Ever asked it? With your nose pressed up against a mental crystal ball, your eyes squinting and your heart pounding, have you ever asked:
What will happen if I … ?
Fill in the blank: get a divorce, win the lottery, am diagnosed with cancer, quit my job, suddenly lose someone I love.
We’ve all wondered about a what-if and wished for time’s guidance. We want time to say to us, “Yep, you’ve made the right decision.” Or “Everything’s going to work out just fine.” But (hmph!) time won’t tell. Not until we take a first step. Time then takes over, slowly turning our what-ifs into realities. The days, months, and years eventually reveal, like a Polaroid, a clear picture of how significant events and decisions ultimately shape our lives.
From time to time, I’ll look back through the personal journals I’ve scribbled in throughout my life, the keepers of my raw thoughts and emotions. The words poured forth after my dad died, when I went through a divorce, and after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There are so many what-ifs scribbled on those pages. I was desperate to know whether one day I would feel happy again, that I would find love again, that I would survive. How intriguing to look back at those past fears now that I have the benefit of hindsight. It made me think, What if I asked other people to take a look back at their greatest challenges with a decade’s worth of perspective? What an interesting concept for a book. Plenty of us, including me, have struggled to take a first step toward an uncertain future. We’ve all prayed for the patience required to heal our pain, one excruciating day at a time. We’ve all wondered, in our darkest hours, how life could possibly change for the better.
Ten Years Later is about the journey six extraordinary people take with time. Each has experienced a game-changing event—perhaps a life-threatening illness or a catastrophic personal loss. Some of the challenges will make you wonder how the person got through the next ten minutes. Others will make you think a lifetime wouldn’t be enough to overcome the damage done. Following the game changer, you’ll find out what steps (or missteps) each person took and how each has fared over the next ten years. Did her decision turn out to be wise? How did he navigate the pain? Has she truly changed? Throughout the book, Time curls its pointer finger, beckoning Curiosity, “Come with me. See where I took this life.”
In my own life, I’ve had numerous personal and professional game changers. Some broke my heart, others made me braver. One of the earliest game changers happened along an interstate. In 1987, I was driving around the Southeast in my mom’s car, looking for my first job out of college. I had a degree in communications from Virginia Tech and a twenty-minute videotape résumé. I bought a new green suit for the one interview I so ignorantly assumed it would take to land a television reporting job in Richmond, Virginia. Well, I was off by about six suits and a hundred TV market rankings. Richmond told me no. Memphis said no. Three nos from Birmingham. My résumé tape got ejected from VCR after VCR, and my one day on the road turned into eight, then nine, then ten. “No, sorry.” The maddening cycle of ejection, rejection, and dejection started in Virginia and continued all the way down through the Florida panhandle. A total of twenty-seven news directors told me no. I was devastated. My dream of working in TV news was now looking more like a career in public relations. I turned the car around and headed north back toward Virginia. And then, somewhere in Mississippi, I took a wrong turn. GPS systems and cell phones did not exist; I was officially lost. As I drove around looking for a way to get back on track, I noticed a billboard for WXVT featuring the CBS Eye. The station was located in Greenville, a TV market I hadn’t considered. I figured, What do I have to lose? I drove to Greenville, digging deep for one last shred of hope. That very day, Stan Sandroni was promoted from WXVT’s sports director to news director, and he agreed to see me. In went my résumé tape, and out came the words I so desperately wanted to hear.
“Hoda, I like what I see.”
My wrong turn turned out to be one of the best mistakes I’ve ever made. Stan hired me after nearly thirty other people would not. Gutting out the challenge of rejection paid off. That chance meeting would prove to be a game changer in my life.
Ten Years Later profiles six people who’ve faced a series of life’s game changers and challenges—abuse, illness, addiction, grief, job loss. These people didn’t just fight their way through adversity, they forged better lives because of the battle. Their journeys are measured in the very small steps that painstakingly result in change and the big, bold leaps of faith that launch dreams. The book is meant to inspire you, wow you, motivate you, and move you—and maybe even do all those things within the same chapter. In the pages ahead, the courageous people who share their life stories have done so in hopes of enriching yours—now or ten years later.
From TEN YEARS LATER by Hoda Kotb with Jane Lorenzini. Copyright © 2013 by Hoda Kotb. Reprinted by permissions of Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY.