The other week, I was at a business meeting and the gentleman asked me the same question I ask all of my clients. He wanted to know my story, my real story.
I’ve been a storyteller for years. Storytelling is the core of what I do as a journalist, publicist, and speaker. But, I have yet to share mine, publically. Right now, it lies in the draft of my first book.
I recently told my story to a friend and business associate. She wanted to know why I haven’t shared it with others. She went on to say that we are inundated with perfectionism on social media and we think that everyone has the “perfect life.” Nobody has a perfect life, but we work really hard to make it look like that, don’t we?
So here’s part of my story-
If you look at my social media you may see me as a successful business owner, mother of three beautiful daughters and appear to have it all. I come across as confident and well put together. That’s my brand, my image. But just like everyone else, I have insecurities and was faced with some interesting challenges along the way. And I still have a LOT of challenges in my future.
For me, it’s been about overcoming. I had to learn what that word meant at a very young age.
March 15, 1981, my mother died of lymphoma. I was 4-years old. I came home from nursery school to see my dad lying on the couch with his hand on his forehead crying. He told me that my mother had died and she was in heaven. I ran straight to my room, sobbing. I didn’t truly understand what that meant, but I do recall my mother talking to me about her being sick.
The month prior she was in her bedroom crying. I specifically remember saying to her, “Mommy- why are you crying? Mommy’s aren’t supposed to cry.” She told me that we all cry and there are things in life that make you sad, but we must always fight. We must fight to beat whatever is taking us down. She said that we must never give up. She did fight, but unfortunately, Cancer won.
My dad, a Marine veteran and an only child himself, – was at a loss. He questioned how he could take a care of a little girl by himself. A few weeks later he hired a live-in nanny, named Nanci. She was 22 years old and I instantly took to her. I was missing my mother so much and Nanci helped me go through it.
Six months later, my dad remarried. And Nanci was no longer needed. I didn’t understand why I just lost someone who I loved. I was again devastated.
My dad had an opportunity to take a job overseas and my grandparents did not want me to leave. The short version of this story is that I went to live with my grandparents by the age of 5.
That was the last time I would see my dad for ten years. My grandparents were older and did what they could to ensure that I had a great life.
Three years later, my grandmother passed away. Again, another loss in our family. My aunt, my mother’s sister, and her husband then took me under their wing. For years, my aunt and struggled with infertility. She desperately wanted to have a child but science was not as it is today.
But from that point on, I was their child. They adopted me and I went from Alison Haight to Alison Maloni by the age of 9.
I now had a new school, friends, house and extended family. Life was finally becoming normal.
However, there was always a fear in the back of my mind that I would lose another person I love.
What I didn’t know is that I was losing my confidence and myself during this process.
At the age of 10, a boy who we played with down the street said 2 words to me that changed so much about how I felt about myself. He told me, “you’re fat.” Now, I was not fat at all, but for some reason, those words struck me in such a powerful way. I began to not eat and exercise excessively. My parents would beg me to eat, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t. I looked in the mirror and only saw a fat little girl.
My parents put me into therapy and six months later I was on the road to recovery. I was eating and began to see a pretty girl in the mirror. My confidence began to come back and I overcame this horrific eating disorder. But, I have to be honest; those words still do haunt me, especially during times of stress.
A few years later my grandfather passed away and my family continued to get smaller. But I was older and knew that I had to overcome the fear of loss.
During my high school years, I played sports, got great grades and had a ton of friends. After 10 years I heard from my father. I saw him a few times, but of course, after you don’t talk for a decade it’s a bit strange. Where do you pick up? How do you have a normal relationship? When someone is in and out of your life, it’s extremely difficult.
My college years were great and I was on my way to becoming a news reporter for the Springfield, MA market. I wanted to be a journalist since I was 9 years old and I was making it happen. I graduated and worked as an assignment editor, producer and then got my big break in New York to work for a cable station. I was the camera person, reporter, and editor. I made a whopping $17,000 a year. But I loved it and worked my butt off.
I moved up in my career and landed a reporter job at the ABC affiliate in Springfield and then moved to a bigger market in Providence, RI at WPRI. Life was good.
I got married in 2002, left the news industry to pursue a more “normal job” and went into marketing and public relations. During that time I had three beautiful daughters. They were and are my world.
In 2013 I woke up one day and decided to start my own public relations agency. Yes, just like that. I put a business plan together, got my first client and I was on my way to success.
I began to land speaking opportunities as I grew my business. Within two years I had clients all over the country and was interviewing people like Steve Wozniak and Marcia Clark.
My business was doing great, but my personal life was not. I will never go into details about my marriage. But, a few years later, my husband and I divorced.
For the first time in 13 years I was on my own and to be honest, I was scared to death. I moved out of my house that I thought would be my forever home and scaled back significantly. I now had to support my three children and myself and that is a very scary reality. It was and is not easy. It is an overwhelming feeling and loneliness sets in a lot.
Divorce takes a significant toll on you mentally and physically. From schedules, legal fees, child support and custody battles- it’s vicious. It rips your guts out and changes you forever. I would not wish court or the process on my worst enemy.
There are nights that I lay in bed and question every decision I make and worry about things that I cannot control. And those are the nights that I repeat the word “overcome” to myself.
Everything that I went through at an early age has taught me that I can and will overcome anything. In the middle of it, you don’t think it’s possible, but somehow you do.
As my mother told me when she was dying of Cancer, you have to fight to win. Never give up the fight.
We must fight for everything in life. We fight for our careers. We fight for our employees. We fight for love. Life is not easy. Love is certainly not easy. When things get hard we want to give up, but we must fight even harder.
Perhaps all of my challenges are what helped shape me into a successful business owner and a good mother. I have become even more determined and confident, as I’ve gotten older.
I now look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman and mother. A great publicist. And a powerful speaker.
I have many more chapters in my story. The next few will test me more than anything else, I’m certain of that. But all I know is that I will fight and overcome.
My story is to be continued….