Unlike in some tales, life can be unpredictable beyond our wildest dreams; sometimes incredibly amazing and sometimes your worst nightmares.
I hit below rock bottom. I didn’t think, feel or believe a sunny day would dawn for me. Not for hours or days; not for weeks; not for months; not for two or five years. But, for close to two decades. Thankfully, while nothing is perfect yet, the worst, I believe is over and I am rebuilding myself slowly.
It is the worst turns in life that terrify and disorient most people.
It is the worst turns in life that threaten the sanity of a person.
It is the worst turns in life that change people forever; for the best or for the worst.
If the worst has hit you, just hang on for a minute. There is hope for you. Do not give up yet; life may still have great things in store for you.
Just in case you have hit rock bottom or hit the spot below rock bottom; just in case you are terrified of hitting rock bottom and never recovering, here are a few positive vibes for you.
You are human. You are not abnormal. You are not cursed. You are not nothing.
You are a unique human being as is everyone else. You are a beautiful soul; more precious than you can comprehend. Your breakthrough will come.
You will find your way and your fresh start. For each and his/ her own. We all have different paths and journeys. Just focus on making your journey at your pace. Let no man-defined parameters write you off. Not age; not education; not sex; not race; not background; not suffering; not privilege; NOTHING. Let nothing write you off. Set out to BE YOU. Just like the people in this list did.
Some of the world changers and most inspirational people have an incredibly difficult past.
The beauty of it is that they were probably not thinking about how tough they ought to be to list among the top icons in the world.
They were just trying to survive the day; trying to stay afloat for a little while longer.
They were trying to be a better version of themselves.
They were just trying to survive a horrific situation.
Here is a list of 10 people who turned their lives around and continued going forward long after they had achieved relative comfort that every human seeks.
Most people salivate at the thought of a nice piece of chicken regardless of how it is cooked. What if someone told you that one of the famous chicken companies was as a result of the last efforts of a man’s survival tactics? Colonel Sanders is the man behind the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Do not let the word ‘Kentucky’ deceive you into thinking that the restaurant is located or serves the resident of Kentucky only. KFC restaurants are distributed in 123 countries across the globe and has over 20,000 joints. You may like to know that as a fast food company, it is ranked second after MacDonalds.
Truth be told, most of us have a mental timeline of how our lives should progress. Psychologists and other life scientists definitely have their analysis. While different theories differ, you can be certain of one thing: at 60+ years of age, most people are expected to have accomplished most of what they wanted in life and are ready to retire. Or not?
After a humble life, that was characterized by the death of his father, having to take care of his siblings before he was 10, having to find a job at 10 years of age, and dropping out of school for lack of fees, getting marries and divorcing, Colonel Sanders started KFC at age 66. At this age, he was almost broke and he took his remaining little money to buy a few chicken pieces, deep fry them using his recipe, and hawk to his neighbors. The rest is history; the chicken business grew beyond his wildest dream.
If you do not read her story (in the text below), her TEDx talk here is AMAZING.
Life is unpredictable and only an iron mind can weather the worst adversity, and bring out an almost super-human such as Turia Pitt. Up to the age of 24, Turia Pitt was an Australian supermodel whose life was soaring high. Society has taught us that supermodels are the crème dela crème of the society when it comes to the definition of physical beauty. All over the world, some women and men undergo plastic surgeries to enhance their looks; Justin Jedlica and Pixee Fox are some of the proof of the lengths that people will go to look and feel as they dream.
Turia Pitt, the Australian supermodel, had a fire accident in 2011 during one of the intensive marathons that she participated. During the 100km Kimberly ultramarathon, she got trapped in a grassfire that left her body badly burnt. After 2.5 years of hospital and recovery, 200+ operations, 65% of full thickness burns on her body, and a loss of seven(7) fingers, Turia LIVED!
Turia Pitt overcame her adversity against all odds. Today, she is a humanitarian with InterPlast Australia & New Zealand – which offers life-changing surgery – and partners with multiple global partners as a motivational speaker. She has written several books and offers training on her online platforms. She was featured in a local TEDx talks where she narrated her story and her desire to leave. She urges people to look deep into their souls to find their life’s purpose. Turia and her husband welcomed their first son in December 2017.
Sometimes adversity can stretch-out too long that it is almost impossible to believe that life was meant to be anything else. Until it changes.
Whether you love music or not, Tina Turner’s story is something like a movie. Good thing a movie was made based on her story. Tina Turner’s first 30+ of years of life were characterized by abuse, parental rejection, the death of the only person who was taking care of her at 16 (grandmother), and more abuse from her husband. You would think that after this harrowing experience that life would cut her some slack. Not yet. Her 16+ years of marriage was not only physically abusive, but her husband also squandered whatever money they (Tina alone or with her husband) earned. On a serious fight night with her husband, she decided to leave him for good. She had nothing to her name except the clothes on her back and 36 cents. She was out on the streets for months. Consequent years did not have much change on her life.
At 44+ years of age, Tina Turner breakthrough came. The first solo album she made blew the music industry to another level. The track not only won her Grammies (three) but also sold in excess of 10 million copies. She went on to do successful tours with amazing revenue. Her fame and wealth grew so much so that she featured in the Guinness Book of records. How about that? Who would think that at 20, 30, 40 years of age life can turn around?
When the Human Rights Declaration was made in 1948 and when the United Nations Convention on the Rights and Welfare of Children was ratified in 1989, Malala Yousafzai was not born. In 1997, Malala was born to Pakistani parents. Before she was well into her teens, she had already mastered the art of defending human rights, specifically her right (and that of other girls) to get an education, against the Taliban. Her defiance cost her bullets to her shoulder, neck, and face, but she survived.
