“So when do you leave for L.A?!” my co-workers excitedly asked when I returned to the office after taking my second polygraph for the FBI. Unfortunately, I never verbally answered the question, but my puffy, red eyes and the tears streaming down my face spoke volumes. My co-workers understood the unspoken. I failed. That day was the end of the beginning… The worst was yet to come.
From the time I was 16 years old, all I wanted to do was work for the FBI. I was not even sure of a specific position, but the FBI was going to be my career.
Every choice I made was based on that goal. I’ve never tried any type of illegal drug, chose my friends carefully, the schools I attended mattered, the jobs I had were meaningful… LITERALLY. EVERY. CHOICE. I. MADE. I. HAD. THE. F.B.I. IN. MIND.
At 22, fresh off graduating with a B.S. in Sociology, I met my mentor and he helped me narrow down the position I wanted based on my career goal. My skills, career goals, plus what I enjoyed doing led me to completing an application for an Intelligence Analyst (IA). Winter 2012 an announcement for an IA opened. Turned out, I met the minimum qualifications and made it to phase II: testing.
To make myself a more desirable candidate, I decided to get a Master of Science in Criminal Justice. I chose to go to the University of Cincinnati as it was ranked in the top three in the United States. I completed it in one year and graduated in April 2013.
In the summer of 2013, I had to take a two-part test to determine if I had the analytical and critical thinking skills to be an IA.
Winter 2013, I received notification that I had passed phase II and qualified for phase III: panel interview.
June 2014, out of the blue, I was scheduled for an interview. During the interview, I was told 1,300 interviews were being conducted nationwide.
July 21, 2014, I was informed I passed the interview. Next step, job offer.
July 22, 2014, I received a job offer to be an IA! I was so happy I cried. I called and texted all my family and friends. THIS IS IT!! All the hard work, all the tears, all the ups and downs, all the things I did, all the things I didn’t do was for this right here. I did it! I reached my life’s goal at the age of 24! Like, seriously?! It was surreal.
As excited as I was, I was terrified. I would be leaving everybody behind, including my one in a million son. I experienced moments of pure euphoria and moments of depression. I was homesick and wasn’t even gone yet. The only thing left was the background check, which included a polygraph test.
That August, I was scheduled for my security interview and polygraph. I passed my security interview, but failed my polygraph… twice. I’ve never failed anything in my life, like, ever. Me never failing anything was the reason I was even offered a job with FBI in the first place. The irony.
The polygraph examiner, who was also a Supervisory Special Agent, didn’t care and after interrogating me on my “lies” (the questions I “lied” on could have easily been proven had they done a background check) said there would be no way I would be granted a third try and because I didn’t pass the polygraph, a background check would not be completed and the job offer would be rescinded.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything more painful in my life. Now that I am thinking about it, it was the worst day of my life. To be so close, but, yet so far from my dreams was unbearable.
Family, friends, and co-workers tried to convince me everything happens for a reason and “what’s meant to be will be,” which at the time, I thought was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. I thought it was more along the lines of “bad things happen to good people” and not that “when one door closes, another opens” like they were trying to force me to believe.
For their sake and my sanity, I put on my happy face and hid the pain. I just wanted to be left alone and pretending to be okay made people leave me alone.
October 4, 2014. I turned 25 years old and turns out, sanity is overrated and I lost it.
That’s when it all hit me. I was a single mom, living at my dad’s house, nothing even close to a savings account, stuck at a dead-end job; I had 30k owed to Sallie Mae for a degree I wasn’t even using, and I had no purpose in life. I was a bona fide loser. A failure. A disgrace to those who knew me.
If anybody was to be successful, it was Sayde. I didn’t live up to the hype. I was like Lebron before he took his talents to South Beach.
I took a look in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. By 25, I planned to have a nice, big house on the East Coast, my son would be in private school, lack of money wouldn’t be an issue, I’d be married, I’d have stamps in my passport, and I would be well into my career with the FBI. I didn’t have any of that and it freaked me out and I thought I was going to go into a depression so dark and twisted that there would be no way out.
It was a struggle to get out of bed every morning and handle my day-to-day responsibilities. I had come to the realization that I had been so focused on plan A, that I didn’t even have a plan B and, now, I had nothing. I even became envious of those around me who appeared to have their lives together. I felt empty, like my life was over. My mom and boyfriend constantly told me that my life was not over and a mid-life crisis is not a “thing at 25.”
