by Kim Hoertz
I am a mother of four. I am a working professional. I work as a CPA in my day job and as a realtor after hours, as a way to give back to my friends and family. From the outside, it may look like I have it all together. However, this is far from the truth of the journey I have traveled over the past fifteen years of my life. My journey, the uphill battle, the nightmare, the insane hell that I went through is why I am here today. I desperately needed an outlet to share my story in hopes that one, maybe just one, person would receive hope or inspiration from my experience and feel empowered to make their own change.
I Grew Up Normal
I grew up in a somewhat normal household. We were a white middle-class family. I have two brothers and a sister. My mom and dad were very involved in our lives. I was raised Catholic and attended private school from kindergarten through college. I was a very high achiever in all that I did, whether academics or athletics, at my all-girls high school. I wanted to always please everyone. I had a high GPA throughout high school and ended up receiving an athletic cross-country scholarship to the University of San Diego. Everything from the outside looking in appeared as if I had it all. It seemed I had the perfect life.
The truth was, I thought I did have a great childhood. However, none of the normalcy of my upbringing really prepared me for the reality of what my life turned out to be over the next two decades.
I was Numb
I married young and became a compassionate mother, a successful professional, and a devoted wife. However, I felt numb for fourteen years of my life and couldn’t comprehend why. I had been conditioned to stay “crazy-busy” as an armor for numbing and hoped that the truth of how I was feeling would never catch up with me. I now want to take a time-out and allow myself to welcome a very vulnerable state. I want to bring transparency to the issues I lived through, instead of hiding from them, in hopes that it may provide inspiration to others.
From the outside, we seemed to have it all. The million-dollar home in a gated community, nice cars, four beautiful children, two extremely successful careers, and the “white picket fence.” However, all of that was the biggest façade for what was hidden behind closed doors. From my perspective, my reality was a life of isolation, desolation, and abuse on every level. It was a life vacant of compassion, transparency, integrity, and empowerment.
It took me hitting absolute rock bottom to find my why and renewed purpose. I remember the day. I locked myself in my dark master bedroom closet—as I regularly did to escape the pain so my children would not see me bawling. I was on my knees, then curled up in a ball with tears gushing down my face, to the point where I had difficulty catching my breath. I knew there had to be a better life for me. I couldn’t stay on this path that was mentally, physically, and emotionally destroying me. I was weak, frail, and in despair but had to find a way to get out. It was at this desolate place that I asked God the question, “Why? Why me? Why do I have to go through this?”
The next day, on May 3, 2017, not even four months after my fourth baby was born, I received a phone call that would change my life forever. I now had all the facts, and I needed to figure out a way to leave that life that I had endured for the past decade and a half. From that point forward, I knew this was the answer to prayer that I had asked for so long. I now knew that I needed to focus on my purpose. My why.
However, even though I knew the answer was to exit my marriage, the nightmare of my divorce battle for the next three years was something that I never could have imagined. Below is just one excerpt that articulates the raw, genuine emotion that was taken from one of the first days I negotiated a temporary settlement for my children’s custody. I start as this introduction to bring transparency to the type of feelings one may feel while fighting through a divorce. As you will find out, my situation is somewhat extreme. However, I do believe that there is a lot of commonality among anyone going through a divorce or in an abusive relationship. No one ever dreams or thinks that they will end up where I was. Never.
“How did I end up here? I found myself sitting, starting at blank white walls, isolated from everyone and everything that I have come to know. I am waiting to hear what my future holds for myself and my innocent children in a dark quarantined courtroom. What world do we live in where a complete stranger is trying to negotiate on the behalf of me and my children? No one but me is able to see the light for my children and what is truly in their best interest. I am in survival mode since over the last several months I have barely been able to keep my head above water. However, God has given me the strength to be able to think 5 steps of this insanity to try and pave a way for my 4 beautiful babies. I am determined they will have a future of hope, innocence, and success to overcome this historical cycle of abuse.”
Over the past three years, I have been diagnosed with PTSD, been through intense counseling, spent over $200,000 on lawyers’ fees, and was dragged in and out of court defending myself. However, now I stand stronger than I ever thought was possible. Countless hours and monetary possessions have been stripped away from me, but none of that matters. The chokehold my past had on me has been torn away. I have been given a second chance in life. Now I live a life driven with purpose, passion, and authenticity. I have found new purpose.
My past is not one that I would ever have imagined for myself, nor wished upon my worst enemy. I had a very faith-based upbringing with high values and morals but was simply living my life for others. I have realized this life is too short not to live and feel what we have been given or what we have built. I want to live out my own truth.
I recently attended a leadership conference in which it all became so clear to me as to why I am here, why I am craving to share this, why my story matters. One of the videos that we watched was based on a book written by Richard Leidre, titled “Becoming Purposeful.” Richard Leidre stated that purpose is not a luxury. Purpose is fundamental to health, happiness and healing. Purpose is pushed by pain or pulled by possibilities. Which led me to my calling: Building a business to empower, educate, and elevate others to make their own “graceful exit.” Whether that exit is from an abusive relationship, unfulfilling career, or something that simply causes unhappiness.
I am now devoted to turning my pain into my purpose. I am becoming purposeful by blazing a path to making a difference through a life dedicated to and for others. I am responsible for leaving this legacy for not only my children but for myself. I will not let the past define me rather, I will learn from it, teach from it, and inspire from it.
I have found a greater purpose and mission in life and no one can take this calling away from me. I have never felt so secure, confident and proud of who I am. I have been incredibly blessed to have an unbelievable support system to get me through my purely exhausting experience. But I too have worked so hard to be where I am today. I have never taken the easy path in life. I have been through absolute hell and have had to figure out a way to fight for myself. I found the courage to get out of a dark relationship and walk into light.
Power of One
It is incredible how the power of one person can change your life forever. It only takes one person to influence, to uplift, to encourage, to empower, or to spark to change in another. I mustered the utmost courage and chose to share my journey with transparency, vulnerability and most importantly, grace. I could easily share my nightmare from a very dark, hurtful, and emotional place. However, I have young children who will one day hear my truth. I want to be able to look them in the eye and say, “I did my best and I did it with grace.” I want to be a power of one. I know with my whole heart that this is only the beginning for me. I am forever grateful in finding this group of fellow women to support and to believe me and in my journey. I sincerely hope to be that power of one to someone.
The Graceful Exit
This business, The Graceful Exit, was built from the pillars that I lived without for so long: Rooted with integrity. Building trust. Fostering transparency. Inspiring independence. Owning your truth. A more educated generation…through our voices. With these pillars as the focus of my life and business, I now finally have the strength to write my story. I hope to inspire the next generation of girls and women that walk after me to live out their authentic truth and find their own unique strength within. And I hope that I may empower, educate, and encourage anyone who wishes to make a graceful exit from anything in their life that is holding them back from feeling happiness and joy.