A few days ago, I was going on my semi-annual purge and getting rid of some stuff. I was sifting through the piles of paperwork on my desk. Check stubs, tax forms, I9s, and there it was…a check.
A check that I wrote to myself three years ago, when I was struggling to get by financially and emotionally.
The check, from me and made out to me, was for $50,000 and represented the salary I wanted to make. During that time, I was making $12 per hour in a seasonal job and had recently hit my lowest point — succumbing to food stamps to help me get by.
At the time I felt stuck. Stuck in someone else’s life. This wasn’t me. I was never “supposed” to be on food stamps with a master’s degree from NYU. I wasn’t supposed to be in a low-paying temp job.
But there I was, stuck in this situation. I was really depressed because I felt I wasn’t myself. I felt I lost my potential and that I had wasted my (very expensive) education. My mind would run in circles and every day, on schedule, I’d break out in tears for a new reason.
It wasn’t a pretty time. I found low-cost therapy so that I could chat with someone about my feelings. It helped a little, but I still felt stuck.
I remember calling my mom one day — one of the many teary phone calls over a period of two years — and she encouraged me to think of the future and stay hopeful. She said, “Write yourself a check of what salary you want to be making.”
Reluctantly, I did. I made it out for $50,000 and kept it in my desk for safe keeping. Over the next couple of years, I’d look at it and think about just how far I was from that goal. Even when I had my full-time job, I was only making around $30,000.
When I wrote that check $50,000 felt like a million bucks to me. It felt so far out of reach. I thought it was a reasonable salary and one that I should strive for.
Just last week when I was cleaning my desk, I saw that check and I started to cry. Holy shit. It took me a little more than three years, but I did it. I am making $50,000 (if not more). I cried because I never thought this day would come.
My mom, one of my great supporters, always told me to not lose hope and keep up with the positive thinking. If you’ve ever been in a rut, or in a deep depression, you know just how hard this is. It feels like you are swimming upstream and drowning. Sinking. But you keep working harder, but it’s freaking exhausting.
I’ll be honest. For a long time I thought this positive thinking stuff was bullshit. I thought that you couldn’t possibly change your life or your world from positive thinking. Things were good or bad and that’s it.
I was very narrow-minded and stubborn. Cynical. I didn’t believe in this new-agey nonsense. But even though I didn’t believe it at the time, it was my life-preserver. I needed something to believe in — a little bit of hope. So even though I thought it was lame and weird, I started to think positively. I wrote that check to myself and tried to see the best in situations and not the worst.
Now, I see that check and feel like that positive thinking manifested itself into reality. I think the problem is we often think that positive thinking will have immediate results — but as I’m seeing, it can take years. It’s about resetting your mental energy and attracting good things in your life.
So if you’re struggling right now and feeling like nothing good is happening — like it’s all worthless and pointless, don’t lose hope. Know that you are worth more. Good times are ahead. Your effort to change will create something positive, eventually (even if it’s years away). And remember, being in a bad situation doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Keep on swimming.