I come from the generation of kids that drank from garden hoses and played outside until the streetlights came on. In the 1980s, my family’s TV only had 13 channels, and computers were more like science fiction than anything we’d see in most people’s homes.
As a 16-year-old growing up in Los Angeles in 1996, little did I know that by the time I was in my 20s, everything would change. Soon, the Internet, Google, Facebook, Apple, and smartphone technology would take the world by storm.
Coming from Generation X, I’ve seen significant advances in technology, but I’ve also gone through huge changes in my personal life. I wasn’t born into money, and my parents had more than their fair share of financial ups and downs. If I wanted something, I had to earn the money because my parents couldn’t afford to buy it for me. I didn’t have nice clothes or the latest $70 sneakers, but I did have something…my books.
Thanks to being a bookworm, all the reading led to literacy, creativity, and the ability to reason. Not having money as a child, I was at a disadvantage, but I had a love for learning and I knew the value of hard work. So, when life challenged me in my adult years, I knew how to educate myself and how to work — two qualities that proved vital to my survival.
At 18, I got a job working for a large fine art school in LA. One night, I was in the car with my Mom talking about my job. I decided then and there to pour my energy and effort into receiving all of the fine art training and business courses the company had to offer to its employees. It wasn’t an easy.
When assistant teaching, I focused on being the best I could be. I showed up early, stayed late and put 110% effort into everything I did. I drove all over LA, and spent hours in traffic every day, six days a week. That meant getting up early and going to bed late. Between teaching and training, I worked 12 hours a day; at 18, I had no life.
It wasn’t long before management noticed my effort and all my hard work paid off. In a short year, I completed all of the training the company had to offer and I was promoted to Program Director of my own studio with over 200 students per week — a job I was passionate about.
Enter the Great Recession
I worked as an art teacher for about three-and-a-half years and left the company to become a stay-at-home mom. My husband and I were flourishing but in 2008, the Great Recession hit and the real estate bubble burst. My husband, a loan officer, was out of a job.
My husband accepted a job in a different line of work during the recession earning significantly less than he was before. After about a year, his employer went through a massive layoff spree and my husband was once again out of work. The day I found out I was pregnant with our third child; my husband came home and told me he lost his job. Without going into too much detail, I’ll say we hit rock bottom. We lost everything.
About a year after our third child was born, I was done blaming my problems on the recession. Sick and tired of my situation, I went back to what always got me through no matter what — education and hard work — but we decided to move someplace more affordable first. Southern California’s housing prices were some of the highest in the nation. In reality, I think we just needed a change in scenery — a fresh start.
That summer, we picked up and moved from South Orange County, California (a very wealthy area) to rural Georgia. We literally moved to a house on a dirt road, across from a cotton field in the middle of nowhere. The first week we moved into our little white house, a good 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store, I had the crazy idea that I’d pursue a writing career. After all, I had been fantasizing about it for a year. I got a few weird looks when I told people about my “plan,” but I was determined to make it happen.
I Launched a Career in the Middle of Nowhere
Talk about challenges: Initially, we had no Internet, and I had no writing experience, but I didn’t let those things stop me. I spent a solid month trying to get an entry-level writing job at a company in California, and the owner of the company finally agreed to give me a shot. I don’t know if it was the desperation in my emails or the fact that he felt sorry for me, but I’m glad he took a chance on me.
When I landed the content writer position, I poured my heart and soul into it. I ordered several English and writing books online and I devoured them. In my job, I worked hard, very hard. I regularly asked my superiors what they “needed and wanted” and what I could do to improve and I followed their advice. It’s been seven years, the company has amassed hundreds of employees, but they’re still one of my favorite clients to this day.
What My Challenges Taught Me
When I was 18 and broke, I could have settled for an average life, but instead I decided to educate myself and pursue excellence in my work as a fine artist and Program Director. When my life came crashing down in my mid to late twenties, I was devastated, and at an all-time low. But, I chose to take full responsibility for my circumstances. I chose to educate myself and work hard towards becoming a writer so I could regain control of my life and our financial destiny. Mind you, it took a lot of effort and positive thinking, but it paid off.
What that Cotton Field Taught Me
It was very challenging living in the middle of nowhere in Georgia and trying to work online all day, especially when I had nonstop satellite Internet problems, tornado weather, and frequent blackouts — but I pushed through. To paint a picture: I was a city girl who went from living 10 minutes from Laguna Beach, California, to a little house across from a cotton field.
Inside, my country house turned out to be full of mice and cockroaches (not uncommon for rural homes in the South), and snakes outside! I was so creeped out, I wanted to die, but I NEVER gave up. I also had three little mouths to feed. I learned that you can live in the Deep South, where you have the slowest satellite Internet on Earth, but you can still find a way to make a living and realize your dreams. Today, my family lives in Utah; I no longer feel bad about growing up disadvantaged, hitting rock bottom and moving across the country because these experiences made me stronger, and shaped who I am today.
Mastering the Art of Self-Sufficiency
Through all of my struggles, I learned to master the art of self-sufficiency, which comes down to these core fundamentals: education, whether it’s learning something new or improving upon one’s skills, hard work, striving for excellence in your endeavors, and following your goals to the finish line.
Believe me, I know, we all have our own struggles, and for some of us, life can be very hard, but we can’t let life’s trials drag us down. We must view every hardship as a learning opportunity, and make a conscious decision to learn and move on from each difficulty we encounter. We must trust in our ability to overcome challenges.
When we are healthy and capable of working, it’s okay to accept help…to a point. I never once had any help. I sure wanted it, but it never came, and that’s okay. I’ve made my peace with it. Regardless of our hardships, we must actively seek to overcome our struggles and become self-reliant. Because, it’s when we do things ourselves that we learn to be independent, self-sufficient, and successful. Though help can be crucial, timely, and even life-saving, it has a shelf life.
It’s nearly impossible to fully enjoy life without taking off the training wheels, or cutting the umbilical cord so to speak. We all have to pave our own path and realize our true potential; it doesn’t happen by relying on friends and family for continuous financial support. So, when the going gets tough, it’s your chance to get tougher, and more resilient against the curveballs life is undoubtedly going to throw at you.
Elainna Ciaramella is an independent journalist, business blogger, and ghostwriter for entrepreneurs and business professionals nationwide. She has written extensively on the topics of business, entrepreneurship, law, and medicine. She is well-versed in search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Instagram.
Originally published on elainnaciaramella.com.