Excerpt from my new book The Change coauthored with Jim Britt and others
As I stepped off the curb into the bright sunshine, a smile spread across my face. After all, I was heading to see the man of my dreams. The day was perfect. I should know. I had been planning it since I was a young girl in high school. Now I was living it. How did I become so blessed? When did everything change for me? It wasn’t always like this. I thought back to my first marriage—the pain, the fear, the insecurities, the name calling, and the infidelity had made my life miserable. I had been broken, and I didn’t even know it. The problem was I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until I was free of it. The best thing he ever did for me was to give me my daughter, Erin, and ask me for a divorce. At that moment, I was free to start living my life. It was no cakewalk, believe me. I had to change everything I had become.
I had been a strong, independent woman. Now I was broken and scared to try living on my own while raising a toddler. Erin was two, and I was twenty-four. We rented a little apartment in a rundown part of town because that was all I could afford. I enrolled at the University of Utah so I could finish my degree. I had sixty-five credit hours to complete to earn my Bachelor of Science degree. I knew I had to do it while Erin was little and wouldn’t remember the hard times. I knew if I didn’t go to school it would always be hard for us.
I wanted to give her everything. I didn’t want her going hungry. I didn’t want to be kicked out because the rent was raised, and I couldn’t afford to pay it. I wanted to be able to send Erin to her prom wearing a new dress. I knew the only way to make sure those things happened was to get an education and a career.
I finished sixty-five credit hours in three terms. A full-time load is considered twelve credit hours a term. I got three to four hours of sleep a night and sometimes not even that much. On the weekends, I worked nights and would try to get some sleep while Erin sat on my chest and watched cartoons.
There were times I wanted to quit—times I wanted to give up. Then there were times I knew we would make it. I learned how to focus on now. Focus on what I had to do right now to get to the next right now. If I looked into the future, I would get scared and overwhelmed. I would lose my way, and my steps would falter. It helped me to keep moving forward to the next moment, because in the next moment I was creating the life I wanted.
Some days, I felt like I was crawling on my hands and knees just to keep going. My perspective was that I knew I could do whatever it took to get what I wanted. I just needed to keep moving forward one step at a time.
I spent some time thinking about how I had gotten to where I was. I realized I had created the mess, so it was up to me to create a good life.
I know my thoughts and beliefs create my reality. I also know I can’t control anyone else, and no matter how much I want things to change I must change them myself.
That spring, as graduation day came closer and closer, I knew I was going to make it. I went to every event offered to graduating seniors. The lunch at the university president’s manor, the field trip, the class ring—I enjoyed all of it. When I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, I did the happy dance. Everyone said they wanted to do something crazy or special, but when it came time to make the trip in front of the crowd, they chickened out. Not me! If I could have done cartwheels, I would have. I had worked so hard for this day, and it meant so much to me. My daughter and family were in the crowd watching, and I didn’t want to contain myself. I just felt I had to let what I was feeling on the inside show on the outside.
I learned that if you’re a little crazy and push your comfort zone, you inspire others to do the same. I had people I had never met before come up to me and say they had wanted to do something fun, but just didn’t have the nerve. I asked them if next time they would be more likely to let their feelings show. They all said yes, but I’m not sure they ever did. You see, stepping outside your comfort zone takes practice. Start small. Take a small step every day so that the next time you want to do something fun, you have the courage to do it. Every time you shrink back, you build that wall higher and thicker. Every time you push through, you weaken the wall around your comfort zone, and it becomes easier for you to keep moving forward.
If you want something you don’t have, you need to grow. You need to get outside your comfort zone and find it. The only things in your comfort zone are the things you currently have. That’s why it’s called your comfort zone. It holds everything you’re comfortable with.
My ex-husband had forced me out of my comfort zone a year before, and now my life was better because of it. I don’t think I ever would have left him because of where I was in my mind at the time. But when he said, “We need to end this.” I was all for it. Something inside me clicked and I said, …
If you want to know what I said, send me an email letting me know.