When we look at each other, we tend to only see the signs and symbols of each other’s lives. If we live in a big house, we must be happy. If we’re thin, we’re loveable, if we carry a designer purse or drive an expensive car, we must be successful. The truth is, none of what we have is who we are or a reflection of the challenges that were placed in our path. We are the sum of the choices we have made, the experiences we have lived and even at that we can change our lives in an instant. I have three times. The Third Time’s the Charm.
I don’t know what people really think when they hear I’m a Harvard graduate. What I make up about what they think is this: I have had it easy, a silver spoon path. Oh, if only it were true. I came to Harvard by way of Hell and it happened only after I declared my first life over. But I won’t jump ahead too quickly.
Here is the “Cliff Notes” version of my first life: Sexually molested from 7 to 11, beaten by a drunken mother until my legs would bleed, flunked out of college at first try, raped at 20 while still a virgin, dumped by my then fiancée (damaged goods), hit by a drunk driver at 21 and couldn’t walk for three years, had three operations on my leg and became addicted to percodan and valium. One day, I looked down at my hand and saw that I was about to take 12 valium tablets to stop the muscle spasms in my leg. By the grace of God I had a moment of clarity and flushed the drugs down the toilet, went cold turkey and came off the drugs.
When I turned my life around, I met a young man from Brazil, we fell in love and made plans to be married. The last time I saw him was when he left my home, after my mother (who was drunk at the time) declared to him that I would be beating my clothes clean on the rocks if I married him, he left and I never saw him again.
At 25 years old, God and I had a talk. This could not be my life, for if it really was, I didn’t want to live it. I declared that life null and void and started over.
My second life was much better. I no longer looked outside myself for validation, I looked inside. I found a job and an apartment and took a night course at a community college. I got an A. Maybe I wasn’t stupid, or maybe it was a fluke. I took another course and got another A. I quit my job, took out loans and went back to school full time. I excelled at every thing I touched and as valedictorian of my class, first woman president of the student government, on the board of trustees of the college and many successes; I was accepted as one of 35 juniors at Harvard. I loved the intellectual environment of Harvard but was never really able to accept that I belonged there. So instead of scaling up my life, I scaled it down after graduation. Instead of finding the life that fit me, I fit myself into the life that I thought would suit me best. I have never regretted that journey, for it blessed me with 2 wonderful sons and the most precious gift of all, finding myself again. My husband decided to find himself and left, so after a bit of a
struggle with working 3 part-time jobs to make ends meet, I went back to graduate school to get an MBA at age 39.
Newly into my first professional job, I learned that my father had cancer. He was unable to drive to his radiation therapy, so my brother and I moved my parents from South Carolina to New York into my apartment complex so that I could take care of them. After four brief months my father died, leaving me responsible for a mother who could not show her love for me. Committed to living a life of no regrets, I nursed my parents during their last days. I didn’t really have much time to ponder anything. I just did the best I could, always struggling to make peace with the past and forgive myself for my errors in judgment. After my mom passed away, and my first-born graduated from high school, God gave me another window. We made a deal. He gave me back 15 years and I could start a new life, for the third time. This time for me and for a bigger purpose.
Having been raised a good Irish-Catholic girl who does not air the family laundry (or skeletons in public), I have only shared my story with the women who I thought needed to hear it: those on welfare or homeless. It always seemed to make a difference to them, to give them hope. I share it with you today so that you will know the source from where I speak. Hope is something we all can use, whether recovering from trauma, abuse, addiction, a broken heart, a failed business (yep, that too) or from the discontent from living a life disconnected from our purpose.
Life is good. This is what I learned. It doesn’t really matter what happens to you, it only matters what you do with it. If you turn inwards, hard times become bitter gall that tortures you all the more. If you create a bigger reason for your life, each morsel dished out becomes a sweet piece of bliss. I have peace and a quiet mind. That is a gift to share.
I don’t believe anything is possible, I know it. The most blessed gift you can give another human being is hope. If we have hope, anything is possible. This is your life, take hold and live it now. This moment is the only one we have, and it is sweet because we get to choose how we are going to live it. I choose to live out loud, what about you?
Right now, as a Social Media Manager, you are on the adventure of a lifetime. The gifts you bring to your clients are the sum total of your life experiences, training, education, but most of all the wisdom you bring to life’s table. Use it all to shape the social media dialogue for yourself, your clients and those who you don’t even know, yet. I read a line in a book many years ago by Chuck Norris (yes I know, but it is profound). To paraphrase (it was a long time ago), You never know who the stranger is that you meet everyday, treat everyone you meet well. Everyone is a stranger until we get to know them and with the power of social media, you have the tool to teach, inspire, share and lead. You are the gift and thank you for sharing the You of who you are with the world.
Maureen Crain is a GSMMA expert