Please welcome my guest poster, Imogen Reed, who like I do, enjoys writing about people who are doing something amazing with their lives. Enjoy!
LIZ MURRAY: A Life Worth Living
It is always inspirational to read about people who have managed to turn their life around through sheer guts and determination, despite having the odds stacked against them. Liz Murray is no exception, and if you haven’t come across this extraordinary young woman, then takes a look at her website Manifest Living.
People are all too ready to bemoan their lot and put the blame on others to avoid taking responsibility for their choices in life, but Liz’s astonishing testimony is proof positive that we all have the power to create a life worth living. Take a read below at Liz’s story and see what you think.
“We ate ice cubes because it felt like eating. We split a tube of toothpaste between us for dinner.”
Imagine being raised in neglect and squalor, not knowing where your next meal would come from, or whether you would eat at all that day? This was Liz Murray’s lot from the day she was born. Raised in poverty in the Bronx by two loving, but mentally ill, drug addicted parents, Liz’s life and that of her sister was determined by whether or not her parents could get their fix that day.
Welfare payments were squandered on heroin and cocaine, while the two girls went without even the basic necessities of life, such as food and warm clothing.
Liz has stark memories of her own mother selling a Thanksgiving turkey a church had given them in order to scrape together enough money to score a line of coke, and very often household furniture would be sold just so her parents could get high. Life outside the home was no better with Liz often attending school wearing filthy clothes, hungry and lice-ridden.
“One day life is going to be better”
This was her mother’s constant mantra, but nothing ever changed, with Liz and her sister often having to nurse their parents when they suffered the agonising pains of drug withdrawal. Her childhood memories are peppered with images of her mother constantly throwing up and the raw track lines of needle marks on her parents’ arms.
Liz’s mother succumbed to AIDS when Liz was 15 years old. She was buried in a donated wooden box, and Liz’s father, unable to cope without his wife, moved into a homeless shelter, leaving the two girls to completely fend for themselves.
Liz’s sister was lucky and managed to find support from a friend whom she lodged with, but at the age of 16, Liz found herself completely alone and isolated. She resorted to sleeping on park benches and finding shelter on the city’s 24 hour underground trains in order to survive.
“I was one of those people on the streets you walk away from.”
Life on the streets was very tough, and Liz became one of the “invisible people,” those who inhabit street corners and drift through the cityscape, alone and overlooked.
Feeding herself and keeping warm were the main priorities, and the dangers of being a young woman on the streets became increasingly apparent.
Liz admits she saw herself as a victim and a rebel but then, one day, she had a moment of clarity. “Like my mother, I was always saying, ‘I’ll fix my life one day.’ It became clear when I saw her die without fulfilling her dreams that my time was now or maybe never,” she says.
“I’ve learned in my life that you really don’t know what’s possible until you’re already doing it.”
Determined to make something of her life, Liz promised herself that she would do her damndest to complete her high school education in just two years. A tall order for anyone, but one can imagine that the odds are even more stacked against you when you are homeless and have no financial or emotional support.
Liz however, was resolute and single-minded. She completed a year’s work in one term and then went onto night school. Unable to even take out loans to assist her with her studies, Liz resorted to stealing books from the local library so that she could keep up with the other students.
She was still living on the streets and often had to shoplift food in order to eat, but to her mind it was worth it. A teacher on one of her courses recognized her indomitable spirit and agreed to mentor her. As a result Liz was encouraged to apply for a scholarship to Harvard University, and despite the odds being stacked against her, she was successful in her application.
“You blaze the trail. And sometimes that involves doing something that scares the hell out of you.”
For such a young woman, Liz has achieved much in her lifetime. She graduated from Harvard with flying colors, wrote a best-selling novel on her life experiences, and has traveled the world telling her story to others.
Liz has also mentored young people on homelessness and the devastating effects that drug taking can have on the individual and on society as a whole.
She has been awarded the White House Project’s Role Model Award, a Christopher Award, as well as being among the first to receive the “Chutzpah Award,” on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Liz is now the founder director of Manifest Living, a company based in New York that aims to empower anyone who has the desire to change their lives.
Liz runs regular inspirational workshops and seminars, at a very reasonable cost which, trust me, won’t require anyone to take out a bank loan in order to participate. If you feel you need a change of direction, or are stuck in a quagmire that you are desperate to get out of, then attending one of these workshops could be one of the best investments you could ever make.
We all of us deserve to get the very best out of life, to be successful on our own terms, and to make a positive and enduring contribution to society. Without a doubt, Liz Murray is a shining example of how one can overcome the bleakest of odds to become a beacon of hope and inspiration for others.