Failing & Finding Myself
If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have noticed that I just recently announced that I passed my licensing exam to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Florida. As I was posting the news, I was shaking and crying tears of relief and joy because this win did not come easy for me. So, I wanted to be honest with you guys and share a part of my journey and how failing became a moment of refining for me.
T A K I N G T H E T E S T
I started studying for the licensing exam in May of 2019, with hopes of taking it and passing it in early September. September came and I took the exam the 1st week and I remember feeling unsure of how I did and thinking that was one of the hardest things I have ever done. A couple of weeks went by (they make you wait 4 weeks after you take it) and I find out that I FAILED the exam, which happened to be the week of my 30th birthday. When I opened up the email and saw the following phrase; ‘we regret to inform you,’ my heart immediately started breaking. I broke down in tears and called my husband immediately. I kept saying I failed, I failed, I can’t believe I failed. Not only did I fail, but in my mind, I became a failure at that moment. I was now identifying myself as a failure because I failed my exam and that took me back (mentally/emotionally) to middle and high school when I would often tell myself I would never succeed at anything because I am a big failure. I also felt frustrated at that moment because I knew I had worked so hard on moving from that dark place of walking under the title of failure and then in one moment, I went right back there.
However, the competitor in me wasted no time looking at when was the earliest I can retake this exam. So I ended up signing up for the exam within 48 hrs of finding out I failed because I had to prove to everyone that I was capable of passing. Then within 48 hrs of signing up, I started studying for the exam again and was scheduled to take it in December 2019. So I started obsessively studying the material to pass this exam. Then December 2019 came, and I remember feeling confident that I was going to pass it and was about to close this chapter. Well, I am sure you know where this is going, I FAILED AGAIN. I thought finding out the first time I failed was rough, but it had nothing on that second time I found out that I ended up failing. It was that second time that I really started questioning my purpose and career path. I kept thinking to myself if I can’t pass this exam I can’t do this career. I knew that I was a good counselor, but I was starting to be consumed by the title of being a failure due to this exam. The second time I found out I failed was at the beginning of 2020, and it was the beginning of me walking through one of my darkest seasons.
D R O W N I N G I N D I S A P P O I N T M E N T
After the second time failing the test, I found myself going down a really dark and scary spiral into depression. This was the hardest and furthest I had fallen into that pit of depression since high school. Instead of going back into study mode, I just curled up in bed and cried for days. I didn’t know how to deal with this overwhelming dread of disappointment that was rising up within me. I felt heavy, I felt like a failure, I felt worthless, and I felt lost.
There were even some days I didn’t feel like waking up the next day, because I didn’t know what the point would have been.
Not only did I feel like a failure, but I also felt like my faith was failing as well. I would lead worship on Sundays from a raw and frustrating place, and then go back home and sit in my disappointment. I prayed for strength but at the same time, I felt like God had abandoned me. I kept thinking, why would God let me fail? I had put in the hours of studying the hours of praying, and so much more. I would think to myself, I deserve that passing grade, and this win, I deserve to be licensed, I deserve this. It ended up being a couple of rough months and there wasn’t anyone who truly knew the depths of despair that I was feeling. I had decided to drown in my disappointment alone because I didn’t want to take anyone down with me. So as I would share about failing the test again, I shared from a false place of hope and confidence that it was all part of God’s plan.
To be honest, I couldn’t get myself to study or think about retaking the test until March of 2020 (3 months later). March of 2020 ended up being more than just a vacation of a lifetime but it became the restoration that saved me.
R E S T O R A T I O N
I had to take things day by day and force myself to get out of bed and keep going. Then in March 2020, I had the chance of a lifetime to go to Hawaii (planned before the 2nd test) and it ended up being the beginning of my restoration journey. When I was flying with my closest girlfriends to Hawaii, I remember the Lord whispering to me, ‘be open to the restoration I have for you this week.’ To be honest I was going on this trip to let loose and relax and enjoy Hawaii with my girls so I wouldn’t have to think about failing this exam. What I didn’t expect was the trip to bring healing to a wounded heart, and for my faith to be restored.
As one would imagine, Hawaii is the most beautiful and magical place out there. I had heard the stories and rumors of how amazing it is, but I honestly wasn’t prepared for the reality. The beaches are pristine, the food is clean, the community is welcoming, the vibe is magic, and I literally could go on. The point is, Hawaii is one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been to, and I was thrilled to be there with my dearest friends. Every day we explored new places and ate new things, and just had the time of our lives. However, there was a moment for me specifically on the trip that happened on the 2nd full day we were there. We decided to explore the famous botanical gardens in Honolulu and do some site seeing. There are different hikes you could take at these gardens and there was one where it felt like you were overlooking all of Honolulu. When we arrived at that spot I ended up looking over the beautiful scenery and tears started coming down my face. I started thinking, ‘wow God your creation literally takes my breath away,’ and at that moment I felt God whisper back,
‘as the God who created this view, I am the same God who created you and cares deeply for you.’
