Dream Chaser- Jeannette Kennedy
Everyone has a story worth telling. This I know is true.
I have known Jeannette Kennedy for 20 years and I asked her if she would be willing to share her story because to me, she is beyond inspirationaland I know many women would see themselves in her.
Wife and Mom of 3 who became a single Mom on her own very quickly to leave a volatile relationship. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
No sparkle in her eye. No dreams on her heart.
She never gave up. In fact, she’s rising above it all and shining like the star she is. When you hear her tell her story, she will not really talk about herself. She likes asking you about your dreams, your life and how she can help you.
When I moved and didn’t know many people she called me every single week. Checking in. We talked business. Dreams. Life. I cried. She listened.
Giving of herself and working harder than most people are willing to work, she is changing people’s lives, but she started with her own.
Here she is.
1) Describe for us the dream that you went after and achieved. How did you identify it? Gut instinct? Science? A little bit of both?
This story comes from a place where dreams did not exist. My choices and circumstances had led me down a dark road. My dream became freedom.
I thought I had done everything “right”. I had a great education. I loved science and I loved helping people. I had earned a masters degree in biomedical science and a doctorate in chiropractic. In the midst of my education, I was married and had my first baby. I never saw myself as a mother but that baby girl stirred up instincts inside of me…I didn’t know who I was exactly but I knew I wanted to love her as best I could.
A few years down the road and two more babies, boys, entered my heart. I was not using my education and I was a stay at home mom, by choice. My heart kept me home. But so did my finances. I was married to a small business owner in health care. That combination left us in financial duress and time debt. I was alone all the time. Raising my children essentially by myself. My family lives 700+ miles away. To say I felt isolated is an understatement. Eight years after graduation, not one penny was paid back to my enormous student loan debt and the credit cards were climbing.
To make matters worse, I had let my health slide. An emotional eater, I was overweight, tired, and unhealthy. I like to describe my former self as “grumpy, frumpy, and dumpy.” Not so lightheartedly, I looked in the mirror and saw the reflection of my grandmother who died at a very early age. One of my only memories of her is helping her put a needle in her arm loaded with insulin for her diabetes. It was terrifying.
I was trapped.
I was living on promises of “it getting better this year.” But it never did. I was counting on someone else to turn the situation around, but that day never came.
One day I woke up and it was like a switch flipped in my brain. I would do it. I would change my circumstance. I would change the future of my children’s lives. I was not a victim.
Everything had spiraled so far out of my grasp that I didn’t even know where to start. That’s when my life was interrupted by a woman who I will always be grateful for. She showed me a solution to both problems at the same time, health and finances. It was time to take a chance on me.
2) What made you “go for it” and go from idea to action?
Results. I changed my lifestyle. I added great vitamins and nutritional supplementation and cleaned up my eating. Within just a few days, I knew something had changed and I found a company I could get behind, AdvoCare.
As a chiropractor, I didn’t really expect that to happen. I had looked for something I could put my name on for many years but hadn’t found anything that met my particularly high standards. Now I had. Suddenly I had an answer to both of my major issues, health and finances. Could I find freedom? Was it possible?
3) Fear is one of the biggest things we face when we have a dream. What were some of your biggest fears and what did you do to overcome them? Were they ‘real’ or ‘in your head’?
The possibility that freedom even existed for me brought me to tears. It made me come face to face with all that was broken inside of me.
It was terrifying.
I was afraid of failure, afraid of success, afraid of the unknown, and mostly afraid that this glimmer of hope was not real and it would suddenly go away. Ultimately I was more afraid to stay the same than I was to change. Every morning I would consider myself at a starting line. There was no looking back. What happened yesterday did not matter. Who I was last week no longer existed.
I kept my eyes straight forward and started to put one foot in front of the other. If I made it one step or twenty steps in that day…great! The next morning was my new starting line. And again I did not look back. I took one day at a time. I forgave myself for who I allowed myself to become and I left that person in my past. I embraced her memory and became grateful for her leading me to this exact starting line. A starting line that changed daily. It kept me moving forward.
Fear is not real. I spent far too much time living in fear and I refuse to acknowledge it anymore. Fear is not real. (Repeat that over and over and over until you believe it).
4) Aside from fear, what was another challenge you faced? What did you learn from it?
Aside from fear, which is not real, I had a very real challenge that I faced. I was faced with a crumbling marriage. Crumbling is probably not even the right word. It was a “marriage” only in the writing on a piece of paper. Nothing else that people think about marriage existed.
I knew the relationship that I was in was unhealthy, almost from the start. But I am not a quitter, I’m fairly stubborn, and I had a hard time believing that I was blessed with a baby so early in a marriage that was not meant to exist. So even through the very doubtful times, I stayed. I stayed on the hope that it would change.
Every now and then I would get a glimpse of change or something better and I clung to those scarce moments. Those glimpses became more scarce and I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. Nothing would ever change.
