This week, I celebrated 11 years since moving to New England to work for Liberty Mutual Insurance. It’s longer than any company I’ve worked for, including my time with the Marine Corps.
One of the reasons why I have stayed is because of what Liberty does outside the four wall of our daily work.
Liberty is the current sponsor of the US Olympic Team. Within that team, the company identified several athletes to be part of “Team Liberty”…all of them chosen because of their ability to rise above a challenge or setback in their lives. Those of us that follow the Olympic team have been asked to share our “rise” story, so I thought I’d share mine with all of you.
At age 18, I was doing pretty well. I had a full scholarship to George Washington University and a 4.0 at midterms. I was riding high on freedom 3,000 miles away from home and making the most of it.
A few weeks later, everything fell apart. Turns out my thyroid condition had corrected itself and the high I was riding was not good for my health. I was taken off my medication and quickly found myself exhausted. Not too tired for fun, but no longer able to burn both ends and perform.
I dropped from a 4.0 to a 1.67 in 8 weeks.
The school convinced my family to let me stay on for the remainder of the year. At the end of that time, however, I was sent packing and the scholarship was no more. My friends and freedom went with it.
I started working for the Marine Corps a few weeks later, after my father informed me that jobs might be available with regular hours and pay. These were key if I wanted to try and pay for night school.
I was turning things around, saving for a car and apartment, as well as looking to turn the temporary position into something more permanent.
When I asked my father whether this made up for the lost scholarship, he said “there’s nothing you can do to make up for what you’ve done.” Until that point, I knew I had messed up, but thought I could make it right. Now I wasn’t so sure.
I thought to myself “Why bother? If I can’t make it up, why not just quit?” I seriously considered it. Then I got my mad on. I decided I would show him that I’m not a failure and one mistake would not define me.
Losing my scholarship and letting down those that believed in me were two of the best things that could have happened in my career. I became laser-focused and hard-working in a way that I did not realize I had in me.
Somewhere along the way, I figured out that my father was just fearful for the difficult path I had in front of me if I did not finish college. Little did he know what he unleashed that day. One that he does not remember as clearly as I do – because it changed my life, but was just another day in his.
I also figured out that he, and the rest of my family, are not proud because of my degrees, certifications or titles. It’s about the person I am and the wife and mother I’ve become. I still have the same “get ‘er done” mentality, but I apply it equally at work and at home (as my son can attest at homework time).
I share this story because we are not all athletes, but we are all human. Each of us has the opportunity to quit or move forward in the face of bad decisions, adversity or unforeseen obstacles. We can fail, and remain there. Or we can rise above it to realize the full potential of our ability.
This is why I continue to work for my company. Because they inspire – me, my coworkers, and the world at large. To share our experiences, to help one another, and to be better. I may never have the same family I had with the Marine Corps, but it’s still a family. One I’m happy to be a part of.
What’s your Rise story?