Does Therapy Work? YAAAS! Abso-change-your-life-lutely.

Does Therapy Work? Yaaas!Ever felt like you needed to talk to someone, not friends or family or a partner, but someone completely new, unbiased, and maybe even professionally equipped to really help you figure some things out that continue to bog you down year after year?

Have you then quickly let go of that need and given into the stigma around therapy instead?

“I don’t need therapy. Only crazy people need therapy. Does therapy work? How is talking to a complete stranger going to help me? Therapy is too embarrassing. No. Forget it. I’ll just continue to deal with my issues alone.”

Sounds familiar? That’s OK. It happens. Many of us are afraid to reach out for help even in our darkest hours because we let the stigma around therapy make us feel weak, crazy, inadequate, and lots of others icky things.

Today, I want to tell you how potentially nutty it is to just sit back and watch issues devour your potential happiness and everything around you just to give into this whole silly idea that it matters what other people think. Don’t you want to be freed form your struggles? Don’t you want to smile more? Don’t you want to live, and I mean truly LIVE? Do you know that facing your problems and reaching out for help actually takes a lot of courage?

Stop running away from help, and start thinking about opening your arms to something that could truly change your life for the better, for good. For me, just one year of therapy (I had gone sporadically before, but never really stuck with it) helped me let go of some very deep-rooted issues I had been dealing with my whole life. These were things that were holding me back in relationships, in my fight for happiness and even in my career.

That’s why today I’ve decided to share with you an email I recently sent to my old therapist (if someone has impacted your life in a positive way, no matter how big or how small, please take the time to let them know!) in hopes that it might encourage you to walk away from the stigma and walk into the light of healing instead.

Does therapy work? YAAAS! Abso-change-your-life-lutely. In fact, I’m thinking of finding a therapist in NYC to get a little tune up. This is, after all, a lifetime journey y’all!

XOXO,
Sonia, Word Share Junkie

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hi Mark!

I hope you will remember me—I know it’s been quite a while since our last session (December 2013). I’ve been wanting to send you a note for quite some time now, as I realize more and more every day how everything you taught me still helps me SO much. In fact it even helps me help friends going through similar situations, and that just feels wonderful! Our work together made me forever stronger and more confident, and gave me a lifelong set of tools I use every day to manage my emotions and keep my HAPPY going strong.

About a year ago, I moved to New York City where I am a writer for the Girl Scouts national office, and I really believe it was our work together that gave me the courage to take these next steps in my life (this job has really been a dream!)─leaving Eric behind and slowly healing from that year+ whose lessons are still with me every single day. I can really say I am more settled, more at peace and happier than ever.

I have also been working very hard on my eBook series. I’m on the third book already, and hope to launch the series on Amazon at the end of this year. Your words and advice have helped me to continue to push forward in this endeavor as well, step by step, day by day, and this has been a  blessing as well.

So in conclusion, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I feel freed from so many of the issues of my past (what a relief!). My family and I are getting along great─even my dad and I are on the best terms we’ve ever been, and it is because of what you taught me and talked me through for just one year. How incredible is that?

I hope this email finds you well, happy and healthy, and again thank you so much for what you do. You have an amazing gift, and I am so grateful Katherine sent me to you when she did. I feel certain no other therapist could have done what you did in such a short amount of time. I sing your praises to my friends and champion the power of therapy to anyone who will listen─all the time.

If there is ever anything I can do for you, maybe a testimonial for your website or anything like that, I would be more than happy to contribute in some small way.

THANK YOU!!!!

Sincerely,
Sonia

© Arfabita | Dreamstime.comBreak Out Photo

Reaching 30: Growth Hurts Before it Heals

After the ending of my latest pseudo relationship, I swear I feel like I’ve just been through a war. Good news is, I survived and I’m much, much better for the experience. During 10, long, often bitterly unhappy months (I still managed to ride that sucker out kicking and screaming with my positivity and commitment to the big, HAPPY fight :)), I learned an immense amount about myself, the issues I still need to work through, what I want in a partner and what I am willing to accept, and in-turn, what is absolutely unacceptable to me in the realm of love and relationships, and well, in life.

