I had a long talk with a friend a few nights ago and learned so much about her. Even though we’d known each other for about 10 years, we’ve never really shared on a deeper level. During the conversation, I cried silently to make sure that she still felt comfortable speaking. All of a sudden, what I had been stressed out about over the past couple months seemed so insignificant. Without giving too much detail, she expressed some deep family trauma that no one should ever have to go through. And it wasn’t just one thing, it was a series of fucked up events. If you heard her story, you’d assume that a mental institution or suicide was an inevitable outcome. Which is actually the case for a lot of young people with a similar background.

Now I know firsthand how cruel we can be to ourselves while we’re deep in thought. Sometimes our thoughts are so destructive that it paralyzes us to the point where we can’t see further than the current moment. And since our thoughts essentially mold our reality, we remain in the same place for most of our lives.

Alternatively, my position has always been that we all have choices to make and we are not bound by our past experiences. My older brother would challenge me to think about the people in our lives. And how on Earth it would be possible for them to succeed without having the same opportunities we had growing up. My argument to him would stand that no matter the situation, with so much information readily available, we all have the same opportunities. We just have to make good decisions. So even though my friend had it rough growing up, she was able to move away, graduate college and provide for herself. She also picked up a lucrative hobby that she enjoys in her free time. I can think of a few people who have not gone through half of what she has and are not doing as good as she is.

After listening to her story, I realized that there are so many other factors that go into a person being successful. While environment has a lot to do with it, it’s certainly not the only thing.

Here are the 3 factors that stood out the most:

Motivation from At Least 1 Person

There was someone very close to her that pushed her to go to college. She was already accepted into the university of her choice and had plans on leaving. But not long before it was time to head off, there was a terrible accident that left her feeling the need to stay behind a little longer. She felt that it was her duty to provide care for her loved one. Understandable. But she had a person who saw her potential and encouraged her to continue on course. There was nothing she could do to change the situation, so she accepted it and knew that it was in her best interest to move forward.

A Drive for Change

Sometimes we have those people in our lives to help us see the bigger picture and other times we have to rely on ourselves. My friend expressed to me that during such a stressful time in her life, she had a strong desire to want to alter her reality. Even with the person person pushing her to move on, if my friend did not have the drive to be in a better situation, it’s possible that nothing would have changed. 

Willingness to Take Risks

Lastly, she took a risk. This is the part of her story that had me so inspired. She left home with $0 to her name to begin her new journey. She knew that she’d be eligible for financial aid but that wouldn’t come until months later. I was literally playing out the scenes from her story like a movie in my head. She was willing to put herself out there with barely any support or guidance. Her options were to sink or swim.

With all odds against her, she was able to change the trajectory of her life. She made a choice.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

-maya angelou


So yea, it’s definitely possible to take a difficult situation and turn it into something positive. But you have to make a choice. You have to want to change and be prepared to take the necessary risk to get the outcome you desire. I wish that I could go into detail for you understand the depths of her experience, but it’s not my story to tell. I’m not sure if she realizes how powerful her story is and how much it could help so many others going through something similar. To her, it’s just her life and what she went through. I can’t say that she is completely healed from her past. But everyday she makes a conscience decision to continue to push forward. You can too! No matter what life brings you, you’re either going to win from it, or learn from it; success comes from both.  


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