When I finished my MBA years ago, the reality of the economy I had graduated in chin-checked me like nobody's business. Everyone told me, "Go to school, get good grades. You'll be making no less than $50,000 out of grad school."
Life had other plans entirely.
I did what I was told. I was supposed to be on Easy Street but no one would hire me. Adding insult to injury, though I had two degrees, I hadn't bolstered my experience the way many of my classmates had with internships, fellowships, and part-time work in the field of their choice. I was ill-prepared.
To say that I grew bitter would be an understatement. I stayed in bed, shutting everything out but Netflix and Twitter - ensconced in misery, terrified of what would (or wouldn't) come next. I resigned myself to pout over what my college experience didn't give me. I pointed the finger at lack of opportunities and ill-equipped mentors. Jealousy grew for those around me who were pressing forward, living in ways I knew I wanted to.
I wallowed with half-cocked ideas but no plan of follow-through for almost a year. There wasn't one particular moment that changed everything, I just got sick of myself. I got tired of fruitlessness. I got tired of seeing everyone advancing while I ate Golden Oreos and watched Saving Grace.
Truth? Until I decided to check myself and do the inner work (peace to #blkcreatives), I was going to continue to be miserable. So, I did the emotional, mental, and spiritual self-surgery. Don't get me wrong -- it hurt like what I imagine removing a bullet feels like. But it grew me up. It made me better.
Being honest with yourself about yourself is always hard if you're not used to it - but once you give it a go, it becomes cake. Here are the three steps I took to Debo'ing myself up out of a terrible attitude and ensuring that if I did fall into a rut in the future, I'd never stay too long:
I Acknowledged My Part
The main question (and most painful at times) I asked myself was, "How did I get here?" I thought about all the decisions I made - or didn't make - that directly influenced where I was. I was the common denominator. There were plenty of decisions I didn't think through. There were choices I made out of fear or hurt or anger. I had to own every twist and turn.
It's fruitless and foolish to remain in the same spot simply because we're angry at being in said spot.
Yes, factors outside of us play a part but the part we play is the principle role.
I rattled off questions like, "Have you been proactive or only ever reactive to what's going on in your life? Do you fly by the seat of your pants or do you plan? Do you live from a purely emotional place or do you use wisdom?" Once I answered honestly and humbly, I could see my pathology, where I needed to grow, what steps I could take to start, and who I needed to enlist for support.
I Made A Different Choice
I know that opinions on life coach and spiritual teacher, Iyanla Vanzant, are mixed to say the least but one piece of advice that she gives has stuck with me like soul food to the ribs:
"Make a different choice."
It's profound in its simplicity and it's so easily applicable. I didn't have to go get a third degree or wait on someone else to scoop me up and change my life. All I had to do was assess what I had been doing up to that point and decide differently. No one was holding me back or making me miserable but myself.
I had every bit of power it took to do something completely different and all I had to do was choose to.
All I had to do was make up my mind to do so.
I Fed Myself Good Things
Yes, I put away the Golden Oreos and picked up a healthier lifestyle. I even committed to vegetarianism for a few months. But feeding myself good things traveled further than food. Playlists had to change. Music with a positive, forward-thinking message began to rule the airwaves for me. I began to study and practice mindfulness - noticing what I was thinking (not judging myself - just noticing), and shifting my thoughts to something else. For every negative thought, I had a roster of positive ones to combat them - like guerilla warfare.
For example: If I was feeling particularly bummed about finances, thinking, "Dang, I'm broke." I would notice what I was thinking and immediately combat that with, "Where there was once lack, better financial decisions are now preparing the way for abundance." To avoid slipping back into bitterness and anger, you have to arrest and reverse the thoughts that do the most damage to your will and your spirit.
Curate your life in a way that nudges you into the mindset and lifestyle you desire.
This is a day-to-day practice and battle against everything that wants to keep you stuck. Choose to be better everyday by inundating your life with the good. Mute the gossip on the timeline. Unfollow accounts that stir up impostor syndrome. There is no shame in positive life modification to help build your self-esteem, focus, and spirit.
I Came Clean With My People
Isolation is one of the number of ways we develop all sorts of terrible behaviors and thought processes. Though not easy, I stopped shutting everyone else out. At first I felt weak for needing to talk through things. Over time, I recognized that no one can survive - sane - without leaning on others for help, guidance, and encouragement from time to time.
I started hanging out with girlfriends whose lives reflected the positive spirit I craved. I sat down with my family and let them know I was going through it. They told me about myself and then they embraced me with all the love I needed to continue to turn things around.
We're human. God wouldn't have given us the ability to feel if we weren't meant to. But when we allow our emotions to rule us and change us into people who can't hear, can't receive, and refuse to do better, we pull the plug on an impactful future.
I periodically remind myself that my disposition and state in life are wholly and completely my own choice. At some point, your perpetual anger isn't about what others have done to you or taken from you, it's just your choice of disposition. How you move forward rests solely at your own feet.
So, what's your choice?
Featured image by Getty Images