As we head into the new decade, many of us are taking time to reflect on the past. Some of us are trying to figure out what aspects of ourselves we would like to improve on.
Creating New Year’s resolutions has been a tradition for centuries. However, for some people, it’s more about reflecting on obstacles they overcame to get where they are today than about quitting a bad habit.
John Heywood famously said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The same thing can be said for turning your life around. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes vast determination and hard work to start a new beginning.
Perhaps you’re thinking of turning your life around for the New Year. Or maybe you are simply craving a fresh start. In any case, these 25 Heartwarming Stories of People Turning Their Lives Around should give you the inspiration you need to get started.
Becoming a Congressman
The meaning of life is often questioned when tragedy strikes. When Kweisi Mfume lost his mother, he was just 16 years old. Nothing was ever the same. He dropped out of high school and fathered five children before his 20th birthday.
It wasn’t until Mfume was in his early twenties that he realized he needed to turn his life around. Four years after enrolling in college, he graduated from John Hopkins University. He was later elected to the Baltimore City Council, Congress, and then became president of the NAACP.
From Mafia to Hollywood
Georgia Durante was born and raised in Rochester, New York. She started her modeling career when she was just 13 years old. Durante’s stunning looks helped to land her on the front page of Cover Girl, a popular women’s magazine.
Her life took a turn for the worse when she married an abusive mobster. She was forced to put her dreams on hold to be their getaway driver.
Luckily, Durante was able to take back control of her life. She divorced her husband and started her own stunt-driving company called Performance Two.
Catch Me If You Can
When Frank Abagnale was just 16 years old, he started creating fraudulent checks. It would take investigators five years to track down this mysterious criminal. While Abagnale was on the run, he successfully posed as an airline pilot, doctor, lawyer, and college professor.
He was finally apprehended by the French police when he was 21 years old. After getting released from prison, Abagnale decided to give up his criminal ways and devote his time to helping companies and law enforcement agencies with fraud security.
After spending a few years battling cancer, Morrie Boogaart’s will to live started to dwindle. Then he found a new purpose. Boogaart started knitting hats for the homeless, and his outlook on life started to change.
“God has a plan for your life. You can see it in every step you took. I’m the hat man. I just started doing what I liked to do to help people,” said Boogaart.
Before dying at the age of 93, he spent 15 years knitting hats for the homeless. During those years, he knit over 8,000 hats. He proved it’s never too late to turn your life around.
Spreading the Love
Every day, millions of people casually walk by people sleeping on the streets. Adam August, a 28-year-old businessman, saw the same homeless man a few days in a row before finally building up the courage to ask him to lunch.
August learned the man’s name was Atkinson. Before long, August decided he wanted to do more than just buy the man a meal. He wanted to help change his life. With a little help and guidance, Atkinson got a job at Safeway and was able to turn his life around.
From J.P. Morgan to Feeding the Homeless
This story shows that there is no amount of money that can buy happiness. Robert Lee, a finance and accounting graduate from New York University, gave up a six-figure salary to focus his energy on building a nonprofit organization that helps feed the homeless.
Lee turned his life completely around so that he could help others. Over the years, he has distributed over 250,000 pounds of food to people in need all across the nation.
If you’ve been a local of Santa Monica, California, for the last two decades, then you probably already heard of Queen Mimi. Marie Elizabeth Haist has a larger-than-life personality and befriends anyone who gets a chance to meet her.
She was living at Fox Laundry when she met Zach Galifianakis, an American actor, who admired her charm. She has an extremely positive outlook on life even though she has lived an extremely difficult life.
Galifianakis wanted to give her a fresh start, so he bought Mimi her own apartment across the street from Fox Laundry.
Becoming a Peer Advocate
Kitty Zen, a human rights activist, hopes to transform the world’s view of the word “homeless.” Zen knows firsthand what it is like to experience homelessness. She grew up in a stable, happy household until her family home caught on fire.
Her parents were never able to truly bounce back. After the fire, they moved from place to place, which put a lot of strain on her and her family.
