My journey from a struggling high school student to starting my own business

Ten years ago, I was a struggling high school student. I remember spending all of free time trying to figure out homework assignments & studying hard for tests. I would go into school early and stay late to get extra help. I still failed almost every single test I took. I was constantly worried about being eligible for extracurriculars. I literally passed high school with test corrections and test retakes. It was hard not to feel discouraged because it seemed like everyone around me had no problems & I was on the brink of ineligibility.

I so badly wanted to be successful. But, I often felt like I was just not smart enough or capable of reaching the level of success that I wanted. At the time, I wanted to be a psychologist and get my PhD. But, how could I possibly achieve that if I can barely pass high school? Let alone get into a PhD program.

I have a super smart older brother who was just a year ahead of me in school. He is gifted academically, had artwork displayed in the hallway and has his picture hanging in the athletic wing.

“Don’t compare yourself.”

I have heard that so many times it’s not even funny. But let me tell you, it’s almost impossible. You can’t tell a teenager not to compare themselves to someone. It’s going to happen. You don’t want to be the sibling that was unable to achieve anything. Everyone knew my name before I even got there and had high expectations that I was never able to reach. It was hard. It was frustrating. But, I used it as fire to never give up on myself. I so badly wanted to be successful. I wanted to prove to everyone, especially myself that I am smart & capable of success, just like everyone else.

I wanted to go to college & get my education so I worked hard on my college applications. I flunked the ACT 3 times and barely got into Otterbein University. Otterbein was the only school that I got into & it was on the very bottom of the list of schools that I wanted to go to. They actually accidentally sent me a rejection letter then apologized and sent me my acceptance letter. Talk about BARELY getting in. Even though it was the school I originally didn’t want to go to, it ended up being the biggest blessing. I was taking classes related to my major that I was really good at and had an amazing, supportive faculty helping me along the way.

I failed my first exam.

This is when I knew something was wrong. So, I went to my doctor and ended up getting diagnosed with ADD. Some people might read that and think it was a cop out. But, let me tell you what. That first exam in college was the last test I ever failed. I was so relieved to be able to read a sentence and not have my mind drift into la la land. That’s literally what happened before I got treated. No wonder I could barely pass high school, I couldn’t pay attention long enough to read a sentence. ADD medications don’t make you smart. They help you focus.

Getting my ADD under control, taking classes I was good at and having a supportive faulty, I finally started feeling smart. For the first time in my life, I was actually able to fully embrace that feeling. For some people, that might sound incredibly cheesy. But, you have no idea what it feels like when you feel dumb for a majority of your life.

I remember being so excited. I figured out a study strategy that worked for me and made a schedule to help me be successful. I worked hard and ended up becoming a straight A student. It was amazing. I had so much stress lifted off my shoulders and I finally felt like I was capable of achieving so much.

By my senior year of college, I decided I wanted to take it another step further. I decided to take on an independent research study on top of my regular academic schedule and other obligations I had going on at the time. I ended up not only completing the project, but graduating with honorary distinction, presenting my project 3 times & getting accepted to present my project at the Midwestern Psychological Association in Chicago. Holy Crap.

Guys. I went from a 2.5 GPA student in High School to graduating college with honorary distinction & presenting at a conference in Chicago.

During my senior year, I also flunked the GRE to get into grad school. I studied so hard for the test and put everything I had into it. I remember getting home and looking at where my scores landed- 20th percentile. I remember crying because I tried so hard & hadn’t had the feeling of failing in a long time. What it proved is that I am not the “smart” measured by general education & society. I’m smart in my own way. That score doesn’t accurately measure the level of my intellectual ability. But, it’s also hard to understand & comprehend when that score is used to determine your eligibility to continue your education. The unfortunate thing is, most schools don’t take applicants who scored below the 50th percentile.

I didn’t get into grad school.

I remember feeling discouraged, frustrated & confused. My plan was to go to grad school right after college. But, I still never gave up and kept trying. Everyone kept telling me “You will end up where you’re supposed to be”, “Everything happens for a reason”, “This will open the door for bigger & better opportunities”.

One of the biggest lessons that I learned is that you have to trust the process. This is something that is much easier said than done & very hard to do when you are going through a similar situation as me. I had it in my mind that everything had to work out a certain way and something was wrong if it didn’t. I was comparing myself to others & seeing others reach the goals that I had set for myself. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others.

When I got let go from my 3rd job of 2018, people kept telling me, “This will open the door for an even better opportunity”. Great! Can I know what this great thing is because I’m about to lose my mind?

Starting my own business never crossed my mind. It was a goal that I never set for myself because I didn’t think I had the personality or what it takes to do so. I was fine with it & didn’t really care. But, it ended up being what was meant to be. Everything that I went through, the process, now makes sense because this is what I’m supposed to be doing & where I’m supposed to be. I was struggling to fit in to the “smarts” of everyone else and keeping up with everyone else because I’m supposed to be building my own path. Just because I failed every standardized test doesn’t mean I’m “dumb”. Just because I’m an introvert, doesn’t mean I don’t have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

Same goes for you.

If you are reading this and questioning how “smart” you are, feeling discouraged and/or don’t feel like you have what it takes to be successful, you do. We were all placed on this earth for a reason, to make a difference in our own way. We often have to go through certain experiences and situations to make things clear. It’s hard not to give up and get discouraged. Sometimes the path that we envision for ourselves isn’t the right path for us, that’s what ended up happening for me. The right path will become clear, after we hit certain obstacles along the way.

I’m extremely stubborn & if you are anything like me, you don’t really want to hear any advice. But, just take it day by day. Let yourself feel the emotions you are feeling with each day. It’s OK to feel angry. Just don’t give up on yourself.

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The feeling of holding that LLC document brought on so many emotions. I felt so proud of myself for working through all the obstacles & never giving up. I finally made it!

If you or anyone you know would like to talk to me more about my experiences & journey, please feel free to reach out to me! I would love to help out in any way that I can.

- Blissfully Jess2

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