The Lost Year: How Practicing “The Secret” Led Me to One of the Worst Years of my Life

The Secret
The Secret

Last year started out much like any year – full of hope, ready to try out some new things, and looking forward to what might come next. I’m typically not much of a New Year’s girl – I usually opt for a quiet night in as I have a sense of nostalgia come over me, mourning the loss of yet another year. I make no resolutions.

It’s not that I’m an unproductive person; in fact, quite the contrary. My life is usually full of art gallery shows, friend’s concerts, and even my own small gallery shows or openings of my design work at local Chicago boutiques. I’m generally creating or trying something out or securing an internship just for fun.

But no, this year was supposed to be IT! It would be different than past years and I would make sure of that.

I had finally watched The Secret. My dad had been begging me to watch it for years even before it was “trendy” to practice “manifesting”. I generally regarded it as a bunch of hooey because my dad is the type to really love conspiracy theories, self-help radio, UFO stories, and the like. He’s not nuts, he’s merely entertained by such things.

My life was just fine — albeit slightly routine — but like anyone else in their late twenties, I had wanted more in life. I saw others around me seemingly doing more and I wanted a piece of that. I was employed by a casual, quirky clothing boutique as an assistant manager in one of Chicago’s artsy neighborhoods. I was happy there – I knew half the neighborhood from working there for about five and a half years and the job gave me more than enough vacation time and work/life balance, had great benefits, and was fairly laid back. I liked my job and was good at it; I was considered irreplaceable there. I liked who I worked with generally though they could occasionally get on my nerves. I essentially had what I wanted; life in a big city and a stable environment where I could be creative on the side.

Like many of my peers who went to an arts college and studied fashion design, I wasn’t quite working within my field. I wanted to design more within my work life, not just do clothing retail (although I was exceptional at customer service and putting together outfits for people). It seemed only natural to finally try to head into something more like for what I went to school.

In November 2013, I had run into an aquaintance on the train. She, like me, had gone to an arts college, though for interior design and talked about how she was loving her new job in an office but with a production facility in the basement. All their product, design, development, and offices were located within one square block on Chicago’s West Side. She casually mentioned they were hiring, and I took note. This is my chance! I said to myself. I had been using The Secret‘s tactic of envisioning what I wanted every day – “See the things that you want as already yours” – And for that month, I had been envisioning leaving my current job and walking into something new. The new job was mine!

After a round of interviews, I excitedly accepted a job offer in an office position in December. This was the same company my acquaintance worked for and I had the option to eventually transition into product development over time. I was over the moon! I had done it, and The Secret was starting to work! I was amazed at how quickly the results came about.

Being overly optimistic at the stroke of midnight on January 1, I, for the first time, looked at the future with starry eyes. Would I finally be able to own the house I was living in this year? “You bring about what you think about,” The Secret told me. Let’s keep thinking about that. Will my independent design career finally take off? Let’s keep thinking about that.

I wrote notes to myself about what I wanted by certain times of the year and at specific points on sticky notes, then promptly forgot about them. With The Secret, your wildest dreams could come true! So I wrote down even completely out of reach ones: start my own line, release a PDF pattern, full-time creative by September.

By the end of January, my new job came to a screeching halt. I had gone to the woman who hired me for some advice on how to adjust to my new position. She frankly told me that if I was “stressed out” adjusting to my new position that I should just leave because it was only going to get worse. That’s not what I wanted to do by any means! I am not a quitter. I found out there was nightly gossip about me and my skills between she and her daughter who was training me in the office position. Office politics, I told myself. I was fired the next Monday – for the first time in my life! – and the secure nest I had made for myself over the course of almost five years started to slowly unravel.

So what? The job didn’t work out. That happens to everyone! Was I making excuses to make myself feel better? I don’t know. I got to work on my PDF sewing pattern while looking for other employment opportunities. It was easy to just go back into retail as a manager so that’s what I tried to find.

My love life, on the other hand, could use some sprucing up, I thought to myself. There were stories in The Secret of people who had found their absolute dream partner. So I asked the question, “Why can’t I do that?” My current partner had been showing lack of interest in me for some time. We were having some nearly unfixable issues, and honestly, he wasn’t on the same life path as me. Though he had graduated with a degree in the tech industry, he still couldn’t find a job, and I chalked that up to his own laziness.

I had been occasionally talking to a guy I had looked up to since I was in my junior year of high school – a guy who was usually a musician and had fallen on hard times himself. He had introduced me to some of my all-time favorite bands over the past ten years and I never forgot him for that. I began talking to him more frequently, and after about a month, we started to have feelings for each other. Might this be my man? Had The Secret brought him to me?

By March I had secured a position I was perfect for; it was a boutique store back in the same neighborhood as my old retail job, but the focus was on bags. There was a custom department where I would be able to let my creativity shine through. Bonus: I was making far more money than I ever had before! See, my job situation had been a fluke!

Later that month, the guy I had been talking to actually bit the bullet and finally moved to Chicago. The Secret was real, and was giving me all these things. I also had an all-expense paid trip to Seattle with this new job and travel was something I had been looking to do far more of.

But after two weeks of him being in Chicago, I discovered something was terribly wrong. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but something was happening and it was not good.

