2019: The year I don’t want the fear of failure to be my greatest detour

The year was 2010. She was super excited. She had been accepted to one of the most prestigious Archives and Records ManagementMaster’s Degree programs of the country. She was moving to Pittsburgh. She had won a Spectrum Scholarship that year. A scholarship that has a commitment tohelp students from diverse backgrounds obtain a graduate degree in the libraryscience field. She had lived in her dream city, New York City for a semesterthat year. She felt she needed more time there but the opportunity of going to graduate school was too great. She had tried a couple of times before and she had failed. She thought this was her chance. At last everything was going theway she wanted. Fast-forward three months: she had failed, again.

This is my story. For the past seven to eight years I havethought and replayed those moments over and over again and I have shared with practically everyone that I know my Pittsburgh story. I have let it define me. I have let my experiences of that semester dictate what I do and what I don’t. What I think I can do and cannot do.

I am sure the majority of you have heard the word anxiety. TheNational Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines occasional anxiety assomething you might feel when facing different problems of life, new experiences that make you nervous, etc. But anxiety disorders are not temporary. They can last for a long time and the feeling of worry and fear can disrupt and interfere with your daily routine. The article continues with a list of general symptoms that include: feeling restless, having difficulty concentrating, being irritable, difficulty controlling emotions, having sleep problems. And while these symptoms are true having an anxiety disorder goes beyond that.*

Anxiety is what I developed while going through my Pittsburgh experience. People often don’t understand what anxiety means to me or what I experience. At the beginning this misunderstanding frustrated me. I will not lie to you, I still struggle when people around me don’t understand what I went through or what I am still going through. I am still working on that. But I have learned to not dwell on it. Instead I focus on not using my anxiety to victimize myself. But I don’t want to make this post about my anxiety symptoms; but rather, I want to share with you my fight with anxiety and how those feelings often lead me to believe that I am a failure. This post is about sharing a little about my journey and what I have learned about the fear of failure.

After graduating from college, I’ve found myself on a long journey trying to find myself, both in the professional and personal world.  Before going through my Pittsburgh experience if a job offer didn’t go through or a graduate school didn’t accept me, I just took that as a sign that the experience was not for me. But after years of experimentinganxiety I started to get more frustrated about the fact that I couldn’t experience success in the professional world.

When I was in Pittsburgh I found that the workload I had taken was too much for me. After many years of therapy I understood that the circumstances that surrounded me at Pittsburgh were not the best ones and since I didn’t want to change them, that lead me to explode and have feelings of anxiety and panic attacks. You have to understand that before starting that Master’s Degree I was a Star Student. I had always been. Even before I started school. My mother often tells me how I learned to read before going to Kindergarten. Books were my toys. The majority of them at least. School was a peach. And the few instances I encountered moments of difficulty in my classes, I always found the way to attack the problem and find a solution. I was used to straight A’s. B’s were not an option for me. One day I brought a C to my house and I almost cried my eyeballs out. I was known to conquer. I was a perfectionist. That is until I encountered the real world, as most people say. Pittsburgh was hard and I couldn’t find myself in that program. I think this is the first time I have sad that aloud (Yes, I am speaking words while I write it). I found that the program was not for me and I was ashamed to admit it. My family had made a significant monetary and physical sacrifice to help me get to where I was. I was not going to come home again saying: “you know what? This is not for me either!” Meanwhile I was going crazy because I didn’t know what was happening to me, to my body. I was sure I was losing my IQ by the second and the headaches, the stomach cramps, didn’t go away. I stopped thinking. I stopped analyzing. I stopped producing. I was scared. It was later that semester that I was enlightened about the world of anxiety disorders and what I was going through. I didn’t understand at the time. All I wanted was to leave that place. Leave everything behind.

