2018 has been the absolute worst year of my life! FULL STOP.
I say this with equal parts hyperbole and full honesty; and, as a millennial, I expect quite a few eyerolls from people. However, the fact is that this year has been the worst year that I can ever recall. There have been some highlights that I will get to later, but there have also been some very pronounced lowlights.
2018 began with so much promise as I completed a very successful 3 years at my government job ready to take on a new and more promising Assistant Director role at a private university doing the government and community relations work that I love. I started the new Assistant Director job with much fanfare and excitement. Most importantly, I came in with high expectations, not just externally from coworkers, supervisors, friends, family, and mentors; but, from myself as well. I set a very high, maybe unrealistic bar for myself, mainly by comparing myself to other successful folks and using that as internal competition. That’s typically how I have always worked — academically, professionally, socially. At times, that competitiveness and quest for perfection has been detrimental to my mental health (mainly anxiety & depression). This new role was exciting as within my first 2 weeks I took work trips to Washington, DC to plan our legislative priorities and secure federal funding as well as work on other projects that I did well in. Unfortunately, at the same time, there were issues of micromanagement, too many supervisors with conflicting tasks and styles, lack of departmental clarity and process, the perception of more than 1 black person in an office is beyond the quota, etc. After a few tense situations, I was asked to resign or be fired less than 90 days in, so I resigned (nobody will fire me). Mind you there were some excellent things that happened in that time, I joined a minority-focused education policy group, served on the young professional council for a water policy group, and went to some fun shows and concerts. But, the specter of unemployment is long and demoralizing.
When I left that job, I expected to be back within 6 months maximum (September or October). I had money spent wisely and saved amply to survive that amount of time stress-free. Immediately after I left I was in Chicago for a conference for the education policy group (all-expense paid); and, I was blessed with some very supportive friends who helped me with some side hustle opportunities. One such opportunity was to do community radio weekly and contribute as a “political correspondent,” which has ultimately led me back to my passion of writing. I also remained busy in other ways including a 4-day trip to Charlotte with my homeboys from highs school which helped clear my head as well. However, during this entire time I am trying to find work and managing my money that I had reasonably well.
Come July, my family and I finally moved to the suburbs from the house that I was born and raised in, and it was exciting for everybody to start fresh in a new place that allows my parents to enjoy their retirement. But, moving was expensive and I covered the majority of the costs for it. Shortly after, my Dad began to be really sick over a course of 4+ months, which is something we are still dealing with now as he recovers slowly. That does not cost a lot per se, but it does cost a lot of time, energy, and patience. Then, I began filing for unemployment insurance to ensure that I get some income as my savings are running its course. The unemployment insurance has been clutch and a help for me and my family. Around this time, I became insular and isolated. My depression really started getting the best of me as disappointment in not finding a job, doubting my self-worth by tying to my profession, feeling the weight of external and internal expectations, and more drove me to retreat from being social, or even functional sometimes. I began having suicidal thoughts again and lost my health insurance in autumn. My sister lost her job and my Dad got worse physically.
For a respite, I was able to interview for a job in Oakland, go back to DC for a lobbying trip, and help host a successful house party by October. But, I remained in the house and isolated and afraid to tell people how I felt and too ashamed to answer questions about work. Then, everything compounded in an argument with my Dad and it got tense to the point that I admitted to him that the depression and despair of unemployment made me contemplate suicide and how I did not know what my life meant anymore. That was rock bottom — I do not ever recall that day and the following week being as low as I have ever felt in my life since my grandmother died.
But, that is not the end of this story, the last 3+ weeks have been better but rough. I focused on my writing and have seemingly found my passion again, as I want to write and have my words create an impact on my community and other. I have had interviews for several jobs and I am confident things in 2019 will turnaround professionally. I began going back out — to a friend’s birthday dinner and to a fraternity party and spirits are slowly picking up. I have talked to my friends more about my mental health and trusting that they won’t judge or shun me, and I have felt better and been surprised by their support. I began journaling this year which has been a relief as well as a time capsule of where I’ve been, where I am, and where I should be going.
2018 has been the absolute worst year of my life; but, it has been a year of intense and hard-earned self-discovery. I do not know exactly what I want to do, where I want to be, or even what my full purpose is right now. However, I do know that I was put here at this time for a reason and I know the overall person I want to become. It was a hard lesson, but it was worth it, plus I have survived Trump. I am confident in 2019 being a better year because I am truly working on trying to make each day a little bit better in some way than the day before (and it can’t get much worse than 2018). Even being stagnant is fine and finding comfort in that is hard — just don’t move backwards. Furthermore, if you recall I began with saying 2018 has been the worst year of my life with an exclamation point, but started this paragraph with a semicolon at the same point. I began this year thinking that getting a new job and its purpose in my life was an exclamation point — an emphatic end. In the end, however, I have learned that a job and its purpose in my life is just the opening clause in a larger sentence that life has planned for me. I hope that in 2019, you find your life’s semicolon as well.