There’s a huge difference between life being hard and life actually being hard.
In general, life is hard. We know that. We bitch about it on a daily basis. Someone didn’t text us back, we’re hungover, or we forgot to do an assignment. See? Hard.
But then life can actually be hard. It can be filled with things that make our heart clench and our spirit deteriorate. Life can be filled with the death of loved ones, oppression of human rights, or poverty. See? Actually hard.
Sarah Breedlove’s life was actually hard.
Born into a slave family in 1867, Sarah had a life worthy of a “please help” commercial accompanied by a Sarah McLachlan song. Even though she was born several years after the Emancipation Proclamation as a “free” person, she got much more than her fair share of shit.
Her mother died in 1872, and by the time she was six years old, her father had passed away as well, leaving Sarah and her five siblings orphans. She went to live with her sister and her husband for a few years before deciding to get married at the ripe age of 14, solely to get away from her abusive brother-in-law. When she was 17, she gave birth to her first daughter (#16AndPregnant), only to become a widowed mother two years later, when her husband decided to really screw her over by dying, too. She packed up her toddler and moved to St. Louis, where her brothers lived, in hopes of actually surviving. There, her siblings helped her get a job as a hair washer at the barber shop where they worked. She made about a dollar a day. That’s right–one dollar per day to wash people’s hair.
Excuse me while I feel #blessed for a moment.
So here Sarah is. She’s 20 years old, is a widowed mother, has no parents, no money, no husband, and no damn clue what the hell she is going to do with her life. Yeah, she might beat your “he didn’t text me back” thing when it comes to life sucking. So what does she do?
She becomes the first female self-made millionaire in America. NBD.
This lady, who had absolutely nothing–no, even less than nothing–went on to become THE woman who paved the path for the future of successful women. So how? How the hell did someone who had far less than most of us, than most people of that time, come out on top?
She pulled the ultimate TSM and made an empire on helping people be beautiful. Yeah. Bow down, bitches.
After working in the barber shop, she learned a lot about hair care, hair loss (due to horrible hygiene, diet, and products back then, many women lost their hair), and how to make hair beautiful. Since she was so interested in the concepts, she decided to start selling Annie Turnbo Malone products (basically an Avon, specifically for black women). And this is when life started looking up.
After only a year selling the beauty products, she decided to start working independently, selling her newly created cosmetic creams, hairdressing practices, and overall beauty advice. She entered this new venture in her life by the name of Madam C.J. Walker, thanks to her fresh marriage to Charles Walker, who just so happened to be in newspaper advertising (hello, Don Draper).
After that, Madam C.J. Walker’s life became one for the history books. Literally.
She started training “beauty culturists” to sell the products, and she implemented business models still used to this day. She put a huge emphasis on charity and equal rights work and held conventions where she awarded top sellers and the top philanthropic women who worked for her.
Basically, she ran shit. She created factories. She had a fabulous army of beautiful sales ladies. She had laboratories to further research. She became an activist in black rights and traveled around giving lectures on women’s independence, personal grooming, and career secrets. She held the very first national meeting where women got together to do business.
She was the first Beyoncé. She was the first Oprah. She was literally the first “it” girl.
And because every “it” girl needs fabulous things in her life, she finally got her dream house. In 1917, she hired a man named Vertner Tandy to make her dreams come to. Now, Vertner was not only the first licensed black architect in New York state, but he was also a founding member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first black, intercollegiate fraternity. And because fraternity guys know what women like, he gave it to her, and he gave it to her right. Vertner built our leading lady a gorgeous home, which cost $250,000 at the time. That’s about $4.6 million today.
Yeah, what you’re feeling right about now is pure envy.
So, what’s the moral of the story, besides making you feel horrible about your $500 a month apartment and cashier job at The Gap? The point is, “Sarah’s” life was shit. She had nothing and no one and no real reason to believe things would get better. But that didn’t stop her. She decided she was going to be successful, and she made it happen. Against all odds (hell, lynching was still legal when she was alive), she became this wildly successful woman. So sure, maybe some guy dumped you. Or yeah, you don’t quite know what job you want to start with your degree. Yes, life can be hard. But when it is, when it is ACTUALLY hard, you have two choices:
1. You can run from it.
2. You can learn from it.
Work your ass off at your shitty job. Gather knowledge from every experience thrown your way. Say “yes” to opportunities and “no” to excuses. Face the actually hard moments in life with humility and grace, and cherish every single moment, lesson, and gift you have. As Sarah showed us, just because you don’t have anything, it doesn’t mean you can’t one day have everything..