Today, I live comfortably in the suburbs of Denver, but from ages 1-7, it was a different story. I was the youngest of four brothers and my mom, a single mom, had to work three jobs just to keep food on the table.
We had little supervision at home, so you can imagine the mischievousness of my then 5, 7 and 9 year-old brothers. They explored everything, inside the house and out. Although I went to daycare for a while, it was my brothers’ responsibility to watch over me while my mom moonlighted her cleaning job at night. However, let’s not kid ourselves, what did these 3 young boys know about raising their baby sister? Their goal was to make sure I was at least around the house somewhere.
At the time, we had two Siamese cats from our previous life in Indianapolis, and one of my brothers got ahold of a spray of some sort, and one of the cats died from it. All I remember is rigor mortis set in, and the cat was standing in our front yard in mid step, almost like it had been embalmed right there under our tree. There could be a different version, but that’s how my 3 or 4 year-old self remembers it.
There was another time when my mom needed to go to work, but I wanted her to stay home. I had heard some choice words spoken by my brothers and their friends before but didn’t really know what they meant. However, on this particular day, I thought I would say one of them to get my mom’s attention. So as my mom was backing out of the driveway (with the window down) I hollered sh#@, and she stopped the car, got out and swatted my bottom. I thought to myself, “Well I have her attention, so I’m gonna do that again”. This time I said f*$d#* having no idea what it meant, and the same thing happened. I was happy to still have her attention! On my third try to get her to stay with me, I said another cuss word, and she looked at me and said, “Suzy, I have to go to work.”
I remember standing in the driveway bawling my little head off missing my mommy. About that time as I was walking back into the house, our next door neighbor walked up to me and said, “You kids will never amount to anything!” I stood there not completely understanding what she meant, but I knew it wasn’t nice because this neighbor complained to my mom about our misbehavior and the chaos at our house.
Fast forward a few years and formidable lessons learned, we moved to a new house. But, parents in our new neighborhood didn’t want their kids hanging out with me. I was too “fast”, knew stuff I shouldn’t know and things they didn’t want their kids to know. It was those times I heard the neighbor’s voice in my head, “You will never amount to anything.”
That lie followed me into my adult life and echoed in my head. Never mind that I ended up going to college, marrying a great guy and having two well-adjusted kids; the power of those words continued to haunt me.
Rooted in my strong Christian faith, I remember going back to my hometown in my twenties and visiting our old house on St. Mark Court. I struck up a conversation with one of the neighbors and telling her how I used to live in the house next door to her. Imagine her surprise when she learned it was me, the little girl who used to have a dirty face and tangled hair slurring cuss words at her mom. By now she was elderly and much kinder to me than when I was little. We even struck up a friendship, and I visited her over the years when I would come back to town.
I held no resentment toward our neighbors who thought we wouldn’t amount to much, but I can tell you this; I wish I didn’t remember what they had said. I never forgot those words spoken to me as a young child. For years, I believed I was unworthy. It’s amazing how powerful words can be and how they can influence our belief and identity.
The Power of Words – Speak Positive Truth
Because of that, I make it a huge priority to remind others how wonderful they are and how much potential they have. I encourage others so they can believe in themselves. That is the great life lesson of this story. Me telling you…you are worthy. No matter what you do or say or how many times you make mistakes, you are on purpose! Don’t let someone else rob you of your journey and the life lessons you will learn to pass on to others.
In today’s world of technology we see everything everyone else is doing and are so quick to compare and fall into…”I’ll never amount to anything.” But I’m here to tell you, you will! Shut off your technology, and go look in the mirror and say to yourself:
“I am on purpose, there isn’t another me out there and big plans, and grand adventures await me!”
Remember there will be hard knocks, but that is when you can pick yourself up and show the world your resiliency! “Harness your Chutzpah!”