Keep Moving Forward!
There’s a scene in the 2006 remake, Rocky Balboa, where Rocky’s son, Robert, addresses his selfish concern about the negative consequences and perpetual shame that would result from his father’s glorified sparring session with fictional title holder, Mason Dixon. Say what you want about the movie, but this scene continues to permeate my thoughts seven years later.
(1:38) Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!
It’s no secret that my personal fight has been a tough one. This blog shares the adversity, vulnerability, disappointment and the in-between. I’ve taken a lot of hits, particularly towards the second half of my twenties. Many of those hits dropped me to the canvas, and every one required a response; I could either give up or get up and keep moving forward.
I wish I could say that every moment of adversity was met with a hasty response to adapt and overcome.
It’s counterintuitive to wish for comfortability. I mean, sure, we can all hope for good health, financial comfort and ideal relationships, but when the world is defined by calamity and heartache, idealism becomes a delusional oasis in the middle of a barren desert. Had I understood this much earlier, I wouldn’t have struggled as much immediately after my cancer diagnosis in 2006.
A year ago, I wrote this blog post about continuing to chase my dream – It’s a worthwhile read to understand the context. I was crushed that I didn’t receive any consideration for the Communications position my employer of five years, Oncor, was looking to fill. I felt qualified at the time and knew I could be a major contributor to a field I desperately wanted to be a part of. I was discouraged but kept moving forward and continued to seek new opportunities, learn from my experiences and constantly improve.
I found emerging media/communications as a field I enjoyed and worked hard at it every night and every weekend. It became so ingrained in my mind that having free time made me feel guilty if I wasn’t reading, learning or writing. To the amazement of my eighteen year-old self, I made A’s in all my classes (It’s amazing what happens when you’re engaged in your school work, kids) and took advantage of the opportunity to write for my employer’s new blog. I also continued to make connections and improve my relationships with those I already knew.
I didn’t want to go through the rejection in vain. I wanted to benefit from it, allow it to motivate me and use disappointment to my advantage. Through my cancer experience, I learned the art of repurposing negative emotions. Instead of avoiding them and enabling the poison, I found it beneficial to embrace them as part of this incredible life experience and allow them to shape me into a more well-rounded person. I found that when I focused on that, my positive emotions increased ten-fold.
A year later, opportunity once again presented itself.
A friend of mine who was on the Oncor Communications team texted to inform me that she was leaving for another job and encouraged me to apply for her position when it came open. The thought was exciting, but the negative feelings of previous rejection competed for my undivided attention. And it wasn’t even a fair competition (is it ever?). The fear was LOUD, the excitement merely whispered. I wasn’t sure I wanted to experience the process all over again.
I knew I had made strides and that I had drastically improved my knowledge and abilities over the previous year, but like Robert Balboa Jr., I was concerned about events and perceptions unrelated to my dream and truer self. Instead of believing in the process and embracing my adversity-developed character, I grew afraid of the objectivity that the hiring process can sometimes represent. An interview was my measuring stick, and the only thing I knew for sure was that a static formula had previously deemed me not good enough (as irrational and subjective as that may look from an outside perspective) . Counterbalanced with the weight of cancer, it’s easier to understand the complexities of young adult survivors’ post-traumatic stress.
I thought about the open position long and hard, knowing that I’d be an idiot to allow pessimism to command ownership of my decisions. I applied, deciding to continue to throw stones at that glass ceiling.
In the spirit of transparency, the talk of field service (my occupation) layoffs didn’t hurt my decision. I was either going to swing as hard as I could or find a permanent seat on the bench and hope for other opportunities (fall back to the idealism alluded to earlier).
Three interviews and a 45 days later, I received the call.
“We have good news! We’d like to offer you a position in Communications!”
As mixed emotions broke the dam of self-preservation, it was difficult to process the enormity of that one line. It represented so much to me. It was full of life, opportunity and a new beginning. No longer do I have to painfully extract significance out of personally meaningless jobs. I don’t have to fall behind a semi-truck of pre-qualifications on a one lane highway. I’m free to continue to move ahead at a speed of my own choosing. I couldn’t be any more excited.
When I called to tell Katie the good news, she expressed herself with tears of joy. I had been through so much, worked so hard for a chance to walk in and prove something not only to someone else but to myself. How fitting that she, my inspiration, would deeply feel the significance of a job I likely would have taken for granted only seven years ago.
When we got off the phone, I began to reflect on what she said and how happy she was for me. Her mirrored reflection of my struggle granted me the permission to accept how big of a deal it was to me. It was at that point when it became impossible to hold back my own tears of joy and relief.
If you ever need to feel encouraged, find yourself in a hopeless situation or think your dreams are unattainable, go back and read this blog. This is why I’ve written it. It’s not only a story about me, but it’s a story about being knocked down, experiencing dead-ends and discovering what it means to overcome. It’s about getting hit in the mouth and still finding a way to get back on your feet. No matter what happens, you’ve got to keep moving forward.
“It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. But you’ve got to be willing to take the hits.”