Sprouting: A Reflection By Julia Katherine

Dear reader, 

2021 has been a closed chapter in all of our books. I wanted to share with you some of my reflections and most integral experiences last year. 2021 was  filled with incredible achievements, flourishing with bright and vivacious days. I do not know if the memories of my friend’s smile were shining brighter than the summer sun, or if I just remember it that way.  

Of course, not every day was so great. 2021 introduced me to a new side of my anxiety I had never encountered. I started the beginning of the year by losing my beloved first pet and went through phases of crippling overthinking. I reached peaks of stress from battling the over-achiever that was born in that year. I watched walls that I had spent so much time and pain building up disintegrate, as I transformed them (and myself) into new, healthy boundaries and habits. I opened myself and my mind to small and big things in life – these days, even I look back in awe. 

  The biggest difference I see in myself now is instead of  numbing those bad days away- I confront them and sent them straight to a place in my brain I like to call ‘processing’ – a mental note to self to learn from my mistakes. I also don’t make habits or patterns that are harmful for me anymore – though there have been some days where wine doesn’t taste as bitter. I like this little part of me that takes tabs on behavioral patterns and choices not to repeat again. 

  Take it from me reader, it is not expected of you to change into an entirely new person overnight. I tend to also comfort my anxiety by reminding myself, Rome was not built in a day, though a wise friend told me that it only takes that long to burn it all down. 

At the beginning of the 2021, I was working as a Starbucks barista (again) and had just applied for Arizona State Universities online B.S program. I was contemplating going back to the local community college in my area, but my boss at the time (a wonderful lady) gave me a pep talk to take the chance with applying to the Starbucks ASU program. After the application process, I anxiously awaited the answer of whether or not I got into ASU and put my head into a spin. My GPA plummeted when I was abusing substances and I saw little to almost no light for my educational dreams. Though I didn’t get accepted initially – I was put into ASU’s pathway program. This was a program that included taking courses for credit but I had to maintain at least a C average or better GPA. And I learned fast, grew faster. 

I created a completely healthy, disciplined and dedicated routine for myself when it came to studying and turning in assignments. I would wake up before the sun came up on my days off and pound out work at my desk – some days were as long as 8-10 hours. I want(ed) not to only succeed – but to soar. Avenge myself in a way, that would put as far of a gap in between my old self as I could. And that’s exactly what I did. The scores started to rack in at 100% and I became addicted to my own success. There was something about surprising myself with the level of commitment that drew me in further, made me more curious – and motivated me to always give my best if not more. 

This is where I believe my anxiety and the long road of learning not to be so hard on myself was born. Immediately I was overcome with self-induced pressure, I felt as though every assignment I turned in was an art piece made of glass. One wrong move and all my hard work could shatter away. My anxiety would conjure fears, like my professor dropping me from a class just for missing a piece of information. I know that’s pretty dramatic to say, but when has anxiety ever been known to be rational? After turning in big projects my mind would race as I would try to fall asleep some nights: 

“Shit…did I use the right headers? Should I have triple checked that assignment? What if I fail all over again…”  

 

Between this, interning and working I had my hands full. Deadlines, Zoom meetings, intern interview assignments, getting up at 3 AM to get up for an eight hour shift – I put in work during 2021 to say the least. Which naturally led to the days where the pressures of it all simmer over and come out emotionally. There were 7AM crying fits, crippled by the fear of failure, because I had seen it once before. If you dear reader have also expressed stress attacks due to high expectations for yourself, even as early as when you first open your eyes to the pounding repeated sound of your alarm – you are not alone.

 Stress comes in nasty forms for each individual. Whether it be under or over eating, using any sort of substances, nail biting, skin picking, trouble sleeping or being mentally paralyzed by the rapid thoughts reminding you of all you have to do or improve on. Stress can do things like poison the mind in thinking that the people you love do not love you back and that all your hard work is for nothing.

 What I have learned is: Stress attacks happen and there’s nothing we can do to prevent them. What we can do is aid ourselves, learn from it and repeat. How we pick ourselves up and continue on afterwards is what matters.  I found in 2021 that truly taking one thing at a time is a helpful tool. Don’t let the amount of times you have fallen or life has held you down be the reason why you do not ever get back up. 

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results – then laying in bed and letting anxiety consume you while expecting it all to go away tomorrow- is a contestant of insanity. There is a difference between visiting our comfort zones versus being consumed by them. This is a topic I visited in my writing last year as well. I knew that I had to get up every I felt the weight of all my tasks was pushing down on me. There was no other option but for me to keep going. This mentality worked swiftly and rewardingly for myself. 

The happy ending to my ASU story is I received my acceptance letter from my first choice program, on my twenty-fifth birthday. I raised my GPA to a semester 4.0 and calculated 3.71 and still have that today as we enter Spring 2022. 

During 2021 I tested boundaries and limits I had once falsely assigned. I gathered myself together by creating a foundation for myself of hard work and consistency. Slowly but surely new patterns and parts of myself emerged that have taken many, including myself, by a positive surprise. I started becoming aware of not only what I was thinking but also saying. I finally wasn’t scared to get to know myself.

For me, that goes very deep. Due to the work in progress with my traumatic past – I didn’t want to know myself or let anyone else get the chance too, for a long time. One of the many discouraging feelings that carries into one’s adulthood when they have been sexually exploited as a child, is that you’re a fifthly person. That since I was used in such a malicious and disgusting manner, for the pleasure of a monster, that must mean I am one too, right?

 

WRONG.

Once I started detaching from that decade old mentality this…beautiful person started to make an appearance in around spring of 2021. I blossomed, with the trees and roses all around me. My smile grew more genuine as the sun rays came out on warm California days. My self confidence started to immerge once again. I now have the dream support team that includes a group of young women who are superheroes, a loving family and my incredible Ian. All of these people, individually, are why I believe Earth side angels exist. 

Dear reader, I am going to end on a happy note because I am not a writer who accepts sad endings. If any of my words strike your heart and churn in your thoughts then let that transpire into action. The strength of human resilience is innately inside us all. It is most commonly said not to let other people dictate your life for you, or hold you back. What I think needs to be said more, don’t let YOURSELF hold you back. 

 

I’m off to work on a few other projects. And I cannot wait for my first novel debut. 2022 is my year, and yours too. 

 

Love and kindness, 

Julia