I also learned that I am considerably stronger than I might think at times, and I bet if you dig a little, you will find that you are too. Sure, that situation bordered on emotionally abusive or perhaps it really was, but I walked away from it, and that is all that counts. I might have stuck around for longer than any of it ever deserved, but the whole time I continued to fight. The real problem was that the biggest battle existed between my heart and my logic. But in the end, and thank goodness, my logic won.

Now I’m in the process of straying away from beating myself up for participating in the whole crazy thing in the first place, and instead, focusing on all the lessons and renewed strength it has given me. You see, that is the thing about growth; it hurts like hell before it heals.

As more and more days go by since that last encounter, I’m beginning to feel more like myself than I have in months. My energy is up, my smile is making more frequent appearances on the Sonia show, and my heart feels about a billion pounds lighter. I find myself laughing more, breathing deeper, finding more things that I love to do, and doing them. Most importantly, I know now more than ever that I am not in fact desperate, and that I still do have hope that I will someday find the healthy, passionate, understanding, lasting love I crave and deserve, with the right person at the right time. Always focus on the outcomes, and not so much on what got you there. Pain often provides great revelations for us and our lives.

And, at times, as we get older, we wish we could be as carefree and consequence-free as we were or thought we were in our teenage years and early 20s. At least I do. But, as I sit here turning down the less-than-thrilling advances I’d gladly welcome just a few years ago, demanding more respect, nurturing my own needs, wants and dreams, and more and more frequently standing up for Sonia, I realize I’ll gladly leave my youth at the door. Because this place, where you know who you are and who you wish to become, where you rather have nothing than accept scraps, where instant gratification has been replaced by the hope in the bigger picture that awaits  – that is a much better place to be.

To everyone out there reaching their 30s as I am (it can be quite a transition I’m finding), when you think you used to be more fun, wilder, or more adventurous, you’re not by any means boring now, you’ve simply experienced growth. And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Breathe it in deep, and thank it for hurting so much in return for inner calm, peace of mind, and a stronger sense of self.

Love,
Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Life Lessons Over Vodka: My Lowest Point

Vodka Lessons: My Lowest Point

Last week I met up for dinner with an old friend I hadn’t seen in probably over five years, and in true Sonia style, I found great connection in our conversation. I also walked away with a little learnin’, reassurance, and an invigorated sense of my HAPPY. Today, I’d like to pay that encounter forward, and share a little motivation lovin’ with you on this manic Monday morning. 

One of the first things that really hit me during that conversation over drinks and pizza, was a sudden, jubilated, “You just look happy!” Every single time I hear that statement, I’m taken aback for a second, especially when it comes from someone who knew me in my not-so-Positive-Patty days. It reminds me how far I’ve come in my journey through depression, anxiety and insecurity, and reinvigorates my passion to help other not-so-happy folks hear that same statement from an old friend some day. It should also be a lesson that it is very possible, that things do get better if you put a little effort into this life business, and that your lowest points are simply lessons that make the high points that much more delicious.

And speaking of your lowest points, my dinner buddy reminded me of a very important little morsel of wisdom that has proved crucial to staying on the right track to positivity and smiles. I can’t remember the exact quote or who he mentioned it came from, but I think the general gist will do you a great deal of good.

The basic concept is to always remember your lowest point; that point where you really felt like you could not go on, like things were just never going to get better, like the world was in a race to get you, and get you good. Then remember, the next day, the next month or even the next year, when you felt better, when things started to turn around a little, and when you survived. If you got through that, you can get through anything. So when you’re feeling a little low, lost or just overwhelmingly confused, remember that time you got through it, and remind yourself that you will undoubtedly do it again. That’s the thing about life. It always goes on, and so do you; happier stronger and wiser every time.

I remember my lowest point, always, and I keep it close to my heart even on my best days. I remember sitting on my bed in my pool house, efficiency apartment in Miami, rocking back and forth, feeling like a total lunatic, holding my rosary tightly, crying, saying over and over again in a muffled whisper, “I can’t do this anymore. Please help me.”

Dang, that was almost hard to write, and sure brought the old knot to the throat pretty fast, but hey, it’s important. If I got through that – truly my lowest point – to a place where people can actually just look at me and see my HAPPY radiating from my face, then I can make it through anything. And, so can you! If my lowest point can fuel me, it can do the same for you.

