The actual door to the jail where Author Jeff Emmerson entered as a young man, escorted by court officers.

This is a photo I took of the actual front door to the jail I was escorted to by court officers many years ago as a young man – an experience that changed my life. I took this in 2004, and the jail was torn down shortly after.

Inspiration During Hard Times: It’s Still All Around You

I remember being in the back of the prisoner van, thinking to myself “What the hell did I do?! I’m really screwed this time…I feel like a total failure, and I feel so (swear word) ashamed and angry at myself for getting myself into this situation.

The biggest piece of advice I can possibly offer you when it comes to seeing through the fog of sadness and despair in any situation is that everything passes. EVERYTHING. I know – that sounds way too easy, right? Of course it does when you’re in the middle of a hard experience. However, it’s true.

Sitting in jail, feeling the roar of a sudden, new and vicious level of determination to prove myself, I knew I was going to give my life if that’s what it took to go from the moment I was in all the way to being successful in the eyes of society (and myself, which was a much harder lesson to learn, one I’m still working on to this day). I could have chosen to give up on myself, or dust myself off in baby steps and “pick myself back up” for the lessons I was about to learn to grow as a human being…I had two vividly-clear choices in front of me. They screamed at me, actually.

We All Need A Reminder Sometimes (We’re Human!)

During hard times is when you need to remind yourself the most – in every loss, challenge, mistake and experience, you can sit back, breathe deep and take some time to look at the big-picture of your life. What happened? Why might it have happened (be honest on this one as much as you can, believe me), what immediate lessons does the situation teach you? How might it change your perspective for the better, even if you feel heartbroken or depressed/angry?

I didn’t know how I’d eat at times, so I stole money on a couple occasions (from a family member who is now deceased), which took me a long time to deal with (the shame of it, praying to God and the person themselves to forgive me for what I did). I also didn’t know how I’d pay the rent at times, I was so lost in self-loathing and despair, but you know what? I had to hang on to some sort of hope, to something bigger than the reality of the moment as I saw and felt it deep in my soul.

I knew that I could overcome it somehow…I had no idea how the hell I would survive, and at times I was scared to death to end up in jail or dead, but I stubbornly kept calling staffing companies and going from job to job, finally getting one that would help me get back on my feet thanks to my best friend, Sean (God bless him for all he’s done for me). My point?

Look To What Can Be, See It In Your Mind, In Your Heart, Then Work Toward It (Baby Steps With Self-Compassion!)

I know – that heading above sounds all pretty and nice, but life isn’t like that. Let me explain:

Whatever you’re going through, what do you want to change? What do you want instead of what’s currently happening? These are big, general questions, but they form the foundation of your life from today onward. Do you need more therapy of some sort (read more books, talk to someone, watch videos, change your daily routine for self-growth) to help dig deeper into your patterns of thought or behavior?

Or perhaps grieving someone you’ve lost in some way, shape or form is needed…or going back to the drawing board if you’re fed up with your job or career – these can be scary situations (like being in jail was for me), but every single step starts in your mind. Who you associate with is huge as well, so bare that in mind.

As always, I’m short for space here, but read this over a few times if you need to – stay stubborn in learning from every situation, especially the really hard times that test our faith and our hope, the ones that scare the crap out of us. As I learned from doing that myself (called a “growth mindset”), that’s where all change occurs – right between your ears.

It isn’t easy, but it’s so incredibly rewarding when you hang in there. Being on the other side from my own past, I can promise you that, as scary as all this can be.

Yours in purpose,

Jeff