Live Loved LaShell
Follow Breanna as she runs a nonprofit , figures out life, and just enjoys each moment as it comes her way.
Have you ever had it all figured out? Knew exactly how life was going to pan out, had things scheduled to a T? If you know me you know this basically explains my personality perfectly. But what happens when your plans start shifting around you, and you start to realize what you thought would be your life’s course changes completely? This was the reality I was faced with my senior year of high school, looking back I can see how life panned out exactly how it should have but in the moment it just felt like the life I had planned wasn’t for me at all. Back then I had the idea that I was going to be a doctor. I prepared for this throughout school, I took AP science classes, studied anatomy, was top of my class and I even interviewed for an eight year medical program when I started applying for colleges. From probably the age of seven or eight I had made this decision about my career, and I even made a pretty detailed plan on how to make it happen. In my head there was no other option but to become a doctor and I honestly saw no other possible outcome, at least I didn’t until I did…
This story really begins with sixteen year old Breanna, a high school sophomore. You see my sophomore year is the year that my life long plan of becoming a doctor started to unravel. That year my hometown was struck by tragedy, a middle school student died by suicide due to bullying and it wrecked my world and broke my heart. Bullying had been a huge part of my story starting at a young age, I had struggled with being picked on, isolated and left out for years, and it really peaked as a junior high student. I understood the pain and heartache that came with that experience and for a minute I remember going right back to that place. When I heard about this student and this story I saw myself. The reality that it could have been my story too really hit me hard. I remember so clearly that Sunday night and the rollercoaster of emotions that came over me as God began revealing a bigger purpose for my experiences and I knew that I had to do something, that I had to share my story and hopefully help others continue theirs. Within that moment I knew that I would not be okay with hearing another story like that one without me doing something, really anything, to help prevent it. So me being the planner that I am, got up that very Sunday night and typed up a proposal to give to my principal explaining that I wanted to go share my story to hopefully encourage students that there was life after junior high. Now you may be wondering why that was my first thought of how to help with this situation and honestly I have no idea, believing it had to be a God thing, because looking back that wouldn’t have been my first choice. I had never been a huge speaker, I had some experience with it but never at the scale that I was proposing, but somehow I just knew I needed to share my story, that it was meant to help other people who were experiencing something similar.
However, I also knew that sounded absolutely ridiculous, what school official was going to take a sixteen year old seriously with a crazy idea like that? And for the most part they didn’t. My proposal definitely helped but I mostly got brushed off, and my proposal passed around until it made it to the hands of the man who would later become my cofounder. Looking back this was a moment that changed the entire course of my life. It is crazy how you can trace back life to moments and see how and where things change. That one meeting, that one opportunity, that one chance changed everything! My meeting with the assistant high school varsity basketball coach led to an adventure I am still so in love with and completely in awe of.
Within two weeks (that’s right, two full crazy weeks!) of my late night proposal writing I ran my first assembly for a program I would later help turn into a nonprofit called Speak Love (can we take a minute and just say WOW God). That was eight years ago and it still wrecks my heart in the best way to see how this journey continues to play out.
Through Speak Love I have had the ability to speak to an average of ten thousand students a year. Helping me realize that while being a doctor would have been an amazing career, it would have been a waste of some of my better talents, and would have been a huge missed opportunity for me to live in my calling. I have gotten to mentor some of the best high school students I know as they join my Speak Love Crew and make my sixteen year old dream come true every year over and over again. I have had students come up to me and tell me my story has changed their life, has given them hope, has inspired them to seek help and keep living.I have seen new dreams be born by walking this journey and every day I get to experience the joy of saying yes to a calling that I didn’t have planned for myself. Isn’t it funny how life works like that? How you think you have something all planned out and then a curve ball comes your way and everything shifts...
It still amazes me to see how a crazy idea I had at sixteen turned into a nonprofit and one of the biggest passions in my life. Has this journey been easy? No not even a little bit… I had people tell me no over and over again. I have spent thousands of hours on this dream with no guarantees that it would ever be more than a dream. I have had people laugh at me, dismiss me, tell me I couldn’t over and over. I have had people take credit for my ideas, pretend like I wasn’t there, ignore me during meetings and so much more. I have cried big crocodile tears, and told my cofounder plenty of times that I couldn’t do it, only to have him and my loved ones encourage me through the process and tell me to keep going . For every time I have wanted to quit, something or someone has given me a million more reasons to stay, and for that I am so thankful.
It blows my mind to see what can happen with support and a ton of determination. It blows my mind to see that you don’t have to have the picture perfect plan (I didn’t have a plan at all, which looking back I don’t recommend but we made it work), the masters degree in your field ( I didn’t even have a high school diploma yet when this journey started for me), or be the oldest and wisest person in the room ( sixteen year old me had very little wisdom but a lot of passion) to be successful and follow a dream. It has also opened my heart and eyes to so many challenges that come your way when pursuing your dreams, especially at sixteen and honestly even today at twenty-three. With this journey I realized how often others count out people who are younger in the business field, and how often younger people count themselves out believing that they have to do xyz before pursuing their passions. I am a perfect example of how untrue this is, my journey is evidence that some of the most meaningful ideas and projects can not only come from but be run by teenagers and young adults just starting their careers. My life is a reflection of what can happen when you are willing to take a chance and say yes to some crazy idea someone tells you about, because never in a million years did I believe that a sixteen year olds late night proposal would become a full blown nonprofit and life mission, but here we are.
So what dream is weighing on your heart? I sit back and can’t help but wonder what crazy dream/idea is sitting waiting to be pursued and brought to light.
I know that there are so many people like me with a crazy dream that has been plopped in their lap and they have no idea where to go or how to start. I know there are people who have everything figured out, except for that small nudge in a new direction asking them to do something insane and take a leap into a project that is important to them. I know there are countless people who have taken this small leap only to be put down, locked out, and told that there is no way they will succeed or do the thing that lights them up like nothing else in the world does. I know there are people needing to hear they can do it, their dream does matter, this crazy goal is achievable. So, this year I am hoping to help others pursue new dreams and encourage them to take those big leaps of faith for the things that bring them big crazy joy, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else yet. I am ready to find joy in sharing a new (scary) exciting project with each of you on how I am hoping to make this happen...(more to come but y’all… I am so excited about this new little dream that has been growing on my heart!)
But for today, I hope this small part of my story rekindles a little fire in your heart to take a look at your dreams. Nothing is too crazy, too unrealistic, or too impossible to accomplish with the right plan, someone to support and push you, and a heart for the work you are wanting to do! Make 2020 the year that you dust off that idea that lights you up but lives on a shelf because of fear. Make 2020 the year that no matter your age, experience, or occupation you believe you are capable of even more than your wildest dreams. Your story has a purpose only you can fill and only you can discover. Personally, I can’t wait to see what it is!
Until Next Time XOXO,