I hope that helps with whatever you might be dealing with today. And remember, just keep swimming, smiling and shining! I do, because the great thing about my lowest point, is there’s only one way to go from there – UP! 

Love,
Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Settle & Die (Inside)

How Alive Are You?

OK, so maybe my headline is a little drastic, but you get where I’m going with this. When you settle in life, whether it’s in relationships, in your career, your family life, where you live, your friends, or anything else, you start to die inside a little. You know in your gut the current situation is not making you happy anymore,  you know it’s not enough for you, you know you deserve better, but you stick around, because let’s be honest, that just seems easier. But is it really? In the end, settling for less than what you want or deserve out of life is so much harder. Like SO much harder!

The pain of giving something up that you love, have become accustomed to or are just comfortable with will fade and pass with time, just like everything tends to do in this life. But the pain of holding on, of giving up on yourself, of sitting down and shutting up, will most certainly haunt you forever. It will just build up in the pit of your stomach, churnin’ and grumblin’, until your soul starts to disintegrate piece by piece. And while, on the outside, you might very well seem alive and well, on the inside, where it really counts, you will feel like you’re not really living at all.

So today, I urge you, let go of the comfort, let go of the things or people in your life that make you unhappy, and make room for the things and people you really want, for the love you deserve, the job of your dreams, the life you envision for yourself. Don’t get to the end with a heart full of regrets. Instead, travel your journey with the peace of mind that you have given it your all, that you said, “No,” when it just wasn’t enough, and that you are giving yourself every chance to really live and be HAPPY.

For me this is still quite the little tumultuous battle, but through all of the mental, emotional and spiritual growth I have experienced in the last few years, I have felt the immense benefits time and time again. Once the ouchy fades, I can stand tall and proud, knowing I work every day to do the best I can for myself, to advocate for Sonia, to support her, to demand what she deserves, and I’m much healthier and happier for it. Won’t you do the same for yourself?

With love and hope,

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Confessions of An Achievement Junkie

Image

This week I’m feeling that old familiar feeling that only really escapes me occasionally. For me, that feeling is restlessness. It creeps up on me often, and maybe it’s the result of many years of school, moving around, constant change, and constant achievement. I always think I want stability, but a few months into a routine, and the dream wagon in my mind begins to churn its wheels again. They are so loud and abrasive that it’s almost impossible to ignore the noise.

For the better part of my 20s, I was always working on or finishing up some degree or other (I LOVE to learn!), starting new internships or jobs, moving, ending and beginning chapters, losing weight, movin’ on up, getting that big raise. And now that I’m here, in a good, stable place, and it’s time to settle into my career, into routines, into life and bills and errands, I am struggling to sit still.

The blogs can’t write themselves fast enough. My book can’t seem to move forward as fast as I’d like. My motivational author/speaker career seems so far off in the distance, although sometimes I feel like I can almost touch it. My professional challenges can’t seem to stay challenging enough to keep me excited. I want more, higher, better, all the time, and it’s hard to keep up.

On the other hand, I get tired, I can be totally lazy sometimes, and I’m not always as motivated as I’d like. After a full day’s work, the gym (when I make it there), errands, etc. it can be hard to put as much time into everything I want to accomplish as I’d like. But nevertheless, my mind is always going, always planning, scheming, dreaming. Sometimes I think this restless nature and accomplishment obsession will be the end of me, but mostly I realize it’s what keeps me so alive.

You see, I never want to get too comfortable. Coming from an environment of mediocrity, complacency and routine, comfortable is my absolute worst nightmare. Although it might make me crazy sometimes, I never want to lose this fire, and this unquenchable need to do more, reach new destinations, experience more out of life.

Sure, I realize complacency might be the easier route today, and sometimes I wish I was more comfortable with simplicity and routines, but in the long-run choosing restlessness will undoubtedly create a much more full and satisfying life. And that’s what we’re all after in the end, no? So as I struggle with my own restlessness, my message to you is to embrace it, fire it up, and let it drive you. Don’t try and quiet it. Don’t put out the flames. Definitely don’t listen to people who tell you you’re asking for too much out of life. They are just asking for too little.

