One of the bravest and saddest letters I’ve ever worked on is below. It’s by Kim Manoogian, a Vice President at The Business Bank of St. Louis, where she focuses on business development within the Private Banking Division. I met Kim when she invited me to conduct a LTMYS Seminar for the St Louis chapter of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association.
She’s also an entrepreneur at heart, and has over a decade’s experience owning and operating her own businesses. In addition to being one of the founding members of the St. Louis HBA, she is a certified Life Coach, Life Plan Facilitator and speaker.
This Kim, however, is not remotely who Kim started out to be. She grew up in Bothalto, Illinois. Her father died when she was 9 years old. She started dating a boy when she was 12 years old and got pregnant when she was 14. They married and Kim gave birth to a son just after she turned 15. Her husband was 17.
Most of us can only imagine how hard that might be. Being ostracized by friends. Having a child when you are still a child yourself. But it only got more difficult.
Her husband joined the Navy and, after boot camp, was stationed in San Diego. They were very poor. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment that was mostly empty because they couldn’t afford furniture. Upon getting a paycheck, Kim and her husband would immediately buy a month’s worth of food for the baby, but they themselves often did not have enough to eat or money for gas.
Much to Kim’s embarrassment, their neighbors, many of whom were part of the military family, occasionally gave them food or soda.
Kim thought she might ease their financial strain by getting a job at a McDonald’s not far from her apartment building. She mentioned it to her husband. Now 47, Kim is writing this letter to herself at 16 right after this conversation.
Kim, dear girl,
Your husband has just handed down another brutal assessment of you.
“No, you could never handle a job at McDonald’s,” he said.
It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It sounds like:
“You’re not pretty enough to get a boyfriend.”
“You could never make it on your own.”
“You’re dumb because the furthest you went in school was eighth grade.”
He never lets you out of his sight. He won’t let you go grocery shopping alone. Yet he won’t look you in the eyes, much less be your friend…much less touch you.
You feel that if loneliness could kill, you’d be dead by now. Your husband has turned into the worst kind of jailer—someone who imprisons you with his rejection and crippling judgments. But what breaks my heart, Kim, is that you believe him. You are so mortified by yourself, so embarrassed by how your life is turning out, that you are trying to hide from the world.
I wish you would find yourself a friend. You haven’t had one of those since the girls at home were warned to stay away from you after you got pregnant. You have no one on your side except your mother—and you don’t want her to know the worst of it because you want her to believe in you.
More than a friend, though, what I want is for you to somehow muster the strength to resist the labels your husband is pinning on you. Now—before you go through ten years of his demeaning treatment. Don’t allow him to do this to you.
The best of what I have learned is that anything is possible if we make it that way. You must keep moving forward with strength, desire and courage. Once you stop and hide, nothing is going to happen. But if you will take those steps forward in the direction you want to go and take the action necessary—passing through the fear of it—what you want can come to pass.
I also know moving that first foot forward is really the hardest. And that’s what you must do. A big, creative thinker lives inside you. Someone who has to live in freedom. Someone whose compassion will drive you to dream about helping other people break their invisible chains and move forward. All this and more is possible for you, Kim.