As I forge into the depths of a first-year start-up company, which is doing better than planned, I am humbled by the outpouring of industry support. By the camaraderie of an old story that is suddenly new … community, neighbors, helping.
So, as I put the finishing touches on my third book, co-authored with my childhood friend Dr. Wendy Wright, I offer you a copy of part of our first chapter, unedited and I hope that we are all reminded to have HOPE.
I figured, as we all took some down time in our weekends and summer vacations, from our busy lives, during these summer months, I hope time gives way to our ability to actually sit and read. I hope that the words I open my next book with might make you take pause as to why I have found my way to here, to how I have survived and that it reminds you of how you have overcome challenges as well. I hope that it reminds you of why we all should help our next generation, our children, truly separate what matters from the rest of the matter.
As adults, we can change our work environments by adopting the same ideology.
As humans, we could change the world by employing the sentiment I write below.
My summer gift to my readers, a peek at part of Chapter 1 of Breaking the Cycle: Two Little Girls Journey to Success
“A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”—Christine “Buffy”
AS I SIT HERE ON A PLANE FOR THE UMPTEENTH flight of my career, a little girl is seated next to me for her first flight. She’s excited, phone in hand, ready to record the first of her lifetime of memories and I am enraptured by her enthusiasm. I remember experiencing that glorious new discovery feeling as a child when I was her age.
Sophia is her name. We talk and I share what I do. She asks me to show her what my books look like, so I gift her the two I am carrying with me on this trip. I tell her to pay forward the lessons in each. We take a photo and I know she will be a great soldier of my words. I can just tell.
Meeting Sophia was delightful and as I settled into the rest of the flight, my thoughts quite naturally turned to my childhood …
Hope. Dream chasing. Work ethic.
I claim these character traits, each forged during my elementary school years. Many contests would be entered: Dance competition, student council campaigns, science fairs, gymnastic and other athletic tournaments. Every time I thought about entering a race, I became excited. I would visualize the event that would culminate whatever period of practice and preparation I had, and I could see that time would allow me to hone whatever skill I needed. And somehow, vision became reality as I would find myself winning.
Looking back now, I realize I have always dreamed big. I’ve been called dramatic by many people and often not as a compliment. I must own it because it is a truth. I view this as an art and a strength. An innate predisposition for drama, used for doing good, to tell a story, to make people laugh, to create excitement, is a great personality trait to have. It can also be a powerful, emotion evoking weapon if misused. It has always been easy to get a group of people behind me.
The point I want to come back to is that I was born with hope and excitement for life in me and, to this day, wake up excited and eager to live life. I believe this enthusiasm is a gift and because hope for greater things and bigger things is ever present, I am able to lead others to the same belief. What others call drama, I know to be passion that shines through all things I do.
Despite having a long list of disadvantages and hurdles to overcome, I’ve always felt certain I had this big life in front of me. In everything I do, I am aware of my deficits. And yet somehow, the way forward is found. I remember as a child nursing hurts no youngster should endure and thinking, “I will not be denied. I don’t care what others say, how others tell me it can’t be done. I don’t believe them. I know they are wrong.”
We lived the furthest from my school one could possibly live and still attend. The town line was a stone’s throw away. We were on the last street in town, so the school bus picked us up first. It made for a long ride as the bus wove through the back roads of our rural community, skirting the peripheral of a mill town that had evolved past its glory days. Over half the property in town was owned by wealthy out-of-stater's who came for the camps cresting the edges of our 20 miles of lakes. We sat in a valley of the greatest terrain in the northeast, a latch key to the enormous White Mountains.
Our town was a picture of opposites, filled with wealth—those who came from their lofty lives in Massachusetts to vacation—and the impoverished Townies. Opulence to penury teetered in both directions, with few in between. Affluence created segregation even among the townies where wealthy business owners of hotels, restaurants, and big businesses thrived amid the rest of us who lived in the trailer parks and camps on the exterior looking in.
