Updated: Jan 23
I was talking with an old friend and mentor the other day when she said something that really hit home for me. She said, "It's like the odds have always been stacked against you.....you are going to move mountains." When our conversation was finished, I started to think back through my life. I realized how true this statement really was, and I sat in the realization of how many times I've been knocked down / failed / challenged, and how many more times I have gotten up / stood up / kept moving forward.
When I was growing up, the neighborhood we lived in had SO many kids. My sister had houses to go to, friends to swim with all the time. My brothers had golf buddies and fighting partners every day of the week. I had one friend that quickly moved out of the neighborhood because her parents got a divorce. I didn't fit in with my sister and her friends. Growing up in this neighborhood, I had this sense of not belonging anywhere I went or any place I was. I began to search for a place to belong. This drew me to getting involved in sports.
Cheerleading where I come from is everything. It was life (is still is!). I couldn't wait until the day that I could tryout for Varsity and compete at the most elite level. After I tried out, my coach told me there was no spot on the team for me, but she would allow me to "make" the team as an alternate. As an alternate, I would have the option to work my way onto the first string team that would take the mat at competitions. Rather than giving up, I decided it was time to go to work. By the end of the cheer season, I had worked my way into one of three rounds and was part of the first ever state championship team. The next year, I made the team, was in two rounds, and helped drive my team to Back to Back State Champs that is still, 25 years later, the only back to back title the Grandville School Cheer Program has ever won.
After cheer season was finished, softball season began. I listened to all of my friends talk about where they were going to college: UofM, MSU, Arizona State, Davenport, Western, Central, Valpo, Notre Dame. I got in to MSU, but there was no way I could afford it. My friends began making signs for their open houses and I remember being so discouraged because I was about to have an open house with no college flag in the garage to take a picture by. It was then that I decided. I had one more chance. As my open house date approached, my softball stats kept climbing. About a week before my senior open house, I got offered a scholarship to play softball at Aquinas College. I could finally take that picture that I knew I deserved.
I dropped out of college after my third year to move to Chicago. It was during the next 2-3 years that I got myself into a financial mess after being extremely irresponsible and facing challenges that I just simply ignored. At the young age of 23, I filed for bankruptcy. I started working as a server at a bar, shared a bank account with my dad, and drove a tiny red car that I had to enter from the passenger side because the drivers side door handle didn't work. Within a couple of years, despite my bankruptcy record, and with this being unheard of at the time, I purchased a condo downtown Grand Rapids and finally had a home of my own.
At this time, I decided to enter into the sales world. The job that I wanted required a college degree, and of course, as you remember, that was something I didn't have! I decided to apply anyway, get myself in the door, and kill it in my interviews. I soon became the only sales rep without a college degree to get hired. And, I killed it. Soon after, I went back into the bar industry for an offer I couldn't refuse.
A couple of years into this industry, my position was eliminated and I got let go. Right around this time, the government was giving grants for people to go back to school if you met the given criteria. I did, so I applied last minute. I had no response from the representative that was assigned to me. I wasn't sure if I had gotten approved or not and the deadline to sign up for classes at Aquinas was fast approaching. I signed up for classes, went to classes, and a week after I had already been attending classes, found out I was indeed qualified for the program. Phew! I graduated Aquinas College with a Bachelor of Science in Business Arts 10 years after I dropped out, at the age of 30. A month later, I found out I was pregnant.
Being pregnant and trying to find a sales job was tricky. I hid what was showing of my belly, got hired for a competitor of the company I worked for before, and rose to be in the top three sales employees in the entire company, while I was 8 months pregnant. Because of the time I had joined, I had no pay during my maternity leave, but I was smart with my money during these days so I came back stronger than ever. I knew there was something more for me, but I was sure what. I knew I wasn't going to be an employee forever, but if I opened a business, what would I do? What was I interested in? I knew I wanted to do something that I loved and have a flexible schedule so I could spend time with my son.
In 2012, I googled "weird fitness certifications", took my first pole fitness class, bartended for six months to save up money to start a business, worked my full time sales job was a new mom, and opened my company Flirt Fitness. In 2013, I ran my first pole class in the conservative town of Grand Rapids, which at the time, was known as the "Bible Belt" of Michigan that "had a church on every corner." Pole was unheard of back then and what was known about the industry, didn't involve being a successful business owner. By 2019, my business did over 1/2 of a million dollars in sales. Killing it in business: check!
In 2019, I found out I was pregnant. I had an emergency C-section with my first and was very discouraged by many with my desire to have a natural birth this time around. On March 17, 2021, in 7.5 hours, I delivered my second child, my daughter, naturally. This date fell just one day after my business shut down due to COVID. Within a couple of weeks, we were on lockdown, I had friends and family bringing what was needed for me to my front door, and had my follow up doctors appointments via FaceTime. Being a Gym, we were closed the longest and had the most restrictions when we were allowed to reopen. We reopened in September 2020. Being a small business owner is a Iot of work in itself. I was faced to pivot in more than one way. In January 2022, Flirt Fitness was still on the map! Now, it's looking more beautiful than ever, and will soon celebrate almost 10 years in business.
If there is one way I could describe myself.....If someone asked me to share one piece of imagery that always sticks with me.....it's that I will always take one step forward......it's a visualization of a woman lying on the ground that is full of exhaustion, searching for hope, has almost lost who she is, feels empty inside, but gathers the smallest ounce of strength to press into all she is challenged with and stands. No matter where, how, with whom or why the odds are stacked against me, I will fight to the end. I will face anything and everything that comes my way. I will learn from my mistakes. I will see the good in all that I have been through. I will cherish the lessons that I learn and the people that helped me learn them along the way. I will remain a warrior. I will continue to get up; every, single, time.