This Is How ‘Rock Bottom’ Can Teach You How Strong You Really Are

woman standing alone on cold night
Twenty20 / @edric

“This must be rock bottom.”

I think this to myself as I’m standing in the dark, freezing night on a train platform in New Jersey. I’m breathing heavily and warm tears paint my cheeks. No one is around but one man standing behind me with his belongings in garbage bags. He smokes a cigarette and hums softly. I feel like I’ve lost everything, and I start to cry just a little more.

Wait, let me back up 15 minutes to explain.

I whip into the neighborhood in a car I bought the day before, after driving for the first time in a year, for three hours. (I was living in Manhattan people don’t judge.) And I can’t see a thing/don’t know where I’m going. I leave the car in a lot near where my new apartment will soon be, jump out with my bags and start to call an Uber. I have 15 minutes to make the one train and I realize I’m totally on the wrong side of this neighborhood to meet the driver. SO now I am SPRINTING down the road, in the dark, with all my heavy bags, calling poor freaking Kevin the Uber driver, frantic as hell. I jump into his car, we race to the train station, I’m there with three minutes to spare. Anddddd.

Here we are. Me crying on the platform over the broken pieces of what I thought my life would be. Wait, let me back up three weeks to explain that part.

I just had my 24th birthday with all of my friends and long-term boyfriend. Together, he and I shared a huge circle of family and friends, so my birthday is typically filled with double the love and celebration from all of the amazing people I care for dearly. This year was no different. Well, so it seemed.

Now, my BF/BFF of three years and I were coming up on our first year living in New York. We’d bounced around the idea of moving to a different neighborhood but after only living in our previous Philadelphia apartment for a year, opted to stay longer where we were. I got home from work, cooked dinner, put on a show and went about life like it was a normal night waiting for my best friend to come home and snuggle with me and the cat on the couch.

But it wasn’t a normal night at all. Because my boyfriend came home and told me he didn’t want to re-sign our lease, wanted to break up, and needed to be alone.

So naturally I am like:

Followed by A LOT of

anddddddddddddd

Then I’m like wait, what the heck am I going to do?!?!?! I have a few weeks to pull together a whole new life.

This person, my partner, emergency contact, and sole companion in this big city is gone now, along with my home, some of my things, many of my friends, potentially my livelihood if I couldn’t live near my job anymore, his family that I’d considered my own and all of our future plans. Poof. Gone. Nothing. No warning, no discussion, and no prospect, just gone.

**Queue hyperventilation** 

So, like any sane human that doesn’t want to end up homeless, I scrambled into action. In two weeks I got a new roommate (also a good friend), new apartment, new car, driver’s license, movers, and like five kinds of insurance. I made 50 shared Google spreadsheets and compared every single vendor’s costs. I called way too many poor customer service people. I bought boxes and I packed up my stuff. I made lists. I scheduled appointments. I checked everything off.

Then I had to go back to my hometown to buy a car to bring it to NJ and prepare for my last few days at my NYC apartment ANDDDDDDD

OK, now we are all caught up to the crying chick on the platform i.e. me, .i.e. girl who feels like she’s hit rock bottom. Everyone defines “rock bottom” differently, but to me, it meant losing the people, love, and lifestyle that I defined myself by. That was rock bottom to me. 

But at that moment I looked down at my wrist to the small tattoo of a cross (of which I’d semi-impulsively gotten earlier that day after church) and I started to think about how life and grace work in mysterious ways.

Even at that moment, at arguably one of the lowest and most brokenhearted points in my entire life, I realized I was learning a valuable lesson about how strong I was really capable of being.

Three weeks earlier if you’d asked me what I’d do if my boyfriend left me out of nowhere, the thought itself would have been enough to cripple me. I would have said that I couldn’t do it. He was my best friend. He’d been the person beside me for so long and we’d been through so much together. I didn’t have anyone else here to lean on but him. It would have been unfathomable to me to think I could pull it all off on my own, especially in the midst of all of that devastating heartbreak.

But I did, and not alone either. Because in the face of adversity I realized how much I really had to be thankful for.

My friends and family RALLIED beside me with love and patience and support.

Even some of the friends I thought I’d lose went out of their way to tell me they weren’t going anywhere. These people listened to me cry and told me which cars and apartments they liked better from my zillion screenshots. They traveled to see me. They checked up on me daily. They showed me I was the furthest thing from alone.

My coworkers were incredibly understanding, supportive, and flexible with me. My Her Track family sent me enough inspirational quotes to write a whole separate article. And I even found myself connecting with my faith in ways I hadn’t in a long time, only further resonating the fire in my soul that tells me I am never alone.

I also got to do a lot of much-needed traveling (more to come on that article-wise) that opened my eyes to how big and beautiful this world really is, even if it felt like my world completely fell apart. The rest of the globe kept spinning, and in it are so many incredible human beings, some of which I was fortunate enough to meet during my adventures all over Europe. Those brief encounters and connections gave me an immeasurable amount of hope. Because I still believe that people are good no matter how much they hurt you.

So, yes, I’ve lost a lot. And trust me when I say that knife is still very much wedged into my chest cavity, digging in at different depths depending on the day and new adversity I face with all of these changes.

But already I have gained a lot too, mostly in gratitude, strength, and confidence in my own ability to persevere. I also gained the opportunity to start over and discover new parts of myself I may have been neglecting before.

The good thing about finding strength, gratitude and humility in difficult situations is that it can heal anger, the poison to your soul. In the past, my response to heartbreak and emotional anguish has been anger. Angry blogs. Angry songs. Angry texts. Angry me.

But being angry isn’t being strong. It’s easier to hate someone for hurting you, and harder to love them (and yourself) enough to let them go. That’s strength, and a strength I didn’t think I had in me until I learned it first hand.

People are people. Life is life. You can’t control who someone is, how they feel, or the decisions they make. You can only control the way you decide to react to it. If life pitches you a curveball and you swing, miss and it hits you straight in the freaking face, it happens. You can’t change it.

All you can do is dust yourself off, get back up and go put an ice pack on your busted up nose before you get the heck back out there. You will heal.

It will take time, and maybe some crying on train platforms, therapy sessions (because please please please don’t neglect your mental health), inspirational playlists, pints of ice cream, and marathon TV sessions. But at the end of it, you’ll know this:

1. You needed to get knocked down, hard, to know how capable you were of getting back up.

2. You needed to lose everything to realize that all you ever needed was inside of you the whole time.

3. You needed to watch your life plan blow up in smoke to know that there was always a bigger plan all along, one that you cannot control.

So if you’re muddying around right now at rock bottom, trying to pick up the broken scraps of your old life, know that you CAN and WILL take those scraps and make them into something beautiful for yourself. The beauty exists in your own recognition of your inner power. It springs from the ashes and shows you not only what you’re capable of doing, but WHO you’re capable of becoming.

Find solace in that. Find motivation in that. And most importantly, find yourself in that. I’m trying to do that right now, and something tells me I am going to keep doing that for a long time.

Because this right here is what life is all about. It’s messy, it’s abstract and it’s insanely challenging. But it’s what it means to be human, and there’s nothing more remarkable than that. TC mark

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Image Credit: Twenty20 / @edric

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