Upon initial meeting and interaction with me, people are often surprised to learn that I aged out of foster care at age seventeen. Oftentimes I’ve felt this experience has hindered me in so many ways, however I eventually learned to use it to my advantage.
Having gone through more than my fair share of traumatic events has given me an almost unmatchable amount of grit. Grit has become a business “buzz word” when discussing successful leaders. This is something you can never get at a university or class. It is the byproduct of having everything blow up in your face, when quitting isn’t an option, and persevering even after that. It’s when you have gone through multiple scenarios in your head trying to determine which of your choices are the lesser evil, and finally arriving at the conclusion that they are all equally unappealing.
As a teen, for me that meant hoping a new placement would finally work out long enough so I could attend high school like my peers.
I’ve been asked this question multiple times by various people: What do I think made the difference in my life which motivated me enough to beat the odds that could have likely been my future? There is no simple answer to this question, but for me it’s been part determination, anger and belief in myself.
Personally I was determined not to become a statistic, not to be viewed as weak. I wanted to prove to people, and myself, that I did have something valuable to contribute and that my hopes and dreams mattered too! I was Angry at the unfairness of life and as idealistic and naive as the word justice might sound, the lack of it in my situation fueled me. I was removed from my father’s home because he was abusive. I remember thinking “I was being abused physically, emotionally and mentally and now I have to endure THIS??”
Lastly, and arguably more important than anything else, it was a strong desire to help others. I’ve always believed that we are all here to provide comfort for one another in whatever capacity possible. I knew I had to get myself stable before I could be that source of comfort for someone else. I’ve often times heard that the hardest a person will ever work is when they are working for a purpose bigger than themselves. I can attest that for me this has been true.
While classes like accounting and economics provided me with the necessary skills for entering the business world, aging out of the foster care system gave me the skills for staying in it. In an increasing climate where the bottom line or self preservation seem to take precedent over being a good person, having survived gut wrenching life situations gave me irreplaceable knowledge and empathy for others.
Grit can’t be put on a resume but those who have it understand its true value.
Editor’s note: These are my thoughts, which are based on my own personal experiences. They are my opinions which aren’t facts. I share them in the hopes of inspiring readers.