Hey beautiful! Linda Ward here, founder of Ladies of Real Estate and this program that you awesome gals make so fabulous. Thought I'd introduce myself, let you get to know who I am and why it is that I do what I do, and what makes me the person I am today. This will be a brief, but descriptive overview of my story, in hopes you find inspiration reading it, and get a window into my life - both past, present, and even my future.
Life for me started off in a little town called Adana, in Turkey. I lived there with my American father who was in the Air Force, my Turkish mother, and my two younger brothers. Our life in Turkey, despite my father being in the Air Force, was a pretty "third-world" experience. We were incredibly poor, we used an outhouse for our bathroom needs, our food - goats, chickens, vegetables were right in our small backyard, and we didn't have a traditional bath. We sat in a stone room attached to our small home, and warmed up water in a pot over a fire. Though poor, life was simple and fun for a naive child. What young child knows that they are poor when their whole world is surround by people in similar situations? During this life, there was a lot of child-neglect type of abuse. From eating moldy rotten bread, to being completely infested in lice, to even seeing murder and horrific situations around our small neighborhood. Our play time included finding trash outside, mostly used cans, and playing with the mud piles near our home.
At this time in my life, I didn't speak a word of English, I was fluent in Turkish, and wouldn't come to know the English language, which I'm fluent in now, until I was about 7/8 years old. Shortly after my father was told that he would be coming back to the U.S., my parents decided to get a divorce. A divorce that turned incredibly ugly. Since the age of 6, after coming to the states, I never saw my mother or my family on my Turkish side again. My father met another Turkish woman right before coming to the states, who he ended up marrying and who ended up being my step-mother, up until this day.
After coming to the U.S., leaving behind a world of poverty, my life spiraled out of control. I ended up in the hospital for months, nearly dying due to a birth defect in my kidney. Survived, of course. But left me with one kidney, and a completely destroyed stomach from multiple scars. The scars a reminder of a doctor who messed up during the initial procedure, didn't close an open vein in my stomach, and had to nearly shred my stomach open days after my first surgery to save me from near death after passing out at home. Life took me all around the world, the most memorable destination being Germany. I loved Germany, the culture, the scenery, it was a true fresh of breath air. But my life had a lot of horrific moments. Through many family members, I went through both sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. I was raped, molested, beaten to the point of near death often throughout my childhood, and left more scarred from the emotional abuse that I was and would never amount to be anything in my life. Do you know what it's like to see a broken 8 year old child, beaten and dragged around till near death, to shiver on the floor wishing for death? I did, that was my life. It was a horrific life. A life I hid from so many people, because I was terrified of the people hurting me. Terrified they'd hurt my siblings, now including three half sisters. So I stayed quite, and endured the abuse.
I had always been a straight-A student in school. But by the time I hit 16, my emotional life started really spiraling out of control. I was depressed and broken. And one small, incredibly tiny flame managed to burn deep deep inside of my soul. And I used that flame to run away from home at 16. I got off the bus at school and walked for days towards another state, before I hopped into a strange man's car and ended up in hotel after hotel until I took off to my grandparent's home. From Texas to Indiana. I felt broken leaving my siblings behind, but I was to terrified to tell the right people about my abuse, I knew my siblings weren't enduring the stuff I was, so I decided running away was the best decision. I was a child, we always think the worse if we were to speak up about abuse. I started back up in school in Indiana after my grandparents took me in, but struggled significantly. Got into a lot of physical altercations, battled horrific depression, and a large number of family who shunned me as the black sheep, and didn't believe the horrors I ran away from. (Until a year later, when said abusers finally confessed to the torture I had been put through.) I ended up dropping out of school, and at 17 moved back to a different part of Texas. Got a job at a Chick-Fil-A, got a small studio apartment, and walked to work every single day for the next year. After financial struggles, minimum wage doesn't cover anything, I ended up breaking my lease and living out of a tent for months. I slept on the rock hard ground, woke up to lovely spiders (thanks, Texas) all over me every morning, but cleansed myself with bottles of water, put on my work uniform, and walked to work every single day. Not a SINGLE one of my fellow employees knew I was homeless. Except, towards the end, a best friend and a boyfriend. I had too much pride to let people know the struggles I was facing. No one, but me, got to see me sitting in my tent, freezing, crying, and trying to cook a frozen chicken patty over a candle flame because I was starving. I remember the days I would find books or anything I could get for free, and I went door to door trying to sell (trash, really) to anyone who would be willing to buy.
For months, this continued. In my spare time, I walked to a local book store and read every single day for hours and hours. It was my only escape. To disappear into these books, full of magic, life, and romance. Books that said any and all of your dreams could come true, all you had to do was fight for it. So I fought. I fought to stay alive and I fought to keep moving forward.
