It was 1975, I was seven months pregnant and standing with one foot on either side of the bath painting the bathroom a pale lavender. My aim was to turn the hovel my daughter and I lived in into something beautiful, all I had was paint and my imagination. I was single, with a 6-year-old daughter, and I was worried about how we would survive once I stopped working full time. At eight months pregnant I couldn't cope any longer with standing on the long train trip to and from work, so I went onto the single mother's benefit of $40 a week. My rent was $30, so I had 25 percent left for food, utilities, medical, car (an old bomb) and general living expenses.
I was a single woman with a child, about to have another, something that was not socially acceptable in those days, and I was poor. Although there were times when I only had porridge for dinner I knew my parents wouldn't let me starve, but they were disgusted with me so there wasn't a lot of support forthcoming. I was the family shame who was hidden away. When I had my first child I had to go out every time my parents had visitors and everything indicating a young child lived in their house was locked into the spare room. I had to call before I could come home to make sure the coast was clear. Family members were told about my daughter when she was three, and they were never told about my son's existence until they were invited to his funeral five years later.
I had two great girlfriends, Valerie and Helen. Every weekend Helen would come to stay and would bring me a present. She gave me books and audio programs such as The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, Grow Rich While you Sleep and Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, all of which were based on the law of attraction. I still have those books today.
The wonderful thing about being at rock bottom is that there is not a lot to fear because you haven't got anything to lose, so I took the advice of those wonderful authors. I said affirmations, I visualized, I allowed no doubt and talked positively and I took responsibility. To make extra money I took any job that I could that would allow me to make money from home such as telemarketing and washing and ironing tablecloths for a local restaurant. I also gave money monthly to World Vision to support the people of Bangladesh, many of whom were starving at that time. Although I had very little I knew I had more than they did.
I took action by telling everyone I met that I was running a typing service (even though I didn't have a typewriter) and by word-of-mouth I obtained typing for university students, mostly thesis typing. I borrowed money from Helen to hire a typewriter each time until I could afford to buy one. At a party I met a man who taught printing at TAFE. He asked if I had any brochures or promotional material, when I said I didn't he offered to have his students design and print a brochure for me at no charge. A few weeks later I received 500 beautiful brochures which when distributed to local businesses enabled me to expand my business. When we moved six months later, my rent doubled, but the standard of accommodation was so much better. That business was the first of many and I went on to own several businesses, many of which I started without any money.
Making a difference was the last thing on my mind in those days and there is no doubt that those times were tough and scary but they shaped who I am today. I learnt not to allow what is to dictate what my future could be. I became resilient. I discovered that I have the capacity to be incredibly resourceful and work hard, which I still do today. I also learnt that if I have a strong enough desire, I can create anything.
When I look back over my life transforming tough times into something good seems to be one of the things I am very good at. Although my focus was on achieving goals in the early day I still grew as a person becoming more empathetic and compassionate and committed to making a difference, and eventually my life shifted from achieving goals and onto living a meaningful life where I could make a difference.
You don't make a difference by living within the boundaries of your comfort zone, you need to follow your heart, take responsibility and trust.