It was February 2017 and I was standing on stage at the American Heart Association Go Red For Women Luncheon in League City Texas speaking to a room of 400 women. I had a smile plastered on my face and I said all the right words, but what I was hiding from the world, and from the audience, was the complete breakdown of my personal life.
In October 2016, only a few months before, my mother had passed away followed by my “marriage”, if you can call it that, exploding. I’ll spare you all those nasty details, but as I stood on that stage in the hotel that day, I forced myself into an almost robot-like performance and got through it. Not one single person in that room knew what my life was like at that very moment. I felt numb, overwhelmed and completely at a loss for what to do next.
I woke up the next morning with no vision for what came next. The future that I had envisioned for so long had completely vanished in a nanosecond. I suddenly had no idea who I was anymore. I had no close friends or family in Houston and still I would come to make the decision to stick it out in a city that held no close ties for me. But, over the next few months, I began to explore my options and think about what I truly wanted, a new vision started to take shape.
The biggest constant in my new life was taking consistent action every day. At first I focused on the the day and then the week, then the month. My 2 dogs and cat definitely forced me to engage in life every single day. They had no care that I was drifting in life. First and foremost, I had to figure out how to financially secure myself. I had built a photography brand that I could embrace and push forward, but I also yearned to teach. I had a masters degree in education and I decided now was the time to take my passion to the next level.
The personal brand that I had built around my photography business also gave me the advantage and allowed me to add on other passions while still keeping my name front and center in the network that I had cultivated in Houston.
I found a part-time job teaching with a non-profit focused on job search for mid-level professionals. It was a fluke that I had seen the Linkedin post, but I had already made the decision that I wanted to find some type of teaching job. It was this “fluke” that paved the way for a career teaching thousands of mid-level professionals over the past 5 years to believe in themselves and take the chance on being “seen”.
Of course, the road to creating a new life for myself was not easy. In fact, that first year it was really hard. I had to put myself out there and I learned that my stories and my difficulties could help others, especially women. They saw me standing there in front of them and that gave them the confidence to believe it was possible for them to rebuild their lives after divorce and being laid off from their job. I had never envisioned myself as a person who could empower others to take chances and believe in themselves. Me… the girl raised on a small farm in west Tennessee to an illiterate father and a kick-ass mother. Those women, and men, I empowered also empowered me right back.
Now, as I look back on my journey from that day in February 2017 on that stage to now, I realize that my path, as difficult as it was, afforded me the opportunities to help so many other women along the way. What I learned about myself in those dark days taught me resilience and perseverance. They forced me to confront my fears and step outside my comfort zone. And they ultimately led me to a new calling that has brought me more fulfillment and joy than I ever thought possible.
If you’re facing adversity in your own life, whether it’s a job loss, a health crisis, or something else entirely, know that there is always an opportunity waiting on the other side. It may not be the path you expected, but it could be the one that leads you to your true calling.
So take a deep breath, take that first step, and see where the journey takes you. Who knows – you may just discover a whole new side of yourself that you never knew existed.