Getting Up from Life’s Floor

I had reached bottom...again. Not only had every job I interviewed for sent me rejection emails, I lost passion for my dissertation topic, gained six pounds, and was living on credit cards because my job *still* had not paid me for the third pay cycle in a row. This is not the way to finish a doctorate, find a job that ignites passion, and lead a fulfilling life. Yet here I was.

This was just last week.

Today, though, I got back up. And I want to share with you how I was able to do that. Whether you’ve hit your bottom for the seventh time in a year or this is your first time, you’ll need some know-how to dust off and stand up again. Here are four steps I took to change the course of my life.

  1. Get Back to the Basics. Who are you? Why are you on the planet? What makes you tick? These are not some fluffy existential questions — these are the basic beliefs in your life. I took some time this weekend to sit down and consider these questions, and while I don’t have a provocative answer waiting in the wings for you, I did realize a few things. First, I am alive and healthy (for the most part). Everyday I wake up is another opportunity for me to take myself deeper into the hot, fiery passion inside of me. I took some advice from a book I recently read (see the next point for the title) and I started doing things that I enjoy. Like going for walks, reading, listening to and singing music, etc. These things put me in touch with who I am and remind me that I need to share my time, talent and treasure everyday I get to walk this planet.
  2. Small Steps Can Make a Big Leap. I have been reading the book “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher. One of the most memorable parts I read was about how to build a habit of flossing daily. Stay with me here, I promise this will make sense in a moment. So apparently you learn how to floss daily by getting yourself to floss just one tooth. Yep. One. And then the next day, you might decide you want to do two teeth, and maybe a week from then, you decide you want to do the bottom row, and there you have the start of a habit. Success is habitual. I know this because I won a national championship in public speaking, have consistently earned 4.0's in school, and won a state chess championship. Habits, however, are not built in one day — they are small movements over time. To get myself from rock bottom, I started reading the Bible daily. Reading about love and grace made me start to see my need for graditude and more love for others in my life. It’s been a week and I can say that everyday I look forward to getting up and reading the Bible because I get to nourish my spirit and get ready to make the day good, regardless of what happens. Whatever it is for you, whether it’s reading the Bible or something else, make a tiny, almost insignificant commitment daily to do that one thing. Nothing else. Just try that for one week and see the positive difference it makes.
  3. Heal. Part of my healing was realizing that I needed people. Badly. As a PhD student, I’d pushed away most of my friends and family (okay, all of my friends and family except my husband) to focus on coursework. And if it wasn’t coursework it was research. And if it wasn’t research, it was my temporary full-time job. You get the point. Everything in the world came first before my relationships and I suffered because nobody knew about the bad days, the successes or my needs. I just appeared like the graduate student who had it all together. When I hit bottom last week, the first thing I did was post it on my Facebook for my friends to see. I needed to come clean about my struggles because I needed them to see I needed help. Within the next 48 hours, I had several encouraging posts on my wall, inbox messages from long-time friends, and a bottle of wine and one of my best friends’ undivided attention. You never know who’s out there waiting in the wings to support your journey. If you need to heal from rejection, loss, or pain in your life one of the best things you can do for yourself is connect with someone who is in your corner and can push you forward. We are created to be relational beings (that’s why there are so many of us around this globe lol). Embrace that.
  4. Change Your Environment. I couldn’t move to a new apartment, but I did what I could: I turned on inspirational music, started cleaning up around the space, went to the gym to shower and spend time in the sauna, and burnt incense. All of these things put me in a different place mentally to deal with the rejection and disappointment that had knocked me on my butt just days before. Although my situation has not changed, my mind has. And it is one of the most powerful tools I can use to move forward.

In summary, believe in the power you have inside you to be a force of reckoning. I not only got an interview for an all-expenses paid training program, but I slayed the interview because I knew I could. The small steps, healing, and change in my environment helped me to reinforce the basic beliefs I had in myself. I don’t need a dissertation topic to know I am passionate about the ways in which technology education changes a person’s confidence in themselves and life trajectory. I don’t need a job to start writing my first book and publish it myself so the world can be impacted by my life story. We rise to the highest internal beliefs we have about ourselves. If you believe you are more than the ground, then get up or get someone who can help you get up! I struggle with depression so by no means do I trivialize the chronic chemical imbalance that makes it difficult for many to so-called “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. At the same time, we all have the chance to do something, even if it’s small (read as “tiny and almost insignificant”) to change our response to life’s throws. I might be guaranteed to doubt myself and feel disappointed again, but I can keep reminding myself that I am more than the floor. If you ever needed them before, take my words and use them to stand in your awesomeness today.