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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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