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What Neglect Taught Me

Evita is an Author, Change Strategist and Motivational Speaker with 15 years experience in public speaking and motivational teaching.

Clouds always run out of rain

'How did I get here?' is the looming question in my mind. I had a plan. I had something I was building. I had dreams.

Life will always come with surprises. Life will not always be pleasant. But there are derailments that cause you to question everything you think you know about yourself. There are circumstances that, like this virus pandemic we're in, rearrange your whole life.

2014-2016 was a horrible 2 years of my life. In my mid twenties, ten of my family members passed away. After a time, it starts to feel surreal. After about 3 people, you start to have to bring the obituaries in to work to prove this is even happening. The flowers and condolences go away, and your tears become run on sentences in the sorrowful statement of your life. Then there's this horrible cynical humor you develop after about 5 or 6 people gone; this numbness, apathy and loneliness.

The way I got myself through trauma as a child was a mixture of faith and toxicity. I believed that I was chosen to endure suffering to be able to help others survive when I was older. I was born into violent circumstances, and as soon as that was fixed, my mom got diagnosed with Lupus when I was 14 years old.

I always looked at life from the outside in. Always believing that I would endure all of this to be able to give something great to the world. By 19, I was a professional at justifying my extremes. Always extreme success with extreme tragedy. I was being flown out to Georgetown university to speak and experienced sexual assault that same year in college. My father blamed me for it. That, plus the abandonment issues of my childhood, completely killed my sense of normalcy. Farther to the corner of extremes. I won Miss Black UNC Charlotte and held the crown for 2 years, ministered and taught teams of people. But I felt like Jekyll. I was also dating dealers, underground racers, pro ball players, putting myself in dangerous situations because they felt like home. Danger felt like my childhood. Danger felt like my father. Chaos made me calm. It was familiar territory I knew how to navigate. I can't explain better than this, but if you are someone who has a parent who is any sort of crime lord, hitman, or has achieved success any of the wrong ways, you understand what I mean. You can walk in to places where most would feel afraid and feel completely comfortable. The idea is there's nothing to fear when you are to BE feared.

And so life continued this way. I graduated college having started my own business. I had my mom's good church training, goodness in my heart and my dad's street smarts and sales ability. I was successful. As a little girl from the hood, it still is the closest to my first million I ever came. I lost it all (broke even with investors, paid all my people and closed down), and picked up a job at a company I worked at for 5 years. I sucked at finance, but I was good at people and strategy. I was lucky to fall into a career that leveraged my strengths in that industry.

But while working, 2014-2016 happened. My aunt, my uncle, my grandmother, my grandfather, my childhood friend, 3 of my cousins. All gone. My mom is one of ten and my dad is one of six. So lots of family to love, and lose. But I met someone in 2015 and he was very supportive while I went through the loss. He too had loss. He too had pain and worst of all, he reminded me of my father. Add a ton in common and I was drawn instantly to the security of a relationship from what could have been friendship. Enter a 4 year relationship built on 'we dont want to hurt alone, we dont want to be alone'. What happened is what you can imagine: you can't build a life together on that. We split.

Then I lost my job. People I thought believed in me spread rumors. People I thought loved me, changed. I was forced to stand up for myself through what I felt were unfair circumstances. I ended up having to file a suit and I won. As a result, that's all I can say about that.

There was no glory in that process. I got enough money to pay things off and not get evicted, and I still dont know the extend of representational damage done there. I only know, I love and miss my old coworkers and wish them well.

My whole dream as a kid was to pull my family out of poverty, build wealth and power like my dad but doing NONE of what he did and saving my family. I rang in my 30th birthday broke, single, in my mama's house, depressed, out of a job and overweight.

I thought life had pulled out it's strongest punches. 2018 was rock bottom.

I picked back up my 'worn out tools' and built again (my favorite poem is 'If' by Rudyard Kipling; that phrase is an excerpt). For some reason, I felt free. My old company was a toxic place. Great people, toxic place. Not a fit for me. If I had to start life from scratch, i'd start it honestly. Not taking a job in an industry I didnt care about because my business failed. I'd look for a career doing what I love in an industry that I could relate to.

I busted my behind. People may have been discounting me but I knew that when I was determined, nobody could outwork me. I applied to anywhere from 50-90 jobs a day. I had a recruiting background, I understood the game of numbers. I worked HARD. And I wasn't scared. I applied to anywhere in the country. I didnt care where I was, I knew I was going to do what I loved and be paid fairly for it.

In 5 months I had 3 job offers on the table. The first was in Washington state with an amazing company. By the conclusion of the 2nd interview, I was offered a salary that was three times my old one. (Not very impressive, I was underpaid by over 40%). But it was consulting and Washington is cold. The second offer was a global role. Admittedly too big for my britches. With the biggest company in the world right now. In Mergers and Acquisitions. I had the change management experience but the sheer size of the work when I wouldn't be given a team was impossible without personal M&A experience. The 3rd was just right. About half the offer of the others but with an incredible start up, powerful and effective founders who were still active in the company, strong leadership friendly environment. Oh, and it was in Austin, Texas!

