I matured physically faster than most other girls in school. Maybe it was my genes, and maybe it was the hard work on the farm, abundant fresh air and sunshine, and the home-grown vegetables, but I developed into a full-blown woman years ahead of most of my peers.
I crashed through puberty’s door at the age of nine and needed a full-size bra when other girls were still wearing undershirts and training bras.
Physically, I appeared to be many years older than my chronological age. I also had maturity and poise earned from the responsibility of being the oldest sibling, working on the farm and in my parents’ business and spending most of my time with adults.
Unfortunately, this physical maturity and competence did not assure me of emotional maturity. No one taught me how to handle the attention I received from men well beyond appropriate dating age for me.
I was a naive young girl trapped inside a woman's body and I became pregnant at the age of 16.
I left home before I knew this life altering reality, but I had many reasons for not wanting to go back. I explain the story in greater detail in my book.
Three months after my 17th birthday, I became a mother and the sole breadwinner for a little family of two.
I was determined to provide for us and create a secure and loving home for my son. We would grow up together.
Looking back now, five decades later, I'm a little awed at my boldness and success at finding jobs, and modest but safe housing. Wages were ridiculously low but I managed and even saved a few dollars.
Until the end of grade eleven, I had lived on a farm my entire life. My exposure to the outside world came from the books that I devoured. My lack of worldly experience was made up for by my fascination for learning, my work ethic, natural intelligence and especially, by my drive to support my family.
In the book, I share about starting off in low income housing and making the decision that I wanted more for my life. I would not accept the label “victim of my circumstances” and I didn’t want to just survive as a single parent.
I wanted to thrive and grow as the woman I sensed I needed to be to change my life.
I talked people into hiring me with enthusiasm and charm. I allowed them to decide my age and didn’t correct them. Those were simpler times. I was hired for likeability and potential. I’m not sure what I would do in today’s employment market.
I was usually promoted quickly and trusted to train and manage people many times older than me. I was a sponge, absorbing everything as fast as I could, asking questions, volunteering for extra tasks, and carefully observing how others that I admired handled themselves.
These were the formative years of my business acumen and confidence. For fifteen years, I worked in diverse industries and always reaching up to the next level of professional growth.
This was the time that ‘Lift As You Climb’ grew roots through my core values and code of conduct.
These were the years that many women and men reached back and gave me a hand up by sharing their time, wisdom and feedback.
In every job, I sought out the individuals that I could learn from and did my best to show gratitude by making them glad they mentored me.
Instinctively, I knew my success was the reward they valued most. By doing better, by rising in my career, I validated their investment in me.
My teens and twenties were extraordinary years. I made a lot of mistakes and I learned a hell of a lot about myself.
Not only did I survive Womanhood Wonderland, but I laid down the foundation for a global business that the little girl off the farm founded and grew!
Stay tuned for more decades to come.