I do not remember a time when I was not aware of lack. I was keenly aware of kids like me who could not afford much. I longed for people to see the real me, to look past the rough exterior, to look beyond the shoes from K-Mart. I thought early on, if they saw ME and my heart, that they would look past the hurt I felt inside for the things I was limited to in life by money. I didn’t know for a very long time how inconsequential these things were and how misguided it was to allow ‘fitting in’ to weigh so heavy on my heart.
Our classrooms were arranged around ‘aptitude’ groups. I had an inside out view of the harsh cruelty of other children because I was placed in a group made up mostly of the affluent kids. All day, our group moved from one class to the next together. The rich kids in my group would laugh and mock other kids who didn’t have the designer clothes. They mistreated kids who were different; children with societal inversions, shyness, who had hygiene issues (no doubt from their home environments as I knew at least six of my fellow students who had no running water or electricity in their homes).
I remember one day in particular while waiting for the school bus I saw a younger girl have her winter hat tore off her head by one of this elite group. They passed around the hat, like a cruel game of keep away, while the little girl wailed for them to return it to her.
She was the daughter of one of my mom and dad’s co-workers and I had just hung out with them Saturday night at my home while our parents played cards. There was nothing physically harmful, but it was embarrassing, emotionally taunting and hurtful.
At first, I didn’t think I could do anything to help. After all, there were three boys my age laughing and continuing the taunting, throwing the hat back and forth between them. Then, before my mind could catch up with my feet, I seized the hat mid-toss from the clutches of one of the boys. With a great shove and a forceful glare I pushed him to the ground. The other kids laughed. I turned and returned the hat to my friend. She looked at me with tears streaming down her face and managed a slight smile as she reclaimed her hat, placing it firmly on her head.
I walked away angry and shaking. I quickened my pace and ran around the corner of the building where I stood with my back to the wall of the school. It was cold outside and I could hear the bus coming, and I was crying. For a truly important moment, my body had taken me for a ride. I was on auto pilot. As I felt the adrenaline leaving my body, a teacher came around the corner to tell me I am a good girl and that I need to get in line for the bus.
Having the bird’s eye view from the ‘high aptitude’ group for the 10 years of my school career placed me between fitting in and not. I became the unexpected diplomat moving in both circles, the unaccepted and the privileged. Over the years, I kind of saw myself as the schoolyard super hero. I was always watching.
Many of the parents of the ostracized children were my neighbors and my parents co-workers at the mill. These were my Saturday night playmates while our families socialized. I was friends with everyone as if by example I could show others how kids were kids and nobody deserved to be bullied.
I believe my friends among the privileged kids did not like that I reminded them of their own lack of importance. True fact: Their parents were rich, but they had no more than any other kid their age. Having stuff given to you does not make you better than anybody else. My attitude was to shame them if they were stuck up and I didn’t care if they liked it or not. What they chose to do with their advantage in life would determine who they became. I believe I knew, even then, that these early struggles would not define my life, but rather, enrich it. And somehow I knew another truth, even though as a child I could not have expressed any of this: That abusing the significant advantages they had as children could and likely would become challenges to overcome in later life.
Remaining hopeful and living a life filled with hope has proven to be both my greatest strength and one of my greatest challenges. Maintaining blind faith in life’s goodness is not easy. I have not always made the best choices or taken the right actions. And when missteps happened, it was hope, an internal faith that kept me hanging on. Having hope let me dream of a different future I couldn’t yet see.
What we hope for wills us to better destinations. I am a believer in our internal compass. We go to where we look. When we look or hope for better, we find it. When we believe nothing better will come, we are willing for the bad and attracting it. When we speak aloud, words of dismay and words of hate or negativity, we draw in those who think similarly. Take care because there begins spiral difficult to reverse. Avoid whenever possible an environment wrought with negative people, thoughts and outcomes.
We have the power to define our destiny. You must put that theory into action to believe it.
Christine Beckwith is a 30-year mortgage industry veteran who has broken many glass ceilings and has blazed a trail for many female professionals to come. Christine is currently president and chief operating officer of 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching and Consulting, a decorated, sought after and award-winning leader. Christine may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
This article originally appeared in the July 2019 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.