July's Person of Inspiration, Iman Dean, "Living In The Light"

At first glimpse of my social media, it’s difficult to imagine things were ever any different. In fact, sometimes I look in awe at what great blessings God has given me over the years.

Battling depression, plagued with obesity, and completely lost, is where I found myself sometime in 2011 when I finally cleared the fog. And yet the story doesn’t start there.

I remember a time, maybe around the age of four, when my poppa picked me up from the doorstep where I had fallen asleep fully clothed, awaiting my dad’s arrival. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, as I would often fall asleep waiting for one of my parents to pick me up.

This may have been the first feeling of abandonment and not being good enough. Those feelings would overtime manifest deeper as I bounced from my grandma’s in New York, to my Great Grandma in North Carolina, to my aunt’s in Virginia, to my Mom in California, back to my Great Grandma in North Carolina then to my dad in New York. And yet, that wouldn’t be my last stop. We eventually landed in Florida, my last move before running away at the age of sixteen.

I moved so much I could never really attach myself to anyone or anything. I grew up feeling there must be something wrong with me because no one wants me. Dramatic? Maybe? But you’re talking about a baby whose emotional intelligence was constantly changing based on the environment I was in at the moment. If nothing else I was groomed to be the most adaptable person you will ever meet.

Anyhow, I ran away because I was tired of putting my trust and life in the hands of those who were supposed to protect me. I felt I was tough enough to face the world on my own- I mean what can be worse than being the product of teenage parents, who were growing up while trying to raise a child and making every textbook mistake imaginable? I had this.

So, I thought…

The short but real version — no one could have prepared me for what life would swing my way — sixteen, with a high school education, a couple hundred dollars and no resources. Figure that.

While I wanted to finish high school, it was hard to walk the halls with people who were only my peers in age. I was working three jobs and trying to finish high school with no one. Yet again, abandoned.

I eventually dropped out, got a GED and enrolled in community college. Funny thing, I always enjoyed school and with all the chaos of my life, my dad was adamant about my getting an education. He would always say, “be better than me, be the first to break the cycle. Live up to your name, you are a leader”.

Sixteen would turn to seventeen and the next thing I knew I was actually a “legal adult”. The whole time I plowed through, ensuring I didn’t become a statistic and the poster-child of what being a teenage runaway with a GED looked like.

Remember that part about feeling abandoned? Well, it showed up several times over the years. I was now raising myself and learning how to be a woman at that same time. The need to be wanted, have a steady life, and a family of my own showed up in both friendships and partnerships that have not been the healthiest for my soul.

One by one a series of men who were also in pursuit of their own evolution would cross my path, however, I could never maintain a relationship. In my development I found myself conforming to be the "perfect woman" for each of them but it would always lead to a dead-end. Eventually, the insecurities would set in - what is wrong with me? Am I not smart enough? Pretty enough? Skinny enough? Am I being judged for past mistakes? I was in a constant battle with myself while clamoring for my own success.

Fast forward, some time in 2007, I had a bitter breakup and lost my job all in the same week. The black cloud was cast. I became introverted and reclusive, which consequently turned into depression. I was on top of the world. By this time, I had made a name for myself. My career path was visible, and I was no longer running from life. So, I thought. I went from running the hottest restaurant in Harlem and dating an awesome guy to hiding my car from repossession, single, packing on the pounds and pushing away the friends I had left.

By my own estimation the depression was there at least four years before I was able to identify it and look myself in the mirror. I had gained 80 pounds in a little less than four years, sabotaged relationships with friends/family and somehow tricked myself into believing that I was taking time to get to know me.

But who knew? I settled into a new gig and growing what would later become a successful event planning company. Besides the extra pounds, I hid it all behind a smile because I was that adaptable. I had adapted to my own pain and those close to me didn’t even know.

The day I looked myself in the mirror for real was the day I decided to release all the hardship brought on by being the product of teenage parents. Cast away all the struggle of fighting my way through life to avoid becoming what so many thought I would be. Forgive all who betrayed my love and devotion. I wanted to learn to love all my enemies because they did not see past this young child trying to elevate and come into her own. I wanted to live again and the only way to do that was to fix myself from the inside out.

So, I took the first step, and that was sitting on a sofa with boxes of tissue purging and getting to the root. My routine consisted of morning workouts and evening therapy sessions for nearly a year. I started dragging myself out of bed when all I wanted to do was hide in a dark room. I started to open my eyes to my true support system and most of all I started to believe that I did not have to be a prisoner to my past and I could actually live the life God intended for me.

And I did!

I eventually lost a total of 100 pounds, got real with my mental health and started living in the light. I started making my own rules and only allowed the positive energy of others around me. My sisterhoods became stronger, my relationship with my parents became authentic but most of all my place with God was established.

My living in the light eventually opened my heart to real love… In 2015 after the healing I was able to see what real love looked like. The man God intended me to have showed up when I was actually ready to love him the right way by loving myself first.

Since our meeting, I’ve conquered things I never thought imaginable all the while he was by my side. He showed me that real love is synonymous with support and never giving up. His love is so strong that after 15 years in my New Jersey apartment and 20 years to the date that I ran away from home, I moved to Chicago to continue to grow our love. However, this time I didn’t show up with a book-bag full of knickknacks and a prayer, I showed up with a U-Haul and a plan.

As you can imagine the story is so much deeper than the words written, but I hope the message is just as profound.

Things happen in everyone’s life - some more tragic than others. We battle abuse, addiction, loss, failure, shame, and regret. Through it all, fighting the only person who has the ability to pull you though it all -YOU!

We must remember that no matter how great the impact - if you desire change, it must start with you first. No trainer, doctor, or individual can make the choice for you to be happy. Only you can make the decision to be who you want to be.

About Iman

Powerful and passionate with big dreams, Iman Dean always had a knack for the events planning industry. The Tampa, FL native has been honing her skills from childhood in her parents kitchen, to working for some of the top chefs in the industry like Jean George and Mario Batali.

Strong-willed, ambitious and dedicated are just three words to describe this powerhouse of a business woman. Her motto is fall seven, standup eight and she is no stranger to breakdown as many doors needed to not only be successful in an industry not really touched by woman but to bring perfectly curated events to the people who follow her.

"There is no door too heavy or event too big!"

-- Iman

Website: www.sweetpotatodiaries.net

Instagram: @mssweetpotato

Facebook: Iman Dean


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