Today, Malala, who is only 20 years old, has many titles to her name. She is a humanitarian, best-selling author, former BBC Urdu blogger, most influential person, Nobel Laureate, and a student. The girl has a whole day named after her by the United Nations; July 12 is Malala Day. Way to face so much and achieve so much while so young.
You have probably heard about Survival of the Fittest, right? The basic premises is that the more normal we are, or the more equipped we are, the better our survival and reproduction odds. In a world where our odds of survival are calculated by how normal we are born, Nick Vujicic odds of survival and functionality were limited. Nick was born without arms and legs. With the love and care that his parents gave him, he grew up embracing his disability and exploring his potential.
Today, Nick is a happily married man with two healthy sons. Nick is a motivational speaker who has traveled to many countries and given talks to different audiences. He founded Attitude is Altitude in 2007, a company that reaches out to people to inspire them. He also founded an Evangelistic Ministry: Life without Limbs.
Some world changers did it when they were young. Others had their breakthrough when they were of advanced age. What if you had a short life, to begin with, and still wanted to leave an impact?
Such is the case of Sam Berns, who was featured in the documentary Life According to Sam by HBO. Sampson Gordon (Sam Berns) suffered Progeria; a condition that causes the bodies of the sufferers to age 8-10 times faster. It is difficult enough for progeria patients to deal with the rapidly aging symptoms (including hair loss, exhaustion, joint ache, high risk of stroke, etc.) let alone have cameras following their daily lives. It was difficult for him to be constantly exposed to medical experiments that sought to find a cure for progeria.
Through Sam’s featured documentary, The Progeria Foundation garnered more support as people all over the world learnt about progeria. This foundation works with other progeria kids such as Lindsay and Kaylie featured on the video (6 going on to 60) by Barcroft, and again in another video that was pursuing the medical progress for the treatment of progeria. As of 2016, progeria treatment had already been developed and its effects exhibited as illustrated by Hayley’s treatment on the DOCS: Hayley – The 96 Year Old School Girl.
In 1954, in Mississippi, a teenage single woman gave birth to a beautiful girl she named Orpah Gail Winfrey. People constantly mispronounced the little girl’s name as Oprah instead of Orpah. Raised in Milwaukee, sexually abused through childhood and early teenagehood, and faced with the loss of the infant she bore from her sexual abuse, Orpah moved to Tennesee to live with her barber father.
At 19, Oprah’s life took a change that would shape her life and propel her to the icon she is today. While in Tennesee, she got an evening news’ host job at a radio station and later moved on to a talk show that was aired during the day. She would go on to start her own company and a talk show that took over and dominated the world’s airwaves for 25 years. Today, she holds many world-esteemed titles including The Presidential Medal of Freedom, World’s richest black Americans, and most influential person in the world. She currently engages on Oprah Winfrey Network, Oprah’s Book Club, and other platforms.
Fame is not always directly proportional to the perfect settings as a launching platform. Celine Dion falls in this category of icons who had humble beginnings. Celine was born as the 14th child of a butcher father and a homemaker mother. Whereas this big family was poor, they, in Celine’s words “were close”. Luckily for Celine, the family was music-oriented. Between sharing a passion for singing and working on musical pieces together, Celine’s family set the ground for her music career.
Celine is renowned for her French and English tracks, performances all over the world, and philanthropy. Forbes estimated Celine’s 2008 earnings at $100 million. Some of her famous tracks include My Heart Will Go On (which was used as a soundtrack for the 1997 Titanic Movie, A New Day Has Come, and others; songs that topped the music charts of multiple countries for some time. On October 5th, 2017, Celine pledged the proceeds of her concert to the shooting victims of the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
The first time I heard about Ben Carson was when I read his book ‘Gifted Hands’. I was wowed by the fact that his was a true story; someone who had hardships as a child but did not let his dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon die.
Ben Carson was born the second son of his parents. At a tender age, his parents divorced when his mother found out that her husband had another family she did not know about. Ben and his brother were raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet but did her best to ensure that her sons had the best, and concentrated on their education. His life is captured in the movie Gifted Hands.
Ben would pursue medicine and become one of the most renown doctors, after the successful separation of the conjoined twins in 1987. In 2015 Ben Carson entered politics and ran for the presidency in the United States of America two years after his retirement from medicine. Although he did not win the presidency, he continues to be politically active.
It is easy for anyone to think that someone who was born with a silver spoon will always have a great life and end up becoming an icon. Well, it is the case in some instances; a smooth life all the way. In other instances, a silver spoon does not guarantee a trouble-free life; in the end, tough decisions and hard work have to come into play. Such was the case for the first president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
Born in South Africa and into royalty, Nelson Mandela had the best education and the right platforms to propel him to greatness. However, in the course of his life, he would engage in activism (with other activist groups) to fight against the oppressive apartheid system, which finally landed him in prison. You would think that his royalty blood and connections would bail him out of jail in a matter of days, right? Wrong. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. His jail term only terminated when it became apparent that the country was about to break out into civil war; in which case the release was to prevent the breakout of this conflict.
What would you do if you were imprisoned for 27 years? From where do you pick up and your life and choose what to do next. Nelson Mandela embarked on a reconciliatory path after his release from prison. In 1994 when he vied for the presidency, he won. He would lead the country for the next five years and decline a second term re-election. Before his death in 2013, Nelson Mandela had won the Novel Peace Prize (1993), mediated the Pan Am Bombing Trial and was fighting HIV and AIDs through his Foundation.
As is evident from each of the above people’s stories, life is different for each of us. Whereas we cannot undermine the role that privileges have on some people’s lives, we can acknowledge that it is possible to change our destination. We can, and we should, give life the best shot that we can for we live only once. We love such stories because they remind us of the human resilience; they open our minds to believe that adversity does not always spell doom.
Originally published at www.un-tell.com