This is a first person account of former television journalist in Trinidad, Ann Marie Ganness, speaking about her journey from dark nights to brighter days My name is Ann Marie Ganness and I’m a Caribbean woman on a mission to live a purpose-filled life. Five years ago or even a year ago I was not at this place in my life. I was spiritually and emotionally broken and disillusioned with life. As I write this piece, I’m sitting in my office on the 19th floor of the Waterfront Complex in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and looking out at the spectacular view. The twinkling city lights seem to be telling me, “Yes, you are alive, you are in the place you need to be and, yes, there is endless beauty in the world.” Recently, a friend and I were discussing our life journeys and how far we had both come. I said to my friend: “I’ve finally realized that I’m a spiritual being having a life experience instead of it being the other way around.” This realization has changed my life; it has brought me from a place of discontentment and unhappiness to one of peace and acceptance. Those who know me as “the TV girl” may wonder, “What does she need to be discontented or unhappy about?” Well, we tend to have two lives – the one we project to the world and the one we look at in the mirror every day. As a well known former TV journalist in Trinidad, the first image was the one I focused on. Then one day I looked in the mirror and finally understood that no matter how we try to fool ourselves and other people, the only way to happiness is to admit our faults, to throw caution to the wind and to trust in the power and magnificence of our own souls. I was born in the city of San Fernando in South Trinidad in 1974. I spent the first few years of my childhood with my grandparents and aunts and uncles in the remote district of Princes Town. My family is from a generation of sugar cane plantation workers and my great grandparents came to Trinidad and Tobago from India as indentured labourers. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to university, so starting at 17 years of age, I worked various jobs. However, I had a burning desire to become a TV journalist and nothing would keep me from fulfilling that dream. My break came in 1992 at the age of 18, when I started working with a radio station as a very inexperienced news reporter with no formal education or training. I worked very hard, studying my craft long after work hours and on weekends. Over the years I rose in my profession, winning several awards regionally and locally for excellence in journalism, among them the prestigious Luminary Of Journalism. I was also a TV news anchor and eventually began lecturing in journalism, which I still do up to today. Journalism was a springboard to launch me into communications and media consultancy, travelling the region and servicing several multinational companies. Twenty-one years later, I did what I originally set out to do: I made my parents proud, provided for them financially, and became the proverbial “feather in their cap”. However, my journey had only just begun. There were dark days when I had to repeatedly tell myself, “I will not die.” I have had so many doors closed in my face professionally that I have lost count. I was repeatedly criticized in my early adult years and laughed at for being “backward” and for being a “nobody”. Some of my own relatives saw me as someone who would “never be anything in life”. Even grade school teachers were convinced of this and one even said it to me: “You won’t go very far”. The breakdown of my marriage and eventual divorce brought me close to that point of giving up on life but I eventually found comfort in the knowledge that there was a reason for the heartache. Someone asked me recently: “What was the turning point? What changed?” The despair got to the point where I eventually said to myself: “No more, I can’t continue.” One night in 2010, I was lying on the couch in a haze of utter despair. I was dozing off and I had one of those experiences I so often read about and saw in the movies. A voice distinctly said to me: “I will lift you up on wings of eagles and they will know that I have done this.” I knew then that a power far greater than anything you or I can comprehend is walking with us every day, every step of the way. I understood that even though I would be faced with challenges it would be okay because I had a purpose to fulfil in my life. After that epiphany, I decided to end my marriage in April 2011, left Florida and came back to Trinidad and Tobago, determined to start over, with nothing to my name. I gave up on a United States residency and citizenship and decided that I would return to Trinidad and Tobago to help my Caribbean people. It was such a difficult transition, getting used to life in the Caribbean once again. However, once I stopped comparing Trinidad with the United States, everything fell into place. I was determined to make it and I knew how I was going to do it. I would channel the awful experiences into something positive and I would use my life story and insights to inspire others, especially women. I want to tell them that it’s okay, even if you lose yourself, you can find it again, just like I did. I have never felt more at peace than I do right now. Before I lived my life for so many years to please others, to be the perfect daughter, wife, friend and professional. I never really owned up to who I really was. My life changed when I started being true to myself. What matters is that I live my life with integrity and respect. I’ve realized that women especially so often lose themselves in people and situations. We lose touch with who we really are and when that happens we begin to accept less than we deserve. When I understood that I deserve the best because of nothing else other than I’m a unique spiritual being, that was the day that I began to experience life in a new and wonderful way. In my lifetime I’ve counselled persons with eating disorders and HIV, as well as rape victims and even people with drug addictions. There is a common thread I shared with all of these people. We all felt at one time there was no way out. But I’m here today to tell you that you have to find the inner strength to climb out of the pit, the drive to reach out to your faith and believe deep in your soul that you are powerful beyond measure. Despite the uncertainty of the future, every morning I wake up I say thank you to God and to the universe. I remember those words I heard in 2010: “I will lift you up on wings of eagles and they will know that I have done this.” Even if you don’t feel it right now, there is a force far greater than any of us can understand, a spirit ready and waiting to “lift you up on wings of eagles”.