Thank you and Goodbye 2013

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I posted this on my Twitter account on the 31st of December, 2012. I had no idea at that time how much rocking 2013 was going to do to my world. Well, boy, did my 2013 rock! But more often than not, not in a good way.

I always love the beginning of the year. It was a clear cut start, coming from the Christmas season where everyone was on vacation and then going back to school and work, energized and alive. I had known then that there were challenges before me, but I had welcomed them, excited about them even. I knew I had a chance to take another step of my life, wherever it may take me. I had considered myself smart, confident and blessed by God. I could handle whatever lay ahead.

I won’t say I was wrong, maybe, just partially right.

One of my goals in life is to be able to work in the US. In my profession (Physical Therapy), taking the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) is a requirement. I have been preparing for this test for a long time and when the day of reckoning came in April 2013, I prayed that I will pass. (Read my motivation reflection at Final Stretch.)

But I didn’t. I was long way off the passing score.

I remember walking along the beach of Tumon Bay, Guam, thinking and wondering where I went wrong. I knew right away I didn’t pass, it was a gut feel. A gut feel that proved true a week later when the results came out. I was still sad but no longer surprised. I was sad that I will never felt what my classmates had felt when they passed the NPTE after one go. I will never have that achievement. But I took it all in stride. I was going to work harder, study more, I was going to pass the NPTE come hell or high water.

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I was scheduled to take the test at the end of July. But something was not right. I studied but somehow, I couldn’t remember anything I read. I cried often, laughed less. I ate much, slept less. There were times when I just wanted to run, away from responsibility, away from hard work. I got sick repeatedly, cough, colds and neverending head and back aches. I pleaded with God to help me, argued with Him why He didn’t give me what I worked so hard for.  It was the worst I had ever been, in all aspects of my life: emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually, everything.

My family and friends had a scheduled trip to South Korea at the start of July, one I couldn’t get out of. So I went, but I brought my review book with me. It was meant to be a vacation but it turned out to be a nightmare for me. I slept around 3 hours a day, tried to enjoy the places we visited, shoving all thoughts of the nearing NPTE at the back of my mind. Pressure mounted until I couldn’t hold it anymore.

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I cried a river on our last day in SK, not knowing anymore if I should continue my efforts to take the test in July or put it off until October.  I eventually realized that I had lied to myself, that I haven’t fully accepted the fact that I had failed. I covered my overwhelming feeling of failure with fake positivity and forced can-do attitude. As a result, I was fatter, sicker, more depressed and more haggard than ever before.

Needless to say, I didn’t continue on with the July NPTE. Which, meant to me, that this particular challenge will go on longer.  But almost half a year of misery was no longer making me sad. It was already making me mad.

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Loosely translated to: “Dear 2013, you have reached the quota for hardships. Get ready for my comeback. Love, Jackie #jackiestrikesback”

I promised myself that I was going to get through this. I created the hashtag #fightingforme to remind me that if a fight is what the test wants, it’s a fight it’s going to get.

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I thought of everything I’ve been through and started planning my comeback. I learned the process of the agency, took to heart what they expect and worked hard to deliver. I got to know those who made decisions, took to heart what they like to see, and made sure that they see it. When the practice tests came, I answered it and questioned the items which I thought weren’t right. I got up in the morning and read my books, bought index cards, wrote notes, made crayons out of my highlighters, printed out material, listened to feel-good songs and tried my best not to get sick. I wasn’t the best soldier, but I was a soldier nonetheless, and everything I did, I did to prepare me for a battle I had lost before.

By the time I was set to fly to Florida at the middle of October, I was excited and nervous. Someone told me that if I was excited, it was a good sign, because it meant that I was ready.  In Florida, our educator said that I had “it” but I needed to be confident. I believed him because I felt it too. There was still that nagging fear that if I didn’t pass this time, it will be yet another year of the same challenge, one that I was tired of.

On the day of the NPTE in October, I wore my red pants and red lipstick. My roommate and I prayed and cried to God before leaving our room. My hashtag of #fightingforme was still floating in my head and that day was the fight I have been waiting for.  I listened to “Roar” by Katy Perry and “It’s always a good time” by Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City. This is it. My inner peace depended on this moment.

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It was at the beginning of November, amid troubled thoughts and restless waiting, I received the news: I won.

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I won. Just in time for my 30th birthday. (Read my birthday reflection at Happy Birthday, I’m Thirty.)

Now at the brink of a new year, I take a look back at the year that rocked my world. This was definitely a clear cut year. Like the teleseryes I like to watch, we have a protagonist who had a dream, worked hard for the dream, failed at the dream but stepped up to try again. At the end of it, we have  victory, a milestone birthday and a new future to look forward to.

What most teleseryes do not show is that life does not end at that particular victory. I remember praying to God one time, asking for him to help me with this challenge because I am eager to face all the other challenges which will follow this one. So I have taken a vacation this last few months of 2013, vacation from all the stress I experienced, armed with the knowledge that the worst AND the best is yet to come.

While I leave 2013 behind, I will most certainly take the lessons I’ve learned with me. I’m now thirty, a licensed physical therapist in both Philippines and US, a veteran quality consultant for a big bank, and my friends and family still enjoy being with me. There is just so much to look forward to.

This new year, I will not even attempt to be cool about my Twitter updates (lesson learned!) I will be simple and neutral about this:

2013, thank you and good bye. 2014, welcome.

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