For the first five decades of my life, I walked under a dark and stormy cloud. This was a conscious choice on my part, but I did not see it that way while I was living with my choices. At the time, I looked outward to find my way, placing blame on others and for situations beyond my control to justify my life experiences. Taking full responsibility for everything that occurred was not yet a part of my thinking.
No matter what good thing showed up, I was the first to point out to anyone who would listen that it was just a matter of time before something bad happened. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and of course it did, typically sooner than later.
I didn’t go to high school. Well, I did, but only for three days. That’s how long it took me to realize this was not the best use of my time. My mother and I had been homeless twice while I was in elementary school. Times were tough and money was tight and I wasn’t ready to be on the streets again.
Before ending my high school experience, I walked across the street and ordered a soda at the little place where many students stopped to grab a snack before heading back to school. The manager asked me to go on a date with him as he handed me my drink and I knew this situation was a toxic one. I don’t think I even answered him as I walked away.
I’d spent my bus money on the soda, so I didn’t look back over my shoulder to see if the bus was approaching. I became aware that I was gripping the plastic cup so tightly it was ready to burst in my hands as I kept on walking towards the apartment complex we lived in at the time. It was called the Saxon Park apartments and we were lucky to have a roof over our heads.
On the way home I stopped in to the IHOP and asked the manager if he needed another waitress. He looked me up and down and asked if I could start the next afternoon. I lied about my age, thanked him, and promised to be there by two the next afternoon.
The other shoe didn’t drop, and we had enough for the rent on our efficiency apartment, groceries, and new, much needed shoes for each of us. I silently wondered what would happen next at the restaurant, especially when the manager found out I was really sixteen, not eighteen.
His name was Al and I felt comfortable working for him. The restaurant was on Biscayne Boulevard, making it easy to catch the bus each way. One day I told him I wanted to have an IHOP franchise of my own someday. He made a sound under his breath and dismissed me by walking away. But moments later as I was bussing two tables that has just become empty, he sidled up beside me and told me he wanted to talk. He nodded at another waitress, Julie, to finish cleaning the tables and I followed him into the Torpe. This is what we called the six booths located in the back area, on the way to the kitchen and the restrooms.
Al motioned for me to sit down first, then he sat down across from me. Another waitress followed behind and asked if we wanted something to drink. I looked to Al and he nodded, so I asked for a chocolate milk.
“So, you want to run a restaurant?”
“Yes, a pancake house. I want to have a franchise like you have here. I’m saving up for it.”
There was a beat while we waited for my chocolate milk and for him to gather his thoughts on this.
“It’s not like it looks. I mean, it’s not so easy. What do you know about running a business, any kind of business?”
I mumbled something. He could tell that I knew nothing, or less than nothing, and his demeanor shifted into one of kindness and compassion.
“You see all these people working here?” He waved his outstretched arm and I followed it around the restaurant until he brought it in for a landing and clasped both his hands in front of himself.
“I have to know what each person does, and to be able to do it better than they do. You wanna know why?”
I nodded and he continued.
“Because one day somebody doesn’t show up. Or. they show up all right, and then something happens and they walk out.” Nobody here is doing something that we can’t do without. We’re a team and every person is an important part of keeping this restaurant humming like a well-oiled machine.”
I hadn’t ever thought of it that way. But, it did make sense. It wasn’t like one person could do everything.
On that day I gave up on the idea of running a restaurant. I suppose it was for the best, but it was still sad. When the cook came in to work a few days later, and walked out an hour later because of something that was said to him, I understood a little better what Al had been sharing with me.
A year or so later I saw Al on television. He was splashing in the waves in Freeport in the Bahamas and he was holding hands with a very young girl in a bikini. The newscaster said that the boat had sprung a leak and everyone had jumped out to swim closer to shore. All of the people were alright, but I’m guessing Al’s wife wasn’t thrilled to see him like this.
I went back to my dream of becoming a veterinarian again. That would take longer, but it gave me something to focus on that was positive. I was making good grades at the adult school I had enrolled in, and maybe I’d be able to go to college some day, I thought.
Before I turned eighteen, I got married. Bob was almost twelve years older than me and had two toddlers from his first marriage. They lived with his parents in another state and he missed them terribly. He’d been to Vietnam for a couple of years and told me his life had fallen apart upon his return. My life was just pieces of a puzzle at that time, so we fit well together.
Over the next decade I came into my own as an adult. I continued to think the worst about each impending decision I made, but having someone to go through it all with seemed to make me feel better. If only my life was more like that of other people I knew, instead of what it was.
When Bob passed away, after going through cancer treatment and other unspeakable atrocities related to his illness for over a year, I was right back where I had been as a child and teenager. This was a time of reckoning for me and I hoped I could land on my feet. I did, but not as gracefully as I would have liked.
At some point I realized that I had some say in all of this. In 2005, I decided to change my life completely. What I was doing wasn’t working well for me, so it was as though I had nothing to lose. What if I expected great things to happen in my life? The worst that could happen was that I’d be disappointed, and I was already used to that.
Then, a funny thing occurred… I would expect something good, and it would arrive! It was small things at first, like getting a parking spot right in front of the store, or hoping my class would be chosen for a special field trip.
Then, my positive thinking grew bigger and more frequent and my life began to change. I asked a few people I knew, liked, and trusted if they knew anyone who had changed careers, or moved to a new city, or done anything at all that made it possible for them to have a new and improved lifestyle. Two of them did, and we were introduced.
I found myself surrounded by people who always expected great things to fall into their lap… and they did! It was intoxicating to me and I gave it a try. It worked, and in a big way like Wayne Dyer taught: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I began to reframe everything in my life.
Then, I took a step back. Was it possible that my thoughts and feelings and beliefs had been holding me back from achieving the goals I had so wanted and finally cast aside? If so, would it now be possible to turn my life around and move forward in a fearless and confident manner?
The rest is history, because if I hadn’t leaped without looking and continued to become even more positive in my outlook on life, you and I would not know each other. I would be in my final year of classroom teaching, and hoping I could maintain enough energy to still work part-time in real estate in order to pay all of my bills and financial obligations in the years ahead.
My life as an author, marketing strategist, and online entrepreneur is a magical one. I enjoy mentoring other people to success in these areas, and working on a positive mindset and thinking is a crucial part of the process. People often come to me with thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that aren’t serving them. My goal and intention is to help them embrace positive thinking and living in a way that will make a difference in their life.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I had a call with someone I had been working with already for several years. She expressed her desire to move to a new city an hour or so away from where she and her husband were living currently. When I asked her what was keeping them from moving forward with this goal and vision, she had so many reasons. None of them seemed to be based in reality, or at least that was how I was thinking of it.
We finally worked through her objections as to why this couldn’t happen, and the only one remaining was the idea that they couldn’t sell their present property for enough to make it work.
“Why don’t you keep your house, rent it out for a year, and move into the next house in the location where you would prefer to be?” I asked. She had already told me they had enough money for a down payment on another home, and could get enough in rent to cover at least half of the new payment.
“Buy another home before selling and closing on the one we have now? That’s not going to happen.”
And it didn’t. Make the decision to ask for what you want, take the necessary actions to get the ball moving, and expect God and the universe to conspire in your favor to make everything come together in a way that will make you jump for joy.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Do positive thinkers intrigue or annoy you? Do you believe anything is possible in your life, regardless of any details or stories you’re convinced are true? Do you think great success and joy is possible for you, or only reserved for a select few “others” and not possible for you?
I’m bestselling author and entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green, thinking positively about everything that comes my way. I believe that our life experiences are what we intend them to be, and that each moment carries with it the hope for a brighter future.