Shortly after I was born, my mother realized something was wrong and they soon discovered that I had acute allergies to a lot of things – foods and environmental mostly – and this severely limited what I was able to eat and what I was able to do. It also caused me to be sick far more often than most kids. These challenges meant that everyday life was more complicated and that adjustments had to be made. I was sick, smart, wore glasses, and was on the husky side – the perfect recipe for a little girl to feel like she doesn’t quite fit in.
My family moved to a new city when I was 7 because the air quality was better. Thankfully, my health began to improve but the kids at the new school weren’t very welcoming and my role of misfit was solidified. I learned to tolerate the teasing and exclusion from the other students and eventually made a few friends. I joined clubs, choirs, and teams, studied and got good grades, and I developed a thick skin and learned to ignore the cruel things the other students said and did.
Miraculously, when I was about to start high school, I was offered the chance to be part of a pilot program for “gifted” students at a high school outside of our district. That meant a fresh start where no one knew me and a chance to show up in a different way. And I was absolutely terrified! Here’s my lesson – sometimes, even tolerating pain is less frightening than taking a chance because it’s familiar and inside our comfort zone but when we stay there nothing can change. As it turns out, grade 9 is a scary transition for a lot of people so I wasn’t alone. I had enrolled in music class and band and very quickly made friends there. My teachers liked me, many of the other students liked me, and I thrived!
Unfortunately, at the end of grade 10, the pilot program ended and I was sent back to my home school for grade 11. After a few months back in the land of misfit toys, something snapped and I suffered a breakdown. Half way through my grade 11 year, I quit school. A few months later I was pregnant and some of the people I trusted told me that I was an embarrassment and that my life was ruined. Sadly, I believed them and resigned myself to make the best of the situation I’d created and to become the best mother I could be to the baby who was coming. At 17 – on my own with a 3 month old baby – I went on welfare, got an apartment, and for the next several years I floated back and forth between trying to complete high school and taking minimum wage jobs when the financial strain became unbearable. I finally graduated high school in my early twenties.
A few years later, I realized that minimum wage jobs and welfare would not provide the life I wanted to give my son so decided I needed to get a proper education. Rather than going to university, I elected to take a secretarial course at a local business college and when I was tested, they suggested I consider a program that would offer more opportunities. It was Business Administration with a focus on Accounting. When the counsellor said I would likely make more money, it was not a difficult decision. After spending the next 18 months juggling school and family, I graduated with a 96% average, received a President’s Honour Roll diploma and promptly found a job making $10 per hour. (At the time, that was about 1 1/2 times minimum wage.) Success!
A couple of years later, I started a bookkeeping business when I could no longer juggle the responsibilities of my family and a full time job. This was a difficult transition and thank God they had encouraged me to take the accounting course because I felt like I had a skill that I could turn into a business. I had no idea what I was doing but I knew I needed to make a living and that I needed to be available to meet the needs of the people I loved most in this world so I persevered and eventually I figured it out. I learned what it took to build a successful bookkeeping business and as we moved around the country, every time I started the business it became easier. The 4th time, I was up and running and at capacity in less than a year! I had become a successful business woman!
Almost 20 years after my son was born, I finally realized that I had bought into a lie. I was still the same smart, funny young woman I had always been with the same gifts and the same potential that had always been there. My life had not been ruined and I started to understand that if I was willing to work for it, there was nothing stopping me from having whatever I wished.
And so I began the work of healing, of changing the way I saw myself and looking for the things my husband and my friends told me they saw. And the most miraculous thing happened! I got to know a smart, funny, strong, sassy, resilient, somewhat irreverent lady who I would be proud to call my friend. I began to see the beauty my loved ones had been telling me was there all along. I began to understand that my flaws are nothing to be ashamed of. They are part of what makes me unique and wonderful and that realization opened my eyes and my spirit to a whole different way of being.
What drives me in my coaching and speaking is understanding the deep pain and despair of feeling invisible and like you don’t matter and the slow death of your spirit when you truly believe those things to be true. I know that there are a lot of people who have felt the same pain and I believe I am called to help them see that they don’t have to continue to suffer. They can acknowledge themselves as the beautiful, amazing creatures they are and they were born to be and together we can set their spirit free.
I feel incredibly blessed to be given the opportunity to do this work. It has not been easy to arrive at a place where I’ve made peace with much of what has happened. I continue to work through things as they come up and can honestly say, if you’d told me 25 years ago that I would be in this place of happiness, acceptance, and hope for what the future holds I would not have believed it possible. It gives me tremendous joy and a deep sense of fulfillment to share this same message with my clients and the people who come to hear me speak. How much better could it possibly get? I can’t wait to find out!!