Welcome to the First Sunday Best Essay Series on StoryboardC. This is a story I am honored to have found to tell you and share how it has and is continuing to help me with my own current story as of late. My Doctor recently advised me to actively seek out finding others with trauma to triumph stories. To help me truly understand that I am not alone (nor are you) in the quest to embrace the startling changes that life brings us sometimes.
Then enters Liz Murray. I 'stumbled' upon Liz via a Audible version of the book, Hero (2013). Which is the latest from Best Selling Author Rhonda Byrne of ‘The Secret Film/Book fame. Liz's remarkable story was one of the many featured, but hers resonated the most with me. How she became a authentic Hero of her own life and now is committed to helping others do the same. I was so blown away by her accomplishments despite all the circumstances stacked up against her. But, what most touched me was the love and hope she mustered up from a fractured upbringing. She chose to not repeat the "destined" cycles of despair, but instead she chose to fall in love with the possibility of Life.
Liz’s Story reads like a harrowing script from a Lifetime Movie (actually it became a Lifetime Movie, Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story. 2003). Liz and her older sister Lisa were born to loving, yet drug addicted parents. Lifestyle after effects of living the glorious 1970's drug and disco era of NYC. By the time she could remember in there family's modest Bronx apartment, her parents addictions were in full swing, but despite it all Liz still found love in their dysfunctional household. Yes, she and sister experienced severe neglect at times at one point sharing a chap stick and toothpaste to not use but eat. Any money that came into the house was to feed her parents addiction. This was all she knew. But, there were still moments of love. Especially while listening to her Mothers own dreams of someday getting clean and creating a better life for them. Those dreams never came to fruition, so at 15, Liz left home after her parents divorce. She got by on friends couches, public stairwells and even sleeping on the subway. She coined this time, Breaking Night (which later would become the title of her Best-Selling Memoir, Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard.). What her friends and her called Staying up all night, actually it was her homelessness. Then at 16 she had the ultimate wake up call, her Mother’s passing from complications of AIDS due to years of drug abuse. Heartbroken, homeless and a High school drop out. She knew that her own Mothers 'One day things will change’ hopes would never come, but Liz still possibly had a chance for hers.
Soon after burying her Mother in a cheap pine box, her life was significantly shaken... with only a journal, her clothes and a photo of her Mother at her own age (who as well experienced homelessness) decided to dream again. When most girls were planning for Prom, Liz was in survival mode and decided she needed to go back to school. Not applying for College, but just finding a high school that would take a girl who was too 'old'. She received so many rejections and at one point she was truly ready to give up. Liz was hungry, tired and defeated. Liz then wrestled with breaking down and using her last money to buy a slice of pizza instead of catching the subway to apply to the last Alternative High School on her list. But, In a pivotal turning point she thought, “What if? Just What if this could my last chance?” So, the slice of pizza/hunger was put off and she chose to take action and the train... and the school did in fact accept her! Then soon after another 'What if' appeared, What if she got straight A's? And She did! What if she applied for a New York Times Scholarship for College? She did and got it! And during this time she was still homeless, but with the love and support of her high school she got through. She found that focusing on what is good, outweighed any struggle. Eventually after people heard her story about receiving the scholarship, letters of encouragement and help even flooded in. Then she pushed her 'What if' even further... What if I apply to Harvard? She did and got in!
Now Liz helps others look, 'For love of Possibility' in every circumstance.Teaching others to embrace the possibility of our own WHAT IF’s. The ultimate reminder that each and everyone one of us has a Potential that is Timeless.
*Liz Murray is a graduate of Harvard (yes!), International best-selling Author, Inspirational Speaker, student of Masters at Columbia University, Researcher and last, but not least: a Mother herself. **Below in the StoryboardC Notes, I have featured all the links to interviews, articles and her amazing TED TALK that inspired this essay.
What I personal have learned from Liz's Story:
Our Potential is Timeless. We all have heard the old saying, “It's never too late...” A lot of us balk how unrealistic it might sound. But, I call total BULLSH*T! What I have learned in my own life in the last year is we make the decision of CAN’T, which is actually more of a WON’T. I won’t do it because... I am afraid of failure or being alone and the list goes on and on. But, You Can do anything you put your mind to and yes it might not work out as you expected. But, you Can try your darnedest and just maybe you might even be surprised that something better comes along:) No effort is ever wasted!
We always have a choice... either to give up or keep going. We all have challenging times. But, even when things seem bleak and hopeless, we still have one thing CHOICE on our side. The Choice to not give up and Keep Going. Liz recently reminded me of The Serenity Prayer (and you Have to check out (here) How a Gift from a Drug Dealer through his own Moral Choice made a lifelong impact on her own life, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference". I can't change many things in my life or past. But, I can change the little things I do have control over. Turning fear into Action. And making the choice to forgive myself and the past.
Compassionate Forgiveness. The strongest lesson I have learned from Liz is the power of forgiveness. Every time Liz spoke of her Mother Jean her voice would crack with deep compassion and love. There never was one ounce of Judgement or Anger. Reminding me for true Change we must forgive others, our past and even ourselves. I know this is something very hard to do, maybe even the hardest of all human virtues to practice especially when regarding compassionate forgiveness towards our own past indiscretions.
I want to conclude this essay with you beginning to think of your own What if's Right Now. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up? That Heart's desire you want to accomplish. That Dream in your life you have put on the Back Burner. That One day I will do it thing?
The TIME is actually NOW. For the LOVE of POSSIBILITY, Begin.