By April I discovered he was a former heroin addict and cocaine abuser. I also found out that he had lied to me about being in process of getting a divorce. He was still married and nowhere near close to even being divorced. He had actually run away from his wife. On top of that I found out that was possibly schizophrenic, definitely showed symptoms of being bipolar, and had tricked many, many women into a very similar situation. Me — someone who is very cautious, insanely realistic, and rarely if ever has anything go horribly wrong. Why was my life suddenly turning into a bad Lifetime movie?!

By the end of that month, I was concerned about my health due to this guy, but thankfully all my tests came back negative. Difficult lesson learned. My new boutique job noticed something was up and while I let them in on a little of what was going on, I assured them this wasn’t typical of me. I don’t think they believed me.

In June, the boutique gave me a “final warning” though I had had no previous warnings at all. This was a complete surprise to me – most things seemed to be going fairly well. I did have a few issues with coworkers (one created a fake Yelp! review for themselves because I was mentioned in all of them on their site), but nothing too out of the ordinary. Yet they deemed me “not the kind of manager” they wanted, and commented that I “had trouble navigating ambiguity” – whatever the hell that means. A week lated the boutique fired me, and although my pride was bruised from losing yet another job in one year, this time I was ecstatic. “You become what you think about most. But you also attract what you think about most.” The Secret said. I had been thinking about doing full-time design work and now was my chance. I had a plan!

The plan was to use my unemployment temporarily to grow my independent design work and work part time. So I moved back to where I went to high school to live with a family friend in Middle Of Nowhere, Michigan. My Chicago friends thought I had made it – time enough at last to create and start doing what I was “born to do” with my creative work.

But my unemployment checks never came. It was August, and I started freaking out. I had always had some sort of full-time income since graduating college. I’m a dedicated worker at any company. I re-discovered those old sticky notes on my computer desktop. One read: “Full-time designer by September.” I suppose you could definitely say that I was, but I also was left with no income and living off of my modest savings that I had stacked up over ten years of living in Chicago. If this no-income trend continued, I would be flat broke by the first few months of 2015.

So I did what I always do and started applying. I found a full-time assistant manager position in the local mall and thought, “How hard could that be?” I was being starkly optimistic again but I kept The Secret in mind. There was a quote that I recalled; something to the effect of, “We are most frustrated just before giving up. If we persist, what we want will happen. Most people give up right at the point of something turning around.”

How did I get this way though? I was unemployed, back in a town I once desired to escape from, not owning or even renting my own place, and now out of a love life completely. But I was determined to not let go of the teachings of The Secret. After all, I was just about to give up. Something good surely must be coming my way!

It didn’t. I accepted a position in September that I apparently hadn’t thought through. Typical me is overly-analytical and will look at a situation from every perspective before jumping in. But I believed that The Secret wouldn’t bring me things I couldn’t handle, because I was attracting these things into my life. I was wrong. The women at that store were a particularly jarring brand of rude and awful — passive aggressive situations I hadn’t been in since I was in high school or college– and many of them had basically just graduated high school. I didn’t belong there and truly wanted to create. But I couldn’t create without income!

I took a break from The Secret and decided to listen to my heart for once. In November, I accepted a position for a part time job at a popular candle shop; something I was actually excited about, although it paid me far less money.The type of money that I made while working part-time in college. I had escape from the women at the other store somehow in order to keep my sanity.

For the most part, I had let The Secret fall away from all aspects in my life. I looked back upon the year and thought about how ruinous it had been.

However, the year wouldn’t quit without one last mini-disaster: the candle shop announced tat it would be closing in a month. For some reason, I was less upset about it than anything else that happened previously this year. Had I just grown accustomed to losing jobs? Or have I just realized that things will be fine no matter what? Even in the darkest points, I still had everything I really needed, although it was nothing like I had envsioned it.

Maybe life isn’t supposed to look like what we think it will look like or “manifest” the way we attempt to “manifest it”. We like to think that we can have control over our lives if we just think about it hard enough, but that is rarely the case. I’m the type of person that has always liked to make loose plans and then let the rest fall into place. And being a cautious realist, this method worked far more for me than anything The Secret had ever taught me.

I think it’s good to have goals. But we shouldn’t be so naïve or optimistic that we expect thinking hard enough about something (“What you think about, you bring about”) will cause it show up on your doorstep. It’s true that thinking will bring about your actions to put things in motion, but for me it can also give you the blind faith in the belief that nothing could possibly go that wrong. A lot of things can go wrong.

While I believe that The Secret has good intentions, a year of practicing it did not fare well all for me. I did far less creating than the year previously, a lot more crying, and I was mmired in a new world of instability. I had created it. I had brought it upon myself by wanting more.

Being overly optimistic has the potential for great disappointment. While others can live with a carefree attitude, and say “I’ll try this! Things will work out” I have to carefully examine every possible outcome before signing an agreement. I’m uncomfortable with blindly saying “Yes” and think that the whole positive thinking trend may be doing more harm than good.

At least I can say I tried The Secret. I ended up learning things about myself and others I didn’t even know to be true – most for the better. But maybe, just maybe, I was giving up too quickly. Just before something truly amazing would have happened… Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Former Chicagoan, currently living in the middle of the woods and leading a more simple life. Creating via sewing, abstract art, writing, and bad Photoshops.

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