The Worst Year Of My Life

Recently I was perusing my Twitter feed, and I came across something about perspective. I saw a tweet that was eluding to something along the lines of being grateful for what you have, even if it isn’t much. It said something like “take a look at your life 10 years ago. Look back on your problems back then. Now compare it to your life today. I bet your life is much better now. Put things into perspective.”

I was reading this tweet late last year (2018) and it just so happened that ten years ago (2008) was the literal worst year of my life. (to this point) Professionally, personally, emotionally, spiritually and physically, it was the most difficult time I’ve ever had to endure. Many days, I didn’t want to endure it any longer. 2008 was a very dark time for me.

So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you what my life looked like on New Years Day 2009, in comparison to how my life looks now, on New Years Day 2019. Why am I spending my time typing this? Well, my agenda for this post is twofold:

  1. If you’re going through a difficult time, that you’re not alone.
  2. It’s okay to be going through a tough time. It happens to all of us.

Let’s start with the professional struggles. If you remember much from that time period, you may know where I’m going with this. 2008 and 2009 were dubbed the financial crisis. It’s also called “The Great Recession” a term which I’ve grown to despise for whatever reason. I despise that phrase in the same regard as I despise people who leave their windshield wipers up when they turn their car off.

I started at Edward Jones (for the 2nd time) in the Spring of 2007. My license to sell was activated in July 2007. The stock markets peaked in October 2007. The Dow Jones Industrial Average topped out at 14,164 on October 9th, 2007. It bottomed out at 6,443 on March 6th, 2009. That was a 54% drop. Think about that for a second. If we had a 54% drop today it would take the DOW all the way down to about 12,600 (down from 23,300). How awful would that be?

So, basically I began my selling career at Edward Jones three months before the peak and three months before the stock markets began to get cut in half. It was total panic. I will never forget December of 2008 and January 2009. I was making call after call all day long trying to get folks to buy something. Anything. I didn’t even care what it was because I knew eventually it would go up. Prices were once in a lifetime dirt cheap. Yet, I was virtually unable to convince anyone to buy a stock because there as an absolute panic nationwide. Had you just bought the Dow on March 9th, 2009 you would be up around 261% today.

After being promised wild success and large paychecks when I started, I was getting paychecks for around $700. For the entire month. I spent more time on Monster.com than I care to admit because I figured I was going to be fired any day now. Peoriahelpwanted.com became a site I visited regularly looking for the inevitable new job I thought I would have to find.

That was a very difficult time due to the awful market conditions and the fact that I was in a 100% commission investment sales job for all intents and purposes. What kept me sane was that I kept telling myself “well, at least it can’t get much worse than this.” Well, guess what? It did.

I was also going through a gut-wrenching divorce. My wife (at the time) and I had been married for little less than 2 years when we discovered that it this marriage thing wasn’t going so well.

Alright, I need to stop right here and disclose a few things. I am 100% cool with my x-wife and everything that happened. I have no bitter feelings towards her in any way whatsoever. We both contributed to our downfall. I wish her nothing but the best. While we haven’t spoken to each other in many years, I truly hope she’s happy and doing well. Okay, I had to get that out there.

This divorce could not have come at a worse time. Not that there is a perfect for a divorce to come along I guess. But I was already reeling from the financial crisis. I was dealing with large amount of stress, anxiety and uncertainty with my career choice.

Let me put it this way, in 2008, I lost my spouse. I lost my house. I lost all three of my pets. I lost some of my friends. Perhaps the worst thing that I lost, was my hope. When you lose hope, your life can take a dangerous and dark turn. And that’s exactly what happened to me.

I lost everything. Everything.

The winter of 2007 & 2008 was the lowest point of my life. Looking back it was a true miracle that I survived it. I lost 20 pounds in about 2 weeks that November. I was struggling to get to work, let alone be productive. Luckily I was able to be get some stuff done. Somehow I was actually able to grow my client base through that time which was a literal blessing.

When you truly lose hope, life takes a dark turn very quickly. It’s a dangerous place. Many days I didn’t want to go on. Life was too hard and I had no hope that it would ever get better. When I say its a miracle I made it through, I mean it. Had my Dad not give me such good advice during that time I may not be here today. When you’re in such a dark place like I was , you cling to any little piece of hope you can find. I’m so thankful for my Dad during that time. He would tell me things like:

“You can turn this thing into the best thing that’s ever happened to you, or you can let it turn you into a victim and ruin your life.” Ten years later I still remember him telling me that. “Don’t let this ruin the rest of your life. You’re only 27.” That one stuck with me too.

When you lose everything, you are given no choice but to start over, and that’s exactly what I did.

I don’t remember what I did on New Years Day 2009, but I vividly remember that my life was in complete tatters. I had lost everything and I was so depressed I was struggling to function.

Now let’s fast forward to New Years Day 2019. As I look around at my little family I get overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness. I get to wake up everyday to four perfect kids and a wonderful wife. Just this morning, in fact, I was awoken to my two oldest daughters (6 and 4) jumping in bed to snuggle. It doesn’t get much better than that people. I have a house with so much love in it that the windows could burst. I feel as though I’ve climbed up from the depths of the coldest, darkest place I’ve ever been, and made it to a beautiful rolling meadow on a warm sunny day. I’m filled with appreciation and thanks that ten years I didn’t go through with the many horrible thoughts I was having about myself hundreds of times a day.

Overall though, I’m filled with happiness and hope. Ten years ago I had neither. I had sadness and desires to do terrifying things to myself. All I can say is “thank you God for unanswered prayers.”

I want to close this by speaking directly to anyone who is going through a difficult time right now. I want you to know that it will get better. Don’t lose hope, because things will get easier for you. I have no doubt. If they did for me, then they can for you as well. Look, I’m nothing special. I’m a regular person just like you. Do what I did: reach out to someone for help. Or just to talk. I did that often. I still do. Reach out to me if you want. I’d love to talk with you and hear your story. Overall, just remember that all this is only temporary. Just like everything in life.