How My Difficult Childhood Gave Me The Drive To Work Hard

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Every day I am reminded of how very thankful I am. I have a real good life now. Honestly, 12 year old Jen or even 18 or 22 year old Jen would have never pictured myself where I am today.

I could not ask for a better husband, the best kids/family/dog, supportive friends from all times of my life… and yes we are ALL healthy … I am truly very thankful.

But for so many years, my life was so very different.

When I was only 6 years old my dad was in a terrible fire, while at the same time my mom was in the hospital  having surgery to remove a grapefruit sized brain tumor. It was a long and very hard 6 years for my family after that fire. Having been so young, it’s hard to remember all the details, probably because they are too painful to remember.

My dad died in 1984 when I was only 12 years old.

I was in 7th grade and it was right in the middle of winter break. The fire caused him to be very very sick, beyond the care of us at home, and he spent the last years of his life in a nursing home. He passed away when he was only 44.

One of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life was visit him in that nursing home as he was dying. This is something I hope no 12 year old, or any child for that matter, should ever have to do. I have always had such guilt that I never went to visit him enough or never had a chance to say goodbye. I remember it being a scary place filled with the smell of old, sick people. I always thought “Why did my dad have to be there?”.

My mom was sick at the time too. She had another grapefruit sized brain tumor just one month shy of his passing. Just imagine how scary this was for a 12 year-old girl. So scary and painful that it took me years to even talk about my feelings related to any of this. At one point, I remember thinking there was a very likely possibility that both of my parents could die.

Jen and Her Dad

Jen and Her Dad

I buried all these feelings deep inside me. I know now that this is SO not healthy. But imagine a 7th grader just trying to fit in with the rest of her peers. Talking about this stuff was probably the last thing on my mind.

I tried to talk to various therapists over the years. It took about 30 years to finally grieve my dad’s loss and all of these unresolved feelings.

Life was not “easy” for us growing up because of my parent’s health.

My dad obviously unable to work and my mom was trying to care for her sick husband and two young girls. Not at all easy. I can remember times where utilities in the house would be turned off, non-stop bill collectors calling, and even some showing up at our house.

Not that my life is “easy” today, but I’m so thankful for everything I have and everything I can do for my children. All these “extras” I’m so thankful for today would have never been afforded when I was growing up.

Certain things are all a blur, while other things I can remember so clearly.

I remember not going college shopping with my mom to pick out stuff for my dorm room. I used my sister’s hand me down bedding and old towels from the house. I also remember being the girl who didn’t have a ton of clothes and was always borrowing things from friends.

I started working when I was 12-13 years old and really never stopped.

If I wanted something, I knew my mom was probably unable to buy it for me. So I worked for it myself.

I was then and still am now – probably one of the hardest working people you will ever meet.

I went away to college and graduate school and moved to NYC after. I did this all on my own by taking out student loans and getting various grants and scholarships. I put myself through college and graduate school (NYU nonetheless). I always had a part time job in high school and college whether it was working in an office, babysitting, working in a library or a store …I did whatever it took. 

I continue to work very hard today. I am trying to set an example for my kids and teach them important values along the way. I am very grateful I have built a successful social media beauty business. I have something that I love and am passionate about! It gets me out of bed at 5:00 AM and keeps me up past 12:00 AM. I also love that I can help other moms change their lives too. I think that if something like this was available to my mom when she was home with us, our lives could have taken a different path.

I love that I am able to save for our family, do things for myself, take us away on vacations and do things for my kids that I never ever would have thought were possible. 

This past summer, my daughter and I have had so much fun decorating her dorm room, shopping for college stuff, buying her clothes, etc. It was the experience I never had. By no means are my kids spoiled, quite the opposite, but I’m able to do for them what I may have missed out on.

I love that my business has allowed me to share my story and taught me it is more than okay to be vulnerable.

I’ve learned not only so much about myself but about life through my journey. Sometimes you never know what someone has been through… never ever judge, be thankful and always be kind.

Jen and Her Family

Jen and Her Family

 

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About Author

Jen Salk is happily married living in Delray Beach, Florida. She is a mom of a 18 year old and a 16 year old and one little dog. Even though they aren’t from Florida, they love the busy, active life that they have created there. After 45 years, Jen found her calling with her social media beauty business. She truly loves sharing her passion with others. She continues to be thankful every day. To read more, please follow her : Instagram @jensalk Facebook: Facebook.com/jensalk

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