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 phamplet. 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 insensivity 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 house & moved to Costa Rica—mostly because I didn’t know what else to do.
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.
When I discovered that my dreams of corporate success were never worthy of my time.
When others told me I was naïve, and 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 become a freelance copywriter 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 Google Adwords.
When I rediscovered my love for marketing – marketing for humans, that is.
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 account 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 returned to school for my master’s degree 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 roommate and best friend told me I needed to find a new place to live so her boyfriend could move in. I had $26.
When I had no choice but to go stay with a mysterious new guy I had been seeing.
When, a few weeks later, I fought for my 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 decided to start 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, and I began to grow an audience.
When I decided to use all the years I spent in corporate America for good – and teach marketing and sales with a fun edge.
When my ideas were not only well-received – but they were saving people’s businesses.
When I found myself up until the wee hours of the night “working.”
When I continued to expand the company.
When I began plotting some new companies (and non-profits!) as well.
When my influence online grew. (And grew.)
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 many people can say the same.