Peace of Mind: You Gotta Have Faith

I’m still learning about how to practice the whole “faith” thing, not from a religious aspect but from a spiritual aspect. More accurately, I’m still learning how to allow myself to rely on faith to help ease my feelings of anxiety. There’s a strange juxtaposition between having my beliefs in a higher power while also having great difficulty harnessing my anxiety when it comes to the unknown.

As much as I’ve resisted it in the past, there’s a part of me that very much wants to be the person who’s able to let go of the need to control certain things. I would love to be a person who “puts my intentions out into the universe,” says, “If it’s meant to be, it will be,” and having faith that things will turn out “however they’re supposed to.” The best I had ever been able to do was say, “It’s weird how things work out.”

Have I mentioned how much I hate the unknown?

It doesn’t exactly make rational sense to me why my anxiety would have the power to deter me from resting on faith. But then again, nobody ever said that OCD had anything to do with what’s rational. It’s usually quite the opposite— OCD doesn’t particularly care what’s rational or irrational. It’s more of a selfish jerk that only cares about getting what it wants, regardless of whether or not it makes any actual sense.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for logic and reason in my brain. There is, especially given the fact that I try to incorporate reason into many of my conversations. When it comes to reasoning with myself, though, I’ve found that at times there is a great difference between my thoughts and my feelings. Even when I can understand what’s reasonable and rational, I still often struggle to find relief from feeling my anxiety. Sometimes we just need those reminders from others help put things into perspective, to calm us down, and to simply have faith.

And that is why I’ve found myself going back to church to speak with a priest every so often. For me, it hasn’t been nearly as much about rediscovering religion (although I do know that in my religion there are teachings about bearing burdens, and giving our human burdens up, letting go, and asking God for help bearing them). For me, my journey has been much more about discovering my sense of faith, not only in a higher power, but in myself, so that I might find peace of mind.

When I think about the things I’ve gone through since that summer day in 2012, I think about where I was then and where I’ve come to be since. If I were to follow the sequence of events, many of the steps along the way are steps I would never have foreseen myself taking. Many of the decisions I’ve made are ones I never thought I would have to make, but I made them, and I’ve come a long way for having done so. Things that brought me heart-wrenching disappointment and sadness led me to better things.

Here’s what I mean:

At the beginning of 2012 I was in a new relationship, had my own place, and for the first time ever, I was thoroughly enjoying my job. By July of 2012, between a dramatic and extremely emotional breakup and feeling pressure to find stability in my career, everything felt like it was falling apart. This was when I found myself back at church for the first time in years.

In October of 2012, I made the decision to give myself a fresh start. I moved back home and got back into teaching, while still commuting to work at ESPN on weekends. I also considered going back to school.

Come January 2013 I told myself that before I left teaching for good, I would make one more push to see it through. I went back to school, enrolling in a Human Sexuality class at a local community college, and began to research grad school programs near home. That February, I got my first full-time job at my old middle school as an Aide in Special Education. I finished my contract with ESPN in March and left to focus on work and school.

By May of 2013, I had applied and been accepted to a Health Education Master’s program and began grad school. In August, I accepted a Special Education position to switch school districts, effectively doubling my salary and increasing my job security. I also met some wonderful people who helped me through the struggles of dating, and finally began dating again that December. I found myself in a new relationship, and within months, all signs pointed towards this relationship becoming long-term.

On December 31st, 2013, I envisioned an idea for a gym that emphasized the connection between fitness and social interaction (this was the idea that eventually turned into Whatismyhealth). Over the next four months, with the guidance of two of my professors— both of whom would become my mentors— I started my “What is Health?” research. The work I did with one of my mentors led me to a graduate assistantship with the Chair of the department in the summer of 2014. I would later go on to work on a research manuscript with both of them in 2017.

