I read a book the other day—You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero—and I have to admit: aside from Patti Smith’s Just Kids, I can’t think of a book that’s made me more certain I made the right choice in moving to NYC.
The past few weeks have been challenging, with housing issues and lots of overtime and other miscellaneous kerfluffles. They’ve also been awesome, in that my life today absolutely is what I was promised it would be in early sobriety: beyond my wildest imagination. That is, whatever I could have imagined for myself seven years ago is so, so small compared to what I’ve actually overcome, accomplished, survived, and built. All I wanted seven years ago was to get out of an abusive relationship and be rid of blackouts and hangovers. And to have a better relationship with my kids.
I never imagined I’d fall madly in love, then be devastated by the (literal) death of that love. I never imagined I’d find my dream job, then be laid off six months later. I never imagined I’d move to NYC seven years ahead of schedule, then struggle for almost two years to find full-time work. I never imagined I’d fall in love again, then find out that my love was built on a stack of lies taller than the Empire State Building.
I never imagined I’d find so much joy or experience so much sadness. I also never imagined I’d be able to survive any of the hardships, losses, or betrayals over the years. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that it’s how you walk through the fire that matters, and when you get to the other side there’s an entirely new world of strength and accomplishment that wouldn’t be there for you if you hadn’t walked through that pain.
Take Jack, for example. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done (at that point in my life) to break things off with him—temporarily, I thought—knowing full well that he could die before we ever got back together, much less back to where we were. To take that risk, to make that kind of gamble… and to lose? It was horrible and it took me a lot longer to get over it enough that I could be with another man again. (Note that I don’t say “get over it,” period. Because I don’t think that will ever happen. It gets better; it gets different; it doesn’t go away.) But it also put things in deep perspective. If I could live through that, I can handle some cute guy not calling when he says he will. I can handle setting boundaries and sticking to them. I can handle being hurt, a lot, because I’ve already survived the worst sort of relationship hurt I can think of.
It took reading Sincero’s book to remind me that life isn’t something that happens to me. It’s something I have an active role in creating and developing and, truth be told, I’ve done a kick-ass job so far in following my dreams down paths that other people told me were dead ends, populated by monsters, or not worth my energy. Those people were all wrong, but that’s okay. Because today I’m remembering that I’m a badass; it’s what’s kept me alive for 41 years, it’s what keeps me afloat and fighting when others would be sinking or on their knees, and it’s both what brought me to this city and what keeps me here.
I’m a badass, and I’m going to do my best not to lose sight of that (again).