Always have persistence and determination on your life journey
I learnt a long time ago how to quickly rebuild my life whenever plans collapsed suddenly and everything changed — sometimes in an instant.
The first reaction is shock, horror, disbelief and panic.
I’ve managed to quickly cope with all this. I do not allow myself to fall into a negative spiral.
How? After I accept the situation and know that there will be no return to my previous life, I sit down with a piece of paper and start writing Plan B. Then I write Plan C.
In this difficult time, one skill helps me: I do not look back and regret what happened. I forbid myself to do this because I know that this will not lead to anything good. From experience, I know that I cannot afford useless agony! Instead, I consider what resources I have.
I ask, what can I do now in this seemingly hopeless situation? What is my starting point? Where do I begin? What is the first step?
The more questions I ask myself and, most importantly, the more honest I am with myself the better. I try out all the options in my head, even those that I would never have considered before and which I had never thought about previously.
Then I begin to act.
I direct all my strength, knowledge and experience only to this. I call it my “survival mode”. This strong focus and discipline saves me from despondency, hopelessness, and very importantly, losing belief in myself.
When I arrived in San Francisco 20 years ago, I did not have money to pay for the rent. I was alone with my 16-year-old daughter, Maria, in a foreign country and I could not send her to college.
I told a friend about my situation, and, shaking his head, he calmly advised, “Pack your things and go back to Siberia.”
Instead, my daughter wrote applications to 32 universities. It is an incredible amount of work, but I could not stop her dream. She was an exceptional student and worked hard and with unmatched consistency for years. We had no money, yet I told her to try with all her might.
I crumbled up each personal essay she wrote for her applications.
“No! This is not you! You are from Siberia! Make them see who you really are, how hard you have struggled, how many generations in your family struggled! Make them understand what you know of hardship and success!” She would cry, and go back to her desk.
One afternoon she burst into our tiny apartment. Hands trembling, holding a paper, she could not speak. She slid it across the table to me. It was a full scholarship to Yale University.
As for me, for the first time in my life, I went to work, not for my speciality of psychology, but as an art salesperson at a photo gallery. At first, I cried almost every evening.
I knew nothing about photography and sales. It was very difficult to work downtown at the bustling San Francisco waterfront talking to hundreds of tourists a day. I always had to be in a good mood with high spirits. I worked like mad, desperate to earn $800 in the first month to pay our rent.
I would grit my teeth and say to myself, “I will learn! I can do this!”
I worked at the gallery for a year and, to my surprise, I gradually fell in love with what I was trying so hard to do.
I learnt valuable marketing and sales skills, the ability to talk with any person on any topic and, as a bonus, met extraordinary and talented friends.
In the last month, I made ten times more than I did in the first.
When I emigrated to Canada, this experience helped me to get a job again when I really needed it, this time in the art gallery on a cruise ship. This ship brought me to Bermuda for the first time, and there I met my Bermudian husband, Bill.
Looking down at Maria’s acceptance letter to Yale, and celebrating the end of that first crucial and difficult year at the gallery in San Francisco are two of the best moments in my life.
I always laugh when I think about Maria’s 32 college applications and how much I did not want to work at that first art gallery!
They each hold a lesson we can use again and again:
In any crisis, we need to keep in our minds and in our hearts this simple formula: persistence and determination are the keys to success.
Knowing this is what it will take, you will win!
• Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at www.ninalondon.com
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