I wholeheartedly believe that restlessness will lead you to something amazing. I know it will get me there. I’m not sure when or exactly how, but I know it will.

Tell me, do you ever feel restless?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

From STRESS to STRENGTH in 24 Hours

Whoa! This week just came out of nowhere and slapped me in the face with STRESS. Per my usual style, I think there is a great lesson to learn in my current (although already much better) plight, so I will share it with you! Let me explain how I went from STRESS to STRENGTH in 24 hours. Here it goes.

Bye, bye Ms. Jetta

My sweet, reliable 2006 Jetta Volkswagen has been living on the struggle bus for a few months now. I really don’t know anything about cars other than how to turn one on and drive it, but I’ve had the feeling for some time that something was terribly wrong. You see, the ol’ Jetta got into this nasty little habit of jerking or stalling while driving. Sometimes it was soft and sometimes the jerking was so bad, my body would actually bounce a little off the seat as an involuntary shriek would spill out of my mouth like a baby rejecting split pea soup.

I knew this would not be a cheap repair or a simple process, so I just kept prayin’ on that ol’ steering wheel, and counseling the car to stay with me for just a while longer. Last week, though, the jerking was becoming noticeably worse and worse, so it was time to bite that awful car repair bullet. I had to take it to two different places, and deal with the whole rides there and back situation for several days to get to and from work while the car was being checked. The last place finally told me the sad, sad news. My baby’s transmission had all kinds of problems I couldn’t even begin to understand, and it was best to take it on home to the Volkswagen dealership, and check whether I had any kind of extended warranty on the transmission.

So, fine. I take my car home, and ignore my troubles for one more night through arcade games and some major dancing. Hey, it was Friday night. I can’t be consumed with STRESS on a Friday night! So, the next night I decide to face my impending financial doom, and start looking in my car file for any shred of hope I could find. And there she was. So pretty, so crisp. It was an extended warranty for the transmission valve body (whatever the heck that means!).

I make my appointment to take the car in to the downtown Volkswagen dealer Tuesday morning, and I’m feeling pretty breezy at this point. I drop it off at 7am, and they assure me that if it’s the transmission valve body, they would repair it at no charge. BUT, around 4pm, while I worked from home, I got the call. There was a whole heck of a lot more wrong with the car than this transmission valve body business I thought would save my poor me, and it would cost way more to fix it than the car was worth. Plus, I still owed over $5k on it. It was now time to consider purchasing a new car somehow, with no down payment ready and totally unprepared for such a purchase.

So I take my STRESSED out little toosh down there, and there they were just waiting to take full advantage of my desperation. Somehow I was convinced I was getting a great deal on trading in my car, and leasing a brand new one for a lot more money despite my awesome credit score. They even made me believe I had actually negotiated down the price significantly when I threatened to leave and go somewhere else.

They also insisted this lease on a brand new Jetta was their best deal, even better than any used car they had available. It was not until I got home, and began to really analyze the situation that I realized I probably should have taken my car, and shopped around for a better deal. There, I began to freak out. My car payment would now be higher and so would my insurance premium because of the leasing situation, and the car wouldn’t even be mine. Plus, I hated the feeling that I had just been majorly played because I wasn’t really thinking straight, and to top it all off, my school loan payments start this month! More STRESS.

I go back this morning and attempt to express my disdain and realization that I probably got majorly ripped off, but they have very convincing answers to all of my accusations, plus said I didn’t have an option to back out. I basically left feeling incredibly defeated. Plus, it all happened so fast. I didn’t even really have time to get used to the idea of getting rid of my former companion, the car who had been with me through so much. I was STRESSED, confused and mourning. Situations like this bring back a lot of my poverty and single hustler noise. They remind me that no matter how far I’ve come or how hard I’ve worked, it will still take a long time to fully remedy the effects of that poverty, and that I have nowhere to turn for a little financial assistance in times like these.

