Earlier this year, I had the privilege of joining bestselling author and blogger Katherine Schwarzenegger at TJMaxx’s new Newbury Street store in Boston as she kicked off their Road to Real tour. Together, Katherine and TJMaxx traversed the United States getting women to share their incredible stories of how they live life on their own terms. From single moms to women entrepreneur’s their stories are proof that inspiration really is all around… in the real world!
So what better way to commemorate the end of the whirlwind adventure than with some of the amazing stories from the road?! Prepare to be inspired by these five women:
Lee, SEATTLE: At 19, Lee gave up her first child to adoption. Now a mom to two adult children, Lee has reconnected with her third daughter almost 34 years later. In what can only be described as fate, Lee’s adopted daughter found her brother through mutual friends on Facebook and happened to live in the same city. At first shocked to meet one another, they soon became friends and finally called their mother to share the exciting news. The next day Lee traveled to meet her first born child and have been catching up on lost time ever since.
“She said my parents want to thank you. And I was like, well, you were a gift that I gave to somebody that couldn’t have a child.”
Annie, SOUTH CAROLINA: Annie is the Community Literacy Manager at the South Carolina Save the Children organization. Growing up, Annie overcame many obstacles–her father was an alcoholic and abusive towards her mother–but she didn’t let that stop her from making the most of her life. As a single mother, she raised three sons, while working and going back to school. Today, Annie has achieved two masters’ degrees and spends her personal time leading a single parenting support group at her church.
“I never let my past define me. I had a strong mother, who, with a sixth grade education told me I could do anything. She never let us feel sorry for ourselves. I got that from my mom, and I wanted to instill that in my boys.”
Zynani, NEW ORLEANS: Zynani was born and raised in New Orleans. She is a hairstylist and wardrobe stylist with her own company, who has worked with clients attending the Oscars and is a wardrobe coordinator for the Essence Music Festival. As a stylist she has traveled with many different artists, including Pharrell. Her future goal is to start her own agency in NOLA to help foster the talents of young stylists.
“I’ve seen a lot of people give up in this city. They don’t have anybody to keep them going–even people working regular jobs. I see people give up because they don’t see the end of the tunnel. But right when you are about to give up is when you are on the brink of something great.”
Debby, MINNEAPOLIS: Debby is a mom to three kids and works as a flight attendant. She loves her job because not only does she enjoy the work but it allows her the opportunity to travel. To her, she views her job as “always going on vacation.” As a child, Debby was abandoned and then adopted, but although she had a tough start to life she still remains positive and happy.
“There are people that are going through things that are harder than me. Because I was abandoned as a child, I went through a lot of issues when I was young … it was really hard. It was hard. So this life is great. I’ve heard people say ‘I’m starving.’ You don’t know starving until you’re starved. And I’ve been there.”
Yastany, NYC: Growing up with two deaf parents, the first language Yastany learned was American Sign Language. Now, she works at T.J.Maxx, and attends college, where she studies communications. Her goal is to use her degree to go to a specialized school for the deaf, Gallaudet University, so she can continue to help out with the deaf community.
“No one knows how hard it is just to be deaf; I experienced it with my mother… A single, deaf mother who was not able to work and had two kids. We had to go to shelters and at the time, we didn’t know how to translate properly. It has been a real struggle to actually get here, but that’s why I want to continue to learn and help out with the deaf community.”
For more from TJMaxx’s Road to Real tour, check out the video below. (P.S. Have your tissues handy!)