As a teenager, I traveled overseas with nothing but an over-packed suitcase and a dream of leaving the remote Colorado horse ranch of my childhood for the big city.
No sooner did I land in France than a man with a big, very nice-looking camera around his neck approached me. He said he could make me a model. He promised me an exciting life of big-city living and a future that sounded too good to pass up, so I went with him and his friend.
They drugged me, took me to an abandoned construction site, beat me and raped me. They dumped me in a park in Nice three days later.
I didn’t tell my family; I didn’t tell my friends; I couldn’t. I felt ruined, and if anyone knew what happened, they’d know that about me. Understandably, I became very aloof. I became a loner. Over time I began to feel completely disconnected from people; I even felt disconnected from myself.
I did become a model and traveled the world alone for my job, which suited me just fine; I never had to connect with anyone on a deep level. One November morning, I walked down the street in New York City and saw someone in Times Square with a sign, “Repent or go to hell!” I thought to myself, “I’m already in hell.”
In that moment, it became clear I needed to start over again.
I realized that my being jaded and wary and dead was not punishing the men in France; it was punishing me. They took enough from me. I decided not to let them take any more from me than they already had.
So, I decided to just do something. What? I had no idea; I simply decided to do whatever presented itself and to follow whatever pathway seemed to alight in front of me. There is an old spiritual precept to which I clung, “Go through the open door.” People told me about classes and workshops; I took them. Someone recommended a book; I read it. A therapist was suggested; I went to her. Lather, rinse, and repeat.
In the process, I decided to turn my personal quest to find peace into something I could give away to positively impact the lives of others because – let’s face it – we all have things happen in life that we wish had not.
Eventually, after many years of study, I began leading seminars and coaching people myself. Initially I coached one person at a time and gradually began coaching people by the hundreds in live seminars. Today, eighteen years and 90,000 people later, I see the perfection in everything that happened to me as a teenager. What I went through enabled me to make a difference with people that I would never otherwise have been able to make.
I believe that each of us can find meaning in the difficulties that we’ve faced if we allow ourselves to embrace them, rather than wishing they’d never happened.