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How I’ve Redefined Success Since ‘Failing’ by Traditional Standards

“Once you choose hope, anything is possible.” ~Christopher Reeve

When I was a child, I wanted to save the world. My mom found me crying in my bedroom one day. She asked what was wrong, and I said, “I haven’t done anything yet!” I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could try to make a difference.

At fourteen, I joined a youth group that supported adults with disabilities. We hosted dances and ran a buddy program. I helped with projects at state institutions and left saddened by the conditions for the residents. I planned to work at a state institution.

As a senior in high school, I was voted most likely to succeed. It was unexpected, like so many things in my life. I hoped to find meaningful work that helped others.

My first year at Ohio State, I fell head over heels in love and married the boy next door. A month after my wedding, newly nineteen, I started my first full-time job as manager of a group home for men with developmental disabilities. I never finished college.

At twenty-three, I was officially after my first baby, but the doctor didn’t tell me. I read the diagnosis in my medical record a few years later. I grew up in the sixties with negative stereotypes of mental illness. I didn’t understand it, and I thought depression meant being weak and ungrateful. I loved being a new mom, and I wanted the doctor to be wrong.

I was a stay-at-home mom with three young children at the time of my ten-year high school reunion. The event booklet included bios. For mine, I wrote something a bit defensive about the value of being a mom since I didn’t feel successful in any traditional way.

At thirty, I experienced daily headaches for the first time. I tried natural cures and refused all medication, even over-the-counter ones, while

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