After that, my life has been a struggle. I needed a job toprovide me with an income. But I also wanted to study something. Isn’t thatwhat I was supposed to do? That had been my plan always. Get a master’s, get adoctorate. Work in whatever (yes, I had a plan but didn’t know what to do withit). I tried. I applied to different jobs, I applied to different programs. Nothing worked. Eventually I ended up working where I was always welcomed, theUniversity of Puerto Rico at Cayey. While working at the university I wasalways encouraged by my supervisors to search for something more, to aimhigher. And I tried, again. But still nothing. Something always happened. Either the offers didn’t go through or my emotions were so highwired that I hadto quit jobs; I said no to opportunities. I simply couldn’t deal. My anxiety didn’t let me. That’s what I use to say. Over all these years I have applied toan anthropology program, to a Puerto Rican studies program, to a library science program, to fashion school. I have sent numerous job applications to administrative positions, to retail positions, to internships, to scholarships,you name it.  I was denied jobs. I was denied opportunities. I had denied myself opportunities. At some point in mylife I think I was giving up. Last year when I quit my job at the Universityand later moved to Baldwinsville, NY I honestly had no idea how much time I was going to spend there, or what my future would hold. I just placed my life inGod’s hands to see what would happen. What I didn’t know was that I was going to end up living in Puerto Rico again.

Coming back to my island has been exciting and scary at times. Before I moved back to Puerto Rico I had decided that I was going towork really hard on figuring out what to do next. I was sure of three things. Iwanted to work really hard on finding the next path for me, I wanted to do it without my anxiety taking over my life and I wanted to stop the cycle offearing failure. If you ask me, I am not there yet. I have been participating in different workshops and conferences that will help shape my next step and inthese past 5 months I have relearned a few things:

  1. Past experiences, professional and personal ones have helped shaped the woman I am today. Positive or negative, I will carry those experiences in my heart and I will draw from them while I am working forthe next step of my life. I have learned that definitions of success vary and I know that all my personal and professional experiences have lead me to help people, to serve, which ultimately is what I know I was created for. That gives me satisfaction, that gives me hope. I was never a failure. I will experience failure but it will not define me. Money will not define me. A title will not define me. But I will make sure that whatever I do I will do it with love andwith a heart of service. Embrace your life today, you are special, unique and blessed. You just have to believe it.
  2. I am determined to accept my anxiety, fight it and win the battle. I am determined to not allow  my anxiety and my fear of failure to stop me. It is a struggle, but it can be done. If you experience or have experienced the kind of anxiety that interferes with your life, get help, don’t be ashamed of it. Embrace it, work to get better and continue.
  3. I have confirmed the power of networking. I have known for years the importance of networking or connecting with individuals.While working on my next phase of life I have known and re-connected with beautiful people that are willing and eager to help me, that encourage me, that believe in me. My readers, a support system can be a total game-changer. Don’t try to do life alone. It can get lonely and exasperating. Always look for those authentic people that are willing to be there for you. Even if it’s one person. That will make a difference. For me that support system includes my family, my best friends and most recently my girls from Solo para chicas soñadoras (Only for girls that dream) -a Facebook group led by the owner of AskLeadership Team – that focuses on contributing to the integral development of women. If you are a girl with a dream, find them on Facebook, I am sure it will be a blessing for your life.
  4. More importantly, I learned (and I am still learning) to release control to God. When life seems uncertain or confusing, I always try to not loose the focus of my beliefs and of what I have known is true: that God watches over me and that he is good.

So, what is my next step? That my readers I can’t share yet. Because I am still working on it and I can’t give you a definite answer. What I do know and I can say to you is that I will not stop working for the next chapter of my life, my next dream. I don’t want 2019 to be a year of fear. And I have chosen to believe what God promised in his love letter to us: “For I knowthe plans I have for you,”…” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans togive you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

*National Institute of Mental Health (2018). AnxietyDisorders. Retrieved November 30th, 2018, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

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Freedom in sickness and pain

