How can I unlearn this toxic lesson when it’s so deeply embedded in our everyday lives?
What happens when your life starts falling apart? Do you try desperately to hold it together so you won’t feel like a failure or would you do the unthinkable, allow your whole world to crumble and alow the chips to fall where they may?
For me it happened in late 2010. I was a busy grad student working as a waitress and a customer service representative. I was nearing my final semester of grad school and I was over extended with bills, life, my sons and basically everything. I was also in counseling trying to sort things out when out of the blue, one fateful weekend, my car was taken away for not being registered properly and I lost not one, but BOTH of my jobs.
I couldn’t believe it. I scrambled to find a new job and figure out how I would make it to finish up my final internship before graduation. Just 2 weeks into my Counseling internship I was so stressed from taking buses between cities to get to campus and my internship site, not eating and going crazy over my overdue bills that I decided to simply -- let go. I withdrew from my final semester at grad school and went home to figure out what to do next.
Why was my life taking such an ugly turn? What could I do to get back on top? How could I work so hard and so long to only to lose it all? My biggest fear of all was becoming a complete failure. I cringed at the thought of becoming homeless, sitting on the curb clutching a beer can and asking for spare change from strangers. Who could recover from that?
I had no clue how to stop that from happening so the thought paralyzed me daily. Since I didn’t know what to do, I did the next logical thing; I did what I loved doing most. I started a blog out of frustration and I decided to share with other women how to overcome life’s inconsistencies. I felt like a complete idiot doing this while I was going through such a rough patch but the focus on this goal soothed my soul as I looked for a job and sought answers for my own life.
Then one day it hit me. If I am truly going to teach how to be an overcomer, I need to learn how to be an overcomer in the most difficult situation. I decided to face my own fear of extreme failure by doing the unthinkable and turning it into a project to inspire women. I called this project The Rebuild Your Life Project.
With trembling fingers I wrote a letter to announce what I planned to do: I will become homeless on purpose to overcome my fear of failure and teach women how to survive losing everything.
After I sent it to my friends and family, I knew I couldn’t back down. I spoke to my sons, who were living with their father while I was in school, and told them about The Rebuild Your Life Project. My sons were shocked but ultimately supportive and so was the rest of my family. Although I had transformed a very real and dire situation into something that would benefit other women IF I survived it, it didn’t ease my fears about HOW I would survive.
As the countdown to the project began I floated through my preparations for letting go. I gave away everything that I owned, everything that meant anything to me as a way of taking control over the situation. Instead of allowing life to happen to me, instead of sitting by powerlessly as my life took a turn for the worst, I took the reigns and faced misfortune head on.
No, I didn’t fight for what was lost, desperately trying to hold on to a life that wasn’t trying to hold on to me. I dared to revamp my dream and take a new and unknown direction armed with nothing but a small bag of items and a digital camera to film it all.
On April 11, 2011, I walked out of my apartment and onto the streets where I lived with homeless people for 4 months, learning about their habits, mentality and survival skills, raising money for a rental assistance grant that I gave away and organizing and executing a job fair for homeless women. As I write this it seems like I was some kind of superwoman but going through that process broke me down and changed the way I view the world and myself.
Today I’m different. I don’t socialize as much. I’m more detached from people and things. I am no longer afraid of loss. I am no longer afraid to start over. I no longer believe in the devastating situations in life being permanent. I know what it’s like to be viewed as less than human because I don’t have a home. I know what it’s like to feel the sting of complete failure.
I also know that no matter what, no one can scare me into believing they hold the key to my future. If I don’t want to be in a situation, I won’t be in it regardless of any threats of loss and doom being thrown my way.
I’m not afraid to fail anymore because I survived it once and I now have the skills to survive it again if it ever happened. Honestly, that type of fearlessness has moved mountains for me. I turned my problem into a project and I navigated my way through it. This is the baseline of every issue I will face from now on. This is the blueprint to understanding myself and realizing my dreams with no fear. No fear.