A little over five years ago someone told me that I was never going to suceed at achieving my dream. She told me that I was not cut out for hospitality, the industry that I had longed to be a part of since I was in the sixth grade. She said that I didn't have any people skills or organizational skills, and that perhaps I should consider another path in life. She told me in no uncertain terms that I had failed. This came from an adult that I should have been able to trust; someone from within what I then considered my church community. A church community that was nurturing during some of my life - and then failed me for many other times. She was someone whose job was specifically to work with children and teens. Her hurtful words will probably haunt me forever. I was devastated.
I had just completed arranging a service event for our youth group, and event that I had also arranged for the previous years. My most favorite reverend had left the church the year before, and I was hurting. Attendance was down, for one reason or another, and on top of that, I didn't have the support of this particular reverend behind me. I never quite connected with the kids in my youth group, and yet I found myself driven to take a leadership role for this event, because world hunger was such an important issue to me. Even with these difficulties, I saw the event as a success when I had reached at least a few teens and shown them the severity of the cause. This was something that did not seem to matter to the individual that [at the time] crushed my dreams.
As a fragile high school senior, already housing many major insecurities about friends and self-worth, her words hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember my hands beginning to physically shake as I realized what she was saying. Being the poised young woman that I was, I waited to hear her out and left as politely as I could. I walked unsteadily to my car in the church parking lot and sat for about an hour, feeling that I was unable to drive. I was imobilized, and this wouldn't be the first time I experienced the feeling of not being able to move. I remember calling my mom, who has always been my best friend, and trying to relay to her what happened - probably not making much sense. It was such a bizarre situation, that couldn't possibly have been expected by anyone. I felt betrayed by this person, by the church, and by God. How can someone associated with what is supposed to be an encouraging entity be so discouraging?
It is no secret that following this instance I began distancing myself from the church - some unconsiously, but some very consiously. I began to question my life's plan. Even though deep down I knew in my heart that I shouldn't let her words affect me, they did. My dad thought about writing a letter to her or to the church to discuss what happened. He never wrote the letter. Sometimes I wish he did. In a way I want her to realize how much of an effect she had on me. As I have matured over the years, I have tried to realize that she probably did not even recognize that what she was saying was hurtful. I truly hope that she has not had this great of a negative impact on any other child or teenager's life. However, writing the letter would have probably stirred up more church political drama than I was up for, and the church has enough of that on its own. I still have not found my way back to the church community.
The purpose of writing this post is not to whine or complain about my past, or to excuse any of my insecurities over the years. Instead, I want to show this as a true example of the strength words can have - either good or bad. To some reading this, it may seem that I have amplified the entire occurance, or that it shouldn't have been that big of a deal. I know how my 17-year-old self felt as she began speaking, and that reaction was very real. It is telling to me that almost every time I had begun falling into depression during college, this instance came to mind. It haunts me still sometimes to this day. I have gone back and forth between wondering if she was right and trying to prove her wrong. In reality, though, neither of those options will help me to overcome this. Both options give her the power to affect my life - power that I should harness for myself. The best way to overcome is simply for me to live my life the way I want to live it. I can't help but feel some slight vindication with all of my success in this industry that "I would never succeed in", even this early in my life, but I cannot take the same attitude that she did by trying to put her down. I have to be happy on my own; and I am.
I will always wonder why she said the things she said.