I have a friend who is one of my go-to-girls when I want to vent about my problems, fears, and anxieties in this life. No matter what I say to her she always takes me seriously and encourages me to go on, to continue trusting God in the process’ of my life and to never give up. I do the same for her. Sometimes she gives and I receive, other times it’s the other way around. I have always admired that no matter how trivial or insignificant my present problem could be, she always listens, expresses empathy and validates my feelings. Our friendship is in a judgment-free zone. Our friendship has gone through rough patches, through highs and lows but by the grace of God, we are still standing. These past couple of months, this friend and I have been experiencing some health problems and we have been encouraging each other, making sure we stay focused. And this time I had to be stronger than her because she needed me. Today, I want to share with you a couple of things I have learned about this season of physical pain, how I manage my worst days and what keeps me going. This post is for you my friend, and for anyone experiencing the same struggles.
I must say that I am not suffering from a deadly illness or fighting with a disease that makes me incapable of living life. But I remember as a little girl I was always sick. Because I am asthmatic I spent many days of my childhood in the hospital. Other days were spent in my room with my dad rubbing Vicks Vapor Rub on my back, for me to be able to breathe properly. As a teenager and in my college years, I also experienced seasons of what I call “always being sick”. Most of them were colds, fatigue, and asthma. Throughout my college years and to this day I have struggled with muscle pain and spasms. In my late 20’s I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia. In my thirties I developed a gluten intolerance and a couple of years back I began experimenting acute ovary pain.

Recently I was sent to get x-rays of my muscles due to back and hip pain and the images came back showing that I have a reversal of the normal cervical lordosis which basically means that my neck is positioned the opposite side of where it should be and disc damage is beginning to manifest. This subluxation or misalignment of my spine if not treated, will eventually present more problems in the future. While my doctor was explaining all this, I kept asking myself, “Why do I always have to experiment with a new pain? What is the purpose of me not feeling well? Why can’t I be like “normal people” of my age that have physical strength, stamina, and energy?” Of course, I immediately felt guilty of feeling this way. I mean, there are people dying from “real diseases”, right? There are people that spend all day in bed unable to move. There are people that their days are numbered.
During the following days, as I continued pondering about all these thoughts, I arrived at the following conclusion and this is my first message to you. Just because your sickness or problem seems smaller compared to others, it doesn’t mean that it’s insignificant. Two years ago I participated in a woman’s retreat sponsored by the church that I attended in Puerto Rico. We were at a time of ministering and praying and the pastor was taking the time to encourage all of us going through different trials. She told us that it didn’t matter if people around you did not understand our problems or thought it was not too big, it didn’t mean that it wasn’t going to hurt. Of course it hurts. It is your problem and you are feeling it. She encouraged us to acknowledge our situations, no matter what people said. I will never forget her words because they resonate with me, always. The me that is always feeling guilty for my pain complaints.
When I am in pain, I feel desperate, depressed, frustrated. To me, the worst feeling is that I can’t accomplish the goals I set for myself due to exhaustion or discouragement. Months ago I started writing this blog. I had not posted for a while now. I have been feeling really tired (more than normal) and I just couldn’t sit down to write. I was already beginning to feel distressed about it. People that really know me know that I am obsessed with perfection. This has served as an engine to do my work right, on time and to do it well. At the same time, it has also caused anxiety and deception. And when things don’t go as I plan, I tend to feel like a failure. Good thing I always have my support system to get me back on track. It took me a long time to get where I am but I learned that it’s not worth beating yourself about what you can’t do while you’re not feeling well. Don’t wait for the absence of pain in your body to feel blessed or fulfilled. Don’t give up on your work, your ideas, your plans, and goals. Take your time, get yourself an accountability partner and keep going. Don’t lose the focus; enjoy your surroundings and the people that support you. Be free in the midst of your pain.
Maybe you are reading this and identifying with what I am writing. Maybe you are confused, perhaps scared. You fear the pain, the diagnosis, the future. But know that there is purpose in pain even if you don’t understand it. Don’t fall victim to discouragement. God placed resources on this earth to work with you. Use them. Take care of yourself, be responsible. Work hard to feel better. My bible says that God comforts us in all our troubles so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort He has given us. That is purpose. And I choose to believe it. And that is what I did when my friend came to me scared and confused about a diagnosis she has been given. I listened and told her about my fight. I told her I understood and I told her that God will show her the way. Because at the end of the day, that is my assurance, that will always be my hope.

