Thursday, August 7, 2008

Overcoming Adversity to Find Strength

Life isn’t perfect, but adversity helps to define who we are.

By Cambridge Who’s Who Member and Contributing Author Jo DeMarco

Most of us reach a point when we begin to think that life used to be much easier. Memories of our youth peek in and out of our consciousness and we flash back to what we thought was the best time of our lives. If we’re lucky, age and experience teaches us that is not so. Rather, the knowledge and strength that we gain from enduring adversities allow us to develop a strong sense of self. We are better equipped to face future challenges and more likely to achieve our goals.

I cannot help but look back at my own life, the various adversities I faced and how (by the grace of God) I overcame each stumbling block that presented itself. At the time, I thought each to be an insurmountable obstacle. Now I look back and feel blessed that each hurdle was there to confront me. I have found that being faced with challenges forces us to grow, develop and thrive. I am certainly not an expert on solving problems nor do I propose that I have all the answers. I merely know what I have experienced, how I dealt with it and what worked well for me. Although much time has passed, I believe that the main adversities I have faced continue to plague many women today. I hope that sharing some of my personal experiences will encourage, enlighten or inspire someone who is going through the same or similar circumstances.

Divorce – At the age of 20, I was a divorced and single mother with $240 to my name (hey, at least the next month’s rent was paid!). I realized that the relationship I was in did not have a positive element left to it and was certainly not what I had bargained for or wanted my daughter to grow up in. I refused to let someone drag me and my baby down with them, and I chose to move on to achieve a higher quality of life for both of us. I planned, I plotted and I set goals. Each goal was for the short term and very attainable. Upon achieving an objective, I quickly set another, raising the bar and aiming higher. In deciding which direction to go in, I took a realistic view of myself and evaluated what assets I had and what I needed to acquire in order to get where I wanted to be. Remember that you need to learn to walk before you can run. Keep your focus and your eye on the prize. No whining, no finger pointing, no begging, no crying (ok, maybe just a little, but not in front of anyone). Assess your current situation and create a plan to overcome it.

Working mom and student – In the early 80s, a working single mother came with the stigma of being unreliable and a risk due to having limited resources for child care. Therefore, single working mothers were often associated with unpredictable attendance and/or frequent emergencies. I sometimes felt that I had the scarlet “A” stamped on my forehead. To assure my employer of my dependability, I communicated a plan A, B and C for child care. Starting at the bottom of every position that I was fortunate enough to obtain, it was never enough to be a “good” employee. I was driven to be the best. I was a sponge in each work environment, soaking up every single detail of my job, the company, its make up, opportunities, etc. Taking a class here and a seminar there, watching, listening and studying the particulars paved the way for me to grow. One job led to another; the next one was always a step up. I learned early on never to ask for a raise. My strategy was to take advantage of every opportunity the company had to offer, prove my worth and ensure that I was an asset worth keeping. My appetite was insatiable, yet I sometimes forfeited a higher salary for more experience and vocational training, knowing that it would benefit me in the long run. I felt that every single position I held had a reason and purpose that I could draw from in the future. That feeling rings true to this day.

Finances – Very simple. Prioritize your expenses and live within your means. Want more? Need more? Work more! Take a second job, find a third job or work at home if necessary. Plan ahead. Commit a specific amount on a regular basis to whatever you’re saving for and before you know it, you’ll meet your goal. Have a financial back-up plan. Cut up those credit cards, buy sale items and don’t overspend. I used to think that being rich meant being able to pay all of your bills on time, to go to the grocery store and purchase anything you want without having heart palpitations and to take one vacation per year. I still believe in that theory today!

Love – Isn’t it safe to assume that matters of the heart create a significant amount of turmoil in our lives? Didn’t someone once say, “Better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all?” Love is a continuous lesson in life. Although we may try hard, we may never get all the answers. However, we can learn a lot and have fun in the process. Be true to yourself, and while it’s good to be the willow once in awhile, don’t let anyone break you. The benefit of keeping your life full is that in case love goes out the window, your whole life doesn’t go with it. Sharing your life is a beautiful thing, but remember that sharing is only giving a part of something; not the entire thing. Also keep in mind that the only reason to look back to the past is to learn from your mistakes; otherwise keep facing forward. Keep your focus and you’ll find your next love around the corner.

Adversity is a part of life and we should not fear it for it helps us to define who we are. After all, wouldn’t life be dull if it were perfect?

No comments: