Finding My Strength & Independence

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by U by Kotex. Words, thoughts, and stories are 100% my own.

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I have to admit, over the past 2 years I have experienced some of the toughest emotions of my life. Making the decision to move away and finally “grow up” essentially, has been a battle between emotions ranging from depressed to ecstatic and everything in between.

When I moved on August 9th, 2013 I was on cloud 9. Getting the call from Florida while I was working a downright depressing and low-paying job, was just about the most optimistic thing I could have had happen to me since I graduated college.

As you well know, times have been tough for bachelor’s degree graduates to find work post-college, and although I convinced myself that if I worked my tail off and achieved the highest GPA I could, finding solace in mundane job opportunities failed to ease the disappointment I felt when I couldn’t land a “dream job”. Hours were spent scouring the internet in search of a job that would capitalize on all the skills I was eager to master in college, only to find out that these “ads” were really thinly-veiled illusions of grandeur.

I decided [like most other red-blooded 22 year old graduates] that my best bet would be to find a part-time job that I didn’t include flipping burgers and go back to school with the hopes that in another two years or so, the stars would align and I would fall happily into a state of contentment as the search for the holy grail of happiness finally revealed itself.

Fast forward a year and a half, after nearly (4 credits shy) earning my Master’s degree in athletic business administration I realized that I still had not found my bailiwick. The entire time I had been going to school I had been working with disabled and abused children as a behavioral therapist and while battling the drawbacks that come with the territory, I slowly realized that I did actually find solace in helping younger students find peace and control while learning new skills.

It had never occurred to me that I might want to be a teacher; mainly because of the low pay and countless hours of at-home work, but something in me started to light up each time I worked as a one-on-one inside a classroom. I decided then and there to put my athletic admin program on hold in pursuit of a future that seemed to fit me more.

In a few short months, I was on track to earn my M.Ed in Secondary Education and thrilled to be doing so. For two years, I worked with some amazing faculty and fellow students to learn the ins and outs of the job. Continuing on my part-time job as a behavioral therapist (TSS we called it), the best I thought I was going to get was a possibly jump in pay or rank at my current position when I finished my degree.

When Nate and I graduated in the spring of 2013, my parents were kind enough to send us on a congratulatory trip in Orlando where we enjoyed several days of sunshine and much-needed fun and relaxation. While basking in the sun that we hadn’t seen in months (we’re from Pennsylvania), a close friend of mine (who worked in the area as a teacher) suggested I get in touch with schools in the area for a potential interview opportunity.

Shortly after we finished a lazy breakfast in the hotel, I sent a casual email to a few schools, with no intention or hope of hearing back. Lo and behold, a mere twenty minutes later, I received an email from a principal, just 40 minutes south asking me for an interview.

Reluctantly, I agreed; and on short notice–she wanted to see me the next day (which, subsequently happened to be the very day we were set to go back home). Doning the only dress I had packed, Nate and I drove to the school (getting lost on the way) and I threw it all out there with no intention of giving this possibility a second thought.

We went home. Three weeks later, I still hadn’t heard anything. I had pushed the thought out of my mind thinking: “I’m from here, I’ll eventually find a job here. It may not be what I wanted, but something will come eventually”. Well it did come, and a few days later, I was sitting at my desk at work when I got the phone call. “Congratulations, Miss Damon. We’d love to have you on staff. You’ll need to fly down to process some paperwork and we’ll expect you on August 11th.”

Three weeks. The news hit me like a ton of bricks and it all started becoming very real. A possibility that seemed so minute in its chance of ever happening, happened. I wasn’t sure I was ready.

I’ve never really been the type to take chances, I’ve generally always played it quite safe in life. I was that child that didn’t risk climbing, getting dirty, or saying something wrong for fear of doing the wrong thing. “Do something, even if it’s wrong,” my mom used to tell me. Taking risks just wasn’t my forte.

And now here I was, standing at what seemed like the biggest theoretical crossroads I had ever come up against and I felt torn. Caught between taking the chance to completely turn my life’s path in a different direction, or stay put where I felt safe and knew what to expect.

A scary position to be in, to say the least. Another concern I had was “how am I going to leave my family? My friends? Nate? What would happen to us if I left and he didn’t or couldn’t come with me?” These thoughts haunted me, but I knew what I had to do.

