Reflecting on 2018

As the year draws to a close I want to reflect on it. 2018 by far, has been one of the best years of my life. I am confident; stress free for the first time, and much of my hard work is finally paying off. But I want to tell you my story. My story of the two years prior (2016-2017) that got me here. Although there is struggle and failure behind every success story, never give up. You can never know when all of your work will come to fruition.


{TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide; anxiety; depression}


Those who are close to me can no doubt tell you that 2016 and 2017 were two of the hardest years of my life. I was in many ways a broken version of myself, floundering through this life without direction. My spirit felt hopeless. In 2016 I experienced immense loss for the first time since my grandfather’s passing as a child. Loss both of people and personal failures.


School was the one thing I have always been good at. I continually attached my entire self-esteem into how others viewed me academically. If I couldn’t do well with social cues and sensory overload, then at least I could be viewed as valid when it came to grades and intelligence. I played the dangerous comparison game, always setting high standards I could never achieve. No matter how well I did or how much I accomplished it was never enough, I always set the bar higher. Clearly, this was setting myself up for an eventual burnout.


In summer of 2016 I graduated law school. For the first time in my life I was completely burned out academically, as I had powered through undergraduate school and law school in only six years total. I couldn’t focus, and I was faced with the daunting state bar exam for my license. I have never performed well on standardized testing. To add to my burnout, the board denied any testing accommodations despite overwhelming evidence supplied to them that I needed it. Usually, I would fight in this type of situation and gain the accessibility I deserve. But for the first time, I was tired. Tired of always fighting. Tired of nothing ever coming easily. So I did nothing.


The bar exam is two days. On the first night I learned that one of my friends from high school passed away in his sleep. On the second day, a childhood friend who had grown up with my sister and I took her life unexpectedly. By the end I was tired from the testing and overwhelmed by the loss. I did not pass.


The rest of the year was followed by more deaths, more than I have ever dealt with at once. It all culminated to my grandmother, someone who raised me, entering the final stages of her heart failure at the end of the year. Throughout the year I had been unemployed, only gaining contract jobs here and there. Another personal struggle that broke me, because I never imagined that I would not be able to find a job. However, this was indeed a blessing in disguise. Because I was not employed, I was able to stay home full time with my grandmother, care taking for her in her final days. There are no words to describe what it is like to watch one of the women who raised you leave this world. There are also no words to explain the presence of God that I felt. My faith has always been a more difficult journey for me, but in her final days, I saw things that made me believe. Truly, I was able to see moments of grace in her passing. In February, 2017 my grandmother left this world.


When someone that close to you passes at first you feel very little. Then it all surges uncontrollably. I was now living alone in her old home and thought I was going crazy. I would see things and could not sleep with the lights off. Grief is an experience no one ever fully prepares you for.


Still unemployed, I was only able to secure small contract jobs reviewing legal documents. Jobs that barely paid my bills and did not add much to my career. At the end, I was paying more to drive to the job than I was making. During this time I was at my most broken and most vulnerable. At the end of March, 2017 a seemingly wonderful man entered my life. I was desperate for company. Any company.


Autistic people are easily taken advantage of and I’ve written about it here. This man was older than me and said all the right things. But had behaviors and details about his life that ordinarily would have been red flags, even to me. However, I had just lost so much. I couldn’t see it. He worked with me which made me hesitant to ever break things off. It also gave me little reason not to trust him. For the rest of the year he stayed with me. Moved in without asking, and I became isolated. I didn’t stop this, but I was ultimately in no state to do so. I soon discovered many substance abuse issues and found myself too weak to do anything about it. I do not drink, and yet was continually pressured to. Never having been exposed to that level of addiction before, I did not recognize the signs he exhibited. He used weaknesses about autism against me, such as making me believe I was always in the wrong because I was “incapable of empathy.” Being self conscious about this already, I believed it. My depression worsened and I was having suicidal ideations almost daily. I told no one of his true nature.


In October of 2017 one of my best friends and I went to China on a trip. I used this as an opportunity to finally gain some momentum. The event I needed to mark time for change. I promised myself that no matter what, after I got back I would not go back to my current contract role. I would propel myself forward.


A miraculous thing happened. An alumni from my high school who had graduated well before me found me on LinkedIn and offered me a temporary position where I now work. Originally, the role was only for three months but I had to take the risk. I was hired on full time by February, 2018. Around this time, I began to reenter the world, no longer isolated. And the man I was with grew more unstable and meaner because of it. This job was propelling me forward but I was still in something toxic holding me back.


Around that same time, my sister found out the truth about the man I was with. An extensive criminal record, active arrest warrants in multiple counties and states, and much more. He was using me. Using me to hide, for a free place to stay, and whatever gain he saw. But I was so broken that even this made me hesitate. Surely, there was a misunderstanding? More than that, I was fearful to confront him. There is nothing worse that I have experienced than finding out I had been with a complete stranger for months, and had no idea who he really was or capable of. Tremendous fear consumed me. There are many details of verbal abuse that to this day I have told only a select few that made me fear him. I finally summoned the strength to leave, knowing deep down I had to protect my future and myself.


This was the straw that broke me and made me decide once and for all to reset my life. No more appeasing people, no longer keeping toxic friendships just because I feel badly for someone. From now on, I vowed to be selfish for once and spend 2018 only doing what I wanted. What I needed. And it worked. I turned my yeses into no’s and for the first time was standing up for myself. I blossomed.


In 2018, I was hired at an amazing job, promoted within 9 months, and am now in the final stages of house hunting. All that I suffered, all the energy I had worked for and put out into the universe finally came into being this year. This was the year I was rewarded. I learned and I grew. I have such momentum I wonder if it’s too much good, but know to enjoy it because life comes in seasons. I know I am stronger now. So much stronger in fact, that when I took the bar a second time (different state) this year and missed it by only one point, it did not break me. It only made me eager to try one more time. My self-esteem is no longer dependent on exterior measures of success.


I launched Edge of the Playground in April, channeling my energy. Never imagining how quickly it would grow. I found yoga, and genuine friends. Keeping only people in my life who brought positivity. What I have learned is to take the energy of loss and heartbreak and channel it into something. Something you can build and be proud of. Let it inspire you instead of breaking you.


To anyone who struggled this year, know that you will make it through. A day does come when the seasons change. And when that happens, you will look back and thank yourself for never giving up. Because if you give up you will never be able to enjoy that success when it comes, whatever form it takes. Perhaps too, looking back and realizing that many of our struggles were truly blessings in disguise allowing us to be exactly where we were needed. Just as I was exactly where I needed to be, taking care of my grandmother in her last days, although I couldn’t see it at the time. Grace under pressure. Always.


Thank you to the amazing community we have built here. I am truly inspired by all of you every day.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on 2018

  1. Thank you for sharing. What a powerful story. Warmest wishes for a beautiful 2019.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You are so amazing! I love reading your posts, you have so much insight

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing blog, Mikhaela! Very powerful stuff!


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