Story 13: How to Deal with Adversity
A Journey of Self Discovery
I have one question for you. What are you made of? I only ask because I want to know if you have what it takes to move forward on your crusade whenever times get hard and you are hit with multiple obstacles beyond control. Here’s what you need to keep in mind: If you’re pursuing a new business idea, you’ll just have to accept that not everyone will like your idea. In fact, you’ll be told “no” more times than you’ve ever heard before. There’s an even bigger possibility you won’t have a mentor to guide you. But this only scratches the surface, because on top of rejection and opposition, you’ll have to deal with matters that distract and discourage you from taking the next step forward. The actions you take when you’re faced with adversity are so important. These decisions can make a difference between quitting or reaching your goals. The secret to dealing with adversity is to turn your negativity and frustration into positive action. It’s much easier said than done, because it takes self-discipline and remembering what you want most in life.
February 2013, was the period my mental toughness was put to the test. One morning right after eating breakfast, my landlord came to me and said: “You have to move out.” I was accused of wasting water because I frequently showered twice a day. Then she threatened that she would add $.25 cents to my monthly rent every time I flushed the toilet. At first, I thought she was joking, but when she sent me the bill, I found out she wasn’t.
I couldn’t change my shower habit even if I had tried. I had been showering every morning and every night since I was 8 or 9 years old. After a long day of hiking up New York City subways stairs and getting all sweaty, I found it impossible to go to bed feeling all grimy and oily. Of course I listened to what my landlord had to say, but I didn’t see any reason to change my routine just because I had moved to New York City.
Life Can Always Get Worse
Being told to leave by my landlord was only the beginning of my hardship. A week later, I was fired from Junior’s Cheesecake because I failed to say “-happy birthday-” to a customer. It was my mistake…I take full responsibility for that error. I just forgot. Truth be told, my dyslexia had interfered with my ability to manually enter food orders. I had trouble typing my orders into the computer screen because I would see the letters and words all bunched together; this caused me to mix up or leave out orders. Regardless, months of slip ups had finally caught up with me and my managers were fed up, so they handed me my walking papers. I just wish all this hardship had not happened in the beginning of the winter season. Winter time is a horrible time to relocate in NYC. I wasn’t looking forward to schlepping heavy furniture across ice or snow licked driveways and sidewalks.
If it weren’t for my roommate Paul, I may have been homeless and forced to sleep on the subway. Paul rented the room next to me. He was also brave enough to stand up to my landlord and tell her she was wrong which bought me more time. I mean — I knew Paul was a good guy, but I never expected for him to stand up for me the way he did. Soon I regretted that he had, because our landlord gave him a 30-day notice to leave as well. But before Paul and I parted ways, he revealed an unexpected secret about our landlord — that she was up to no good and she was trying to take advantage of me. I didn’t have a clue what he meant.
Shouting in a deep and disgusted voice, Paul said: “All she ever does is take-take-take! She never wants to be fair with anyone. I’ve sat back and watched her take advantage of every single tenant and I’m sick and tired of it.” I paused for a moment waiting patiently for him to give me more. Then he explained that she was rotating tenants every few months so she wouldn’t have to give up any house privileges. I was shocked! Turns out, she only rented out the room so it could be used as a night crash pad. “It’s sickening but that’s the real reason you’re being told to leave,” Paul said. After a conversation to what seemed much like a match of tug-or-war, I was able to talk her into letting me stay for two more weeks. Looking back, it would have been wiser had I just left.
The first shenanigan occurred when my landlord purposely shut off the bathroom water and heat in the house. It was the coldest week of the year that week. Nights were long and unbearably cold. I went three full days without showering. This was one of the worst confidence beating moments I ever endured. Some nights I didn’t even sleep, I just stayed up awake bundled in my blanket on my hard mattress in a corner of my room hoping and praying I wouldn’t freeze to death. On the fourth day, my prayers were answered. The water from the kitchen sink was working. Little did my landlord know, while she was out running errands, I would boil hot water on the stove in big pots, then haul it from the kitchen to the bathtub… that was the only way to take a warm bath. In that moment, I learned the advantage of a hot bath, because as I dipped each of my feet into the hot bathwater, my lost dignity was restored. That went on for another week until she figured out what I was doing. As strange as this might sound, this experience helped me be more empathetic towards homeless people. After being denied a shower, I learned that something as simple as one shower a day could boost a homeless person’s self-esteem and that in and of itself could provide the confidence they need to find a job.
Channel Your Negative Energy
I wish I could say everything got better, but it didn’t. One morning I lost complete control of myself when I suspected my landlord was throwing my mail away with the trash. When I asked, she said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” and slammed the door in my face. For the next hour or so, I paced back and forth in my room like a lion in a huge canary cage, trying to plan his attack. And just when I was about to surrender, I looked over to the one thing that gave me solace all along — the t-wrap sleeve. And decided to put my anger and frustration into something positive — getting feedback and perspective from other people about my ideas.
Key to Success: Keeping an Open Mind
I quickly put on my jacket, snow boots, scarf and hat, then jumped on the [N] train and headed to Grand Central Station. Then I walked to Union Square. On my way, I stopped at just about every Starbucks Coffee Shop I spotted on the way. For hours I walked on snowy frozen feet surveying everyone I came into contact with and asking what they did or did not like about my designs. I must have surveyed half of Manhattan.
Later that night it all hit me. I had learned a great deal about myself that day. Most essential, how to transform my frustrations into positive energy, and the importance of getting other people’s feedback. Those two actions brought me closer to reaching my goals. Sure there were moments when I heard brutal feedback, but I didn’t let it discourage me. What was most important is that I understood what I needed to improve upon. For the first time ever I realized I was building resilience. It’s hard to imagine where I would be today if I had stayed in my room that day and nurse my wounds.
My Next Blog Story…
No matter how much I seemed to be making progress, I had to focus on finding a new place to live. My landlord refused to turn the heat back on and the winter weather was getting more intensely bitter cold. The weather was unpredictable that year in NYC. The metropolitan area had just experienced one of the deadliest and most destructive storms in U.S. history- Hurricane Sandy. This was arguably one of the worst winters New York had had in a long while. I needed a place to live like, yesterday. For those of you who don’t know what God’s blessing looks like, let me tell you. In one week’s time, I managed to find a new job, scrape up enough money, and move to Spanish Harlem.
P.S. Paul, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for standing by my side when I needed support the most!
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