The Choice You Have When Confronted With Tragedy

My mom and grandparents saw how much effort I was putting into my schoolwork. After 6th grade, my mother thought I would be better served by attending a bigger school with more opportunities for educational advancement and higher competition rate among students.  We left the duplex and started living with my grandparents whose home was in a better school district. Living with my grandparents was cramped, but we made do, and it never seemed like we were intruding.  After a couple of years, my mother was able to save enough money for a down payment for a house in that district.  Granted it was in the more affordable border area, but I was still able to continue at the same high achieving school.

I thrived at my new school.  In addition to all the new course offering and enrichment, my overall class size was five times larger than the previous one. This gave me the chance to compete with the children of doctors, lawyers, engineers, and the like.  It was this exposure that motivated me to succeed. I saw the kind of jobs it took to afford the houses my classmates lived in, the nice vacations they took with their families, and how life for them was just more comfortable. I knew it would be hard work but it was not implausible. I was motivated to achieve this level of success as an adult.

They key to happiness is not just money but also loving what you do. I wanted to study something in college that I liked but that also afforded the lifestyle I saw the families of my high school classmates enjoy.  I got serious, I studied and took the hard classes. I graduated in the top 10 percent of my large, elite high school class and scored high on my college admissions tests.  I was able to gain acceptance into a small, respected liberal arts school with a renowned pre-med program. Yes, the school was way out of my family’s price range, but because of financial aid through academic grants, scholarships, and federal loans, I was able to work out the finances.

After busting my butt for four years, I graduated in the top 10 percent of my class and scored well on both my medical and dental school admissions tests.  I decided on the Dental Professional route because it seemed to serve my personality better because the total time from entering school to working fulltime was less. Also, the lifestyle seemed much less stressful but still had the benefit of making a good living. I could have both a career and time to enjoy family and life.

After graduating from dental school, I was able to become an associate for a few years to learn the ropes of the profession. This was essential professional experience I would need before buying my own practice.  Buying my practice has afforded me a very comfortable and enjoyable life.  Being a dentist and owning my own practice has afforded everything I had coveted when I was growing up(house, vacations, cars), but mostly the peace of mind knowing that I will always be able to provide for myself and family.

It’s crazy to think that my success was all launched by the souvenir shirt that my grandmother bought because she liked the bull on the front. I never got the Lamborghini (yet), but I was able to accomplish many more important goals that have made my life enjoyable and free.

From my very unpretentious and unassuming beginnings, I now sit in my corner office typing my Survive and Thrive story. – Christopher Paul Hayner, D.M.D.

Survive and thrive! That is the choice you make when confronted with tragedy.

I was only 15 years old in 1989, the 5th of 8 kids when I got the news….your mother has terminal cancer and only has weeks to live.  This was early June when we learned.  By the beautiful Saturday morning of July 15, 1989, she had died.  The 44 year old mother of 8 kids ranging in ages 18 to 9.  Pure tragedy.  My father often said to his kids “I will give you my blessing and not a dime more”.

But, he did give us more.  He gave us a front row seat witnessing the example he set:  how to deal with such tragedy.  You cry, you fight, you get angry, you live with some regret, you mourn, and cry again…

Eventually you make a choice:  either I am going to continue to let the tragedy “beat me down” or you make a DECISION to get “off the mat.”

Take control of your destiny.  Take control of your emotions.  Learn the best you can to get by each and every day knowing that your mother will never be coming back.  She will never get to meet your kids, her grandkids. GOD simply had a different plan.

It was this experience in 1989 that has molded me into the person I am today.  I went onto playing college baseball at Fordham University and graduated from Fordham School of Law.  I have started and sold several businesses over the past 19 years.  I am often asked, “why are you so afraid of the unknown?”  I simply harken back to June of 1989 – 15 years old and facing one of the cruelest and harshest unknowns any child endures – sickness and loss of a parent.

But, we do survive and thrive.  We get around those who have done it.  We lean on their experiences and love….and we “pay it forward” to those who currently face what we faced and conquer it.  I know my mother is proud. – Robert Baratta