How To Use Rock Bottom as Inspiration: A Personal Story
This post is a part of a writing contest that I am participating in called “You Deserve to be Inspired” hosted by Positive Writer.
“If you’ve only failed then it’s impossible to see the possibility of success. The trick is to keep trying. The next step might be the key to a better future — you just can’t see around the corner yet”.
A few weeks ago, I had a sudden urge to go through my old college email and academic management system. But first, I had to figure out my password and after many attempts finally broke in. I would then be tempted to search through my emails which served as a time of reflection. A reflection of a time when life was a constant roller coaster, of hills and valleys, ups and downs.
After going through my emails, the next thing that I would do would outline the basis of this post. I looked at my academic transcripts which forced me to be mindful of the growth and development I have made.
It would be both the Spring 2011 and Fall 2011 semesters that I would draw inspiration to write this post. Those would be two semesters that I will never forget. As my academic performance, mental health, psychological state of being, and physical health would all reach an all-time low.
To say the least, 2011 was not my year and year that at the time I thought would dictate my future. It would be a year of poor grades, a jail stint in Vegas, and an accident that I still bear scars from.
Before 2011, I was a multiple semester dean’s list student with a cumulative GPA around 3.5. I had aspirations of attending graduate school and worked tirelessly to achieve that goal. But then in 2011 something happened. I had a mental and nervous breakdown that reflected in every aspect of my life.
My binge drinking and partying hit another level. No longer was I going out to have fun but the sole purpose was now to not remember the night. My friendships and relationships would fickle, as they were as unsteady as my well-being.
My physical self was deteriorating. I wasn’t eating healthy, I wasn’t going to the gym, and for some reason, I had the urge to dye my hair blonde. Call it a quarter life crisis, but it was symbolic of my mental health and state of being during that time.
I was going through some sh*t and would try to find an escape in things that wouldn’t bring me value in return.
“Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.” — Malcolm Gladwell
I was depressed, but in the moment, I drowned all emotions and suppressed them which would reflect in both 2011 semesters.
The spring of 2011 was my junior year. Somewhere along the way, I lost the vision that I once had. The vision and goal of attending graduate school and working hard in the classroom. I truly wasn’t myself.
That semester, I would finish with a 2.5 GPA. Receiving my first D ever and multiple C’s. This was out of the norm for me and was a definite new low. The once near sight of grad school was starting to fade away, I no longer had the inspiration. Because of the D that I received, I had to retake the course and attend summer school.
Then Fall 2011 came along. What would be my first semester of senior was also defined as a time where I was overwhelmed, unhappy and lacked self-confidence. On top of the fragile mindset and state of being, the Fall of 2011 would also be a time when I was in charge of commitment that was larger than myself.
With a limited number of on-campus and organizational resources, the time finally came to re-charter a chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. on my college campus. This was a goal of mine since my freshman year as the chapter had been inactive for over twenty years.
I crossed in the Spring of 2011 and the Fall of 2011 was my time to bring the chapter back on-campus. This was more than a huge lift for me and also something that I felt was my responsibility to bring change to my campus.
But also, it was all on me. During a time that I was incompetent due to depression and deteriorating mental health. I had to do the recruiting, I had to set up the organization meetings, I had to attend to the Greek life meetings. All on me. Weeks into the Fall semester, I remember picking up the phone and making a call to my mom, my dad, and my cousin.
I cried, endlessly. I felt trapped because I didn’t have the strength in me to go through with it. I had a panic attack that would take me three to four years to fully recover from. My grades were continuing to slip and I wasn’t embodying the achievement that is the motto of Kappa Alpha Psi.
I couldn’t do it anymore and made the personal decision to stop the chartering process. I would then mentally, which would lead to physically, disconnect myself from the fraternity. I didn’t have the mental capacity or mental health to take on what was asked from me. I slowly gave up.
By the end of the Fall of 2011 semester, I would finish with a 2.0 GPA. I also would out do my D from the spring of 2011 with an F. This was rock bottom. But you have to hit rock bottom to bounce back up.
“The pain that comes from inaction is low-grade, makes you soft, and makes you decay.” You can’t escape the pain. You can’t run from failure. It all makes things worse.
I still had one more semester in me and don’t know where the motivation came from, but the vision of grad school never truly disappeared. It would only be hidden deep down inside me but would make its appearance again when I was ready.