Zen is now working as a peer advocate trying to make a positive change for individuals who face housing challenges.
Some of William’s earliest memories from his child involve being homeless. He recalls constantly moving and at one time even living in a small house with 15 other people.
Despite growing up in an unstable environment, he found comfort in the simple things around him. When he and his mother met Ms. Hedda, founder of the Hunts Point Alliance for Children, their whole life changed.
Ms. Hedda gave them the support they needed to start a new life. She helped William’s mother find a steady job and get William accepted into a semi-boarding high school.
Dwayne Johnson, an American actor, is a true example of rags to riches. Johnson and his family were evicted from their home in Hawaii when he was just 14 years old.
He often had to steal food from a grocery store just so his family had something to eat. Even though times were extremely rough, he knew he had to keep fighting. “Hold onto that fundamental quality of faith. Have faith that on the other side of your pain is something good,” says Johnson.
He is now considered one of the leading stars of Hollywood.
People often assume that all Ivy League students come from a very wealthy and privileged family. However, that’s not always the case. For Liz, a New York City native, her journey to Harvard began with experiencing extreme hardship.
After her mother passed away, she had no family and no place to go. Liz fought to pull herself out of the difficult place she found herself in. She dedicated her life to pursuing education at Humanities Preparatory Academy, which led to her being accepted into Harvard.
Frank O’Dea developed a taste for alcohol at the young age of 13. By the time he was able to drink legally, he was already showing signs of alcoholism. His parents were fed up with his habits and told him to leave and never come back.
With nowhere to go, he took to the streets where he eventually hit rock bottom. O’Dea picked himself up and joined an alcohol support group. Slowly, his life started to come together.
While volunteering at a political campaign, he met his future business partner, Tom Culligan. Together they created the Second Cup, one of the biggest Canadian coffee chains.
New York Times Bestselling Author
Andy Andrew was living under a pier when he met a remarkable man that would change his life forever. The gentleman went only by the name of Jones.
Their friendship was instantaneous and he showed Andrews the value of reading. “Remember, young man; experience is not the best teacher; other people’s experiences are the best teachers,” said Jones.
Andrews also learned about perspective. The mind can turn any seemingly negative action into a positive experience.
With his new understanding of the meaning of life, he was able to turn his own life around. He went on to become a New York Times bestselling author and motivational speaker.
Million Dollar Man
It takes an extraordinary person to turn struggle, hardship, and pain into something positive. Jim Carrey, an American actor, dropped out of school so he could work and help support his family.
While living out of a small bus, they roamed from place to place. Eventually, Carrey moved into a tent on his sister’s property.
Despite all the challenges, he never lost hope. He even admits it was during those difficult times that he was able to truly understand the value of humor.
Finding a Forever Family
Michael Oher and his 12 siblings grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. His mom struggled with addiction to drugs while his father was constantly in and out of prison.
Oher’s childhood was unstable and he bounced around foster homes until he finally found his forever family when the Tuohy family came into his life.
Despite Oher’s troubled past, he determined to make something of himself. With support from his new family, hard work, and dedication, he was able to become a college football star and a top NFL draft pick.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Things sometimes go from bad to worse before they start to get better. Chris Gardner’s whole life came crashing down when his wife left him and their son. To make matters worse, Gardner was struggling financially and couldn’t avoid being the sole provider of the household.
Eventually, he and his son were evicted from their apartment and slept in subway stations as a means to survive. Gardner refused to let his circumstances define him. He took a non-paid internship with a prestigious brokerage firm, which led him to become a multi-millionaire stockbroker on Wall Street.
Trying to Escape Reality
When someone goes through a traumatic experience, they often look for ways to distract themselves from reality. Tyler Perry, an American actor and producer, used writing as a way to escape his childhood of being sexually abused.
A troubled teen, Perry moved to Atlanta in hopes of producing a play he had written. Sadly, it failed six times. Yet, Perry continued chasing his dreams even if it meant sleeping in his car.
Finally, in 1998, his play became a hit and his entertainment career skyrocketed.