Moving from STRESS to STRENGTH

I took the day off of work and basically spent it freaking out, nauseated and majorly STRESSED. But in-between all of that I also made some calls, moved some bills around, reviewed my budget, found some solutions, searched for freelance work,  and slowly started to travel back to STRENGTH. It is now about 24 hours since I originally came home from the dealer with this shiny, new financial burden, and I finally feel like everything is going to be OK. I even found myself looking in the mirror, and saying, “You see? Everything is going to be OK. You’ve always made it without anyone’s help, and you’re going to make it now.” And most importantly, I now have a safe way to get to and from work. My poor ol’ Jetta was nothing but a ticking time bomb.

So what’s my lesson to you? Life is stressful. You can’t always plan for big changes, expenditures or losses, but you can always turn things around, choose your attitude, and find some different options. Take your time to grieve, scream, cry, freak out, and STRESS – whatever you need to do – just let yourself feel it out. And then, once you’ve allowed yourself that time, make a nice cup of chamomile tea, get your thinking cap on, and focus. Don’t let the STRESS break you down for too long. Instead let it remind you of all of the wonderful things you’re capable of, and every STRESS you’ve overcome before. Start focusing on solutions, and forget regret. Also focus on everything you have, and how much worse it could probably be. Most importantly, remember,we can never go backwards, but we can always move FORWARD.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Turning Childhood Noise Into Adult Shine

Image

In this blog, I talk a lot about the negative facets of my childhood, and how they’ve pushed me to fight for a life and a Sonia that I can respect and enjoy. Because I believe there is always a positive way to look at things, always a way to make a little sweet juice from a lot of rotten fruit, today I want to focus on all of the positives in my childhood negatives. With this, I hope to help you channel your inner positivity guru so that you can think through how some of your life’s negatives are actually crawling with positive goodness.

Finding ways to be more grateful in general, especially for things that are not so shiny upon first glance, is one of my proven paths to feeling happier on a daily basis. Plus, the more you practice looking at things positively and pulling strength from negative situations, the more you build up your ability to deal with problems and bad days quicker and more effectively. I don’t know about you, but anything I can do to feel joyous corn more often than I feel down, sounds like a good plan to me! Here’s a few ways I’ve turned childhood noise into adult shine.

Parental noise = Kick-ass fighter attitude

Sure I have daddy issues out the wazoo, and sure he’s not my favorite person in the world, but it is because of him that I have become such a fighter and life enthusiast. It is because of him that I work so hard and stay so focused on chasing and protecting my HAPPY with everything I’ve got. It’s why I strive to be a good person in every situation, and always ensure people know my word counts for something. And it is why I am dedicated to helping motivate other people towards a better life.

Plus, although his methods were not exactly material for a parenting magazine, and they definitely made life as a child and teenager pretty hard, I am grateful that he was so strict. I think it always kept me on the right track, and now, even as grown woman, I still savor and cherish my freedom every single day. And finally, although my relationship with him could use some major TLC, I have one hell of a mother. A lot of people don’t have solid relationships with or support from either parent, and I can appreciate how lucky I am to have her despite the imperfections.

Additionally, my parents live a very sheltered life. They don’t drink, or go out, or keep friendships, really. Growing up, my father believed that as long as your basic needs were met, you should be happy, and anything else was just asking for too much out of life – boooooring. This was always troubling to me as a kid who just wanted to learn, explore and grow. So I’ve made it one of my life’s missions to seek out experiences, keep close relationships, have a lot of fun, and learn, learn, learn.

Finally, life was also very controlled growing up, and now having control over my own life, where I live, how I spend my time, how and where I choose to be spiritual, and how I run my life overall, is exhilarating. And don’t you think that just because I’m 28 and living over a thousand miles away from home, that the attempt to control my life has changed. The difference is now I am not afraid to stand up for myself. My childhood taught me the importance of really living life and living it my way, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Poverty noise = Drive, Humility and Appreciation

Let’s be real. Growing up poor sucked. Hell, it still sucks, because even though I’ve moved myself out of poverty, I still deal with its backwash in many ways. For example, I’ve lived in Chicago for nearly three years and I’ve never been visited by my parents or my little sister mostly because of money. Even when I graduated from business school last year, no one came, and those kinds of things hurt.

