Going from Point A to Point B in life. The quickest way is a straight line. But is it really that easy, or that linear? The laws of physics say it should work, the reality of our human existence says otherwise.
Life zigs and zags with hairpin turns, curves, edges, incredible highs, unbelievable lows.
If the line of your life is straight it can only mean you’re not living, you have no story. But that’s impossible, because everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (128): Something to Prove
From the time she was two years of age he was one of her best friends – and for Teaira Stills the influence her stepfather Doug had on her life still resonates as a bright light. “He was the most amazing dad in the world”, she says.
Doug was an extremely successful chiropractor in St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands, running a one-of-a-kind multi-purpose chiropractic and rehabilitation center, easily the largest center in the Caribbean. Money was plentiful, love was abundant, life was good. Teaira describes it as a privileged life in the islands for herself and her sister Taraina, complete with private schools and even her own swim club.
In fact for Teaira the excitement of life really began in the water. She started swimming at age 5 and it wasn’t long before she was a full-fledged aquatic star.
“Everybody was always screaming my name. I was always finishing number one. I loved the attention. I loved being a star. Swimming was my passion. I was number one for 13 consecutive years in the Virgin Islands. It gave me so much confidence and recognition being in the spotlight. I loved it. Swimming is a lot of work – practices and meets are long – but it was so exciting to be a winner year after year.”
Winning was an omen of things to come – but the journey had just begun and as we know life is a journey. While Teaira was thriving in the pool, in school it was a different story – she was like a fish out of water, living every day with academic disappointment.
“I always struggled in school”, says Teaira. “At age 4 or 5 I actually got tested. I was learning so slow, I was hyperactive and probably had extreme ADHD 30 years ago, they didn’t quite know what was wrong with me I got a bunch of testing done and was always in special classes. I was always the slow one and Taraina was the smart one.”
Teaira says since her stepfather was a chiropractor he was always against the doctors wanting to put his daughter on any medication. Instead she received one-to-one tutoring, she even went to Mercenburg Academy, a college-prep boarding school in Pennsylvania, but Teaira says high school was really hard. “I studied and studied but I was always at the bottom of the class. But the boarding school taught me a lot of life skills. It taught me work ethic and confidence building – the backbone of what I am today.”
Teaira eventually made it into Berry University where she says she worked very hard: “I had to get a 3.5 grade average for them to accept me into nursing school so I studied all the time. I never went out. It was a driving force to prove to my dad I could be successful. I was always labeled slow and no one thought I could do it. I did do it, but as soon as I got to nursing school I decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do”, she laughs. “I switched to pre-med to eventually become a chiropractor, or become an obstetrician. I love babies, the whole birthing process is so magical.”
Magic was what Teaira wanted and she graduated premed with a double major in biology and chemistry and got accepted to chiropractic school. She was making her dad proud and on top of the world. But sometimes the world has a way of changing your story. Every 24 hours it turns over on someone who used to be sitting on top of it.
Teaira’s parents suddenly split up. For Teaira it was devastating.
As it turns out the couple was never legally married, so when her stepfather married another woman, the money went with him. “I was 25 when they split”, says Teaira. “My mom had no money, none. The new wife is Phillipino and she said in her culture when you get divorced the kids and wife are locked out of your life. My dad thought he could change her. But she wasn’t OK unless he completely walked away from us. I was heartbroken, I would cry every other day about it. We were so close, he had tucked me in every night until I was in 9th grade.”
Her sister Taraina had left the family home years before to move to the states. Now, after nearly four decades in the islands, their mom Joan was forced to move back as well, and eventually move in with Taraina. Unbeknownst to Tearia her stepfather had taken out student loans for her to go to college – to the tune of $60,000. But now there was no more money. Without any financial support Teaira was uncomfortable taking on more debt to continue the education she worked so hard to earn, but chiropractic school was now out of the question.
In the meantime Taraina, who had been pre-law, and struggling with lack of financial support as well, found an opportunity. “Taraina told me I found this really great career and I’m gonna make more money than dad”, Teaira says. “I would walk around the house and make fun of Taraina all the time. But after a while she asked me to make phone calls for her to set appointments. I made calls and got better and better at it and told her I wanted half her commissions selling the health insurance for this company called UGA, she told me no way, go get licensed.”
Teaira got her license and just like she did when she ruled the pool as a swim star, she dove in head first and did laps around the competition, finishing as Rookie of the Year in her sales region. “I worked non-stop” says Teaira. “I loved the feeling of being successful and doing something good for someone. I was really proud of myself. And I kept thinking about my dad. I thought if he could see how successful I was and how I had my own money, the new wife would no longer be threatened by me, or think I needed more of his, (her stepfather’s money). I thought if he could see me walk across the stage he would come back. I just wanted my dad back.”
Eventually Teaira did walk the stage, as she has many times in her successful insurance career, first with UGA and now as an extremely successful Division Leader with USHEALTH Advisors. “I’m the type of person I don’t overthink things, I just keep my eye on the ball. I love the culture and have been amazed how sweet the people are to me. I have tremendous respect for Bill Shelton, who was the first person to believe in me and then our leader Troy McQuagge, who I finally got to meet when I moved to the new company.”
Despite her unbelievable success, it has failed to bring Teaira’s dad back into her life full-time, but about six years ago a new man, Jay Stills, entered the fold. The two met at a Leaders meeting and as Teaira describes it was nearly love at first sight. “We talked all night long the first night we met and when he walked me to my room we stared into each other’s eyes, that was a moment. He was the first man I met that I instantly fell in love with, we talked every day after that for hours on the phone.”
It wasn’t long before Teaira left Florida and moved up the coast to live with her new love in North Carolina. But then to seize on a unique market opportunity with USHEALTH the couple and Jay’s three children relocated from North Carolina to Texas, to lead a sales team in Dallas.
Teaira and Jay eventually had an island wedding in St. Croix, but it was only Teaira’s mom who walked her down the aisle, her stepdad failed to post for the ceremony. Teaira says Taraina speaks to him once-in-a-while, but even then it’s a phone call he has to sneak in. She says her dad thought when he married the new wife she would change and he could fix the situation. But that has yet to materialize.
Despite the distance in her relationship with her stepfather, her “best friend”, life goes on. The human spirit is powerful. In life you are going to have some ups and you’re going to have some downs. But the human spirit is powerful. Maybe that’s why Teaira and Jay love the amusement parks and the roller coasters so much. A coaster is like a metaphor for life.
This couple runs one of the most successful regions and division teams in the country for USHEALTH Advisors and now collectively have five children. And Teaira still has her own sibling to support her. Teaira says she is and always has been so close with her sister and together the two are helping to care for their mom who still lives with Taraina.
Teaira says the message she wants to share in her life is simple: never give up. “It doesn’t matter your intelligence, or what life has dealt you”, she says. “If you just keep at it you will succeed. I had no money or anything when I started in this business, but that’s when people are at their best. They can do great things when they are at their weakest. I know I did. I always had something to prove.”
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
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