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Are You “Where You Came From” or “Where You’re Going?”

November 8, 2011

When guest-blogger, Kyle Ruffin, sent this submission, I read it, riveted to every word she wrote.  Everything in me was shouting, “Amen!” Her message, aligned with the message LIES That Limit, is one I had to share with you. Have a read and let me hear how her words and energy impact you.

I work a lot with people who’ve devoted their lives to helping residents of Camden, NJ overcome their trials and tribulations. Since 1997, I’ve been on boards, committees and even employed by organizations with a mission of bringing self-sufficiency to a city of people dependent on others to survive.

After so many years, I find myself asking whether we’re truly fighting poverty, under-education, substance abuse, illiteracy and all other social ills, or are we really fighting a deeply in-grained mindset. Is it a set of beliefs held not only by the people who live in Camden – one of the poorest cities in the country – but by the people working to save them? When you ask caring members of the human service community to ask the people in Camden to contribute money to their cause or volunteer for their organization, often they’ll answer that people in Camden don’t do that. Which is true, but is that because they’re not expected to do it or is it because their lives are so overburdened with problems that volunteering is more of a luxury than the duty some of us feel to help our fellow man.

I myself am often sidelined by things that happened to me in the past. My history holds convenient excuses that I can use when rationalizing about not pushing myself. In my head I hear the litany of reasons “I can’t, because” or “I didn’t, because.” These are LIES I have at the ready in case someone challenges me. And deceptively, they make me feel better about sitting on my hands, rather than pushing through a fear that’s masking my truth. Often, my truth has nothing to do with what happened in my past. My truth is something I can still make happen every day.

My husband brought home a mug recently that caught his eye. He hasn’t figured how who he’ll give it to, but it certainly resonated with me. It said “This is your life. Shape it or someone else will.”

I offer a modified “or something else will” – your past! One of the biggest LIES that many of us live with is giving “where we came from” more importance than it deserves. There are probably lots of examples we can draw on that prove we’ve grown beyond our past, yet in so many ways it holds us like someone pulling at the back of our shirt as we try to forge ahead.

Kyle Ruffin

I’m not a huge fan of those inspirational rags-to-riches tales of people who rose from poverty to make it huge! Oprah. Tyler Perry. Every NBA or NFL star ever. The list goes on and on. For me, it’s easy to discount those folks when I’m looking for inspiration for my less than “Time Magazine Woman of the Year” life. I’m not trying to become a media mogul. I’m not trying to change the world or even save a life. I’m just trying to get through this life with more smiles than frowns. But I must say that those larger than life superstars have an important lesson for everyone struggling to see their future as something they control. These icons have managed to shed their woe-is-me, I-came-from-_____-so-feel-sorry-for-me frame of mind. Somehow, they didn’t think reaching great heights was beyond them because no one they knew had ever done it before. They just put on their “I can do it” blinders and went for it. What ever “handouts” they got, they didn’t look at them as entitlements. They took advantage of the opportunities they were presented with and parlayed them into something much greater than the original gift.

Sometimes our minds get stuck in the past – focused on a history that we can’t change or affect. Sometimes people we love unwittingly keep us moonwalking over the same history – one that says this is all we can ever amount to. We can always amount to more – until the day we die!

There are entire cities – even countries – of people who base their perception of what they can accomplish on what they or others before them didn’t achieve. That script in their collective psyche is more powerful than anything anyone else can say or do to them. No matter how much money, education or inspiration one throws at it them, nothing will change until it is unmasked, brought to the surface and obliterated.

How?  The suggestion box is open!

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