Today has to be one of my favorite days in a while. I was sitting in my 463 class this morning when an e-mail came through on my Blackberry, it was my official invitation to join UNLV's National Student Advertising Competition Team along with the call number for invitation-only class that goes with it.
Sitting in my chair in class, even though I had been told verbally that I had made the team a couple of weeks ago, it really didn't sink in that I had made the team until I looked down at the e-mail.
I couldn't help it, I just broke down into tears thinking, "I did it, I can't believe I really made it."
Three years ago, sitting Doc L.'s Journalism 100 class, he had mentioned the invite only class that goes to compete. I remember sitting in the lecture hall glued to my seat and drooling, wanting with all of my heart to get that invitation.
Today, I got it.
As we come to the end of the year, I always try to reflect on the year and its ups and downs. But, this year, I really do have to look over the last three years with absolute astonishment. For those of you who have been with me from the beginning of this journey, you'll remember what it was like. I was scared, angry, confused and had absolutely no idea how I was going to dig myself out of the mess I was in. Abandoned, alone, unemployed, and for the first time in my life independent, it was a whole new ballgame that I had no idea how to handle.
I remember the day of the phone conversation that changed the landscape for me. Actually there were three. The first was the call from UNLV to let me know that I had gotten back into school, albeit as a part-time student, that I hadn't been fully admitted yet. The next year came the second one, that I had been admitted as a full-time student. The third was actually the funniest, it was a conversation with my Ex that asked him about my major. Initially I had gone back to school to become a teacher, you remember, right? I had aspirations to be a high school English teacher. Well, I remember driving home one day on the I-15 on a call with my Ex. All of my life I had wanted to go into advertising and my Ex told me, "You should really go into teaching, it's a lot easier and you don't have to self-promote. Advertising is a tough field, you'll constantly have to fight for what you have." So I asked him, "What do you think I should do, go into Ad/PR or be a teacher?" He said, "Be a teacher, you'll get a lot more rewards out of it." After he said that, I remember thinking to myself, "He has got to be the world's worst person to tell me to do anything, every single decision he's ever made has ended in disaster." So, I did what any smart girl would do, took my Ex's advice and flushed it down the toilet and set my sights on Advertising.
Three years later, I'm on the NSAC team and I got there all on my own. No help, no enabler, just people around me that are cheering me on.
A couple of weeks ago, I realized how truly far I've come in 40 years. I started out as a bullied kid. I don't remember a day of childhood that doesn't have some sort of anxiety attached to it. The kids I grew up with, for the most part, were a pack of malicious thugs that suffered from a severe amount of jealousy. What do jealous kids do? They hammer on the kids they are jealous of or feel threatened by. So, unfortunately my childhood wasn't filled with protectors like we find for young people today. I had to gut it out, day by day, scar by scar. I remember laying in my bed wishing I would die because I couldn't go on another day. Depression of course followed.
My 20's saw me flailing my arms trying to break out of all of the nightmares I had endured. I was willing to do anything to make the pain, anxiety and depression stop. So, into the body go the drugs, out of the window goes the common sense. I saw my share of atrocities go on during that time and they are too many to recall and they are stories I don't want to tell, because in most cases, I think y'all would lose your lunch. Being held up by my throat against a wall wasn't fun, but that was the least of the damages I endured during that time.
So with my Gen-X list of maladies in tow, I went into my 30's and lucky for me, someone decided to step up and try to save the day, that was my Ex who saw me through detox and got me put on a path to realize my potential. I know that I don't have a lot of positive things to say about my ex, but I have to be grateful to the man, he saw what I believed no one else did, that there was someone of value underneath all that pain.
But like all great comeback stories, you have to endure the bad to get to the good. Abuse, drug addiction, abandonment, and every other horror are there for a simple reason, it makes you into who you are and in some cases like mine, it gives you the will and fortitude to keep fighting. They are the things that trigger our survival instincts and dictate whether or not we are going to sink or if we're going to swim. Whether we embrace it or not, all of the hurdles we climb through life are there for a specific reason and purpose to teach us what we need to know to not only survive, but thrive.