Thanks to my experience in Special Education I was offered a full-time Adapted Physical Education teaching position— the first head teaching opportunity of my career— in August of 2014. For years, I had resisted working in the city but decided that this was the step I needed to take in order to solidify whether or not I would stay in education for the rest of my career. I took the job and began working in the Bronx, NY.

That October, my relationship came to an abrupt end, and I found myself right back in an emotional mess. I realized that I was hurt because I was ready for something real and had yet to find it, even when I thought I had. I decided that rather than to chase somebody who didn’t want to be with me, I would focus my energy on finding someone who did.

I went back to the church quite a bit to try to reconcile what had gone wrong. I took a closer, introspective look at my past and realized that I had had certain tendencies that seemed to end with similar results. I realized that I had always dated somebody who lived close by, and lately, all of them had been several years younger and not quite established in their careers.

I allowed myself to grieve, but rather than dwell as I might have in the aftermath of past relationships, I made a conscious effort to move forward and meet new people. Not only did I open myself up to meeting people, but I broadened my “search criteria” (thanks to the help of a dating website) to include people who were my age or older, and who lived a little bit further away. Between late October and early November 2014, I went on several first dates.

And then in mid-November of 2014, unbeknownst to me at the time, I went on my last first date. She was 3 years older than me, had a steady job, and lived in Manhattan. She was, by all accounts, like nobody I had ever dated or had ever even considered dating before.

Thank God I met her.

Our relationship took off naturally. Everything was there for us— communication, chemistry, caring, and compassion. I moved out on my own again and months later, she moved in with me. We met each other’s families. We got a dog together. We worked through significant challenges and saw a common future together. We got engaged, we got married, and by this time next week, we’ll be first-time parents together.

I know it sounds cliche, but it’s 100% the truth: If you had told me a little over 5 years ago that this is where I would be today, I would have laughed in your face. And damn, would I have been wrong. For so many wonderful reasons.

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Had it not been for the girl who broke up with me on my birthday in 2012, I may not have moved back home, or at least not when I did.

I may not have gotten back into education, or at least not into special education. 

Had I not begun working in special education, I may not have worked in the same schools I did, especially not the school in the Bronx.

Had I not worked in the Bronx, I may not have been willing to date a girl who lived in Manhattan, but it was a short train ride away so I figured, why not?

And had I not been open to finding and meeting new people, I am almost certain that I would not have met my wife.

There have been so many times over these last 5-6 years when I’ve felt completely lost, out of control, and at the mercy of the unknown. I’ve felt trapped in despair, sadness, grief, loss, and severe anxiety that I can’t do justice describing. In that time, I’ve gone back to therapy, lost my job, been unemployed. I’ve also found both my passion and the love of my life.

The journey has by no means been an easy one. It has tested my patience, broken my heart, made me cry, worn me down, and pushed me to some of the lowest points of my life. It has also shown me how to be resilient, how to be persistent, how to listen to myself and what I need when it’s important, and how to fight for better days. It has uncovered my ambition, drive, determination, and led me to find my purpose and clarify my future career plans. Most importantly, it has pushed my boundaries and led me to find a woman who has shown me a love that has far exceeded my wildest expectations, or what I thought I deserved.

It’s not the path I would have expected taking, by any stretch of the imagination. But so much of what has happened to me over the last 5 years has been just as much part of “the unknown” as whatever lies ahead of me for the next 5 years. In that way, reason tells me that somehow, things will turn out OK, just as they have turned out “OK" to this point.

My point is that whether we like it or not, there will be things in our lives that happen for reasons we can’t foresee, can’t explain, and can’t understand at the time. But, over time, the reasons tend to become clearer in hindsight where we find ourselves saying, “It’s weird how things work out.” And maybe, in time, we’ll find ourselves finally believing that “everything happens for a reason,” or at the very least, letting go of some of that anxiety and trusting that some things are just out of our hands. This is the part I’m still working on embracing, but I’m getting there.

Sometimes, you just gotta have faith.

What are some difficult challenges in your life that have led you to better things?
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