It’s a little overwhelming to look back on my life as I think about all the times I felt uncomfortable or fearful – usually about ready to seriously expand my comfort zone – not knowing where I’d end up. One of the scariest, looking back, was the day I started my sophomore year of high school…
When 6th grade came, my older sister and I started a private school. I came from a public elementary school that I liked well enough. I never had a lot of friends. I don’t remember anything except starting 6th grade hopeful. After half that year spent being in the “popular crowd” (wow, still not sure how or why I landed that upgrade!) the other girls in the class started to not like me. Either they had just started or never liked me and I was blind to it. The name calling, singling out and judgment got harsher and lasted all the way through the end of my 8th grade year. So many lunches were spent “pretending to study” when really, I was counting down the minutes until the next class started. I loathed every moment I wasn’t in class just so I didn’t feel so damn alone.
I felt like the luckiest kid in the world when I started 9th grade because my sister and I were able to switch schools to a public school. My mom was really not looking forward to that change, but we complained so much I think she finally gave in. I started this year of school the same way I did in 6th grade – hopeful. Maybe finally, for the first time, I could get real friends. I could be well-liked and not judged. Well, I did seem to be liked, I guess. Only problem was I hung out in a crowd that I didn’t belong in. Lots of partying, lying and seeing things I was too immature to handle. Late into that year, me and a couple “friends” ran into some of my old classmates from the private school. We went back to my house to hang out and catch up. Things happened that night that launched me into a whole other dimension of sadness, misunderstanding and utter lostness. I wasn’t sure when or if I’d come back from it. The only good news was that I didn’t have to see those people again since we went to different schools…
After failing a class my freshman year on top of my other awful grades, getting into trouble constantly and making a series of decisions that did more harm than good, the decision was made to send my sister and me back to the private school. Back to the one place I never wanted to know again. With “that night” only months before, I stepped onto the school grounds and was faced with more ridicule and pain than I had ever known before. It felt like my body was being torn to pieces and thrown out to all corners of the world. I was vulnerable, depressed and so very alone.
Things went from bad to worse that year. I kept believing it couldn’t get any worse, but then it did. Much worse. One night toward the end of my sophomore year I had hit rock bottom. I was so young. That night life literally kicked the shit out of me. It was one of the most important nights of my life. At the end of a night that seemed to last forever, where the darkest darkness swirled around in the early summer air, I found myself in the back of a truck alone. I stared up at the stars as if I was just seeing them for the first time. Tears streamed down my face and only one question was on my mind. “How did I get here?”
There was nowhere else to go except up. The last two years of my high school experience were spent alone, except this was the first time it was my decision. I excelled in Karate, I started studying hard and ended up graduating with Honors, I stopped lying about anything and everything – I needed to get my life back and I did. Those of you that have been here a while, you know the side of me that was “found”. You know of my success, my deep passion to help others, my willingness to stand in the fire of life. Very few know the me that was “lost” or the story of how I came to be found. I’ve not been hiding it from you, but rather, felt this was a story that deserved to be told the right way. Not in a blog post that will get buried in an Archives section, but this story deserved every minute of the hundred+ hours I’ve poured into the book version, which I hope to release next year. The few people who’ve read it all had a similar reaction. “It’s as if I was right there in the story with you, learning as you did, growing as you did.” I’m very excited to have this dream fulfilled and get this book out to you.
In the meantime, I wanted to share my story as so many of you have had the courage to do. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable everyone. It’s the only way we can grow and learn. It’s the growing that is the journey of this life. It’s the learning that makes us the person we are proud to be and the person that has the power to change the world, however many lives at a time.