How To Bounce Back From Failure With 1 Photo, 1 Podcast & 1 Instagram Account.
All life doesn't have to be suffering. It can be whatever YOU want it to be.
It was almost 2:00 A.M. when I cried myself to sleep.
I was in a hotel room in Orlando, Florida for a family vacation, tossing and turning restlessly. Two days prior, I had been laid off from my job for the first time. Prior to that, I worked tirelessly through a PIP (performance improvement plan) for a whole month to stay at a premier, highly selective agency in San Diego. After many sleepless nights, panic attacks and stress cries, they decided to let me go.
I've always had a rocky relationship with my own ego; teetering between inflated or deflated, rarely striking a balance. So, stubborn and bullheaded, I burned the midnight oil working my way through the PIP instead of questioning whether I was actually passionate about the line of work I was in. Was I fighting to keep my job and genuinely improve my skill set, or was I fighting to validate my ego? Every unhealthy emotion I’ve had about myself flooded back like an avalanche: Inferiority complex, imposter syndrome, low self-esteem, low self-worth, I'm not smart enough, I'm not good enough. When I was in that hotel room, I needed some sense of order in the chaos that was my professional and personal life.
Ray of sunshine #1:
I read online about Fabulous, one of the top apps in productivity and personal development. I downloaded it on a whim and followed them on Instagram. When I followed them on Instagram, out popped this other handle: “emotions_therapy”
It was pretty much every affirmation I needed.
Sometimes you need that light "love-nudge" to remind you that you have far more to be grateful for than to be morose about. That there are people who have suffered immensely, and still extract hope from bleakness. Seeing these nuggets of stoic self-love on my feed almost everyday was the humbling ray-of-sunshine I needed in my life. Not to mention they have great quotes for just about anything a human being is going through: grief, anxiety, depression, etc.
But it didn’t end there.
After I was laid off from my second job (mostly due to COVID-19) I began to seriously question my abilities. It was hard to get out of bed the next day; I felt listless without my routine. I finally found the job I was excited to come to everyday and it slipped through my grasp. I felt myself slowly slink back into self-deprecating routines.
I could try anything from watching a funny YouTube video, vent to a friend, but nothing gets me out of a mental rut like listening to stories of human resilience. I've always had a deep fascination with people who’ve taken deeply painful experiences and decided to create something meaningful from them.
Ray of sunshine #2:
I went outside in my PJ’s, with just my phone and earbuds, and listened to “How I Built This” a podcast on NPR where Guy Raz interviews CEOs and Founders of major companies and how they started them. There is one episode that I often go back to, and it’s the episode with Whitney Wolfe Herd, the CEO and Co-founder of Bumble.
Around halfway into the podcast, she talked about her very public lawsuit against Tinder’s CEO and Founder. The most awful words to describe Wolfe were written across tech blogs, news websites and social media by people she didn't even know. Some days she couldn’t get out of bed. Other days she didn’t want to wake up. Her confidence was depleted, but then, she said something that really stuck out to me:
“What I had realized is that you can’t kill ambition, you can kill confidence, but you can’t kill drive. Through all of this pain and struggle, I still had an itch inside of me to create.”
I’ve always been a creator. Ever since I was a kid, I was writing stories everyday carved out of my wacky imagination, singing songs, acting out fantastical trilogies in my backyard. That desire, that natural interest in music, storytelling and dancing has never left me.
There are things I am truly passionate about, and it wasn’t managing ad budgets and bidding on keywords like I had done for the past 2 years. So, thank you Whitney Wolfe, for reminding me that.
Nothing, not even two lay-offs could quell that “itch inside of me to create”.
Ray of sunshine #3
When you grow up in an immigrant family, priority is always given to stability, security and safety. There is planning that goes into ensuring a child's personal and professional life goes smoothly, and if there are hiccups, you have a safety net. This is all done with the best of intentions.
Sometimes life doesn't go smoothly, and plans fall through. As I've gotten older, I've learned that life is about planning to the best of your abilities, but learning how to roll with the punches and adapt when things don't go as anticipated. This is also something I struggle to do. For me, things not going as planned is a recipe for anxiety. Having to deal with it alone--well that's just turns into a full-on meltdown.
3 years ago, I was studying abroad in Manchester and I "planned" a visit to see my best friend studying abroad at the same time, but in Rome. We discussed preferred dates, and I booked my air tickets and AirBnb.
Turns out, I got my dates totally wrong, and she was leaving Rome the day I was arriving. (Sorry Mom and Dad for not telling, didn’t want to worry you!). I full on freaked out and thought to just cancel the flight and "take the L" on trip-planning. I had never taken a solo trip to a foreign city, and I was relying on my best friend to be the knowledgeable, semi-fluent Italian tour guide. No, I can't go on a trip alone, as a young woman? It's far too unsafe.
But also...everything's booked, might as well go...right?
I waffled between going and not going until finally I settled on yes. So, with my iPhone notes list of 5-7 things-to-see, 1 backpack and no knowledge of the transit system or the language, I was ready to "roam" around Rome. (Lol)
I woke up at 4:00 AM that morning to catch my 6:00 AM flight. My AirBnb host was an older Italian actress with a cute black cat that often stared blankly at me. I took a pay-what-you-want Sandeman's tour around Rome and met a fellow lone lady traveler like myself and we explored the city together, eating bruschetta and cannolis. Yeah, it sounds straight out of a novel because that’s what it felt like. Plus, I got to live my pre-teen years by going to the Trevi fountain and throwing a coin (any Lizzie McGuire fans?).
This picture makes me smile because it's big Neon sign reminder that "I can do it". I've rarely had the confidence to do things independently. There was always a plan, and shrewd people to rely on. But this time, my plan turned upside down. Instead of having a meltdown, I decided to do something different: adapt. I made a new loose plan, and I rolled with the punches.
And you know what? Even for a sheltered Indian girl, it was absolutely liberating.