I moved away from my hometown seventeen years ago in an effort to escape the pain of several childhood traumas and my mother’s death.
She was a hardworking divorcee who read for sport, smiled wide and lived for her children.
Losing my mom at eighteen sent me reeling into a tailspin of alcoholism, drug abuse and partying.
The bulk of my late teens and early twenties are a blur of one party after another.
In my mid-twenties, I was diagnosed with a potentially life threatening illness that forced me to look at my life and decide whether or not I wanted to live or die.
After an unexpected encounter with Christ, I chose life.
As I grew spiritually, the pain I ran from seemingly subsided.
The drinking, drugging and clubbing instantly stopped and the church I attended became the loving support system I desperately needed.
I finally completed my undergraduate degree after four failed tries at college and my work as an after school teacher fed my purpose and fueled my passion for children.
Without warning, God opened a door to pursue a graduate degree in another state eight hundred miles away.
I took the opportunity and ran with it.
Not only did I earn my degree but, I wrote a book, traveled the world and grew professionally and spiritually.
A few years ago, I moved back to my beloved hometown with plans of starting a consulting business and a nonprofit.
I wanted to use the skills and experiences I gained during my studies to create new programs and initiatives that would help combat the issues that mostly affect poor, Black youth.
Since moving back to South Carolina, I have been reunited with my pain through a series of financial and health challenges.
I started that consulting business and even scored my first contract.
When that contract ended, I did everything I could to earn money.
I babysat, tutored, and worked part time while applying for jobs I was overqualified for.
I was even denied a job as a parking lot sweeper.
Nothing I tried earned enough money to make ends meet.
As a result, I had to rely on the kindness of others for transportation since my car died almost two years ago and to have my basic needs met.
Last year, I literally thought I was going to die when my immune system shut down.
I hadn’t been sick in over ten years. But there I was sick, destitute, and broke.
There have been times when I felt so defeated that I questioned if I had made the right decision about coming home.
I imagined coming home to a Cheers kind of welcome.
Where everybody knew my name and was always glad I came.
Instead, I returned to a whirlwind of circumstances that unveiled the emotional turmoil that unknowingly still lived inside of me.
In essence, coming home has forced me to remove the mask I didn’t realize I had been wearing.
God used these hardships to confront that hurt, fearful, angry little girl whose voice was silenced many years ago and look her square in the eyes.
This series of valley experiences has tested my faith. Through this process of preparation and purging has taught me that life’s storms are necessary.
Without them we wouldn’t know the power of the sun (Son).
Finally, the storm has subsided.
The rain has stopped pouring, the winds have been stilled, the thunder has been quieted and I can now see the sun peeking from behind the clouds.
That consultancy business isn’t thriving yet but is well on it’s way to becoming a viable source of income.
Having lost one hundred pounds, I’m healthier than ever.
And that wounded little girl who once lived inside of me has become a woman of purpose who now knows just how loved, cherished and adored she really is.
Life’s storms are necessary.
When God opens a door, take the opportunity and run with it!
Guest Blogger: Connie Johnson
Connie L. Johnson is a writer, inspirational speaker, and author uses her creative gifts to uplift, encourage and inspire audiences around the world. She is the author of Beyond Measure, a collection of autobiographical sketches of eight amazing Kenyan women living with HIV. Connie is currently writing her second book, a memoir titled Survivor’s Song and recording her first original music project. She holds a B.A. in Child and Family Studies from Columbia College in Columbia, SC and a M.A. in Social Justice and Community Development from Loyola University Chicago.
Connie currently resides in her beloved hometown, Orangeburg, SC.