You. Just. Keep. Getting. Back. Up.

For a day or so last week I felt like if I didn’t have a mother who loved me, and if I didn’t have faith in a higher power, I might commit suicide, because I really don’t know my professional purpose. I don’t understand what God has planned for me, but it felt like the ability to be self-supporting (again) is not on the list—forgetting that I already am self-supporting, just not in the way I want to be. I realize this all sounds dramatic, but that’s how I felt in the moment. I felt very, very lost.

A job that I really wanted turned me down last week. I’d decided to go back into my field with a positive attitude for a more senior role creating strategies and plans rather than dealing with the technical parts of the job. The company asked that I complete a project and that four references complete a survey of questions about my performance. And the result was the company didn’t like the project and apparently the references weren’t all good. I have no other details besides that, so all I can do is fill in the blanks with stories about how badly I’d done at my previous job, how I should’ve tried harder, and feeling like my earlier insecurities were true, that I really am not smart enough or good enough and I don’t fit in.

And what I keep coming back to is this: What am I going to do now? I dug myself this hole and I’d gotten myself so far into it I couldn’t see any way out. I’d forgotten that in spite of my feelings of unworthiness, in the past I got hired, and I need to remember that I will again. But last week I felt like now that I was ready to suck it up and have a positive attitude about the field I’d fallen into, not only does my project get rejected, but at least one of my references—probably my last one—wasn’t good. I felt like maybe they’re right and I am a big failure—maybe I was right all along, and I’m the loser I thought I was.

In the past I’d applied for online marketing manager roles and not gotten them, because I just wasn’t ready yet, and maybe I’m not ready now. Maybe I’ll never be ready, maybe there’s another job that’s better for me. I hope to God it’s not as grocery store manager, as much as I love grocery stores, because I have this egotistical idea that I’m smarter than that, in spite of the fact that lots of smart people work in grocery stores. But every time I tried to get an online marketing manager position, I didn’t get it, and instead I got stuck in my former position doing a specific type of search engine marketing, a technical role that I don’t feel confident or competent doing and which I hate. Yet that’s what my resume speaks to, and it’s so frustrating because I don’t know how to make my resume speak to my real interests and strengths—and I use those two words loosely—no matter how I change the wording or the ordering of the bullets or the format.

But my sponsor told me something along the lines of what Bob Dylan (who is over 50 years sober, which makes sense because his lyrics sound like program words) says in his song (which I’ve posted here in a prior post), “To Ramona,” which is this: “there’s no one to beat you / No one to defeat you / Except the thoughts of yourself feeling bad.” In other words, I’m the only one who gets in my way, and if I believe I can’t win, then I can’t win. I will never win if I continue to believe I can’t.

So I realized that I need a professional mentor, and I have to get out and go to networking events, in spite of my introversion and social anxiety. I called a friend of mine who has a role similar to mine but one or two steps up, who majored in English (I got my BA in comparative literature, but it’s similar enough), and who’s made a good career for herself, and I asked her to be my professional mentor. She’s also in the program so she understands my dysfunction, although she hasn’t nearly ruined her own career due to her alcoholism or fear in the way that I feel like I’ve done with mine. The point is, she has agreed to help me, and I’m summoning the courage to sign up for a networking event coming up next week. More on that later. Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.

Because here’s the thing. You fall down. And then you just get back up. You fall down again, you get back up again. You fall down a third time, and you just keep getting back up. You. Just. Keep. Getting. Back. Up. And it sucks real bad right now, but what the fuck else am I going to do? I’m not married, I have no children, my dog will probably die this year, I’m almost 40 years old, but I’m healthy and this is my fucking LIFE. As long as I’m alive I still have an opportunity to make something of it, to find peace and happiness, and I am FREE. I can do anything I choose to do. I have options.

My friend and third cousin, a guy I used to drink and drug with, committed suicide in October of 2010 at the age of 36. At that time I had eight months sober, and he’d reached out to me for the first time since we’d seen each other when we were about 25. The last time we’d hung out he’d visited me in midtown Atlanta where I’d drunkenly put a dent in someone’s parked car after our bar outing and then lamented over this dent all night before putting a note on their car with my phone number. He’d told me how he’d gotten so deep into addiction that he’d prostituted himself for drugs, and how he’d blown $10,000 he’d gotten from a car accident lawsuit that left him addicted to pain pills. I’m not sure if he graduated high school or went to college, but he didn’t graduate from college, and he ended up blowing his head off one night after months of posting disturbing Facebook comments about how pissed off and hurt at the world he was. I think of him often, and how I wished I’d helped him more. He just gave up. He couldn’t see that life can and does get better, because I’ve seen people do it. People who’ve been convicted, prostituted, homeless, unemployed, and in far worse situations than myself. And their lives got better because they made a decision to surrender and just do this thing called life. It’s all we have, it’s all we know, and we can choose to search for and find joy or we can be miserable. What’s it going to be?

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