I always have to be the one to make the trips to Miami, during which I always have to spend a lot of money, because everything’s on me. Every year, I help fund birthdays and Christmas for my little sister, and although I’m more than happy to do it for her, that kind of responsibility is hard when you’re just trying to make it yourself and managing a pretty penny in debt. From a very young age, it’s been me, and that’s it. I’ve always had to help myself, because there’s never been anyone to help me. I’ve always known that if I screw up, there’s nowhere to turn.

On the bright side (you know how I love to find it), I believe it is all of this that has made me such an incredibly driven and proactive person with quite the hustler spirit (the good kind of course). It is because of my poverty noise that I am always striving for better, and I’m never afraid to work just a little bit harder. It is also because of my poverty noise that I can still appreciate every single little luxury and even the smallest step of progress I experience. It is because of this that I cherish my education even if I will be paying it off forever! I know how easily I could have ended up on another path, and I’m certain it was worth every penny.

The Point

My point is that there is no need to wallow in childhood noise and sorrow your entire life. If your childhood wasn’t the best, why would you want to drag that into adulthood? It’s time to take a good look at how you grew up, the good (there is always a little good to consider) and the bad. Then use the bad to propel you to build a better life for yourself, do it differently and break the chain. Take those negatives and use them to make you stronger and strive for better. Don’t use them as an excuse to live an unhappy life or treat others unfairly. By doing that, you only hurt yourself and the ones you love. Don’t you want to create new patterns you can be proud of?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

3 Ways I Never Gave Up

Chicago-20130127-01411

I’ve never been a huge fan of the word NO. It just always seemed too limiting to me, and little by little, I discovered that NO is usually nothing more than an easy way out; nothing more than a test of how fast I, or anyone, will give up.

When I was younger, I remember asking my overly strict father to give me a good reason why I couldn’t go to the movies with friends. I held a job since I was 15, I was an excellent student, I was a responsible kid, and I deserved a YES. After all, I wasn’t asking to go to a rave or anything outlandish for a 16 year-old. So I’d say (in Spanish), “Give me a logical reason why I can’t go, and I will let it go. I don’t even need money to go. I make my own.” Dumbfounded, more often than not, he’d budge and say YES. Why? Because you can’t fight logic, and most of all, it’s hard to fight that kind of gumption from a teenager. It might be important to mention here that I grew up being terrified of him, so standing up for myself was an even bigger deal. I think it was the beginning of a life of fighting NO, even when I was shaking in my boots while doing it.

So how do you fight NO? It’s simple. You fight NO by never giving up, by not allowing others to define your limits for you, by showing people you really want IT (whatever that IT might be), and by demonstrating that you’re worth the YES. To illustrate my point and hopefully inspire a little NO warrior action in you, here are three ways I fought NO and never gave up (I’ll share more examples in the future). I’ve briefly discussed some of these situations here before, but I really want to take a fresh look at them through a “never give up” perspective, so here it goes.

1. When I applied for my first master’s program with the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, I was denied acceptance based on one factor. I’m a horrible standardized test taker, and I just wasn’t cutting it on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). The rest of my academic record was impeccable, but the test weighed more, and there I had it, a big ugly NO staring me in the face.

But, no ma’am. I wouldn’t stand for it. I knew I was just as capable of completing that program as other applicants with higher test scores, and I firmly believed I deserved a spot. So, I fought, and wrote a letter to the Dean that started out something like this:

Dear Dr. Treise,

They say 90 percent of life is just showing up. This is me showing up.

Then I went on to explain that my rejection seemed unfair in light of an otherwise impeccable academic record, and the fact that I was passionate about the degree I wished to obtain. I asked her not to judge me based on one day and one test, but on a lifetime of hard work and dedication instead.

So what happened? I can’t remember the timeline exactly, but I think it might have been about a week after I sent the letter that I received a phone call from Dr. Treise herself expressing her awe at my initiative and personally welcoming me into the master’s program I had originally been rejected from. I finished that degree with a 3.77 GPA, and a successfully defended Project in Lieu of Thesis despite an abysmal GRE score. I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder in my life, but I wanted it, and I did it.

Bam. NO? I don’t think so!

2. Moving to Chicago from Miami took me about three years from ideation to fruition. It seemed like everything and everyone was against me. My family did not support it, and neither did my dire financial situation. Lots of people around me told me I was crazy, and that I should accept the life I already had. Say whaaat? That is super limiting talk, and this girl just doesn’t play that.