I took the job with plans in my heart to move as soon as I could wrap up the affairs that come living your entire life in one state. I might have rang in 30 having bottomed out, but I refused to live 30 like that! April 2019 I got the job and fell in love with the folks there. I saw the places that needed healing. It was like i was divinely called there to do what i felt i was born to do: repair hearts, restore minds, empower people!!!! A couple months in, changes start to happen. When youre a change specialist, you don't have to be a wiz of industry to know how corporate winds of change blow. It's the same in every company. Major decisions have byproducts.

In my mind, I'm about to be ousted again before I can truly show what I can do. i'm experienced in 'its not personal its business' abandonment, so I prepare my manager to have to let me go. It was a Thursday. Its the end of the day and i'm telling her its going to be okay, working for her has been an honor. The next day I get a call that my manager has been let go and i've received a promotion.

I was promoted 3 times at my old job. I'm generally promoted every couple of years. I've got a knack for gearing my work ethic to a company's need. but never had I gotten a promotion like this, and although i'm grateful, I hope I never do again. Although it definitely wasnt a scenario where i was moving into that old role. The role got eliminated; Its still hard not to feel like that. Even harder to build a brand of trust and integrity on that... but it seems to be going alright. I still want to dig deeper into the benefit of my career in an organization. It's specific but its effective. Daily, I'm torn between pushing and waiting to be called upon. But that's everyone and that's life.

Just like a company that's true to its values, I got through it with transparency and support. My new director was a friend of my old manager's and I had already had the benefit of working with her. I had no idea she would turn out to be an angel that helped me save my mom's life.

(oh you thought the story was going to fizzle? oh no friend.. this is the lite version)

I'm newly promoted and certain now that my life is about to take off. So i step on the gas. I'm working hard at work, catching flights, building plans, traveling with my leaders to bring some thought around helpful change. I'm being listened to. I make some smart investments and build a 2nd stream of income. I take the extra funds and hire an assistant to help me build my platform around my book and speaking career.

Mistake #1: the assistant was my friend. I had just learned from the business i built out of college not to work with your friends. there's a high probability they will have a problem reporting to you and may use your friendship to justify lower work ethic.

My mom falls sick. Not usual, like the lupus flares that happened every couple of years. I dropped out of college a semester to see my mom through one of those. I know how they go and how to get her through it. No.. sick sick.

Total kidney failure. In comes dialysis. In comes 3 days of going to the center weekly. My mom being stuck with needles constantly till her veins are scarred. over 30 doctors appointments to prepare to be on the transplant list. holding my moms hand through 2 surgeries (Having a catheter put in her chest and having a fistula put in her arm). Watching a machine clean my mom's blood, watching the tubes hooked to my mom's body jump to the beat of her heart, looking back in her eyes with strength as she stares at me in fear, crying alone whenever I could. But there were sweet times too. I paid for an extra ticket to fly my mom to Austin with me for her birthday. We had so much fun and my coworkers love my mom. then after 8 months, A KIDNEY!!! February 2020 comes in and its more work post transplant.

traveling back and forth to Wake Forest Baptist from Greensboro, memorizing 18 different medicines whose dosages change from week to week depending on the lab results. When she first got sick she couldnt go home. She lived on the 2nd floor of her apartments. She had to go to rehab until she was strong enough to climb stairs. Every night she would cry and say she wanted to go home. So I bought a little blow up bed and slept on the floor of the rehab center with her. If she had a dietary restriction or a change, WE had a change. I was in it too.

I knew once we got approved for the transplant list what would happen. she wouldnt be able to go home. I wasnt watching that again.

So i bought my mom a house. I was staying with her before because I'd lost my job.. but taking care of her because i'd washed out was what kept her around before we knew her kidneys failed, I stayed with her to care for her through dialysis, so I figured i'd stay at the house i got her too to get her through transplant. Even though I had the money to, There just wasn't a point in moving out..I'd just be paying for 2 places. I took my investments, a loan and the money from now not having an assistant and outfitted the house as a recovery home for her. complete with all the things she'd need. A massage recliner that stands you up. Big ole tv, beautiful new furniture. I surprised her with it in December, we had a party with all our loved ones and I made a video to help campaign for a donor. Didnt need the video- February was the transplant (good timing!) and she recovered in her new home, that she wasn't barred from going to.

the first month of transplant recovery is a beast. Weight checks daily. Temperature and blood pressure checks twice a day. Medicine schedule at 5 different times a day. Learning what pills cant be taken when or with that food or drink. calculating and recording everything being drank and urinated. Meetings 3 times a week at the transplant unit in the hospital.

