As any one of us sits in the middle of a challenge, the first thing that comes to mind is never a big “Thank you” to the universe, usually, it’s more like “What the heck?”, “Why me?”, or the deep desire for us to just get through it already. In the same way, I now understand why life is set up in a way in which we don’t know what the future will bring. We need to exercise faith, hope, vulnerability, love and allow our experiences to hone us for the better; no matter what happens, choosing to pick ourselves up, dust off, and say, “I will not allow this experience to break me, but it will make me better and stronger today.”
As I write this, I’m six months away from being 10 years breast cancer free. It’s also been 27 years since I escaped my native country of Liberia as a refugee and came to the United States at 15 years old with just one suitcase, 30 years since being hit by lightning and having an out of body experience, 27 years since I was held at gunpoint by soldiers, and 35 years since I escaped from the first war. All my life, I’ve had obstacles in the way, but I believe that one of the reasons that I’ve persevered is because I did not see them as such, but as adventures. Was I terrified when I came to the United States alone? Of course, I was. At that time, there was no Internet, Facebook or email.
When the war happened in 1989, there was no way to stay in touch with friends except for long distance phone calls. Finding myself in a brand new world was daunting, but I was thankful that I still had my life, which meant that I had options, a choice — a future. Years later, I thought I had it all together — the house, the car, the relationship, a beautiful daughter and an awesome job. I thought that I was finally free from the guns and war, then a breast cancer diagnosis brought it all crashing down on me again. Now, it felt like the war was inside of me. While undergoing treatment for breast cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, I realized that life does come with challenges; but they do offer us opportunities for growth, for healing and the opportunity to become more than we can comprehend. The person that I became during that time was someone who was stronger, bolder, more confident, more raw, more vulnerable, more loving and more of what I was asking others to be. In that place, is where I found my purpose — serving others through my life experiences by way of the organization I created while in treatment, Tigerlily Foundation.
It hit me — no matter what came my way, those experiences were not only happening to propel me further and to mold me into who I was meant to become, but they were meant to be shared, to help others along their life journeys as well. I have met incredible people, who are also seeking, growing, and who desire to use their experiences to help others.
This is why now, challenges excite me. The opportunity that being alive affords us is incredible. No matter what we are dealing with, we have the power to choose what we create with our experiences; and we have the power to choose how we live. When I’m facing an experience that is daunting, I often do a mental exercise where I imagine holding a coin — on one side is excitement and on the other side is fear. I then make a mental choice to flip it to the side that allows me to break open, to grow, to love, to learn, to serve and to become more of who I was born to be.