At that moment, it dawned on me that God knows my feelings of disappointment in this season and has indeed heard my tears late at night. The God who created something so beautiful and breathtaking is the same God who is creating something beautiful in me.
Often times the most beautiful creations we see had to go through a pruning process, and I realized I was in a pruning process.
Once, I started understanding the pruning and the need for this season that is when I started opening up myself to learn things that would help me grow in the midst of the valley.
So you see, Hawaii wasn’t just another trip for me (although an amazing one it was) but it was a place of restoration. It was the first time I hadn’t cried out of frustration and disappointment but I had cried out of relief and feeling the presence of God. For so long I had felt like I couldn’t feel God and that I had lost touch, but in Hawaii, I realized that even if I had lost touch with God he never lost touch with me. Once I got back I felt rested, restored, and ready to take on this exam. I ended up signing up for it, took it, and PASSED IT.
T H I N G S I L E A R N E D
Now, I want to make sure that I take some time to share some key things I ended up learning in all of this
Failing Doesn’t Define You but Refine’s You
This was one of the first things I learned in this season. I had beaten myself up to a point of oblivion over the fact that if I failed the exam AGAIN, then I really am a failure. However, the truth is, failures don’t define you but it sure can refine you.
Disappointment is Inevitable
This sounds like such an obvious statement, but it is such a crucial lesson that I learned. I hate being disappointed because I take it as a personal rejection but the truth is that disappointment is going to happen in life, but I don’t need to take it personally. Disappointment is a normal reaction to feeling let down and it is one that should be processed instead of bypassed. Although uncomfortable, once we recognize the inevitable we tend to take back control of the narrative.
Pauses in Our Process Doesn’t Mean Set-Back
This is something that I have told plenty of my clients but something I hadn’t grasped until this trial. At the beginning of the spiral of depression and despair, I believed that I had just gone back to square one and had to restart. When I got that in my mind, it took me down even lower (which then took longer to get out of) and it was something I was beating myself up over.
The truth is, my mental and emotional reaction was a normal human response to disappointment and may have been a pause in my process, but it didn’t set me back.
We Learn Who We are In The Trials
I learned so much about myself in this season and trial, and there were some things I didn’t like learning. I didn’t like learning that depression is something real that I deal with and comes out from time to time, and I didn’t like learning that I see myself as a failure. However, I also learned that I don’t quit no matter what my emotions and mind may tell me. No matter how dark I get or low I go, I know how to turn to Jesus & seek his face. I realized that some of the greatest revelations of who we are and what we are made of come out of some of life’s hardest trials.
Rest is Part of the Process
As someone who is terrified of slowing down and ‘resting’ this was another hard thing to learn about the process. When I found out that I hadn’t passed the first time, I quickly processed and then went back and signed up and started studying right away again. I thought to myself ‘I can’t waste any time’ and so I was sure to take a moment and then get back on the horse (or however that annoying saying goes). The truth is in most things I don’t break or rest because I fear that if I do somehow everything will come crashing down. What I learned though, after the 2nd time failing, is that rest has got to be part of the process. If I don’t take time to rest, and just be still after disappointment one day I will be the one that ends up combusting.
Victory is Much Sweeter After Defeat
When I opened up and I saw the words CONGRATULATIONS, I immediately started crying. I had never felt such relief and joy like I had when I saw that the phrase, ‘we are regret to inform you,’ was not there. I had gone through defeat a couple of times in a trial that I thought I wouldn’t win, so to finally get the victory was a life-changing moment for me.
I am learning that sometimes we get defeated so we know how to steward and appreciate the victory
C O N C L U S I O N
You see this season has been filled with a lot more lows (emotionally and mentally) than highs, and I honestly didn’t know how to handle it. I fell into dark places that I hadn’t experienced before and I walked through a valley that handed me some rough moments. On the other hand, I got to experience God in a new way and my faith was restored in places I didn’t even know where broken. I learned the gift and power of vulnerability and the importance of a healthy community in your life. The truth is, as crazy of a season I walked through (and just coming out of) it was a season that I received the most healing and restoration.
In life, we are bound to face seasons of disappointments and trials, but it is what we do with those seasons that determine the narrative and outcome.
So I am hoping this story helps someone out there reading it who may be walking through a trying season or they are in a place of overwhelming disappointment. Although I don’t know what you are walking through and what you are exactly feeling, I do know that you will make it and you can grow from it.
Until Next Time