let’s face it, your loved ones love you, but they don’t want to be in the pit with you. They can’t be in the pit with you. You gotta be like Batman and figure out how to fight fear and get out on your own; you have to want freedom beyond your fear of death or injury or discomfort or inconvenience in order to be free.
So I think about where I am now and what it took to get me here.
It took everything I had at each stage. The hope is that my arsenal of everything is continuing to grow, so each time I have more to give. But up until now, I had just enough “everything” to propel me to the next stage. I’ve said this before. “Love the emotion is effortless but the execution of love requires all of the effort you’ve got.” And that same, exhaustive execution of love has to be applied to yourself, first. I had to learn that and I’m still learning that. Love yourself to exhaustion.
There’s a saying that when you know better, you do better. At least you are supposed to do better. You will not grow without pain or discomfort. You have to stretch, you have to fall, you have to take a bump or bruise. If you do not grow, if you don’t produce new cells, you atrophy and die, you are more susceptible to injury and illness. We have to live up to the responsibility that comes with the knowledge our mistakes and bad choices give us. It’s on us to self-correct. It’s an ugly, lonely, exhausting work. No one is patting you on the back or holding your hand because this kind of work is not designed that way. It’s on you. And it’s brutal. It’s God saying, you have to grow up, baby. Live up to who you are supposed to be, I’m not going to magically do it for you. As Iyanla said, “Do the work.” We gotta do it. I’m still doing it and I get grateful for every bit of insight I pick up along the way. When it clicks, even when I realized I handled something the wrong way, I’m grateful I can see it. I’m grateful I’ve tapped into something that opens me up and allows me to see MORE, to see beyond what my little feeble mind couldn’t before. I’m grateful I can acknowledge when it happens.
The other night, I was in prayer and I was crying and thanking God for the people he had to forcefully remove from my life because I wouldn’t let them go otherwise. Then I thanked him for the people who have stayed and who he allowed me to grow with and the people who showed up when they were supposed to and made their exit when the season ended. It was a release. It was a moment. It was like that saying you can’t receive with a balled up fist. You can’t get something greater holding on to something you are so scared to lose. Some stuff, some people, you got to let it go and keep it gone.
You have to keep evolving to survive.
So that brings me back to grad school. Going back to school was something I thought for years I just couldn’t do, and had no desire to do.
But I had to keep living. Then I saw the necessity, then I saw the purpose. Then I saw myself on the other side, being way more than I originally imagined. On the other side, this new vision of myself, I’m really strong. I’m strong enough to be a better friend and mentor and leader, but not the kind of person who isn’t accessible. This better, faster, stronger version of me is frightening because of her transparency, her confidence and her rock solid belief in truth. The new vision of myself is scary, because it requires more from me and it may take more bumps and bruises to prepare me to ultimately be that person and be strong enough to help others. It’s growth, it’s evolution, it’s being proactive in my destiny. It’s listening to the inner voice and trusting it. It’s being shamed out of laziness and into action. It’s being shamed out of future regret. It’s knowing life is precious and we better do something with it. Studying biology and the environment in an odd way is making me even more in awe of God. You’d think it would be the other way around. How complicated the science of life is, but how perfect it is too. The systems put in place to regenerate and repair; the things always set in motion in an attempt to maintain balance– to keep things clean, to fight off negative forces.
I’m not who I was 10 years ago. I’m certainly not who I was three years ago. I’m proud of who I was in all stages because I had to be that person to be who I am now. There were lessons those times taught me that inform my choices today, that shape my new voice that can help others to grow.
I had to go through the things I went through, I had to get mature, I had to change. Were some of my experiences drastic? Yes. My situations got more drastic when I wanted to hold on to something bad for me the most. God had to force me to let them go in painful, grueling ways until not only did I realize I had to let them go, I had to keep them gone.