I needed to graduate and wanted to end college on the same note and energy as I entered. I backed away from all responsibilities, my fraternity, my friends, and relationships.
My focus now was on finishing strong, because if I finished strong there would still be hope for the future. I finished my last semester of college with a 3.0 GPA.
The moral of this post isn’t to tell a story of my academic career but to give inspiration on how you can turn your failures into success.
During tough times of failure, when you can’t see around the corner we have to stay persistent.
During 2011, I couldn’t see around the corner yet.
I’ll now go into Part 2.
“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if only you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it” Jack London.
I had a story to tell. I knew, that if I encompassed the journey — the ups and downs- the highs and the lows that I would be given an opportunity. The dean’s list student turned a student on academic probation was still capable of achievement. The student who was failed two times, one time for cheating.
If I could just tell my story and show that I was not only competent but also had the ability to overcome failure. I could still attend graduate school at a top university.
I knew that I had to show who I was as I person, a person who has his faults but has also fought his demons. This person can excel at the next level and was capable of overcoming and belonging. I just needed a chance.
That chance came sometime in 2014, after applying to my dream school, with a letter. I had been conditionally accepted to attend graduate school at NYU, but I would still have work ahead to prove myself.
It was this moment, where I reflected on the long path that was behind me. I told my story, I explained my failures, but I also showed how I was able to overcome adversity. I was able to turn my failure into a success.
It was a chance to not only attend a top graduate university. But also, rock bottom was looking a thing of the past. I would end up graduating from NYU with distinction and a 3.9 GPA.
“Knowing that my past self was able to commit to learning and growth in spite of fear, resistance, obstacles, and setbacks makes me feel a special connection to him.”
We all have a story to share or tell. When we hear other people’s stories it makes us feel good and inspired. You never know who you may inspire, even if it’s just you.
There are certain things that I’ve learned from my past failures. But most importantly, it is things that I have learned from overcoming failure that resonate the most.
Never give up on yourself
I use this quote a lot and I don’t truly know the origin but it fits perfect here:
“When we face life’s adversity, we have a tendency to ignore the voice at the back of our consciousness — our responsibilities pile up, fear gets in the way, we downsize our dreams and content ourselves with the ordinary”.
Life is f*cking tough.
That’s one thing that is for sure, but overcoming its toughness is the greatest feeling in the world. You never know what you are truly capable of by staying in comfort zones.
Failure isn’t a representation of yourself but it is simply an act. We are humans, we fail sometimes. Use failure and transform the energy into success. Learn from your failures, grow, and change.
You can always do what you want to do, trust the process.
In hard times, continue to strive. Everything will be alright, believe that.
All things are possible
Hard work, determination, and persistence are all elements to launching your passions. It may be hidden deep within you but life is about realizing our potential as human beings.
So you don’t think you can get into your dream school for grad school? You don’t believe that you can achieve your dream job? You don’t think you’re good enough to pursue or turn your passion into a career?
Those are all excuses which are only “tools of the incompetence, used to build monuments of nothingness. Those who excel in it seldom excel in anything but excuses.”
Anything is possible, you never know if you don’t go for it. Sometimes the most unlikely scenarios end up changing your life.
“We have become so focused on results that our actions have become a secondary concern. We judge men based on what they have instead of what they do. We signal our ideals instead of embracing them.”
Don’t forget to take action as taking action allows for possibilities and opportunities to be created. Don’t get stuck.
I’ve always had a hard time with motivation and being motivated but have learned that if I take action, the motivation will follow.
Take the opportunity and run with it
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time” Jack London.
In college, I was just merely existing with no true reason in my life. I wasted my days and opportunities.
It would take me hard lessons to learn until I would finally realize not to let any opportunity pass by you. There had been doors opened on me that I wouldn’t walk through or would intentionally close. I was scared, insecure, and feared what-ifs.
We mustn’t let fear get in the way of opportunity.
If an opportunity presents itself, grab it by the f*cking horns and ride until you fall off. I believe, Abe Lincoln once said: “I will prepare and someday my chance will come”. The first step to taking on opportunity is preparing so that when it presents itself you are capable of all that it entails.
Opportunity’s only come by every once in a while, but when it does, be ready to run with it. You personally will know a decision is the right one when the course of excitement and inspiration running through your veins are telling you you’re on the right path.