They were half right.
Having a mid-life crisis at 25 is not a thing. But, having a QUARTER-LIFE CRISIS at 25 totally is! (Side note: Can I just say I was really disappointed when a Google search rendered results and I wasn’t the first person to coin the phrase “quarter-life crisis.”) According to Self.com, experts define a quarter-life crisis as a sense of panic that your life isn’t where you want it to be. There’s 12 steps for alcoholics, 5 stages for the grieving, and 5 phases for those of us experiencing a quarter-life crisis.
Phase One: A feeling of being trapped by your life choices.
Having made every decision from the time I was 16 to 24 to ensure a position at the FBI, only to end up with a rescinded job offer because of “lies” I didn’t tell and 30k in student loans for a degree I wasn’t using — feeling trapped was an understatement.
Phase Two: A rising sense of “I’ve got to get out” and the feeling that you can change your life.
I felt like walls were closing in on me. I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, but at the same time, I felt an overwhelming sense of “I have to make a change, and fast!” A new hairdo, weight loss, a completely new career field, new hobbies, new friends, new wardrobe… just a complete makeover on my entire life needed to happen.
Phase Three: Quitting the job or relationship or whatever else is making you feel trapped and embarking on a “time out” period where you try out new experiences to find out who you want to be.
Now, mama didn’t raise no fool, so I didn’t just up and quit my dead-end job and I didn’t sell my car to be able to travel around the world for 6 months. I began working on a plan to find a new career, even if that meant going back to school for a new degree. I had made up in my mind that the medical field would be a great way to start over. My best friend went from a political science major to getting a B.S. in Nursing, so I figured, why not?
I began to research medical professions, deciding nursing would be my best route. I then researched nursing programs and the required prerequisites to those programs. The idea of going back to school for 4-5 years and owing more money to Sallie Mae was unappealing, so I decided that using my current degrees was my best move.
My test scores for the FBI are good forever and I can apply for a job again in August 2017. In the meantime, I can build my resume and become an even better candidate, should I choose to apply again. During this phase, I realized that my dream of working for the FBI wasn’t over. It was just on hold.
I like investigating and solving problems and I’m good at helping people. So I began a non-stop search of finding new employment, which led me to phase four and five.
Phase Four: Rebuilding your life.
Phase Five: Developing new commitments more attuned to your interests and aspirations.
I feel like these are intertwined with one another. I’m rebuilding my happily ever after. It’s going to take some time, but I’ll get there. As I’m rebuilding my life, I’ve realized not all aspects of my life require a makeover.
I already found a job that I think is actually going to be my new plan A; it has everything I’ve been needing and some things I didn’t know I needed! I’m even considering on setting my long-term goal to be CEO of the company one day. The current CEO started in my position and she’s bound to retire someday.
Also, I’m definitely putting more focus into the things I like to do and I’m being very open to new experiences as well. I tried to pick up crocheting for a while. I taught myself how to do it and then I didn’t like it. So I stopped after making 1 1/2 scarves.
Next, I’ll be going to the gun range as a hobby to try to perfect my shot. And, it’s a good stress reliever; although this stage of my life is way less stressful. Or maybe I’ll take up a cooking class or go learn a trade. Who knows? At this point, the sky’s the limit. I can do whatever I want as long as I put my mind to it.
I understand there may be some bumps in the road and things may not turn out exactly as I may want them to, but in the end, IT ALL WORKS OUT. If I learned nothing else from this crisis, I learned that. And, I definitely wasn’t able to get to this point in my life without help from my support system.
My support system was strong for me on the days when I was weak and believed in me more than I believed in myself at times. One and a half years later, I can talk about the FBI without crying, I don’t feel like the dark cloud is hanging over my head and raining on me, and you know what else I realized?? Nobody else has it all together either! We are all in the same boat, feeling the same amount of pressure, just trying to survive the world.
One and a half years later, I feel free. Now, I am optimistically journeying my way through my new plan A. This is the beginning of the end… The best is yet to come.
Featured Photo by Dave Newman via Flickr (Changes made: built upon, transformed)