By week 3 I was exhausted and my mom wasn't turning around as fast as we all wanted (we being, she and I plus the doctors). My mom had a dip. She wasn't keeping anything down. I remember it was 2am and i couldn't lower her fever. she had been throwing up for hours. There was snow on the ground (the one day it snowed in 2020!) I packed my mom up in the car and drove to wake forest, I called and called until finally i was able to convince someone in power to help us skip the emergency room and have her prepped for admissions.

48 hours of hell. The first time I felt afraid for my mom's life.

She recovered. By the time she left out, she started looking better, feeling stronger. the kidney was showing signs of waking up. I brought her back home.

We're in the 2nd month of recovery now. My manager's firm instructions to focus on my mom and helping her were how I was able to be present to help support my mom and care for her as attentively as I did. No way would i have had the freedom at my old job to do that. My manager's support changed my life and helped me to change my mom's life.

She also suggested I go on FMLA. I am not a superhero. This all took a toll on my work. and honestly, I havent had any time to catch myself back up on the rest of my life in the last.. 15 years.

So I applied. I hated fmla. I was trained that it was career suicide to do. I still have that anxiety. But I need this time to finish strong with supporting my mom through recovery, building a sustainable plan for her independence and building a strong come back for myself with my career and my goals.

So I'm working to pick up 2 more workstreams. My career and investments pay for my family as i'm the sole breadwinner. After this corona lets up, i've got some contracts and speaking engagements that will pay for me to get an assistant again, and i'm cautiously optimistic.

Neglect, is why i'm writing this.

Lately, i've been so upset. Shiny new home. Mom is healing. A year out of my relationship and the pain is gone and things would seem that they should be great. I couldnt figure out why i wasnt happy. Then I realized, of all the healing work i've done to get over the neglect and abuse of my past. All the work i've done to help current victims of assault and violence, I never really addressed the primary abuser of me: ME.

What i've realized, is by accepting extremes in the name of a grand belief, I glazed over my right to have pain, my right to process how all of these things have made me feel, to process what my life is. My right to say a couple of of things.

1. My life has not been normal. It's been closer to a movie plot. Seriously. I am a human person that has lived a fantastical life, and that's a bit much for anyone. its okay if thats a bit much for me. While I do believe it makes me uniquely special at healing, empowering and talking people off the edge and into peace.. it also has been the reason for social anxiety, and ptsd. that's not cool. I deserve a break.

2. Even if the stories of what i've endured have shaped my passion to heal others today, pain and loss do not have to be prerequisites or qualifiers for success or empathy. Tragedy does not pay the toll to greatness. And although the most profound things come from extremes, a life of extremes is not required to live an effective life.

3. I dont get a reward for stressing out about any of this. I dont get an award for forgetting about me. I dont get a prize for martyrdom. I have a Savior so I dont have to be a martyr to life's circumstances.

4. My value in life is not subjective to life's circumstance. I dont have to feel that i'm not valuable if i'm not bringing value to every person every second of my life. (the same way I dont have to feel like i'm not a woman if i'm not doing womanly things every second of every day. My identity is not a practice, its an existence).

5. I AM in fact a valuable person. I haven't talked to millions of people yet. but i'm pushing my 1st ten thousand. I've done a good job at what i've put my hands to. i'm resourceful, quick on my feet and smart. I'm a daughter any dad or mom would be proud to have. i'm a person anyone would be glad they partnered with. I'm a great friend and i'm full of random talents. I accept myself. I dont have to run a list of things I dont like about myself. It's not fair to all the things I do like about me that I never dwell on.

To close this out, I wanted to share my journey of self discovery because I hope it gives permission for your journey. No matter how bad it gets, no matter if you feel you lose yourself along the way, take a minute and remember who you are. You are someone capable of building any life you choose. It doesn't matter how derailed you get. I get derailed all the time. At times I feel more derailed than anything else! Maybe i'll get to my dream and find that I'm not skinny enough or relevant enough or whatever else to be accepted. I'm now 31. Maybe I get to my dream and i'm too old to be marketable. Maybe I dont get to be married. Maybe I have kids later than I want to. Maybe I dont get to have kids at all.

Whatever happens I have learned one central thing and I hope you do too..

You CANNOT control what you can't control. You can control how you love yourself through it all. That's the one choice you have with the one life you were given. What i've learned is, if you focus on loving yourself through it all, then what you cannot control will never be able to control you. Not your past, not your failures, not your questions of acceptance, not loss, not depression, not anger, not fear.

So I'm going to get back on the wagon. I'm going to work on putting my book into print. I'm going to work on finishing this amazing project i'm tackling at work. i'm going to work out and keep trying. Most of all, i'm going to love me through all the rough drafts.Love yourself through your rough drafts too.