You are not the darkness you endured. You are the light that refused to surrender.- John Mark Green
I grew up in Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. After graduating from high school, I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. After I visited the city during my junior year of high school, I fell in love with the energy and freedom being away from home provided. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design after just three years, but the job market for interior design in Pittsburgh wasn’t great and my post graduate jobs weren’t what I hoped they would be. I stayed in Pittsburgh for five years until finally, homesickness brought me back to Columbus.
Single and starting a new life in my old hometown, I started dating an older man I had met in my apartment complex. I was young, naïve and blind to the red flags and before I knew it, I was a single mom, feeling trapped in an abusive relationship. It was not until I landed a full time job with MDK in 2010 that I began to experience financial independence. It was a huge stepping stone to my ultimate freedom, and allowed me to provide safety and security for my daughter, Nevaeh. I am forever grateful to have been referred to MDK by a friend, and that the hiring managers gave me a chance despite my background that had nothing to do with real estate.
Interviewing at MDK
Today I know that they saw something in me that day that I no longer saw in myself: my ambition, my intelligence, and my conviction. I was still the same enterprising girl who walked door-to-door at age nine selling Olympia Sales Club products to earn money, and I was the same girl who took the initiative to get a “real” job at age fourteen because I realized a car wasn’t going to show up on its own when I got my driver’s license. Ah, that car…my first major purchase, earned from my own hard work. It was a red 1998 Ford Escort. Its mere mention brings up carefree memories of camping at concerts, and road trips back and forth to college. I even taught a few friends how to drive in that car (not exactly legal)! The point is that nothing can change who you are at your core, and I’m thankful that those characteristics still shone through in my MDK interview.
It was always a goal of mine to grow and excel in my career with MDK. When I started in the Title Department eleven years ago, I set a goal to become a manager at MDK. This was a very big objective for someone just starting out, short on self-esteem, and self-confidence. Yes, I experienced rejection when I interviewed for advanced positions and ultimately was not selected because it was not the right fit. But that just further fueled my desire to succeed. I refused to give up… I had to reach my goal.
Reaching My Goal
Through my dedication, hard work, perseverance and some good advice from Holly Wolf, who was the Operations Director at the time, I achieved my goal! In 2019, I was promoted to manager of the Accounting-Operations department! People may not think accounting is exciting, but I am in charge of billing, and anyone who’s ever worked in default servicing knows that billing is complicated and constantly changing. It has to be done perfectly and in line with client expectations. That’s a huge responsibility I take seriously!
I am challenged every day, and there is always something new to learn. Additionally, as a manager, I now get to help others create, work toward, and achieve their goals. That’s really the most rewarding part of my job – believing in others the way my mangers at MDK believed in me.
It has been a long road to heal from past stress, trauma and uncertainty. Counseling has helped tremendously. In an effort to help others, I started a Facebook group called “No Longer a Victim” where people can share their stories and offer support to each other. Helping others has helped me in the process, and it is my hope that sharing my story here will help others struggling to see that bad experiences and situations do not have to define who you are and what you can be.
These days, I’m happy to be living proof that there is life on the other side; in fact, there is even love. I’ve been in a healthy, happy marriage since 2014, and together we now have two beautiful daughters, Nevaeh (now 11), and Evelyn (6). They are my world. I want to demonstrate strength to my daughters every day, but more, I want to show them grace in resilience to overcome obstacles, because even if their obstacles are different than mine, everybody has mountains to climb. That’s part of living.
Like most everyone has, I too have experienced stress and uncertainty during the pandemic. During this time, I renewed my creative passion and began creating stained glass and mosaics as a healthy way of coping with things that I could not control. I enjoy using my creativity to make something beautiful. If I am in a bad mood, working with glass clears my mind. I even started my own company: Lotus Boulevard, LLC, Custom Stained Glass and Mosaics (www.facebook.com/LotusBoulevardGlass.). I chose ‘lotus’ because of the symbolism: self-regeneration and rebirth.
I have also continued to run as an outlet to focus my thoughts and create continuous goals. Although I hate training for 5k races, I make myself do it and am always happy when I’ve completed one. I’m in competition with myself over my times, and try to improve with each race. I even ran the Pride 5k-Stonewall Columbus virtually with other MDK employees last June.
It’s nice to be employed by an organization that values and encourages wellness through its internal initiatives. Additionally, I’ve enjoyed volunteering myself, and with my daughter through Besa, an organization that connects people with local charities. I first learned about Besa through MDK, and have continued my volunteer efforts personally. My daughter and I particularly loved volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House where we did crafts with the families there.
In conclusion, I want to say thank you to all who have helped me in my journey: of course my parents, my sister, my husband, my daughters, but also my co-workers generally, who have made my MDK experience so terrific, and particularly to: Holly Walton – I could not manage the department without our collaborations; Justin Ritch – who has been so supportive and encouraging; and the entire Accounting-Operations team for being so wonderful to work with.
Thank you all.
This publication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an opinion of Manley Deas Kochalski LLC.
Do not rely on this publication without seeking legal counsel.