Eventually, an aunt and uncle out of Nashville ended up getting wind of my story and brought me up to live with them. They helped me get my GED, got me into college (which I later dropped out of after realizing it wasn't for me), took great care of me and I adored and loved them. But due to a lot of personal disagreements, many that stemmed from my personal depression and broken past, I set out to live on my own. I struggled living with others, secluding myself to my bedroom the majority of my time spent at home. No matter how much love they showered me with, I was a broken vessel that hid away in insecurity and pain. After leaving, I got a two bedroom apartment that was too high above my pay grade. Which ended up in resulting in me losing the apartment. I lived out of my car with my pit/lab mix for a month, then moved secretly into an outdoor storage unit (the only thing I could afford to rent out) and lived in storage units for 3-4 months. In that stage of homelessness, I worked in the adult entertainment industry as a private dancer for parties. It was the only job I could land at the time that gave me enough money to pay my storage unit, some gas, and a decent amount of food and clothing. In fact, it paid very well. A lot of people have a pre-conceived notion of what the adult industry is. Naive, uneducated, sex crazed women. That wasn't me, in fact, that wasn't most of the women I met in that time in my life. It was a world of struggling women, who were trying to find their ways in life. Struggling to take care of themselves, and most importantly, struggling to provide for their children. And I was right there with them. Grasping at strings, wondering where my life would take me, and when I'd finally leave a dark world I couldn't seem to find my way out of.
During that time, I met my now husband, over an online dating site that I had accessed on my pre-pay $20/month cellphone. Our relationship went pretty quickly, our love was instant, and he even came to live with me for a month in my storage unit. During that time, I, by accident, became pregnant with my first daughter, Noelle. After finding out about the pregnancy, my husband and I decided to work any job and any hours we could get to finally save up to get a one bedroom apartment. We ended up getting a very small one that, we didn't know at the time of move-in, was infested with cockroaches. We didn't have a laundry room in our apartment, but had to walk to the laundry facilities in the complex to do our laundry. 99% of the time, the machines didn't even work. It was very rough living. Especially with a new baby on the way. My pregnancy left me incredibly ill. To the point that I was bed-ridden nearly 60% of it. But I had a healthy baby girl, and my husband and I did our best to both work every day and night to get out of our terrible living situation into a better world for our daughter. During this time, I got pregnant again. This pregnancy ended up leading to a miscarriage due to Eclampsia, that caused multiple seizures and nearly took my life. Nothing breaks a mother's heart and soul than to wake up from a coma-like experience, to hear that your child was taken out of your body (killed), without your knowledge, to save your life. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be here today for my beautiful daughters, but it was a horrific experience, and a scarring one. Made worse by a doctor, when asked what happened to my son, thought it was appropriate to say "he was incinerated." One can't quite explain the pain and sickness that washed over me after those words.
After some time, I had started up a small online clothing boutique, and my husband landed a few pay raises at his welding job, we were finally able to afford a two bedroom apartment in a much better community. Goodbye cockroaches, hello semi-decent living quarters. During our time in our apartment, I went through 1 more successful pregnancy that led to our beautiful daughter Lylah's birth - but unfortunately went through 2 more horrifying miscarriages that have lead to our current decision that we will unfortunately not try again. My aunt, who had originally helped get me situated, reached out to me and let me know that she thought I would be a good fit for the real estate industry. I didn't have the money to pay my way in, we were living paycheck to paycheck after all, so she did the most beautiful thing anyone has ever done for me - opened an opportunity-filled door. She paid my way in, on the promise that I would work my butt off, and that is when my life finally did a complete 180. I started making money I had never dreamed of, worked for years learning the ins and outs of the industry, studied day in and day out on branding and marketing, going above and beyond for my clients, landing my first one one month after officially getting my license. I was hungry; finally, I saw a light at the end of a very dark life. And by the grace of God, loving extended family, and a whole crap ton of elbow grease, I turned my life around. Today, I run a multi-million dollar business empire, live in a dream home, and have a beautifully imperfect, yet perfect, life. With a husband, that any woman who has endured abuse would understand, never instills any fear in me. One who is kind and beyond amazing, living our lives with the two most beautiful angels in the world. This is a very simplified version of my life. And in those hard times, I can't count the number of times I cried, I brought knives into my room to end my life, I screamed at the world in agony, the days I lived in a living death - feeling empty and soulless. Only to see a life millions dream about, because this tiny little flame inside me made me get up every single day, made me get to work, and made me hungry to prove the world wrong. That this abused and broken child wouldn't become a statistic, but this woman full of pride and strength would become an inspiration.
And that's what I want to do with my life going forward. To inspire you. To inspire other women. To inspire children. To find healing with others. Because if this broken child could turn her life into an empire ran by a strong woman - then you can too. I won't, in this meet-and-greet, go into the details of the horrors I endured as a child any further. I'll save that for my future book. But I can say this, and I can say it with my flame burning in bright embers inside of my soul, that if I can do it, then YOU can too. All it takes is strength, a little fire in yourself, some pride, a whole crap ton of humbleness, and a never ending want to work hard - and you can own your own empire. I'm not perfect. I don't think I'll ever be. My past haunts me to this day, a demon of it's own that I can never truly shake off. But I changed my life. I didn't let me past define me. I promised myself that my children WOULD know a better life, and will never stop working hard to ensure that stays true. And I want you to know, I want to hug you and squeeze you, no matter what pain and struggles you face, and let you know that YOU. CAN. MAKE. IT.
I look forward to getting to know you. And I mean truly getting to know you. And your story. And I hope my story inspires you to keep fighting, to keep going. Women, my God, we are magnificent creatures. The pain and horrors we are so familiar with, and yet the damning strength we have to endure. Together, from now on, let's do more than endure. Let's conquer. Let's heal. And let's grow a bond with each other that see's to our growths in life. Share you story, share your successes, and don't forget to share your failures. Because it's the people who hear your failures are those who know that they can find successes through their own failures, as well. I adore you, all of you. And I will make it my life's mission to help as many women as I can. As many children as I can. And I hope to have you a part of my power team to make a difference in this world.
Sending you so much love,