Vickroy: High school librarian shares her bootstraps story
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @dvickroy March 22, 2013 6:14PM
In her book "Releasing Your Story," author Ann Marie Bryant helps women interpret events in their lives and hone in on change. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 31, 2013 12:41PM
Ann Marie Bryant was sitting on a $1 sofa she had bought at an auction when she first realized she had hit bottom.
She was broke, getting by on welfare, stuck in a bad marriage, trying to care for two small children and worried her cancer would come back.
“It was a very difficult time, mentally, physically and emotionally,” she said.
How Bryant — now the learning resource center director at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Ill. — had sunk so low is an important chapter in her life. How she pulled herself out is even more significant.
Today, she holds two master’s degrees and is the author of a book, with a second in the works.
But more than celebrate her success, the Valparaiso resident is determined to help others, particularly women, find their way out of demise.
“With all the gloom and doom of the economy — unemployment and foreclosures — I now think about how lucky I have been to overcome things,” she said. “I have a story to tell and I can help others.”
Her story begins in Dolton, Ill. As the only child of an Ecuadorian immigrant, she grew up wearing designer clothes.
“I had a charmed childhood,” she said. “I remember going to school wearing $200 shoes in the ’80s.”
She attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, all the while her sights set on a bright future. She went on to college and earned a degree in Spanish education.
And then her life took a 180.
She married impulsively, couldn’t find a teaching job. She got pregnant.
When she was pregnant with her second child, who is just 14 months younger than her first, her doctor noticed a lump in her throat.
She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
After the baby was born, Bryant underwent radioactive iodine therapy, a treatment so toxic she wasn’t able to touch her children for weeks after.
It was tough but it worked. She is 17 years cancer-free.
Though Bryant didn’t want to go into details regarding her bad marriage and the time she spent getting by on welfare, she said everything came to a head right after she bought that $1 sofa.
“I had two small children, and right then I decided to stop being a victim and get myself out of this mess,” she said.
Her journey toward a new life began with self-revelation and honesty.
“I ultimately had to release several stories about myself in order to break through my own glass ceiling and make a way for myself and my family,” she said.
She landed a part-time job as a children’s librarian, borrowed some money from family and got herself into graduate school. She also got a divorce and since has remarried.
“Since then I have earned two master’s degrees, one in library science and the other in clinical mental health counseling,” she said. “I am financially secure in a career that I love.”
Now, she said, she feels compelled to share her experiences as well as her hope. Her process is aimed at women who can’t see the opportunities for the obligations in their life.
“We’re so consumed by all the things we have to do in a day that the thought of taking on something more, something big, is just overwhelming,” she said.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Through her workbook-like paperback, “Releasing Your Story: A Path to Rediscovery,” Bryant helps women interpret events in their lives and hone in on change. The book is available for $24.95 online at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Bryant is also the founder of passionisthekey.com, through which she offers skills and resources to women who want to get out of their stressful rut.
It is amazing what can be accomplished when people release self-defeating thoughts that have been holding them back, she said.
“Although I am proud of my accomplishments, I do not believe they are out of the ordinary,” she said. “Anyone can improve their life.”