Despite all the negativity, I’d apply to jobs, get interviews, and get close to an offer, but at the end of the day I wasn’t local, and thus came the rejections. At some point, I started sending hard copy resumes and cover letters to employers asking them for an opportunity to speak to them, and explaining that I wasn’t looking for relocation assistance (heaven knows I needed it, but I’d figure it out when the time came). I even scrapped together some money to come visit Chicago and setup appointments with employment agencies. The answer was still I’d have to move first. Then, in one of my last desperate attempts, I applied for a 10k private loan to make the move. DENIED.

Finally, the idea came to me that I had always wanted an MBA, so why not now? That would be my ticket to Chicago. So I used my tax return to start the process, take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), apply to several schools, etc. Here again, worst standardized test taker possibly EVER, so I bombed.

I was shattered. I’d never get into an MBA program now. I cried for a few days, and then I got right back up, and began devising my next plan. I borrowed the money to re-take the test, and this time I did a little better; good enough to gain me an acceptance from one great school, even if it was on probationary status.

So I made the move, and lived off of loans, part-time work/internships and entry-level jobs until I finished the degree and got settled into a great full-time position at the right level and for a lot more than I had ever made before. Plus, I was off academic probation within one straight A quarter, and was hugely successful throughout the entire program.

NO? I won’t make it? I’m not smart enough? Errrrr. WRONG.  I still made it ya’ll.

3. Back in 2009, life was ROUGH. Nothing seemed right. I was broke, heartbroken, lost and confused. I’d worked so hard my entire life, and it just didn’t make sense to me that I was struggling so badly just to make ends meet and keep my spirits up. It was then that I slowly started to awake to how my humble upbringing, lack of parental support, and history with emotional abuse had really affected me. There were days when something as simple as grocery shopping seemed like climbing Mount Everest. I remember oceans of tears, and a feeling of hopelessness that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

But I kept chuggin’ along. I stayed focused on my escape to Chicago. I kept working through the tears, both at my day job and freelance writing at night. I scrapped money together to visit friends in other cities and take a few breathers. I pushed through the hopelessness, and I fought, because I always knew it had to get better, and there was something bigger waiting for me.

And now, if that Sonia met this Sonia, she wouldn’t even recognize her. I have taken control of my life, my surroundings and my feelings, and I’ve been on HAPPY Street for close to three years now. Of course, I have bad days. That will always be a part of life, but now I have the tools to recover faster.  Plus, I’ve learned to seek more love from myself than from any outside source, and now I’m not so vulnerable to the things I cannot control.

Sometimes I think what if I had given up then? What if I had taken all of life’s NOs and ran with them? I would never have been able to enjoy the person I’ve become, the life I’ve built, the wonderful people I’ve met, and this frequent feeling of JOY that fills my heart where a lot of sadness used to live. And there we have it folks. The moral of the story is you should never let others define your limits. Just because someone else might not have been successful in a similar endeavor, doesn’t mean that you can’t find a better way.

Do you have a fighting NO and never giving up story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it, and others can surely benefit from it as well. Come on, give it to me!! 🙂 And remember, success is not always about being the smartest person in the room. More often it’s about hard work, perseverance and heart.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Celebrating Your Own Definition of Success

Image

This Friday, at the tender age of 28 (OK, maybe not so tender anymore), I will be moving into my first one-bedroom apartment. Since I skedaddled off from Hialeah to go to college at 17, I have had probably a half dozen roommates, and lived in efficiencies, pool houses, and most recently a studio. It occurs to me that this might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people who might have had different situations or might even be looking into buying an apartment at the same age, but me?  I am beyond excited for my new big-girl home complete with an adult couch, dining table and a porch! I’m also so proud of the progression I’ve seen in my life over the last few years. That is why I want to talk about the importance of celebrating your very own definition of success.

Success should never be defined by a certain salary, where you live, the car you drive, or the clothes you wear. Instead, success should always be measured by whatever that means to you, and in the context of your life and the specific cards you’ve been dealt. It’s so easy to get caught up in what others are doing or where they might be in their life, and what society expects of us at certain ages or stages.

