It was date night. After dinner, my husband and I headed to get dessert at one of my favorite places. As we approached the restaurant, I noticed a woman and a small child jumping and skipping around. The woman held up a sign, and it was clear that they were going through an incredibly tough time. As my husband pulled over and offered a few dollars, I chatted with them, hoping to bring a smile to the little girl’s face. In that short exchange, something happened. It wasn’t obvious or even outwardly visible, but I sensed a small shift.
The restaurant we’d been headed to was actually closed, forcing us to turn around. I immediately thought of that mom and little girl. We’d have to pass that same corner again. I thought, “Please God, don’t let them still be on that corner. Because if they are, I’m going to have to do something.”
Don’t tell me I’m the only person who’s prayed to get out of doing something good. You know that feeling when you don’t even know what it is yet, but it’s probably inconvenient and makes no sense.
Truthfully, a part of me realized that maybe we weren’t meant to come over here for dessert. Maybe my husband and I were supposed to discover something more.
Sure enough, they were still standing there.
We decided to stop again. My husband and I offered to take them to grab dinner. As she ordered, the mom told us she had two more children at home. We bought enough food for everyone and then drove them home. I walked them to the door and met the other two beautiful girls. They quietly thanked me for the food.
Was this it? Should I leave? For some reason, I stayed planted right there, asking a few awkward questions.
“Do you guys like makeup and hair stuff? I have this little blog, and I’ve got some stuff I can bring to you,” I said, promising to bring it to them along with some groceries the mom requested.
Having grown up poor, I knew what it was like to have people promise to help but fail to show up. When I got inside the car, I shared my plan with my husband, and I told him that we had a choice.
“If we say we’re going to come back, then we can never, ever leave. These kids are used to people leaving them, and I do not want to be another person who does that,” I told him.
“Nicole, you can bring them groceries,” he said matter-of-factly. That tiny decision meant so much more than we realized at the time.
Date night had all of a sudden become a date with destiny. It sounds corny, but it was true. This super ordinary night was heading in a wholly different direction. The next day I brought groceries, and then the day after that, I took the girls to school. A week later, I brought dinner, and in the following weeks, they came to my house, and I helped them study. Over the next month, what started off as a random encounter on the street, grew into a real bond. I went from complete stranger to big sister for these girls.
And once their mother landed in a situation where she wouldn’t be able to take care of them any longer, I spied another role shift on the horizon: mom.
My husband and I brought them home to live with us, temporarily at first.
This wasn’t just a significant change in my personal life, but it impacted my professional one as well. I worked in a high-pressure corporate job as a busy senior executive. With this new instant family, I had to think about more than building a life that worked for my husband and me.
I had a 3-year-old who needed me, and two teens who would be headed to college soon. I had a family-family that required more. More time. More money. More me. And I refused to go into debt — or crazy — doing it!
I quit my day job and turned my side-hustle into my full-time business. Yes, it was risky (and scary), but I trusted that inner tug that this was the best way to take care of my family long-term. I figured out how to use my gifts and talent to build a business that allows me to live a profitable and purposeful life — and teach others how to do the same.
I’m a family-first entrepreneur. I don’t really subscribe to the idea of work-life balance, but I aim to be 100 percent present wherever I am. It’s in no way perfect. If anything, it’s a hot mess sometimes.
Together, we’ve hosted living room dance parties, started college, battled cancer, gone through health crises, and just all the little challenges that inevitably pop up in parenting. At the end of the day, no matter how messy things get, my children are why I keep going.
Adopting three children wasn’t exactly how I envisioned starting our family or a thriving business. It definitely doesn’t fit the usual nice-and-neat adoption stories. It’s pretty crazy how our lives collided together on a city street.
What out-of-the-blue, completely unexpected shift is happening in your life right now? Are you ignoring it or leaning in a little closer? It’s not easy to see the possibilities that lie ahead when you’re at the beginning or in the middle of disruption.
While discomfort and even disappointment come along when life doesn’t go as planned, you uncover other stuff too.
On the other side of the shift, you get to experience purpose, joy, and life-changing moments that push you toward a destiny you could not have imagined for yourself. It’s so worth it.
Nicole Walters is the star of She’s the Boss, an unscripted family sitcom on USA Network premiering Thursday, February 25. As the CEO of Inherit Learning Company, she uses proven corporate strategies and business principles to catapult barely-surviving companies into thriving enterprises. Viral videos of her juggling family and fortune have racked up over 30 million views online. For more, visit www.nicolewalters.com.
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