Growing up, I was very sheltered. At eighteen, I decided that my life was to include going to college then graduate school, have a career, a husband, a house, and kids. I found myself feeling fairly prepared for my upcoming life that included being a United States Senator by the time I was 35. From there, I assumed that everything else would just fall into place. That was going to be my story.
But it didn’t happen that way. Not at all.
I was told I could achieve anything I set my mind to. However, I faced a very different reality. I’ll spare you the sordid details, but suffice it to say that the plot took unexpected twists and turns, and at the age of twenty-seven, I was facing a divorce with no back-up plan. To make matters worse, my grandmother passed away, leaving me without her wisdom and support during the time I needed her most. I felt ill-equipped for the task at hand.
I began to honor their story.
At that point, I viewed my story as a series of terrible events that were happening to me. I felt helpless, lost, and unstable. As I looked in the faces of my three sons and daughter who were 4, 5, 6 and 7 years old, I fully understood the gravity of every decision that I would make for years to come. If I couldn’t fix my own story, what about theirs?
Almost swallowed up whole by what I was missing, I decided to focus on what I had and a new story line immediately started to emerge. I could hear my mother’s voice, “Deanna, this too shall pass.” My father’s reminders came to mind: “Don’t reach a destination only to realized that you’ve missed the journey.” My grandmother’s voice resonated from inside of me, “Don’t wait for anyone to do it for you, fulfill yourself.” My grandfather, until his death in 2010 on Christmas Day, was always my champion and stayed close enough to remind me constantly that I was the latest in a long line of very strong women. “You come from some tough women, you can handle anything, Gal, it’s all inside.”
I was the main character in my own story.
I realized then, that I was never an insignificant character just existing among 7 billion others. This set of circumstances was all mine. No one had ever, or would ever experience this story again. So, I stepped into my role as the powerful main character, and changed every chapter from then on.
I began to make things happen. I embraced my role and responsibility as mother and making certain that my own children knew their own gifts and talents were tools to navigate through life’s uncertain challenges. We spent time daily, naming their gifts and uncovering my missteps so they wouldn’t repeat them. With intention, I taught them that they were main characters in their own stories. Now at 23, 24, 25 and 27 years old, they’ve all made it safely to adulthood, no worse for the wear.
I never became a Senator, but I did serve in public office. At the age of thirty, I served on City Council on a local level, even with four children in tow. I’ve had a very fulfilling career that has afforded the privilege of supporting many other women in similar situations. My career has been a more significant part of my story than I ever would have imagined. If given the chance, I wouldn’t re-write a single line.
By observing my own life from some distance, I am better positioned to receive the lessons for me in every single experience in the course of a day. I embrace my complimentary roles as both the main character, and the author of my own story. I honor it by consciously using and sharing the lessons I’ve learned and the words of wisdom I’ve collected along my journey. I realize that with each day, and with each better decision I make, I am writing a new, and even better chapter.
Deanna is the founder and Executive Director of the North End Community Improvement Collaborative, Inc. She is a lifetime certified Bridges Out of Poverty trainer and has led community trainings in Asset Based Community Development. Her personal passion is supporting the personal and professional development of young people, and enjoys mentoring young women.
Deanna is the proud mother of sons, Taj and Elijah Torrence of Mansfield, Ohio; son and daughter in law, Adam & Nikki West of Greenville, SC, and daughter and son-in-law, Maya and Joshua Francis, both serving in the US Navy, Fort Lejeune, NC. The most recent, and most precious cast of characters in her story are her three grandchildren in Greenville, SC, Jayden, Adam, Jr. and Ava.