Just like everyone else in America, I come from a dysfunctional family.

I graduated from high-school at 16, got accepted and attended college and majored in Early Childhood Education only to have my own education become a casualty of my parent’s divorce. I’ll spare you the sordid details except for the ones that are necessary for this article.

At the ripe old age of 17, I found myself homeless and uneducated, unable to get a job, moving from relative to relative. It seems that one does not qualify for financial aid when one is a minor child of a prominent physician. It also seems that if one sits out of school for more than two terms, one is no longer considered a college student and therefore is not entitled to tuition. Hooray for the state of Illinois.

My mother had no job, no money and three younger children to feed. Luckily she had packed her deep freeze with produce and a half a cow the summer before or they would have starved. I would have merely become another burden for her to bear.

Instead I stayed in the Pittsburgh area, lived off of the savings bonds that had been earmarked for tuition (not enough to cover room and board, let alone tuition and books) and shared a one-bedroom apartment with a relative. We had no heat and no money to pay for heat, so we heated kettles of water on the stove to create steam to keep warm. It was a pretty clever system.

The water could also be used to bathe in (except you could only have about an inch of water.)

That relative eventually moved to San Diego with her boyfriend and I went to live with another relative. I babysat for a young couple until I turned 18 and was finally able to get a job working part-time in a Fotomat booth. This was a relic from the past where people would drive through, drop off a roll of film and pick them up a few days later. Not the most exciting work but it was work.

Later that year I found a job working for minimum wage at a daycare center. While a fun job, there was no room for growth and no opportunities to fulfill my dreams of a better life. I walked the mile and a half to work each day in order to save every dime I could by not taking the bus.

After a few months, I packed up my few belongings, boarded a bus and headed to Denver, Colorado, where my fiancé was stationed in the Air Force.

I had never been to Denver and the only person I knew in the entire state of Colorado was my fiancé.

On the way to Denver, I stopped in Illinois to visit my mother and siblings. It was Christmas and she had no money to purchase gifts for the kids. I gave her $500.

We went to court one last time in an effort to get tuition. Because I had been out of school for longer than a year and I was no longer a minor, my petition was denied.

However, I now qualified for financial aid. My neighbor was a banker and drew up the paperwork.

I was finally able to enroll in the college. I currently teach in that same school.

I graduated with honors, married my fiancé and lived happily ever after.

The end.

Not so fast. I did not tell this story to dredge up my past. Honestly, I prefer not to think about it, let alone tell perfect strangers what I went through.

I also did not tell this story so that you would admire me for my bravery. There was nothing brave about what I did.

I told this story to show you what YOU can do.

What I did was to tap into my inner-strength in order to create a better future for myself. You can do it, too, no matter what the obstacles you face.

No matter what your situation, you have inner-strength.

You too are able to change your life.

  • Find goals that fit
  • Conquer fear and anxiety
  • Affirm yourself
  • Grow
  • Make decisions

Goals that fit

The first step in developing inner-strength is to define goals that fit.

Even though you have the potential to reach any goal you define, if it is too big, you become intimidated.  You must reduce your goals in order to match your present appraisal of your abilities. Once you come close to reaching your goal, you can raise the bar.

Longer legs take bigger strides. Set goals bigger than you. You will meet them.

Never lower your expectations. Expect to win and eventually you will. You will become bigger than whatever intimidates you. You will grow bigger than what is now bigger than you. Look ahead and see success.

I moved toward a better life and I got it. You can do likewise.

Fear and anxiety

No matter what change you make in your life, you will start out afraid.

This is your creative subconscious keeping you in your comfort zone.

Believe me, I was nervous during the 23 hour bus ride to Colorado. I was moving from the known into the unknown. I was taking a big risk.

The reason I was able to take this risk was because the future I envisioned, my new dream was bigger and brighter than my present situation. I had become so dissatisfied with the present that I was willing to overcome my fears in order to move ahead.

Anxiety is part of the process. Rejoice when you feel anxious, this is a sign that your goal is bigger than you are.

Keep in mind that avoidance behavior is also part of anxiety. Do not succumb to it or you will end up forfeiting your dreams.

I learned that the hard way a few years later. (You can read Out of Darkness to learn what happened.)


Even though my relatives only meant to protect me, they tried to discourage me from leaving by telling me what I could not do and what I did not have.

They were quick to point out my failures, yet forgetful of my accomplishments. After all, I GRADUATED from high school at age 16. I had already successfully completed a year of college. I could do this.

Had I believed them, I would probably still be working in that same daycare center, still making minimum wage, still unable to support myself.

Honestly, my mother was too mentally exhausted to express an opinion one way or another. She had three little ones to raise and court battles to fight.

You must not wait for others to affirm you. Be proactive. Affirm yourself twice a day.

Use your past triumphs to validate your capabilities. Remind yourself of what you have already accomplished.

Never allow others to dictate your future. Write your own autobiography. It is your life, your decisions, your risks. Make good decisions and take calculated risks. You will be fine.

By the way, I had enough money for a return bus ticket in case things did not work out. They worked out just fine.


Some of you may think that I am just tougher than you. You could not be more wrong.

No one is born tough. Toughness is learned and developed. Overcoming difficulties develops toughness.

I survived years of emotional abuse. This toughened me.

I survived racial attacks in school. This toughened me.

By the time I was 18, I was ready for the challenge and I knew I could survive.

The more I evaluated the obstacles I had already overcome, the more I believed in my ability to overcome any new obstacles I should meet.

I found an empowering meaning for my pain.

Through adversity, I learned confidence. I can learn it. I can do it. I will overcome.

If you decide to be confident, you will act with confidence and eventually succeed.

Confidence comes before competence.

The higher the hurdle, the higher the achievement. Whatever the challenge, bring it on.

You must embrace challenges or you will lose your ability to overcome them.

You must also expect to overcome them. It is your belief in your ability to make things happen that actually makes them happen.

Did I make mistakes? Of course I did. So will you. So what. I am still alive and growing. You will survive any mistake you make.

Mistakes are learning opportunities, not condemnations. Make use of them.

Make decisions

The easiest way to develop inner-strength is to start making decisions NOW.

Set a goal to make one easy decision and one hard decision each day.

Take action toward your decision and stick to it.

Keep track of each decision you make and the results of each decision. Evaluate any mistakes in terms of what you can learn from them. Celebrate each good decision you have made.

Remember the old African Proverb – the lion always eats the caribou that can’t decide which way to run.

Decide your direction and run as fast as you can toward it.

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About living4bliss

Mental Health Food is the place to stop to get your bliss on everyday. I give tips, hints and sometimes a little silliness to help you navigate the challenges of life. We have a great community of positive bloggers that keep the bliss going all day every day. Make sure to visit their blogs, too. Mental Health Food is a product of Believing Life Is Setup for Success, Inc. (B.L.I.S.S.) in Thornton, CO. We have been in the business of teaching success since 1991. We provide workshops, consulting services and now videos that help people just like you start and maintain successful businesses and personal lives using what you already have. Enjoy a daily dose of Mental Health Food; nourishment for the mind.

11 responses »

  1. SIJO JOSEPH says:

    Excellent post. I loved to read it.

  2. Katrina says:

    May I use one of the pictures in your post?

  3. wholisticme says:

    Making goals and visioning where you want to be works!

  4. I love this post, Saundra!! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!!

  5. martingysler says:

    A great post, I shared it on my various sm. Thank you for the mention 🙂

  6. Congratulations on leading by example. Thanks for including me in the links. I think you rock!

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