Almost three years ago, I was laying on my living room floor crying in utter despair, wondering what was going to happen to me. From my viewpoint at the time, I had nothing. No close friends nearby, no support structure I trusted, not a single clue as to what I was going to do. I was alone.
The moments where we bottom out and are left with nothing and no hope are the moments that define us. They make us get up off the floor, they make us grab up our destiny in our own two hands and make us take that next step forward, whether we like it or not. It's the moment you make the choice between laying there and wallowing in despair or getting up and making our lives our own.
I have been extremely fortunate in the last three years to have come across Doc Cat at school. As my resident therapist, she took me through my Personal Growth class and taught me how to thaw all of the ice and obstacles that were holding me back. She taught me how to let go of all the horrible things that have happened to me. She taught me how to take off all of my armor and embrace the world honestly, unguarded and unafraid. After years of looking for external solutions to my internal problems, I finally got the peace I had long sought when I was tossing and turning one night and a little voice inside me rose up and said, "Sheri, give yourself peace, you're the only one who can."
Yes, there are still things that trigger my PTSD, hey after everything I've been through it's no small wonder I have it, but I am armed, thanks to Doc Cat, on how to handle it all. Some days aren't easy, but you know what, even my worst days are a hell of a lot better than my best days used to be. She taught me how to identify and put down my destructive behaviors, which for most people is rare and it takes a class like my Personal Growth experience to actually let the process take hold to allow yourself to actually grow as a human being.
Thanks to Doc Cat, I no longer apologize for living. For years I was ashamed of my existence on the planet. Now, if someone doesn't like me or what I say, well, I tell them "There's the door, don't let it hit you in the backside on the way out." I finally like myself, I'm cool with what I see in the mirror every day and I finally have gotten where I want to go.
Doc Cat asked us at the beginning of the Personal Growth class where we wanted to go and what we wanted to achieve. I wanted to have a great job, pay my own bills, keep the roof over my head and do anything my heart desired, effectively being completely independent.
I'm now where I want to be. And I have my NSAC Team invitation in my pocket to boot. I've gotten everything I've ever wanted and I did it on my own without help.
I've come one hell of a long way. Anyone who says I haven't can politely kiss my ass. I am armed with the wisdom to know that life is a journey, not a destination and no one is ever finished growing as a human being. I have learned that my issues reside with me, and I am aware enough not to saddle others with my emotional baggage by projecting my issues onto them. I have ownership of my life and all of the things that happen in it, what happens is my responsibility, no one else's. Most of all the biggest gun in my arsenal is hope and the drive to stay positive no matter what comes my way.
The sad part of it all is that my greatest moments have always come when I'm alone. But, instead of despairing over the fact that no one was around to share my joy today, it wasn't as bad this time because while it was disappointing, I had to remind myself that it is important to remember that what I did, I did on my own. I can sit back extremely happy without seeking approval because every step I've climbed, it was my guts and fortitude that carried my foot to that next step.
The remarkable moment was the young woman at school a few weeks ago that laughed after I looked at her and jokingly said, "Can I be like you when I grow up?" She laughed then replied seriously, "But Sheri, we really want to be like you."
I will tell you that climbing up out of the muck is not easy, but it is possible. To come back strong, you have to want it bad and feel it deep down in your heart and be willing to scratch, claw and climb the whole way, because it's going to put up a fight for every inch. Just when you think you're on top of things, you're going to get thrown another curve ball and it is going to take every ounce of heart you've got to stay positive and win the day. Anyone can get on the comeback trail. Being the underdog isn't easy, but when that moment comes and you realize you climbed through all of that hurt on your own and realize that you're finally in a position to enjoy the rest of the journey, it's a really great place to be.
UNLV is hosting this year's NSAC District 15 regional competition in April, you're all invited to come watch my team dominate the competition and reach for the goal of Nationals at the AAF's AdAmerica Conference in Austin, Texas this June.
If you'll excuse me, I've got to hit the sack, tomorrow is a big day, I'm interviewing Doc S. on a feature story about the NSAC for my 202 class and on top of that I've got a million fires to put out at work. Things have to get built and gratefully, I'm just the gal for the job.
Today's song of the day is for me and everyone out there that refuse to go down without a fight. "When you go hard, your nay's become yea's." For all my fighters, Nicki Minaj's "Fly."