A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from my alma mater, Florida International University. FIU is extending an invitation to students, faculty and alumni to participate in their FIU TEDx event.
“TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. They are looking for eight speakers – students, alumni or faculty to speak on this theme year’s theme, “Reimagine Possible.”
I found TEDTALKS about 6 months ago and I think it is amazing! “TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes.” I have imagined speaking at an TED TALKS event and am so excited about this opportunity, so I applied!
So, the theme again is “Reimagine Possible.” Speakers will be announced Sept. 30. So just in case I’m not selected as one of the speakers, I want to share a summary of my TALK with you, so here it is!
When I was 22 years old I had just given birth to a brand new baby boy! I moved out of my parent’s house and into a subsidized apartment with my son’s father who was 10 years older than I was, unemployed and had no means of providing for us but I loved him anyway. I had two years left in college to complete. I had no car (no driver’s license because I didn’t know how to drive), no job, no health insurance, no money! My parents were devastated and angry and made it clear that there was no coming back home for me! So there I was, on my own, determined to finish college, raise my son and one day marry this man who said he loved me. I would have never thought that in less than two years he would hit me so hard, I would nearly passed out and the mark that was left on my face stayed with me for days after. And of course, it would get much worse before it got better.
Over time the slaps to my face grew few but the fear was there every day, all the time and it hurt just the same. Just like many who experience this type of abuse I thought I could fix it, that if I do it like this, say this don’t say that, be prettier, be nicer be quite that somehow this madness would become the life I imagined for myself; but I was wrong.
This talk isn’t about domestic violence and how to survive it. That’s easy…get out! This talk is about how I began to believe that I could survive it. It’s about how I could reimagine possible, a new and better life for myself. And it’s about how I apply these same principles to achieving my goals today. It’s important to note that these principles did not come about through years of research, data and studies; they were born out of pain, hope, patience and prayer.
Think and Believe
I first had to allow myself to even think it could be different, to convince myself that it was safe to have these ideas in head and in my heart and this would eventually open the door to allowing me to begin believe it could be different.
Gratitude and Forgiveness
Amidst all the tears, fear and unhappiness, it was hard to feel that I had anything to be grateful for but to my surprise, there was a lot to be grateful for; my son, he was healthy and beautiful, for everyday that I wrote up and the sun was shining and it would remind me of the potential for what was possible for me. Gratitude empowered me and reminded me that I was more worthy than I had ever thought.
Forgivingness; that was a hard one. I not only had to forgive him for what he had done and would do to me but I had to forgive myself for all of the bad decisions I had made and all moments I disappointed myself. Forgiveness kept my heart pliable and kept open the door to love and compassion which was quickly being closed by fear, anger, bitterness and resentment.
Change Your Mind
I knew that if I was going to change my life, I had to change my mind about who I thought I was. That if I didn’t want to be a victim, I could no longer think or speak of myself as such. If I wanted to be strong, I had to think and act strong. I had to think of myself as the person who could live the new life I imaged that I deserved to live the life that I had imaged. Find a Greater Purpose I realized that no matter how much I wanted this for myself, I wanted it even more for my son. Having this greater purpose of knowing that he was depending on me made stronger, and more determined to get there.
FEAR… no, COURAGE
Dr. Maya Angelou said that Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. She said, we can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest. One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. So, I decided that the potential for what was possible for me was stronger than the fear that would try to stop me.
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” -Thomas Jefferson. I had to create new habits and routines that empowered me and kept me positive and focused. And I had to undo those habits that historically came off as provoking and presented me as victim. Our habits either nourish or deplete us. I no longer had the luxury of doing things that served no greater purpose than self gratification.
I was always taught to be ready, so that’s what I did. I begin to prepare myself for my new life as though it was no doubt that it would happen. I planned research and organized everything I thought I needed to do. I saved all money I could, I looked into getting another place to stay, I completed my 4 degree here at FIU. I did everything I could to become as independent as I could. These actions not only helped me to envision the future but increased my chances of success for when it would in fact arrive.
Look to the Hills
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. -Psalms 121. I prayed. I would pray, on his bedside when went out the clubs, I’d pray over his food and over the door way that he would walk through as he came into the house.
And then finally, the day came when we would have our last fight and I would have to use everything I had come to know at that very moment. When all the dust settled, a restraining order was filed and a few days later he was gone…that was a great day. That afternoon, I opened all the curtains to my living room window as wide as I could to let the sun in and the light filled the entire house. And I played the song Lily in the Valley by John P Kee. That song helped me keep my sanity many a day.
So, I’m here because I could reimagine possible; I was able to image that my life did not have to be bound to the decisions and limitations of a naïve 20 year old girl nor did it have to be dictated by a brute and broken bully who would try to keep down and force me to conform to his will.
Since that day, I have made a career of service to the neglected, underserved and those who have yet to began to reimagine possible for themselves. I have three of the smartest, most beautiful, compassionate children on the planet and I been blessed to marry a man by the name of Nehemiah, who encourages me every day to continue to reimagine possible, to be all that I can, to be all that I can imagine.
Know that when our spirits are bound and held hostage by fear and the perception of limitations nothing is possible. But you can reimage possible, possibility is waiting for you. It is limitless, accessible and at hand!