Promise Unrevealed: A blog about overcoming the trails of life

Last month, while visiting NYC, I met a guy named Raleigh Sandler. I was told that he was bright, a genius, and that he was the founder of Let My People Go, an organization that fights human trafficking. When you visit Raleigh’s website: http://raleighsadler.com/#overview, you stumble upon the following quote: “How can the local church be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ if we aren’t being his eyes and ears, too? How can we love someone if we don’t even know they exist?”

I was instantly taken aback by this quote. The quote is based on the work that he does fighting human trafficking but to me those words were powerful enough to instantly stop, assess my life in a few seconds and feel the need to write about it. I quickly began to reflect on the things I want to accomplish and I began to ponder on my actions. I question myself on a daily basis and I ask myself: What am I doing with this gift of life? What am I doing in this world, that could make a positive impact in someone else’s life? I then reminded myself: “Sherry, you are writing. You are already impacting people, you already started.”

You see, my writing has a lot of objectives, and from the title of this blog you can have an idea of the content that I will share with my readers: A blog about overcoming the trails of life. I have known what I want to accomplish for some time now but it was not until I read the overview of Raleigh’s work that my aim for this blog really began to take shape in my head. More so after I met him in person. Yes, he is smart, intelligent, an intellectual. But he is also funny, direct, witty, real, and down-to-earth, but most importantly he is serious about his work and his beliefs. I have no doubt that he will accomplish many great things because of the combination of the persona and his strong conviction of what he is doing. Raleigh reminded me that there are people in this world that strongly believe in God’s LOVE message for this world, and are not afraid to share it and to work for it. I want to share that it is through that message that I have been able to overcome many difficulties this past year and since I surely will encounter more problems, troubles and complications during my time in this earth, I want to encourage people to keep fighting and to keep believing. But I don’t want to do it superficially. I want it to be real. I want people to see that they are not alone.

Feeling lonely and rejected? I understand. No idea where your professional life will be? Believe me, I know the struggle. Did you start a plan, a project, an idea and then it failed? It happened to me. Anxious and depressed? Yes, I have gone through that, still. Does life sometimes have no purpose and meaning to you? I know the feeling. Are you waiting for that miracle, that breakthrough? Guess what? So am I. I am just like any other person in this world that is trying to avoid spending my life on a journey to nowhere. And I want you, the person that is following and reading me, to understand that you are not alone.

I have always wanted to go about my life with grace, inclusion, forgiveness, without confusion and above all, with love, specially love. But it is not easy. I find that every day is a struggle to see my future clearly, especially my professional one. I’m clear on what my mission in the present is but I have no idea what to do next or how to do it. And that makes me anxious and makes me feel out of control. Jeremiah, the “Weeping prophet” –who experienced moments of rejection, sadness and loneliness after his message was not well received- received these encouraging words from God : “I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope” and I don’t know about you but that verse is so difficult to digest. No matter how much you believe, or don’t. No matter how much praying, singing, meditating, believing you try to do, you just don’t see it manifesting in your life. Don’t feel bad if that happens to you. You’re human after all. All of my life I have been in a constant search of what will make me absolutely happy and successful. The search has left me exhausted, confused and frustrated. Sometimes my thoughts are so tangled up that I can’t even explain to myself what I am thinking or what I want to do. I have lots of ideas but fail to put them in action. I have a lot of dreams but year after year goes by and I don’t see them fulfilling. And when that happens, I go to my book of choice to search for guidance and here, in that verse, is where I always end up.

But do you know how I end up believing? I seek help. I surround myself with people that have found truth in those words and they give me hope. They believe that a promise of love, happiness and success is going to be fulfilled in my life. And I hold on to that. So whenever you feel lost, know that I know your pain and I know the fight. I strive to become a loving helping servant, because I care, and because it is my calling to do so. And I will write while I search and wait for my promise unrevealed.

*Photo credit: Yumarie Ortiz

Tangibility and God’s Peace

You know all these memes, quotes and funny jokes people are constantly sharing on social media? Well, I love most of them! Sometimes one of those messages can brighten up your mood instantly and sending it to your friends and family is half the fun! I remember the time I sent one of these memes to my cousin Keisha (Yes, I think I will write about her A LOT!). I sent her this:

She laughed and told me: Omgggggg te tengo que contar something similar que me pasó babyyyy {omgggggg baby I have to tell you about something similar that happened to me}

She then proceeded to record a voice message of 4 minutes and 18 seconds long in which she described to me a very tangible experience she recently had with God. I wish I can share more details with you, but for now I will say that it was real and she was ecstatic about it.

I was instantly jealous. But the good kind. I even told her and she laughed, of course. You see, I have always wanted to experience moments like that with God and I felt that I was doing something wrong in my life that God was not choosing me to talk to me the way he did with her. This is not true. And I learned this over the span of several months.

Last year was a very hard year for me. I had been working at the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey for many years and in 2017 due to different reasons I decided to resign from my job and move in back with my parents. From the moment I made that decision my life completely changed. I experienced a spiritual awakening and my relationship with God grew greatly. During that time I longed for tangible experiences with God. This might seem silly or unreal, but I wanted that. I actually wanted to see God.

As I thought about what to write for this post, I began to remember my experiences during 2017. That took me back to that time when Keisha told me her story. Even though I have yet to experience that type of tangibility, I know this: God’s presence has been tangible in my life. God has unique ways of working with each one of His children and mine is in my quiet time with Him by keeping a Prayer Journal and through my dreams (more deets on this coming soon!) Most recently, God’s tangibility became known to me in the peace I encountered during my cousin Keisha’s funeral and burial. Don’t get me wrong, I hurt, I cry, I am still grieving. I can’t even imagine the pain my uncle, her siblings and her mom are undergoing now. I can’t even conceive the fact that just recently I received the news of another death on the family. But I know that the way I am managing this moment in my life comes from God and from my own experiences dealing with anxiety. In the midst of confusion, I feel light, I feel harmony, I feel reconciliation. I feel peace.

Last year I learned that I don’t have to see a burning bush, or feel someone literally touching me to feel God. All I have to do is close my eyes, reminisce on the miracles he has done in my life and smell his fragrance around me.

Baby…

Today is the first day of a new year. A day filled with joy and excitement but full of sorrow and sadness.

Last night one of my baby cousins passed away with the Lord. She was everything I wanted to be, my rock, one of my spiritual mentors, my soul-sister. We were connected in so many levels I can’t even explain it well. Only those who knew us, understand the significance of our relationship. I still feel that Keisha is here, I still feel that she is with us. I am still thinking that she is laughing and praising the Lord with her brother and sister. I am still in denial. But I also draw strength from the fact that she is where she always wanted to be. She is in the presence of the All Mighty. She is with her good Father, she beats us all. Keisha was one of the most beautiful souls I have ever met and she will continue to be. She is singing, she is in awe of the amazing paradise she is experimenting.

You might not understand dear reader, why then in the midst of so much pain I say that today is a day of joy. Well, today I decide to write to the world. Today is the start of my new journey. And I know she would have wanted this for me. I have to do this because I will honor her wishes. She always wanted for me to experience a fullness in Christ. I believe that this blog will help me achieve this. Keisha, it will be hard, I will cry, I will probably question why you had to go so early in life, I will experience pain, and anxiety and will sometimes feel lost but know this, I will try to be the woman you wanted me to be, I will try and reach my potential, the one that you always believed I have. Thank you for all the memories, the laughs, the tears, the moments. Thank you for considering me your sister, for your love and dedication to my struggles and my happiness. Today I present myself vulnerable and open and it is because you inspired me to make it so.

I will love you always,

Sherita

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