12 Things You’ll Realize When You Hit Rock Bottom and Survive

2016 was a big year for me.

It was the year my son was born. But it was also the year when R2R almost closed.

So that was the year when I was trying my best to be happy so that my then unborn baby will be healthy, but at the same time, I would cry almost every day because of all the painful things we had to do to survive. But those, and the reasons why we even got there in the first place are in a much longer story for another day. Actually, that is a story for a (very thick) book in the future, probably.

When I was going through what I thought was the hardest year of my life, there were times when I wished that I could just collapse and get confined just so I can sleep under meds. I took everything personally. I used every wrong decision as ammunition to shoot myself in the heart. I saw every right decision as a fluke. I said no to a lot of invitations to share or talk about what we do because I did not believe that what I had to say was of value. It was a terrible place to be in.

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We thought that our R2R Christmas party last 2016 was going to be our last one. This was me (barely 2 months after giving birth) with our team, talking to our artisans about the very real possibility of closing our enterprise. The artisans and our team knew that this was coming since the first quarter of the year and we never stopped updating them and being transparent with them even when it was hard to.

No one outside my immediate family knew that I was going through these internal struggles. From the outside, I probably looked like the strongest, most resilient person who can take on anything. Sure, I was vulnerable too. I was very honest and transparent with our team and artisans about what we were going through and the very big possibility of closing the company we all loved. I showed emotion, and even if it seemed big and all-out, it was only a scrap of the whole mass of emotions I was going through. I don’t think I showed that I was so broken.

It has been about 3 years since and I have had lots of time to reflect on the things I have learned during the time when learning was the hardest, but the only thing left to do.

If you are reading this because you have experienced the same or are going through your own challenges, I hope this helps.  

  1. You are more resilient than you think you are
  2. There is a kind of liberation about accepting the possibility of the worst-case scenario and knowing that you can take it and it would not define you
  3. When you have (almost) nothing to lose, you have everything you need to hustle
  4. People love success stories. People also love being part of success stories in some way. But in between the beginning and success is a long, difficult road that only a few people would truly go through. Appreciate those who go through this with you.
  5. There is nowhere to go but up. Really.
  6. You learn more from failure than from success
  7. When you are failing, some people will help you and some people will step aside to let you fail (believing that you need it). Both groups are valuable, you’ll just like the first group more. Ask for help anyway.
  8. Almost all of your failures will have a pattern. That’s how lessons work I guess; they stick around until you actually learn them.
  9. Even if you are fighting for your life, take a few minutes a day to be grateful and plan for the future. Your future self will thank you.
  10. The possibility of a BIG and public failure is hard and really (really) painful to imagine. But failure, even the most public ones, become old news quite fast. There is always a chance to reinvent yourself and become better
  11. Failure stories make success stories more interesting. Wait, scratch that. Failure stories MAKE success stories.
  12. When you are going through the most difficult times, it is important to stay strong. But it is more important to stay kind. It is easy to be kind when life is kind but being kind is necessary especially when life is not.

During our darkest days, I would go into the rabbit hole of online self-help articles on failure, bouncing back, reinventing after failure, and staying strong. I was not reading about how to not fail, we were WAY past that. I was reading about how to rise above failure. I read and re-read those articles, finding comfort in the fact that a lot of people have gone through the same or worse. Some of the articles did not end well, but some did. All of them reminded me that life is so much more than work, career, or any aspect of life that may seem all-consuming and self-defining.

Now that we are out of the darkest days and I have processed most of the lessons from that time, I’m going to add to all those articles, and hope someone reading this could find comfort in our story not just because it did not end badly, but because it could have and it still made us better.

As someone who failed and almost lost an advocacy and work I loved and built for almost a decade, I think I offer a unique perspective on survival, self-worth, vulnerability, and success.

On Survival

I have gone through all stages of grief already and we only made it here because of two reasons. The first reason is because of a few very unlikely chances to survive were happening all at the same time and a few people who decided to make them happen even when all the odds were against us. So yes, luck played a part. But the second reason was that we (my husband, team, and artisans) kept our hopes up and hustled for the life of the company we love, so when the chances to survive came, we were ready to take them on. While luck played a part, if we were not ready for it, we would have still missed it.

We (our team, artisans, advocates) had the perspective of giving our 100% regardless of the outcome. We gave 100% because if we made it, we will know that we gave 100%. But if we did not make it, we will still know we gave it our best shot. We either win or gain the strength of character.

On Self-worth

I realized that the end of R2R would not have been the end of my life or journey. It would not have been the end of anyone’s life or journey. Because R2R is only a part of our lives, no matter how beautiful, all-consuming, and at times, self-defining it was.

On Vulnerability

This is probably the hardest, scariest, and most vulnerable blog post I had to write (and I have written a lot of scary and vulnerable posts already). Three years after the darkness, it is still hard to talk about the darkness. But everything in life has something to offer, even darkness. And pain, darkness, hopelessness all exist. There is no point in denying them. And maybe in shedding light on them, some of them could be realized as lessons, turning points, and moments of clarity.

On Success

Today, R2R is going through some exciting developments. We have survived. But beyond just surviving, we are thriving and continuing the advocacies we started. And I am most proud that we got here without losing ourselves or our values.

There is something to be said about surviving difficulties. We praise the survivors for surviving. But I think that there is something even more important. We must also recognize those who go through the hardest things in life with kindness, sincerity, and unwavering hopefulness. Because you get the most out of challenges not just when you go through them but when you grow better because of them. IMG_4904

I pinned this on my secret Pinterest board last December 25, 2016. This secret Pinterest board knows all the things I went through in the form of quotes and words.

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