This part of the story becomes very personal and dramatic. It will make a fantastic Lifetime movie one day. I will just say that I had to get myself and the kids out of that relationship quickly. It was volatile. Scary. Life was uncertain. I hadn’t worked in over 8 years. I had not used my degrees. I had three small children, ages 7, 3, and 1 at the time. How would we ever make it?
Through it all I learned that I am far stronger than I ever thought I would be. I became very focused on freedom, for all of us. They deserved a better chance in life than they had been provided so far. I would fight for all of us. I decided. I left that marriage with $60,000 in credit card debt and $317,000 in student loans. I took all of it and decided I would pay back every penny. It’s the right thing to do and I’ll do it. My mind was made up.
5) What has been the greatest sacrifice you made and what has been the greatest reward so far?
I don’t really view anything I do now as a sacrifice. My sacrifice is over. I sacrificed myself for many years as a woman who put everything she was aside while waiting for someone else to pursue his dreams and “rescue” us from the mess we had created. My sacrifice was remaining silent, becoming invisible.
The choices I make now on how I spend my time, how hard I work, the budget I have in place…those are choices not sacrifices. Choices that will ultimately lead me to freedom.
I look in the mirror and I recognize the woman looking back at me. My spirit is alive and my life is mine. I’m living for my own passion. The reward is abundance in all areas of my life. Freedom.
6) Sometimes other people closest to us may not be on board. Did you encounter this and what did you do about it?
When I decided I would take control of my life, I knew that some of my closest friends would not come with me. Not right away at least. I knew that some of the people I talked to daily would turn into rarely. I knew I would leave them behind for a time.
You see, I had wonderful friends that I still love dearly, but they were also living a life trapped. I knew they didn’t see beyond that yet and I knew they would not quite come with me. I cried actual tears at the thought of that happening. But, again, my fear of staying the same far outweighed the fear of change.
So I made peace with it and moved ahead anyway. I resolved to loving them where they were at, but not allowing myself to remain standing still with them. I drew my starting line and I moved forward. My eyes on freedom.
7) What is your most memorable and special moment to this point as a result of taking the leap? Did you celebrate it or fly right over it to just keep going?
There have been so many special moments on this journey so far. My plane had just landed in Texas for the National AdvoCare Convention when I found out I had earned a trip to Greece, Italy and Croatia. I had never traveled to places like that and my hard work and focus would take me there. I was able to take my dad, after just finishing up his chemotherapy treatments to a place he had always dreamed of.
I was featured in the company magazine as an emerging leader and spotlighted for my hard work. It was so amazing to see that magazine in my hand.
I’ve been asked to share my story with large crowds of people. All incredible moments.
But the most special moments are small whispers of thanks from people that have only shared their most intimate insecurities with me. When I can help a mother of 3 save her family from foreclosure and pay medical bills for her special needs daughter, I cry tears of joy. When I see a woman I love acknowledge her unhealthy relationship with alcohol and declare sobriety, I cry. When women come to me broken in any area of life and I start to see confidence and a sparkle in their eye, those are the most special moments I could ever have.
I do celebrate, for a moment. And then I draw the next starting line. I keep going.
8) We will also be featuring female focused non-profits to highlight the importance of female focused philanthropy. Do you have a favorite non-profit organization that you support whether it be monetarily or through volunteer hours?
Not yet. But I am open to suggestions! I might have to take my own organization under wing.
Becoming a single mother has given me a whole new perspective on what this life actually means and there are so many women doing it all on their own. I look forward to the day when my time and dollars can be pumped into great organizations. Show me a wonderful organization with a great purpose and I’m happy to get behind it.
9) I have to ask- do you have another dream lined up that you are going after or are you still basking in this one?
I am still definitely basking and yet driving down this same road to freedom. I’m thrilled to say that in the last 18 months I have paid off the $60,000 I had on credit cards. That was a tremendous burden lifted. I am now on the path to pay off the $317,000 on student loans by the time I am 40. (I’m 37 as of this writing). So I have some work left to do. Just a little.
But I do dream. I dream bigger than I ever have before. My decision to make the changes I needed to make in my own life will touch thousands upon thousands of people. The dreams within the dreams in those people will make a difference. I’m looking forward to what has yet to come.
10) Tell us one awesome tidbit that you wish someone would have told you?
I wish someone would have told me that we should talk about the things that we don’t talk about. Drop the walls of isolation that you have built around yourself and your problems.
We all have problems.
We all have circumstances we wish we didn’t have. I’m not inviting you to complain about them. I’m inviting you to state them. Own them. Face them.
And then find a way to change them and leave them behind. You are not the first person to find yourself in that place. There is no judgment here. There is love and support. Draw your starting line and move.
You are not a tree.
Jeannette Kennedy is a girl with a little sass, a dash of wit, an ounce (or two) of quirk, and a whole lot of determination.
When she grew up she wanted to be a scientist and then a chiropractor, but she finally decided to never grow up and to spend her days as a difference maker.
She’s a single mom of three perfectly imperfect children: Shaelin (9), Knox (5) and Beckham (3). Finally, she still believes in fairy tales and happily ever after.