When it is time to make some changes in our lives it can be very scary. We often hold onto what has happened to us in the past and we FEAR THE UNKNOWN. People often think that their past defines who they are. Yes, in some ways it does. However, what we do with our experiences, good and bad is what defines us. If we take our experiences and learn from them and create a better future for ourselves then it was all worth the pains and the joys.
I certainly understand this. I grew up in a very abusive household with a mentally ill mother and workaholic father. I was told that I was a twin and that the good twin died and the evil twin -( me) survived. I was subjected to physical and incredible emotional abuse. I was not a good student and often got in trouble at school. I was seeking attention and for someone to listen to me. This went on my entire childhood. I began drinking at a very early age, 12 to be exact. I learned that it would numb my emotions. I would steal alcohol from my parents bar every change I got. This went into my adulthood. I allowed all these feelings to fester inside myself. Which was a huge mistake.
By not dealing with my pain, I did allow my past to define me. I tried the college scene but quit at the first sign of a struggle. I started hanging around bikers and drunks because that is who I felt comfortable with. My self-esteem was at the bottom of the barrel . I married who I thought was the love of my life. Again, I allowed my lack of self-esteem affect my life. He was a drug addict and alcoholic and ended up robbing a bank and was sent off to prison for 7.5 years. I stayed with him for three years because I really did not know what to do. During these three years I started finding my way and reaching out to people who could have a positive impact on my life. I eventually became a Substance Abuse Therapist. Someone gave me a chance after I was clean for three years. That opportunity completely changed my life.
I had a lot of ghosts in my closet that I needed to come to terms with. I chose to face them. I was a therapist for 13 years working with the most hardcore drug addicts you can imagine. The horror stories I could tell you would break your heart. I was getting stronger and stronger every day. I still made stupid mistakes but I always pulled myself back up and kept going. I met my present husband of 25 years! We raised three children, two of whom were special needs children. I eventually had to give up my career to be a stay at home mom to be there for my kids. That was really tough because I had now allowed my job to define who I was. I felt great when working and doing what I loved to do – help others.
Two of my boys were incredibly hard to handle and I started to experience depression. I started seeking therapy which was a good decision for me because it allowed me to vent and learn how to deal with stress and crisis. I am not ashamed to say that I had to take medication to control my emotions.
Eventually after a serious suicide attempt on my part, I decided enough was enough. I wanted more out of my life and I was determined to find it. That is when I made the decision to go back to school. That was a heavy decision for me because I knew how much stress it was going to add to my life, but I decided it was worth it. I walked into Strayer University in September 2007 and said “What do I have to do?” The admissions officer was fantastic and walked me through every step. All the while in my head I finally was hearing “You can do this, go for it.” I never looked back. Here I am four years later with my Bachelor’s degree a couple of weeks away and I am already registered for my Master’s program. I graduated High Honors, Magna Cum Laude, a GPA of 3.8, a member of Alpha Chi National College Honor Society and Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society. Wait a minute! Me, really? YES ME!
The point is when you stop letting the past define you is when you can really begin to live. I am not saying it is easy by any means, and I have had incredible struggles over the last four years such as a son who became an addict and broke the law and was facing 6 years in prison but was able to go to a very intense 2 year program to get the help he needed. A son who during what was supposed to be my final quarter had a very serious grease accident which caused life threatening, third degree full thickness burns on both hands and required intense therapy and daily scrapings. Papa Ange died un-expectantly and Mama has late stage Alzheimer’s and we had to find a place for her among dealing with estate issues. Before we got her placed, I would stay up 24 hours straight with her until my sister could relieve me. It was just her and I. This, working and going to school at the same time. However, I did not allow all of it to cause me to fail, I pushed back even harder and had to struggle very hard to get my assignments done, I did it. That is was counts.
The bottom line here is I could have easily said “Oh well this is my life” and stayed stuck. I could have let my past define me as a failure. I could’ve let all the struggles and pain define me as weak and not strong enough to push through the hard times. I say all the time that I did not have one peaceful, no stress quarter of school. I allow it to define my future – as A SUCCESS! The past is what it is, the past. Let it stay there. It does not need to be your future. REMEMBER, YOU HAVE CONTROL.
What I have shared here is my personal story and does not tell everything. It would take a novel to tell it all but I think you get the message. Do what you need to do to define your future. Become the best you can be. It’s ok to be scared, it’s NOT ok to just quit! Quitters are that, quitters. You may even stumble along the way, that too is ok as long as you allow yourself to pick yourself back up.
Pain is there for a reason, it is a lesson. Let the lesson be that you can fight through the pain. That you can fight through the sorrows and disappointments. TO BE THE PERSON YOU WERE MEANT TO BE!
ENJOY THE JOURNEY!