Keep Moving Forward; Don’t Give Up

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Keep Moving Forward; Don’t Give Up
Lessons Learned from Lewis in ‘Meet The Robinsons’

By Jehn Kubiak

I almost called it quits on my goal to become an aquatics director this summer and almost abandoned my passion for “the water.”

As if all the chaos in the world wasn’t enough, I faced quite a few personal challenges this summer, making summer 2020 one of the hardest seasons I’ve dealt with since I started college.

What made it so hard?

First, I dealt with lots of rejection as I tried to snag an aquatics manager position. Since I finished grad school in December, I’ve been in this limbo period of working four part-time jobs and just waiting for the right opportunity. However, no matter how many positions I applied for since March, I didn’t receive a single “yes.” I was told to try again later. That I was placed on the eligibility list in case the position opened up. That I was a great fit, but someone else was a bit better of a fit.

Secondly, an instance from a previous job that occurred during the summertime left me with flashbacks yet again this year, but much more painful than I’ve previously experienced. I could never fall asleep and when I did, I woke up around 1-2 AM every morning. My body literally had so much adrenaline that I’d jolt awake in a sweat, much like the way I felt when that happened. Some days, I’d break down in tears because I felt like such a ditz—again, just like I did during that one time.

Accounting for all that, it’s no wonder I hit the brakes and decided I was done driving along this road to aquatics management. All that rejection made me feel like I wasn’t qualified enough to have my dream job. On top of that, all my failures made me think that someone as ditzy as me—literally making some of the dumbest mistakes—caused me to believe that I was the failure that my past supervisor said I was.

But a simple, yet profound saying from the movie “Meet the Robinsons” reminded me that things don’t always come easy in life—even in your area of expertise: “Keep moving forward.” You’ll still deal with challenges and unexpected situations. That’s sometimes hard for me to remember because I see so many others who easily snagged aquatics manager positions or never really faced career challenges, yet I’ve also realized that I don’t really know what their backgrounds are or if they eventually dealt with difficult problems later on. I fell into that “comparison trap” and had difficulty understanding how I could move forward amid all my failures.

Yet Lewis’ story reminded me that some of the greatest successes dealt with failure and rejection first. For those who haven’t seen the movie, this orphan boy tried time and time again to both find a family who’d accept him and create inventions that would help the world. However, nobody adopted him for a while, and his inventions always had some sort of problem, despite this kid’s brilliance. In the end, he became a genius, and a family accepted him with open arms.

I saw myself in that little boy. I understood his pain, and that’s why his story truly inspires me to “keep moving forward,” as his future self said.

Yes, I wanted to give up; as a workaholic-perfectionist, the constant barrage of failure and rejection was disheartening. However, I know it won’t end in my lower-level positions as a swim instructor and lifeguard. It will most definitely continue when I’m in management, so I really must keep moving forward and figure out how to remain optimistic when things get tough.

The biggest thing I learned this summer is that I must learn from my failures, understand that I’m constantly growing, and that beautiful things often arise from the toughest times.

In addition to that, we often can’t move forward without help from others who can help us see clearly when our circumstances get blurry. It was hard, but I asked for help from supervisors at all my jobs this summer. I hated admitting that I was in over my head about some things or that I needed some guidance about addressing a weakness of mine (pride), but through all of that, I became a better person. I not only learned how to be humble and see failures as moments to learn, but I understood how trusting others actually helped me move forward. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “two minds are better than one.” Other people can help us see blind spots; those areas that often can prevent progress. Furthermore, my past negative experience made trusting others difficult; accepting feedback from teammates on all levels has helped me learn how to trust people again.

On top of dealing with weaknessss, I also dealt with roadblocks as a swim instructor. I’ve always taught in brick-and-mortar swim schools, so teaching in backyard pools was somewhat a culture shock. The clientele have different expectations and often have never placed their kids in swim lessons. As a people-pleaser, I had to discern when to accept feedback or take it with a grain of salt. For instance, I had personality conflicts with a couple of younger kids. One parent asked if I could change my teaching style, and I was a bit flustered at first. After thinking things through, I knew that their kids would grow more with an instructor who had a different personality type.

Adding onto that, teaching toddlers and infants was a huge learning curve. I’ve mainly taught preschool-aged kids (4 years and older), so teaching 2-and-unders was fairly new territory. But I have a Water Safety Instructor certification, my pride said. And behold, pride was my downfall, because these kids knocked some sense into me. Almost every one of them cried for the majority of each lesson and wouldn’t even let me paddle their arms for them, much less float them around the pool. The real kicker was when a 2-year-old told me “I hate you” in French.

That’s really when I threw my hands in the air and said, “I’m done!” I thought, what kind of aquatics manager would I be if I’m supposed to run a swim program and can’t teach the little ones? Eventually, I ended up taking some time off from my two other jobs because I was so emotionally burned out from everything I dealt with the last two months (I kept teaching private lessons for a few hours a week since I had ongoing contracts I couldn’t suddenly cancel). It was definitely a blessing because I spent a lot of time journaling and reflecting. During that time, I finally realized that my pride often resulted in self-criticism, and I couldn’t move forward if I couldn’t be patient with myself, stop calling myself a ditz, and stop thinking that other people believed I was a failure just because I felt like one.

After two weeks off, I started transitioning back into my normal work schedule. This time, I had new goals: self-patience, humility, and optimism, which could all help me “keep moving forward.” As I write this, It’s about two months later, and I’m amazed at how my perspective has changed. Yes, I’m still working multiple part-time jobs like I was in school, but at least I’m enjoying what I’m passionate about. I still make mistakes, but I’m at least not beating myself up for them. Trusting people is still uncomfortable, yet I still ask others for help.

Moving forward can seem like one of life’s most difficult challenges when life becomes “one step forward, two steps back.” Failure can easily discourage the ambitious, yet it can also shape us into well-rounded, tough, and wise individuals. “Keep moving forward,” even if it’s one step at a time.