When tears silently fell from her cheek upon finding the note from her lover, 3 days before their daughter was born that read: “I’m sorry. I can’t do this.”
When classmates asked where my daddy was. I lied & told them he was Crocodile Dundee, and had to be in Australia to tame the outback.
When we used different money than everyone else to buy bread & milk.
When I was 14 and sat in the hospital waiting room on a sunny June day. When my adopted dad finally emerged, after what seemed like hours, he handed me a pamphlet. It read, “Helping Your Family Cope with Terminal Cancer.”
When I would hear Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” come on the radio after he died, just a few short months later, after tearfully asking me to call him “dad” instead of “Jimmy,” like I always had. I got to call him it twice.
When it was just me & my mom after that, and all of the other 15 year olds had basements underneath their houses. We had wheels.
When my mother’s debilitating anxiety & social disorder prevented her from ever coming to watch me play volleyball more than once in 4 years. We were almost state champions.
When the founder of Monster.com thought I was worthy enough to be awarded a 4-year, all-expense paid scholarship to a private, liberal arts school—room & board included. The scholarship was based on financial need & demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit. My mom cried.
When I took the scholarship and left her all alone.
When an unexpected card would arrive with $50 that she didn’t have inside, telling me to go buy myself something pretty.
When, a few years later, I found myself back in that same hospital waiting room. But this time, it was my mother I was waiting for to come out of the doctor’s office.
When I realized the seriousness of the matter.
When she taught me how to pay all of the bills, as I wrote out check after check from her hospital bedside, as nurses came in and out to take her blood.
When the doctor’s arrogant insensitivity to her pain one day made her weep.
When I let him have a piece of my 20 year old mind.
When college friends ragged on me for not going out that weekend to party.
When I couldn’t.
When I got the phone call while driving to my first day at my internship at a local TV station.
When, by the time I got to our house, the coroner had taken her body & simply left a note on the door.
When, 4 months later, I walked across the graduation stage & got my college degree, not even bothering to look out into the crowd for a familiar face.
When I hastily auctioned off all of our things.
When I sold our trailer for $13,000 at market price, and took off for Central America.
When I loved it there, but still felt the pressing need to “live up to my potential” & become a CEO.
When I flew back to the United States several months later to interview for my first real job.
When I realized that I didn’t have a home to return to.
When the job went so well, I received a promotion to head up marketing efforts.
When I’d see planes pass by my office window, and longed to be one of the passengers on board.
When the realization came that I could only be one of those passengers for up to two weeks a year, from now until the day I retired. I didn’t want to waste my life like my parents did, always waiting until tomorrow to be happy—because tomorrow you’re dead.
When I discovered that my dreams of corporate success—or anything most people want—was never worthy of wanting.
When others told me I was naïve; that I just had to suck it up.
When those same people spent Thanksgiving & Christmas with their families.
When I quit my job & decided to start a copywriting business instead.
When I actually thought that spending my time developing corporate communications materials that didn’t interest me would be any better.
When that same year, I got a contract to write an eBook on visiting Costa Rica.
When I realized they didn’t have exclusive rights, and I could develop my own site & sell the book there, too.
When I laboriously tried to learn HTML.
When I saw my very first sale come through Clickbank.
When I discovered the world of online.
When I rediscovered my love for marketing.
When I painstakingly slaved over a book proposal to write a non-fiction narrative titled, “The Truth About Mangoes.” (Worst name ever.)
When I repeatedly received the infamous rejection letter (after rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter).
When my new venture wasn’t pulling as much revenue as I thought I would, and had to borrow money from a boyfriend to pay my $1,000 a month rent.
When I caved to pressure & agreed to take a job as an advertising executive in order to pay the bills.
When I got contract after contract signed on the spot… for years.
When, in my heart, I knew I needed more than signatures & commissions.
When, despite that knowledge, I was too scared to make any bold moves, knowing that I had no one in the world to back me up if I failed.
When I stood by and watched that fear get the best of me.
When I decided to begin my graduate work in Linguistics.
When I imagined that my degree would allow me to indefinitely travel the world, and make anywhere I pleased my home.
When loan applications were denied without a parent co-signer.
When I decided that I would teach writing as a way to make up for it.
When my best friend told me I needed to find a new place to live so her boyfriend could move in.
When I had $26 in my T.D. Bank account, and no choice but to go stay with a mysterious new guy I had been seeing.
When, a few weeks later, I discovered he was an illegal immigrant with a fake identification, a fake name, and a fake life.
When I was alone & scared in the middle of the night, with everything I owned and no place to go.
When I felt like it was all my fault.
When I made my writing business my number one priority that year, and grew a blog called The Middle Finger Project as a way to find people who GOT IT. Who got ME, and this NEED to seek MORE out of life…despite the consequences.
When I continued to blog. And blog. And blog.
When my ideas were well-received.
When I decided to use all the years I spent in corporate America for good – and teach marketing and sales (with an edge, of course) to other people who wanted to break free & start their own business, but had no idea where to start.
When my ideas were not only well-received – but they were changing people’s lives.
When I would get emails saying that, because of me, Sandy, age 35, could now afford to buy herself health care.
When I continued to expand the company.
When I began plotting even more new ventures – like our new travel company for small business owners, Life Hooky.com.
When my influence online grew. (And grew. HOW DID IT GROW SO FAST? I still wonder.)
When I decided to move to Chile, simply because I wanted to, and I can, since I no longer have to be in any one physical location, thanks to this life and business I’ve created for myself. And later, Spain. And then Ecuador. And now, Costa Rica.
When I looked around me yesterday, took a sip of my wine, and finally felt like I was doing what I was meant to do, and being what I was meant to be…despite the long road it took to get here.
That said, I have a message.
For everyone out there thinking to yourself that it’s unrealistic, YOU ARE WRONG.
For everyone out there shackled by fear, telling yourself that you could lose everything, YOU ARE RIGHT.
And for everyone out there that, despite that knowledge, is still willing to risk it by fighting for something more out of this fleeting speck of time we’re granted here on earth, YOU ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO WILL TRULY SUCCEED.
Because at the very least, you know that you did everything you could.
Not everybody can say the same.