Te-Erika Patterson, creator of The Rebuild Your Life Project
Te-Erika Patterson, creator of The Rebuild Your Life Project

I was one of those typical struggling graduate students with two jobs. I worked as a waitress and at a customer service center while I weaved through South Florida traffic back and forth to school. My two sons were living with their father as I fumbled trying to play catch up with my career after giving birth twice while I was still in undergrad.

Things didn’t work out between my son’s father and I, but really, in our 20’s, we’re still evolving so that didn’t bother me much. At least we’re civil to each other at this point. Even though I was managing my co-parenting duties with my final stretch of school and working two jobs, somehow life had different plans for me. I went from gainfully employed to completely unemployed after I lost BOTH of my jobs and my ability to drive my car all in one weekend.

I sat back wondering how I would make it through my final semester of graduate school and I tried, I really did, but the pressure of no income, coupled with the newness of actually doing the counseling work I had been training to do, weighed down on me so much that I nearly had a breakdown. I withdrew from school and sat at home, not knowing if or how I could pull my life back together. What if I lost everything and ended up on the side of the road clutching a beer can and begging for change? If I had tried so hard to do things right so far, why did my life fall apart?

A really crazy idea came to me late one night, I ignored it but it wouldn’t go away. My “idea” or rather my intuition told me, “You will become homeless on purpose and face your fear.” That sounded more like a punishment instead of a solution but a day didn’t go by without that constant nagging in my soul. Once I decided to explore this idea, it began to make sense.

Moving forward by being willing to break down? What if this was the real path to enlightenment?

What if I did face my biggest fear of complete failure and learned how to overcome it? What if I documented everything that happened to me and shared the videos with other women who are in the midst of a life transition and are facing the same fear? What if somehow, I managed to survive it and came out better than where I am now?

I guess crazy meets desperate at the middle of the road because I felt like I had nothing to lose and I organized The Rebuild Your Life Project where I gave away everything that I owned and became homeless on purpose to empower women (and myself) to rebuild their lives from scratch.

Four months after that life-changing decision, I had made it through a life on the streets with a new arsenal of survival skills. I am a different woman now. I have a deeper understanding of loss and life. Because I went through the fire I am no longer afraid to be burned.

Rebuilding your life after a loss isn’t easy, it takes a firm will to tackle any challenges but more importantly it takes the audacity to fail while others are watching knowing that no matter what comes you can handle it. I am willing to lose big now that I understand the difference between those who remain in a state of misery due to their life circumstances and those who bounce back. Taking the risk to be the biggest loser to get out of a situation that is keeping you down is one of the most important lessons we can learn in life.

I’m glad I learned it. I’m glad I shared the journey and I continue to hold firm to my transition knowing that the progress I see today all stemmed from that one decision to face my biggest fear and jump into the unknown. Sink or swim.

View  all 95 videos of The Rebuild Your Life Project to learn more.