By Guest Author: Christine Sadira
March 15th, 2018 at 5:35 a.m. The precise moment my entire future changed. I know the exact time because I took a screenshot to document the occasion. My phone woke me from my sleep with the sound of three notifications. Three deposits into my bank account. Each one larger than the previous, and each one on their own more than enough to solve every financial problem I had ever had, but together big enough to forever change my future as I knew it. A future I could have never imagined just 6 years earlier.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but surely you already know,” the woman at the State Employment Agency said in a voice that was a harsh blend of both matter-the-factness and indifference, “but you really have no marketable skills or education that would qualify you to enter the business world.”
I had just completed 90 minutes’ worth of assessments, questionnaires, a typing test, and most humiliating, a mock interview. Yeah, I knew. I was more than aware of my lack of skills. I had no college education and no work history to speak of. Instead, I had married young, birthed five babies, and had played the role of supportive housewife and stay-at-home mom for the last 18.5 years. Now here I was, it’s 2012 and I’m pushing 40 and trying to enter the workforce for the first time ever. What was I even thinking? Who was I kidding when I envisioned myself sitting behind the front desk of a fancy office, greeting and helping clients, hustling my way up the ladder, eventually running the entire company? That’s how it works, right? Well, apparently entry level office jobs expect you to at least be able to type more than eleven words per minute… go figure.
“The best we can do is to try to place you with a housekeeping service, or perhaps a daycare facility. How does that sound?”
I don’t remember if I even responded to her. I don’t remember getting up. I don’t remember walking out of the building. All I remember is sprinting across the parking lot, eyes welling up, my face hot and flushed, and the voice in my head screaming “Nooooo!”
My world as I knew it had recently come crashing down around me. When my husband left, he didn't just leave, he walked away from all the chaos and financial ruin and left me to clean up the mess. He left me with a repossessed car and a home in foreclosure. He left me with mountains of debt and with no support. He left me utterly broken and destitute. He left me scared.
There is something, however, that I still had, and that was my five children. They were my reasons. My why. My everything.
Now here I stood at a crossroads, sobbing my eyes out and terrified because I had no idea how to navigate this new life I was facing. I didn’t have a penny to my name. I didn’t have my own bank account. I hadn’t even ever paid a bill. Who were the utility companies? Who was our health insurance company? Did we even have insurance? I had no idea. How am I going to do this? How am I supposed to feed my babies? What kind of future will we have?
Then I got mad.
Mad that nothing had prepared me for this.
Mad because I didn’t deserve this.
Mad at the loss of what I thought my life was supposed to be like.
Mad at the complete and utter unfairness of it all.
And when I get really mad, I’ve discovered something powerful happens that I have since coined "Productive Rage." This is when all my mama bear survival instincts and all my badass feminine powers join together and kick in simultaneously. This is when change happens.
I got busy. I found work. Any work. I worked days, nights, evenings, weekends. I cleaned people's garbage and painted apartments. I raked and mowed and landscaped and dug ditches. Yes, I was a ditch digger... and grateful for the job––and all the others I found. I modeled for corporate photo shoots. I was a beer vendor at rock concerts. I house sat and babysat and dog sat (but did very little actual sitting!). I refinished furniture and sold everything I could find of value, basically running a thrift store out of my garage. Then I found a way to turn a favorite hobby into a fun job, and for several years helped run a little vintage shop. My love for treasure hunting, art, antiques, and painting became a big part of what I did to make a living.
None of these things, however, were ever quite enough to pay the bills, let alone take care of financial emergencies: broken furnaces, broken bones, car repairs, root canals... you know, all that fun life stuff. I envisioned myself living a different life, one where the everyday struggles were not only eased with money, but there was enough left over to relax and enjoy. I knew this was possible. I could see it. I could taste it. And most importantly, I believed that I deserved it.
So, in a final act of sheer desperation, I signed up for online real estate school. It had potential to make good money and I knew it. I took classes at 3 a.m. after all other work was done and while my kids slept. I had my reservations. It was not an industry I saw myself a part of. I lacked all the qualities you would expect to find in a stereotypical salesman… but I didn’t want to be typical. I very begrudgingly got my real estate license on one condition: that I would be unlike the rest of them. That I would be unconventional. That I would be ME. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
Affectionately dubbed as The Hippie Realtor Chick, I have done well for myself––very well. Success came from committing to taking the very best care of my people. Aside from being able to find anything anyone is looking for even if they don't think it exists (it's one of my superpowers), if you are my client, I will do whatever necessary to make sure you are taken care of in all the possible ways I can. Whether that means making 100 phone calls, or driving 100 miles, or army crawling through the dirt and cobwebs under your house, or helping your teens clean their godforsaken rooms, or shoveling your icy deathtrap of a driveway before the movers come, or spending the day helping you with your move because you underestimated how much work it was going to be. Sometimes taking care of my people means giving up my commission to make a complicated and messy deal work out because I promised to take care of you and that is what needed to be done. And sometimes everything goes perfectly and flawless and we are all generously rewarded. In return, my people have all taken care of me back with a steady stream of referrals sent my way. From the day I closed my first real estate deal, I have never since been without clients. I have never had to wonder when and where my next deal would come from. I have never had to make cold calls, or knock on doors, or pay for leads. I went on to not only survive and stabilize, but to consequently thrive.
But would you like to know what my biggest secret to success has been? You know that voice you have inside your head telling you that you aren’t good enough? Not smart enough? That your ideas are dumb and will never work, and who the hell do you even think you are? Well, I discovered something. That voice didn’t actually exist, at least not inside me. Those voices are actually just reflections of all the messages on the outside that we have been conditioned into believing are true. But deep inside I knew I knew better, and I knew what I was capable of. I suspect deep inside you know these things too. We are born with this knowing. It’s there. It’s in you, I promise… buried under your childhood and your upbringing. Buried under politics and religion and education. Buried under layers of oppression and social conditioning. For me it took losing everyone and everything from my past that I thought made me who I was, to discover I was so much more. With their voices now gone I could finally pay attention to my own, and it was then that I became my own biggest cheerleader.
So when the idea came to me in early 2018 that I was going to do something really big, I knew I had to keep this one all to myself. After all, I was only a little residential real estate agent still green in the business, and the plan that I was conjuring up involved things I had no business getting involved in… or so the world would tell me. I knew what I wanted. I had a clear vision. It involved multiple commercial properties in multiple states… the type of deal normally reserved for the well-known 30-year veterans with the teams of savvy partners. Here I was operating solo with an idea so big that I couldn’t even share it for fear others would try to talk some “sense” into me. So I told no one and just got to work. It only took six weeks. Six weeks of stepping way out of my element. Six weeks of making uncomfortable calls. Six weeks of pouring over research and numbers and cramming my head with more information than I ever knew it could even hold. Six weeks of fitting together multiple parts and moving pieces. Six weeks of forgetting to eat, operating on very little sleep, and taking even fewer showers… and then, brilliantly, beautifully, it all came together. 5:35 a.m. Three pings. My entire future changed.
Now here I am once again facing a scary and unknown future. Funny how in only a matter of weeks everything can change, and life as you know it can completely turn upside down. This isn’t the first time, of course; however, this time is different. This time we are all in this together, all staring down the very same demon.
2020 will be the year we all remember the before and after of. What will be the cost? What will we lose? Who will we lose? How will life change? How will life never be the same? How will we become better? What lessons will we learn? What might we gain? And what beauty might we find on the other side of this all? One thing we do know is we are strong, we are powerful, and life will always find a way. We didn’t come this far to only come this far.