Now, here I sit a little over two years later, getting choked up over telling my story and recounting all of the wonderful and horrible feelings I’ve encountered since that day. From making new friends as an adult to finding the strength to swallow my pride and do the right thing in a relationship, I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons. But one thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am capable of taking that chance, and doing so has created a much more fun, assertive, self-reliant and confident me.

Taking this leap and finding my own strength within has been a tumultuous journey; one that I wouldn’t change for the world.

I’m always interested when companies like U by Kotex work to empower women, because it’s a message that we all try to send, but not many heed in the long run. Sharing stories of finding one’s inner strength will hopefully inspire women –especially young women– to feel like they’re not alone in this big and scary world. Even if they can’t find it within themselves right now, maturity and open-mindedness can work together to help pave the way to the path of confidence and self-reliance.

The pursuit of fearless femininity is a journey that all women end up taking [or should take] at some point in their lives; but also one that they should never be ashamed of. Making mistakes and fearing the outcomes can be a painful, but necessary process.

Without the gumption and confidence to try new things, you will never move forward. As crazy, scary, and awkward as it may seem, taking the leap ALWAYS pays off, especially if you have a wonderful and loving support system behind you every step of the way.

Support this cause and spread your story.

U by Kotex packs are now available with a bonus pack attached (score!) at Walmart stores everywhere, so you get a little extra lovin’ when you shop!

I want to hear your story! Tag with #IndependentU 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your week!

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4 Comments on Finding My Strength & Independence

  1. Larissa
    October 15, 2015 at 8:33 am (4 years ago)

    This was such a great post!! And very timely for me. I just spent the last hour or so crying asking myself why I’m doing graduate school right now. My undergrad did not prepare me well at all and I’m not doing very well and I don’t really know why I’m doing it. It’s so so tough to decide why you want to do something and even if maybe what you’re currently doing isn’t what you should be doing. Loved reading this. I do wonder though, what do you do when you need to take that scary leap but you don’t have a
    ” loving support system behind you every step of the way.”? I don’t really have that.

    • Missy Damon
      October 17, 2015 at 10:18 am (4 years ago)

      I’m so happy to have connected with you on this 🙂 I completely empathize with you regarding the tough decisions. Honestly, I changed my mind so many times I can’t even count and I’m not even sure I’m where I’m supposed to be in my life. I mean, how do we ever know? When I went to college (the first time) I majored in psychology with the intention to be a forensic psychologist but then I changed to public relations, then advertising. When I graduated, I couldn’t find a decent job that paid worth a damn so I mistakenly took a job in retail where I feel I lost a piece of my soul. I quit without a plan and lived in my parents’ house at 23 (until 27). Got a random job as a behavioral therapist while pursuing a degree in athletics, did an internship, hated it, cried myself to sleep many times and then after wasting tons of money, went back to school to be a teacher. To be even more honest, I had the worst year of my life last year and tried to leave teaching. It scares the crap out of me sometimes but a support system really at the end of the day starts and ends with you. I understand what you’re going through and you can do it. Often times, undergrad degrees are full of classes that we never use again and at that age we have no idea what and who we really are so we can’t put too much stock in that. If you’re not feeling your graduate degree, put it on the shelf. The credits hold for 5 years usually so if you decide that is what you want to do, go back. If not, why waste a second of your precious time doing something that is making you unhappy? Figure out what you want to do (what do you like to do in your free time?) and do that. My friends offer me a support system as well. Be careful not to share anything you don’t want advice on, sometimes it’s just better to vent. You know what’s best for you and I understand how a graduate degree could be appealing but if it isn’t working, it isn’t working. You don’t need it to validate how smart and great of a person you are 🙂 Good luck!

  2. Penny
    October 16, 2015 at 11:30 pm (4 years ago)

    What a fabulous post!So proud of your hope & fortitude on this journey of yours. So hopeful for the future you hold in the palm of your hands. I never had a support system so I acknowledge taking a faith jump towards your goal! I also did that & have been so grateful for “the road less travelled”! Keep your eye on the prize in life as it changes quite frequently & enjoy the ride! Good luck & fortune beckons you!

    • Missy Damon
      October 17, 2015 at 10:22 am (4 years ago)

      Thank you Penny! It was difficult and I still question myself all the time. I spend a good amount of time at home and sometimes I think to myself “would it be easier if I just went back?” but I’m clinging to the faith I have in myself and my gut feeling that I made the right decision. That’s inspiring that you took the road less travelled and I hope you are happy with your decision 🙂 Getting feedback like this really makes my day and I appreciate you taking the time to write me! Good luck and I wish great things for you!!

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