I wrote in my recent article, “5 Times the Struggle Led Me to a Better Place” that the upside of struggling is that it can really transform us and take us to unexpected, and better, places. Here are five more ways some tough times led me to who I am today:
1. Leaving “the nest” and crash landing.
I was raised in an Italian family where my mother was la regina della casa: She cooked, she cleaned, she packed our lunches. We were very spoiled. Once I was on my own, there were definitely some growing pains. I’ve accidentally bleached-stained many clothes I love, and there was that time I substituted corn starch for flour in a recipe (“It thickens stuff, right?”) and made a tray of very burnt cookies.
But, I made it through those moments and my mantra was, so many times, “Well, I tried.” Letting go of my perfectionist ways was crucial for getting past this stage. I can do a lot for myself now, such as learning to market my skills as a doula, developing new skills like video filming and editing, and challenging myself to be a better public speaker. Though I still call home or ask Wikihow for help sometimes, I’ve come a long way.
2. Breaking up.
I’ve always been a sensitive soul, and breakups are the worst for me. My poor mom and weary friends have listened to so many blubbery phone calls; they should really have an honorary doctorate in my emotions. Each time a long-term relationship ended, I was pretty devastated: I had lost a friend and had to find new ways to spend my nights and weekends.
But, as much as I didn’t like to hear it all along, it’s true: Someone much better for you comes along. I realized that I had rose-colored glasses on during past relationships; meeting someone who was a better match for me made that all the clearer.
Plus, as much as breaking up sucked at times, it gave me a chance to press the “reset” button and focus on myself, my self-image and my own development. By doing this, I came to appreciate who I was without the appreciation of another, and in the long run, that served me well.
3. Traveling on a different track than my peers.
My life has not rolled out as I expected it would. If I had written one of those letters to myself back in eighth grade, I probably would have seen myself married with two kids by now. How far from the mark I would have been! While I’m very glad my life has gone the way it has, it can be difficult sometimes sitting in a room full of friends talking about their wedding or their kids and feeling like I have very little to add.
But, I’ve taken to reminding myself that there are many things I can say about my own life; for instance, how much I’ve traveled and moved around. Putting my life in this perspective has made me not feel out of place for what I haven’t done but rather feel grateful for what I have done.
4. Saying “sorry” for no reason.
One day, I’m not sure when, I grew tired of saying I’m sorry. As my sense of self and my self-worth grew, I realized I had very little to be sorry for. I started to critically examine when I said “I’m sorry” and tried to replace it with a different, sincere response or, sometimes, no response at all. Eventually, the strength I gained in doing this trickled into my sense of self and made me even more confident.
5. Feeling spiritually desolate.
During some very tough times in my life, I felt distant from my faith. I knew I still believed because I felt there was someone or something I was feeling apart from, but the distance ached.
Someone once told me that the times we feel apart from God are when our idea of God is changing. The upside is that when I returned back to my faith, this version was more mature and fit better with who I was becoming. I learned that it takes time to discover what faith means to you, and it’s a process that continues throughout life.
I’m grateful these struggles led me to where I am now, and I look forward to where I might go next.