Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Job loss. Death. Addiction. Illness. Destruction. Diagnoses. Stress, anxiety, hopelessness. Sound familiar? Truly, no one has been left unscathed by the wrath of 2020.
And it's exactly what we all needed. Like a swift kick in the rear, negative events are oftentimes the only way to beget positive change.
Had someone told me that back in February 2020, however, I probably would have rolled my eyes into an infinite loop. In true 2020 fashion, I landed myself in the hospital for nearly a week with a malignant pleural effusion. It was during that hospital stay that we discovered the big C was back with a vengeance after nearly a year of remission. It had spread to the breast, lungs, and more bones than could be counted on both hands. The prognosis was poor. I decided to take a temporary leave from work in order to sort through next steps and emotionally grapple with this unbelievable new reality.
Fast forward a couple months. Following a new treatment plan, I was feeling better than ever and excited to start earning a paycheck again. I then received the call: you're being laid off. As someone who had been with this company on-and-off for well over a decade, admittedly (and perhaps ignorantly), I had always assumed myself immune to this type of outcome. Turns out, the universe had other plans.
I've always struggled to find my true purpose in life. To pursue something meaningful. I'm sure many of you reading this can relate to that feeling; it's nagging, persistent, and deeply rooted. A gaping hole in the soul that widens with each passing day, month, and birthday year.
This unexpected unemployment afforded me time to explore a new venture. That venture became Bella Bags. Ironically (or purposefully?), the idea for Bella Bags would've never been if not for the hospitalization back in February. Anyone who has been hospitalized for more than a few days, especially within the context of a life-threatening condition, understands that it doesn't take long before one starts to feel the "D Trifecta": Depression, Dirty, Degenerate. I needed to endure this situation firsthand, though, in order to empathize with others in this same position. The concept of donating self-care goody bags to women facing such hardship wouldn't have been possible without the personal experience.
Had I not been laid off from my job, who knows how much longer I would've continued down a path of comfortable complacency.
Had I not been faced with hospitalization for a life-threatening diagnosis, I would have never given much thought to the unique needs of women in such difficult situations.
Are you starting to see how these negative events were absolutely necessary to beget positive change?
Let's pause for an exercise. No, no...you can stop with the push-ups (although your upper body strength is impressive!). Grab a piece of paper and create two columns: label the left column "Major Negative Event" and the right column "Positive Outcome."
Think back on every majorly negative event in your life and list it out in the left column. Then, think about the outcome(s) of those events. Of course, it's natural for negative events to produce negative outcomes in the immediate-term (i.e. "My friend passed away, which resulted in my own deep depression."). In this exercise, though, keep venturing down the path of outcomes until you hit on something good. Oftentimes, you'll find the positive outcome was entirely unexpected, and usually presents itself as a teachable moment or push in a new direction. List the eventual corresponding positive outcome in the righthand column.
Are you starting to see the unique purpose behind every "Why me" moment?
If the negative event happened recently, don't feel discouraged if you can't yet pinpoint the positive outcome. Do feel encouraged, though, that your positive outcome is coming. Because life without contrast wouldn't be the human experience. And contrast isn't possible without the good and the bad. So, dare I say we start treating 2020 with a bit more respect? Individually and collectively we'll be better for it.