“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” – Charles Dickens
Truer words have never been said about 2018. It is easy to write off a year as good or bad at the end. We want a simple pro/con list, a black or white answer so we can easily move on. But it’s more complicated than that.
As you find yourself reflecting on 2018, I challenge you to see the bad times in a new light. When something “bad” happened, was that the end? Or did it send you in a new direction?
Oftentimes, the lowest points include the most valuable lessons. Winter time may seem like the worst thing to happen for plants, but it clears the way for new growth. We were never meant to stay still and live a static life. Bad things signal new growth.
The key to harnessing this is learning resilience. Switching your mindset to see closed doors as opportunities.
I lost my grandfather, my uncle, and my dog in 2018. Of course, this was the worst of times, but it made me reevaluate the people around me.
Death has a funny way of making us face mortality and realize we won’t be able to live without losing those we love. So I looked around at my circle and realized I was taking my relationships for granted. I started spending more time with them and saying the things I needed to say while I still could. The hardest part of grief for me is the regrets, all the time I wished I had spent with them, all the words I never got to say. But I saw the life still around me and created more good times. I’ve been so much happier ever since.
Some things are so awful though, such deep rock bottoms, that it may seem impossible to find a lesson or purpose from them. My own rock bottom was when I was raped in an alley by a man I had just met. The police did nothing about it and I was left broken and lost for many weeks after.
It didn’t seem like anything good could come out of that and depression brought me to a new low. But hope held on in Pandora’s box, and I too held onto my love of writing. I poured my pain into poetry, specifically spoken word poetry. It didn’t seem like some big purpose, but it made me feel better, so I pursued it. I went to poetry slams and performed those poems in front of an audience. I had people come up to me after and thank me for sharing and being so vulnerable. So once a month, I let myself be raw in front of a crowd.
I ended up making a poetry slam team that went to Chicago at the end of the summer for the National Poetry Slam (a big deal in the niche of spoken word poetry). I couldn’t believe it and often doubted I could do it with the amount of emotional pain I was still in. These were supposed to be the bad times; I wasn’t ready for my dreams to unfold in such a dark chapter of my life.
But rain or shine, I got my butt to practice. I drilled my poems even if I cried the whole time. The other poets embraced me completely and I found my voice, perhaps for the first time. I realized how scared I had been to speak about my healing and how damaging that was for my mental health.
Chicago came and I performed my poem about rape on a National Stage in one of the most empowering moments of my life. Then I went on to perform more poems on more stages. Eventually I ended up one of the speakers at The March to End Rape Culture in Philadelphia for an audience of thousands.
So when I say I believe anything can become beautiful, I really mean it. It only takes training your eye to find the art in everything.
Please remember 2018 with a kind mind and a soft mouth. Then look at 2019 with eyes ready for new beginnings and a heart open to opportunity, and I promise, resilience will lead you home every time.