Homelessness: Not a Choice
Jessica, a young mother of two children, became homeless after her husband was sent to prison. Before ending up on the streets, she struggled to find a way to put food on the table and provide a home for her family.
After getting evicted, Jessica found salvation at Bridges Safehouse. Her new community gave her the help she needed to start a new life for herself and her family. She began taking college classes at her local college and earned a degree in Nursing.
Finding Your Passion
Life before fame wasn’t always easy for Mark Wahlberg, an American actor. He was born on June 5, 1971, in Massachusetts to parents Alma and Donald Wahlberg.
During his early teenage years, he started to get in trouble. When he was 16 years old, he was caught stealing two cases of alcohol from a local convenience store. Public records also show that he punched a man in the face while trying to escape from the police.
Wahlberg eventually turned his life around and found his passion for acting.
Have a Nash Day
Dreams of one day starting a family consumed Shelly Schupback and her husband, Todd. Yet, after each negative pregnancy test, their hopes started to dwindle.
Just when they were about to give up, they were blessed with their baby boy. At that time, everything in their lives seemed perfect. Then on June 19, 2014, their whole world changed. Nash stopped breathing in his sleep and passed away.
Shelly and Todd suffered an unimaginable loss. Rather than letting their depression consume them, however, they created an international movement. On the ninth of every month, along with a random act of kindness, they would hand out a card with their baby’s picture that read, “Have a Nash Day.”
The idea went viral on social media and millions of people participated.
Life Before the Grammy Awards
Shawn Corey Carter, more commonly known as Jay-Z, was born on December 4, 1970, in Brooklyn New York. Carter’s childhood was anything but easy. He and his three siblings were raised by their single mother and grew up in Marcy Projects, a dangerous neighborhood known for drugs and gang violence.
Carter tried to use his music as a way to escape from reality. Towards the end of 1999, his music was finally starting to get recognized. It was also around this time when Carter was arrested for stabbing a record executive.
After pleading guilty, he was able to walk away with just three years’ probation and a new perspective on life.
Surviving the Flames
Life always seems to hits in you in the face when you least expect it. Turia Pitt, an Australian supermodel, was living her best life when her world began to come crashing down.
In 2011, she was trapped in a grassfire. The tragedy left her body so severely burned that it took almost three years of hospital treatment to recover.
In the accident, she lost seven fingers and almost lost her will to continue living. However, she overcame her tragedy and dedicated her life to humanitarian work. Pitt now works with InterPlast, a non-profit organization that offers survivors a chance to receive life-changing reconstructive surgery.
From Banking to Buddhism
Just because a person may seem to have it all, doesn’t mean that they are content with their lives. For Emma Slade, it took an extremely traumatic situation of being held hostage in Indonesia for her to start reflecting on what she wanted to do with her life.
When she made it back home, she quit her career in finance to start training as a yoga teacher, which transitioned into her becoming a Buddhist nun. In 2015, she founded Opening Your Heart to Bhutan, a UK charity that helps special-needs children in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.
Shoot for the Moon
Danny Trejo, an Oscar-nominated actor, is known for playing tough-guy roles on the big screen. While many fans are used to seeing him portray a drug dealer or gang member, a lot of them might be surprised to know that he was actually once a gangster.
Trejo spent over ten years (collectively) in prison for various crimes including robbing a liquor store, selling drugs, and being involved in a shootout. Even after all of that, he was able to start over and make a new life for himself.
“I’d rather shoot for the moon and miss the starts than shoot for the gutter and make it,” said Trejo.
It’s Never Too Late to Follow Your Dreams
It can be easy to get stuck in a rut. After decades of doing the same routine every day, life may start to seem like it’s fizzling out. For Brad Gold, a 72-year-old restaurateur, it took getting laid off from his corporate senior management position to realize he wasn’t living his dream.
“I knew it was now or never to pursue my lifelong dream of owning my own restaurant,” said Gold. After a little luck and a lot of determination, he was able to open his own restaurant.
“Eighteen years later, we’re still here and doing better than ever. I’m eternally grateful for the layoff and the opportunity to pursue my dream,” said Gold.