Reality Blog Challenge: When Life Falls Apart

A man running on an empty road

The road to success hasn’t been paved with scenic cobblestones for me. It hasn’t been lined with flowers or a welcome parade.

Despite the fact that sometimes the road has looked a little lonely — even a little scary — I’ve been eager for the journey because I’ve found those are the roads most worth traveling.

I’m choosing to look at 2020 as an adventure. We’ve all had so many challenges thrown at us this year. Challenges in our personal lives… in our careers. But those challenges make us better if we allow them.

My challenges included second-degree burns to my face and chest. And if I’m being honest, that wasn’t the hardest part of my year. I also got a divorce.

But the year didn’t start off bad. It really felt like the stars were lining up.

I’d been trying to get my writing career going for a while. But this year, it was all coming together. Juggling my day job and my passion for writing was seamless. My friend Tim Geiger (another contender in this Challenge) and I had even been selected to help with Bootcamp’s Live Blog. I was on top of the world.

We All Fall Down

Have you ever hoped so hard for something that it felt more like a prayer? I’d hoped for the courage to be a writer… the courage to start over in a new career. I’d hoped for the people I needed to help me and the circumstances to allow it. I hoped these things with everything I had.

But… nothing.

Remember before when I said the road to success never looks how you think it might?

The road to success for me started with literally burning my face off.

One night while making dinner, I splashed hot bacon grease onto my face and chest. When I stuck my head in the sink, the skin came off in my hands.

Time stood still. This couldn’t be happening. But it was. This was my reality. And so was a trip to the Emergency Room.

On the way to the hospital, I was having a lot of thoughts — about scars and bills and why this was happening to me. If I’d been terribly upset, it would have been understandable.

But by the time we’d made it to the ER, I’d decided it would all work out. I was trusting that this was something I needed to go through. It wouldn’t be fun. But that didn’t mean it couldn’t be beneficial.

Oddly enough, I also realized I’m more than my face. I’m so much more than this outer shell. That’s not what’s important. I’m fun to be around. I’m a lover of life and people. I am annoyingly optimistic. I’m dependable. I’m honest. I’m a writer. I’m a darn good mom and a phenomenal friend. I embrace life and pull everyone up with me. I’m so much more than my face.

It was going to be okay.

The Path Pays Off

I ended up with second-degree burns to my face and chest. I had to stay home from work while healing because I looked like Freddy Krueger.

So, I was making the most of my time… writing… posting on LinkedIn.

I decided it was time to tell people I’m a writer.

I had about 900 Facebook friends and thought I’d start there. One by one, I started sending personalized messages like this:

“Hey Lisa,

Loved the pictures of the kid’s soccer game. They look like natural athletes.

Just wanted to let you know I’ve recently started a new writing company for businesses. I’m focusing on things like social media management, emails, blogs, and website content.

I’m just trying to spread the word right now. Thought I would share with you in case you needed any help with anything like that or knew someone that did.

Let me know.

Thanks,

Holly”

I sent out about 50 of those before getting my first hit. A local business owner wanted to meet up to discuss Social Media Management.

Uhhh… Meet up? In person?

Guys, I did NOT look good. I looked like an extra in the cast of The Walking Dead.

What kind of first impression would that make if she ran screaming from the room?

I could have postponed until I was healed. I could have suggested a phone call. But I could hear my own voice in my head telling my kids, “It’s not about how you look. We all look different. It’s about being the person you are on the inside and holding your head up high.”

So, I agreed to the meeting. I met with her the next day looking like this:

She didn’t run screaming from the room. She actually seemed impressed I came looking like I did. She had questions, of course. Which I happily answered. And then we talked for two hours about her business. She hated Social Media, and even though I told her I was new, she hired me on the spot.

And just like that, I had my first paying client. With burns on my face and everything.

The Beauty of a Rainy Day

My face healed nicely. No scars.

But the rest of the year brought other challenges… COVID… a divorce… loss of old friends.

I’m sure you have your own battle wounds from this year.

But I’m still standing. And I’d wager you are too.

Not every day will be a sunny. Expect rain.

Plants need rain to grow, and so do people. You don’t grow on the glorious sunny days where nothing goes wrong.

You grow when the world falls apart. When everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. When you must decide between staying in your seat or standing with your head held high.

That’s where you grow, where you learn what you’re made of.

If I hadn’t burned myself, I might never have sent out those messages and found my first paying client.

But the biggest lesson was seeing what I was capable of. Without those burns, I might have gone on giving my face more credit than it deserved. Thinking appearance was more important than it is.

Because of those burns, not only did I get my writing business off the ground, but I also got insight on what it’s like to be different. I got to have powerful conversations with my kids about what’s important in life.

I got to show them when life throws you a challenge, you catch it. You take that challenge and you make it your own.

Life will never be easy. Hope that it isn’t. It’s in the hard days where you find the magic.

Enjoy those sunny days. Soak up the sun. Those days are the reward.

But on those days when the clouds dump all the waters from the skies, you take that rain, and you make it your own. That’s where your whole life changes. It’s where you find who you really are.

Always remember, things grow in the rain. That’s true for you, too.

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Holly Rhoton

8 Comments

  • Wow Holly! I’m crying a little bit reading this, tears for your pain and tears of pure inspiration. I hope you continue to heal and congratulations on growing you business!

  • Holly,
    I love your transparency and raw honesty in this article… Amazing! 🙂
    Keep being AMAZINGLY YOU… the you that you know you are… and the you that you’re destined to be!!

  • Incredible Holly. Ladies and Gentleman… That is what IS WRITING!
    Holly, a good story, but it was you who turned it from a good story into a GREAT STORY!

    Thank you for sharing, and you know what shines through the story that you didn’t even know?
    You’re doing a great job, Mom! You got some good kids, because that is what it takes to get good kids…

    Good communication, the Right messages, All The Time… no matter what is happening. I think your going to do quite well in this writing gig! LOL (I’m thinking “I’m glad I read this”.)

  • What an amazing journey. I thought when I first started to read this, that I was going to hear about the pain, the isolation, the divorce. I am sure there was plenty to tell. But, instead you shared an amazing fortitude, an ability to look past the present and grab for the future. I am so grateful that you shared this. It will help me, I believe to get past some obstacles in my path. The biggest obstacles I know are in my head, in my fear of moving forward, my fear of failure.
    God bless you Holly.

  • Wow! What a story, sorry you had to go through so much pain. It is through the pain that we grow. Thank you for sharing. So true that you grow from your “rainy day” experiences. Glad to hear you have recovered and moved on. Keep putting one foot in front of another and you will reach that goal.

  • Wow! What a story, sorry you had to go through so much pain. It is through the pain that we grow. Thank you for sharing. So true that you grow from your “rainy day” experiences. Glad to hear you have recovered and moved on. Keep putting one foot in front of another and you will reach that goal. Congratulation on your new client 🙂

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