In college, I always felt a little down because I had to live in the less fancy apartments or parts of town. It hurt a little to listen to others talk about expensive vacations and spring breaks I never had the opportunity to take, or the tuition or even fun money checks they’d receive in the mail. I was always on my own. Me, my financial aid checks, and my part-time jobs, and sometimes that felt so unfair. Sometimes it still does. Even between degrees, when I was working full-time in Miami and barely making it with a salary a lot of people my age were doing OK on due to less debt and more help from their parents, I felt a little cheated. Moving to Chicago even seemed like it was so much harder for me with the lack of support. And well, woe was me ya’ll.

But as I’ve progressed through my 20s and entered this whole new stage of maturity, understanding, positivity and love for myself, I’ve learned to look at my disadvantages as advantages, and celebrate my own definition of success. I’ve learned to stop worrying about what others are doing, and think about how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am now. I’ve learned to think about my success in the context of my life and my circumstances, not anyone else’s. And that has made me so much happier and more content with what I have.

Success to me means progress, and I think I do a pretty good job of constantly staying on that path. Moving to Chicago, and leaving my less than desirable situation in Miami was progress. Getting a series of paid internships here while I worked on my MBA was progress. Plowing through tough quantitatively based courses (I always joke that past 2 + 2, I’m not much in the math department), and finishing my MBA with a 3.5 grade point average was progress. Getting myself a 54% raise when I finished my MBA? Man, that was progress! Maintaining an above average credit score despite all of my money noise, that is progress. Going from a roommate to a studio to a one bedroom is progress. Even going from having to do my own nails, to being able to get them done was progress for me, and it still feels so, so good. What can I say? This girl likes to feel pretty.

Losing 50 pounds last year even though that makes me by no means thin, that was progress. Sure, I’ve gained a few back (very few, don’t get crazy), but I’m still thinner than I’ve been in years, and although I still struggle with weight, I’ve seen a huge change in myself. I worry about exercise and try to get to it at least a few times a week. I pay more attention to what I eat, and I make more of an effort to maintain. I feel stronger, I like how I look in my clothes, and I no longer feel like an obese person. I just feel like a normal person. That is not perfection, but it is major progress.

Success, to me, also means constantly moving forward in small ways. Finally working on my book and starting this blog, and getting serious about my author dreams now that I’m finally done with school, and I’m in a good place – that is moving forward. This relatively new sense of self-love, appreciation and understanding, and always working to come from a positive place is moving forward. Watching myself become increasingly better able to handle negativity from others without crumbling – that is a major step forward too.

For me, success is really a combination of being proud of who I am and how I treat others. It means working hard, and constantly getting a little better at life, my job, relationships, etc. It means constantly working on my craft. It means being liked and respected by others, and seeing that people know my word is worth something. It means sticking to my dreams and aspirations no matter how hard it gets. It means standing up for who I am, and not letting others make me into their own vision of me. It means being a little different and quirky. It means having great friends, and making the time to laugh, sing and dance regardless of how busy life gets, but also knowing how to have fun with just me. It means living and saying my truth, even when people lash out at me for it.

To me, success means being a person my little 11 year old sister can look up to and respect, and maybe want to be just a little bit like when she gets older. 🙂 It means never treating someone in a manner I wouldn’t want to be treated. And finally, it means putting myself in an increasingly better financial situation little by little, and breaking the chain of my past. I have no dreams of being a millionaire. I just want to be in a place where I can pay down my school debt, pay all my bills with ease, and have enough for the occasional luxury or trip (I’m obsessed with the thought of visiting Africa someday). It means one day being able to provide a much different, but still very much grounded, life for my sister as she gets older, and for my children (now there’s just the pesky detail of a husband!).

It’s really all about that fight for authenticity. That battle we all face to be who you are and live the life you want, to be successful in the way that makes you happy. So please, I urge you. Do yourself a favor, and start celebrating your own definition of success. It’s just another effective path to HAPPY.

And, while we’re on the topic of success, if you need a little help in the area, here’s one of my favorite articles on things successful people do differently. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and you can read it here. Now I’ve told you what success means to me. What does it mean to you?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie