Twelve years ago I put this girl in her car seat and drove from Texas to Florida with a single suitcase, a small cooler of food, a little cash, no credit cards. We left 2 days after Katrina hit and much of the way we were faced with people, including children, standing on the medians begging for money and food. It was a complete disaster zone. I had so little money that we bypassed staying in even the cheapest motels and just slept at rest areas in our car along the way. I remember starting our day with the sunrise at an Alabama rest stop. We sat atop a picnic table and shared a can of tuna and crackers for breakfast and it was one of the happiest meals I've enjoyed. I had no idea how I would make it but I had this little person who I would slay dragons for and that gave me all the courage I needed. We had no home to go to. We had no reliable plan, but I needed to leave my dusty West Texas town and go somewhere I could thrive. That gypsy wanderlust is something that has always followed me.
We made it to Orlando and I started my work as a personal trainer. I couch surfed for a bit and then I used a new, uninhabited condo complex to squat in. We had no furniture...not a single plate...or towel...nothing. Just what was in our suitcase.
I used the money from my first client to buy food and a $19 air mattress I found on sale. That was our bed for months. Because we were squatting, I had to clean the condo and pack up every single morning. Deflating the air mattress and trying to make the place look untouched. It was quite the morning routine!
Within the month I had made enough to put a deposit down on a dingy apartment that I was SO GRATEFUL FOR. With the little I had, I bought two towels, and two bowls as our first home furnishings. I still have these and ate my dinner out of one tonight. It's such an incredible reminder of the journey I've been on.
I remember hiding all of this from nearly every person I knew. All my clients. My few friends. I thought that someday I may feel like telling the story but the present moment was not the time. It was important to me to maintain my pride. Now I wear the adversity I navigated through with pride. There has been no shortage of adversity, and for that I am grateful.
I remember at one point, spending my daughter's birthday in our car. No home to go to. An experience like that forever changes you. The gratitude it instilled is indescribable.
Today, I don't have much in the way of possessions. But I am infinitely rich in gratitude. It's taken hard work, the grace and generosity of people who have cared about me, and a lot of hard lessons to be where I stand. My daughter is beautiful inside and out. Getting recruited by schools I only dreamed of. Her spirit soars and her genuine compassion for all of those in her path is extraordinary.
I don't have a purpose for sharing this story. Perhaps it will remind you of what it reminds me...
...you will be okay. You will make it. It won't be easy. It won't be the path you imagined. But it will be an adventure with the most awe inspiring characters the universe has to offer. You will be loved. You will fall. You will find a way. Always.