My husband, Matt, says that I’m a rose that grew from concrete.
You see, from an early age, the odds of me succeeding in the entertainment industry (my dream since I was 8-years-old) were stacked against me. I grew up with the most amazing, supportive mother a young girl could ever ask for. She’s always loved her children dearly. However, she was someone who didn’t have a healthy sense of self-worth. She endured years of my father cheating, coming home at all hours of the night, and being physically abusive to her, my older sister and I. He was quite the disciplinarian. It was a tough childhood and when my father abandoned our family, leaving my mother with three young girls to raise on her own, life became tougher, but in a different way. My mother had to work two, sometimes three jobs, to put food on the table and to pay the bills, and unfortunately continued her pattern of getting into bad relationships.
It was so hard to see my mother go through her hardships, knowing what a hard-working and great woman she was. I knew she deserved better and this taught my sisters and I a valuable lesson. We knew this pattern could end with us and that we had the power to change things. The interesting part is that they say you’re a product of your environment and I suppose I am, however I didn’t follow my mom’s footsteps. I remember being five years old, opening the door to my bedroom just enough to be able to see my mother yelling at my father for coming home at 2am drunk and with lipstick on his shirt and seeing my father put his hands around my moms neck to get her to stop. It was obviously a terrible thing to have to see but I remember thinking, “when I grow up, that’s not the relationship that I want!” That doesn’t look like love and happiness.
I used to think that my childhood was a tragedy. That no child should ever have to go through or see what I saw, but I now understand that everything, the good, bad and the ugly, happens for a reason. We all have our own destiny; a journey that’s ours to have with lessons around every corner. God puts these things in our lives for a reason and the biggest life tragedy is not learning from them. That’s what life is all about if you ask me. To learn, grow, and love.
Growing up with an absent father made me a perfectionist (I was 6-years-old when he left and my goal became to be a perfect kid so that I achieved great things and my father would want to be a part of my life). I ended up developing the mentality and work ethic that eventually allowed me to fully prepare and win the Miss USA title in 2003. Watching my mom sacrifice so much of her life for my sisters and I over the years also contributed to my perfectionism. My mom taught me the importance of hard work in order to earn what I got in life. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Less than a year after crowning my successor, I signed my first hosting contract as one of the daily hosts of the former MTV show “TRL” (Total Request Live) and I began what’s become a blessed career. I can say that I’m living my dreams both personally and professionally. My husband and I are more in love today than when we started dating 15 years ago and we’re celebrating our 7-year wedding anniversary next month. After hosting over a dozen live specials and shows over the past 10 years, I just signed on as the Oxygen Network’s on-air personality. So life is great and I count my blessings everyday! In fact, it’s the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning.
These things haven’t come easy and I’ve worked extremely hard all my life for what I have. That’s how my mother raised me. I’ve been patient and have made my business and personal life decisions wisely. That’s something I know for certain—life is a series of choices. We can choose a good partner. We can choose to work hard and advance professionally. We can choose to do big things in life that will help others. We can choose to follow our hearts. We can choose to cultivate positive thoughts so that our reality becomes something we love. We can choose to come from a place of love in all that we do and say. We can choose to apologize. We can choose to acknowledge the fact that our Creator made us to do big things with our lives. We can choose to persevere.
…or we can choose not to.
The fact remains, it’s always our choice and we can also choose NOT to be a victim of our circumstances. Whether we like it or not, we must take responsibility for where we are in life because it’s always our choice.
I chose not to be a victim of my childhood. I chose a loving, supportive, and respectful partner in life. And I live a fulfilling life because I chose to work hard to actually LIVE my dreams and not just dream about them. I wish the same happiness for you as well. The quicker you stop blaming others for your misfortunes and take responsibility for your own life (FYI: you’re the only one who can), the quicker you’ll start to live the life you want.
“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. ” Marianne Williamson, Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles.