Caren Bright bravely shares her incredible story. As a child, she suffered from abuse, poverty, and neglect from her mother. Finally, Caren became homeless as a teenager and single mother herself. She describes how she went and climbed out of poverty to start her profit and coaching program to help women achieve their dreams. It is a fantastic story that reminds us that we can overcome any brick thrown at us!
Ari: Welcome to Whispers and Bricks. My name is Ari Schonbrun. I’m your host. I have with me today Caren bright. This is a woman who I have been so excited about hosting on my show. She’s got an incredible, incredible story a
little bit about her background. Caren bright is an author, speaker, executive life slash trauma coach and nonprofit consultant, who’s on a mission to empower high performing women in reaching greater levels of performance. After overcoming poverty and past trauma herself. Caren started pamper Lake Highlands, now called Bright Futures for women and children, a highly successful nonprofit that AIDS women and children in breaking the cycle of poverty. It was her work at Bright Futures for women and children, also known as BF for WC, that served as the catalyst for wanting to empower high performing women who have experienced trauma in reaching greater levels of performance. She recognized that the principles she was using in her life and teaching when in poverty could be used by any woman wanting to do more and achieve more, which is when Bright Futures was born. Please help me welcome Caren bright. Caren, how, how are you? Thank you so much for having me on. I’m doing really well. That’s great. You’re looking good, you’re looking to work.
as you know, the name of this podcast is whispers in bricks, the whispers of those voices telling us what the right thing to do is and represent the good in life. And the bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life. And let’s be real, everybody has some bricks thrown at them at some point in time or another. Some are bigger bricks, some are smaller bricks, some are more bricks, less bricks, but that’s part of life. And we just have to deal with it. Now the reason I asked you to be on the show as because after I spoke to you, and you told me your story, I knew that there were people in my audience who are going through some of the things same things that you were going through, they had been hit with brick after brick, much like what you have gone through and they needed to hear and to know that they could get through the trials and tribulations, the same way that you did. They needed to know that there were whispers out there that could save them. Now, before we begin, let me ask you this. When you were a little girl, you had hopes and dreams, what were they?
Caren: As a little girl, I desired to be a speaker and an author and a missionary that traveled the world. Wow. Okay, we’re gonna put them in the back of our minds, because we’re going to come back to that a little bit later. Because we’re gonna, you know, we’re gonna talk about your life, you had many bricks thrown at you from being fourth generation poverty. You know, it’s so funny to say that because you know, people say, Oh, I’m third generation American. Seventh Generation is so dumb. Nobody ever said to me, Oh, I’m fourth generation poverty. But you’re a brave woman. And you came up and you stood up and you told us you told me what your life was all about. Not my hat’s off to you. My audience is going to love this. But So you went from fourth generation poverty to a mother who was abused to to a mother who was abused and then became abusive. A mother was married and divorced a times you became homeless, you are a single parent, and the list goes on. Now, can you take us back to the early troublesome years? And tell us a little bit about your your early story?
Ari: Can we there’s a part in there that I’m not abusive, and I wasn’t married and your mom was?
Caren: Yeah, I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear. No, not you. You weren’t abusive. You had a mother who was abusive. Yes. Who was hurt. You had a mother who was abused and in turn was abusive to you? Yes. Not you know, you. You we love. We love. Okay, so good. So yeah, I again, like you said, fourth generation poverty and my mother had experienced a lot of abuse as a child specifically from her father. And then I think just that abuse kind of distorted her thought process and the way she developed she then had mental illnesses and then raised a bunch of children without the healing.
She was constantly seeking right looking for someone to I think, heal her and fix her. So that led to Marriage Divorce.
Marriage Divorce because she wasn’t well enough to hold a marriage, right? So she just kept thinking, Oh, it was not that man. He just couldn’t fix me. I need to search for another one. And that led to eight marriages and divorces. Wow. Wow. Okay, so what happened? What’s your story? Okay, so with her illnesses, I was raised in an environment that was very toxic and abusive. And the message was constantly Like, who do you think you are? And my reply was always to be I’m nobody. So that message was, I mean, the language as early as I could talk, I remember repeating back, I’m nobody at such a young age. And my first memory of life was her drowning me in a bathtub, because I overflowed the toilets. And in this way, that she took time to watch the bathtub fill Like, it wasn’t like the bathroom was already filled with water, like she had to take time to turn the water on, let it fill up and then put me in. And I think I could just imagine or can’t imagine the amount of rage that was inside her that it wouldn’t subside over the bathtub filling.
Ari: How old were you? I was three. And it’s my first conscious memory in life. Oh, my God. So did she pull you out? Did you come ahead?
Caren:Yes, great question. So I just remember feeling and experiencing all of it. I remember gasping for air and then remembering nothing until age five. I hear that I passed out and she had called Social Services on ourselves. And I went into foster care. And then they gave me back to her in about a year that she hadn’t healed her brain. So I was put back into the same environment of broken and abusive woman. And so that just kept happening. And then we were very transient. So she moved 31 times and of course of about 10 years, 31 times 31 times. So she was in poverty. So what she would do is she would get a new apartment, it wasn’t like credit scores like it is now right? You find a place that was renting. She’d move in with the maybe deposit not and then they would take 90 days to evict you when you didn’t pay. So she’d move in and not pay, get evicted. Move to another place. And so we just hopped all over Cleveland, Ohio.
Ari:Yeah. Wow. Wow.
All right, what happened next? How long? Yeah, last?
Caren: So I think from moving around so much. I wasn’t really able to gather education. Right. I’d failed first. Kindergarten. I’m sorry. And then I failed my lottery twice. Oh, hold on. Hold on. You failed. Kindergarten. I fail. I Caren. Yeah. How do you fail kindergarten? What you didn’t get it? fingerpainting. You You got an F and fingerpainting.
We I just missed so much school, I think and I just I didn’t know the things that you needed to get to first grade. Right? Thank god. Okay. social and emotional development that you need wasn’t there. And so I was, you know, held back then. And then I that I was always playing catch up. I was always behind with failing grades. Because the message was always that I was a failure. Right.
And I wanted to do better. I just didn’t know how to make my brain do better. So then I had failed ninth grade twice. And when I dropped out of high school at a sixth grade reading comprehension
and was put out of the house and sent into a world with like nothing in my toolbox. Right. I I was told I was not worth anything. I was unlovable, and I was a failure. And those messages was all I had to go out into the world with.
Ari So yeah, I found some very last places on that. And you’re so you’re about 17 when this is going on. Mm hmm. Yeah, God 17 You’re you’re you’re thrown out of high school. Alright, sixth grade level reading comprehension. Mom shirt. Mom throws you out of the house.
Did you survive?
Caren: Yeah. So I was living couch to couch.
And I ran into some people who said that they could take care of me. And then I was kind of led into trafficking for about a year from 17 to 18.
It wasn’t like trafficking with drugs is trafficking with trafficking with like, you know, sometimes some people traffic people, they get them on drugs and they kidnap them for this. It was one of the we’ll take care of you and we have a way out for you and you just come work for us and we will help you so that way you can see
survive. And so I think, you know, after being trafficked for about a year, then from 18 to 19, I chose a life of prostitution. Because that was my worth, right? Like I was told as a failure, I had no skills. And so then I, of course, the next course would be like, of course, I stay on this course. And I did that until age 19.
But it never sat well, with me, it was so like, horrible. And it was still I was still in poverty, I still never knew where my next meal was coming from, because it take all my money. And as I was just lost in this world of like, I wanted more. But I didn’t have the word self esteem, tools, education, family or support, to be able to get more. But I did have an internal dialogue that said, get out and keep seeking.
Ari: And it was at that point in time, so these were the bricks that you are getting hit with all over the place. And then you had that little whisper that said, No, my dreams are to be a speaker to be an author.
And it just permeated within you. And then yeah, and what happened next was,
Caren: okay, I’m homeless, I don’t have any money, I don’t have any skills. I don’t have a high school diploma, I don’t have a vehicle, I don’t have a house.
I don’t have a family. And so I’m just kind of hopping from couch to couch. And in that place, I became like a servant to the people who allow me to stay on their couch, I would cook for them and clean for them and watch their children not in an affluent area, we are all impoverished, like they’re living in their section eight housing and their food stamps. So it’s all just transient in a broken place. And then I find out, I’m pregnant. And so I want so much more. I don’t know how to get it. I remember living in a house with they were
addicted to crack, and it was abusive in that house. And I was watching their five children, and the wife stabbed her husband in front of my now little baby who’s 11 months old. I remember saying like, okay, like, I left that life. And I’m in this life of just living in these with these people who are addicted to drugs, because they’ll open their couch, because then they can do their drugs while I watch their kids. So but I had to protect my little one from seeing the things that I saw as I grew up, and that was this abuse and dysfunction. And so I went to a homeless shelter,
and lived, you know, in a homeless shelter for a while. And then in my car. And then I got $425 A month and a welfare check. And some food stamps. So I found a house in these Cleveland, that was $425 a month. And so my whole welfare check was there, I don’t have a car, and I have these food stamps. But I still have utilities and diapers and things to pay and need bus passes. So I sell most of the food stamps. So we live off basically ramen noodles, and what’s called Little hugs, they’re those little fake drinks in a barrel.
It pay the lights and to have diapers for my child, still just longing for something more, but not knowing how I didn’t have the tools to get more but I kept seeking. I was a master at like government assistance, right? Like, I knew where to go to get shoes for Christmas and coats for the kids. And oftentimes I didn’t have socks, but sometimes you would have socks, presence, feminine hygiene products formula for the kids because I’d also have to sell my WIC in order to pay for diapers, it was just this constant like borrow from this to that. I remember standing outside of the gas station one time
there was a homeless man. And there’s me and I have my little boy in tow. And there’s a man coming out of the gas station, I just looked in the payphone, change return to see if there were any quarters and there weren’t. And as I looked up, the homeless man intersects the man that’s coming out. And the man opens his wallet and gives them $3. And I remember being so mad, like I missed the opportunity for $3 because $3 But I would be able to have enough ramen noodles and little hug drinks because about 10 cents apiece to feed my child for a few days. And that’s just kind of how we how we lived skills and I wanted more but they had this government program that said I will train you to be able to work a job as a cashier and customer service. So that was like my first step out. I thought, right but when I got that job, it removed a lot of my benefits. So it was like I was making, you know, $8 an hour, but I was losing the benefits that I received a month and I didn’t have data
care like, was always such a struggle like you want out of poverty. But the system is designed for learn helplessness or to keep you in poverty, because it’s designed, I think, from the top up, or from the top down rather from the bottom up, right? Someone who really experienced and understands the struggles of poverty and what it would actually take for a person to get out of it.
So what do I do? I run to a man, right? Oh, wait a minute, maybe a man convicts me. But I run to a man with the dialogue of my brokenness. So I only pick broken, right, two broken people broken together. I was used to being abused. Of course, I found an abuser. But he’d watched my kid. And then I had another child with him. And now to to all to get three all together three children all together, but two with him, and then this little boy that I got with him with. And I was like, he didn’t work. But he would stay home and watch my son while I worked. And so then that covered kind of the childcare issue. It was still very dysfunctional, but you kind of do what you have to do to survive. And I just kept seeking, and I took, like, got my GED. And then there was like, Oh, now I can actually, you know, work $8 an hour, learn the customer service job. And then they moved us out to Texas, because there was a job of Marriott. And they said, Hey, he was like getting a door to door salesman job, and I got a job at Marriott. And they said, you can come from Texas from Cleveland. And so that kind of was like the catalyst to the life that I lived. It was getting out of the environment and getting into something new. I moved to this really interesting neighborhood. I have two children at the time that it was all fluence and educated and impoverished. And the kids all went to the same school districts together. And my kids are great. And they liked my kids, their kids like my kids. So then they started inviting us into their home. So I got to see a window of like a life that I hadn’t experienced. They were educated, they were setting goals, they were part of the kids education system. And then they started using their network to connect me to healing. So one person was like, Hey, I have a forensic psychiatrist who would give you free counseling. And then another was like, I know, like, I’m going to pay for you to go to get to college to get more post secondary education training. So all these people began to rally around us and teach me the things that I didn’t know. And then there’s something interesting about a person who’s experienced trauma and poverty. They’re constantly scanning the room. And so what my brain would do was just, like, assess, what are they doing different. And I would just pull in what I observed, oh, they set goals, they didn’t know that they were teaching and goal setting. But I was learning how to set goals and create vision and manage my time well, and how to parent better. And so as I was around them, I gathered all these things that I didn’t have in my toolbox, and began to apply them to my own life and in my own children in my own family.
So then I keep going to school keep like growing, I’m getting straight A’s. I remember failing forever. And on my GED, I placed 99 percentile in math and science, and 89 percentile in English and writing. Like it was the first time that I was told I was smart. Like that. I’m told I was smart. When always told I was dumb. I just needed a little bit, just a little bit of fuel to get me to actually step into smartness. I think the beautiful thing with us as people is like, we do not know the power that we have within us to be able to empower other people. These people have no clue the the seeds that they were planting, they were just being kind. They were just opening the door. And they were just sharing love and kindness with us in through that it allowed a place of healing. And so the power of people is just magnificent. Wow. So about when did you finally like get above water? Mm hmm. So after I’d say,
you know, eight years of therapy at that time, and all the education and then I’m at a place where I was like, I was working as a waitress and Highland Park. It’s this place in Dallas, and I was making enough money to pay the bills. And I began to have this stirring in me that said, Hey, I had the secrets to break the cycle of poverty. Like I’m still in school. No, I’m seeking my purpose. I’m writing my first book. And I was like, I felt led I feel you know, some people call it the universe. Some people thought I feel it’s God, like I felt led to drive to use my experiences to help empower others. And so I started the nonprofit I just created this org that was like, hey, a big barrier for families and poverty is they don’t have childcare and a big barrier for children is they go in not
Ready for Kindergarten. If you’re not ready, then you you’ve entered, not ready and you leave not ready, right. And if we can provide the childcare, and really rally around the mothers and give them the education, the support the counseling, the things that they really need, instead of creating a place of learn helplessness, we can create a place of empowerment. And so all the years of climb out of poverty, it probably took me 15 years to climb out of that cycle of poverty, I and all the years of counseling, I kind of formulated into this recipe for poverty intervention. And so I had started the organization about seven years ago. And it was great, I was providing these great programs to the supportive community and other orgs that I knew they were missing something like, we can give them the content, but they’re missing these really important life skills. And so I created a curriculum that is like, how to vision for your life, how to set goals, how to properly manage your time, how to overcome obstacles, like teaching them the skills, because in poverty, those bricks or in life, those bricks are going to keep getting thrown at you. But if you could look at the brick as not a barrier, but just an obstacle, you can set an actual tangible goal around it. And so I began to teach about what goal setting really was and what it was like to Yeah, you want to be a doctor. And that sounds sweet. But what can you do to get a taste of it, right? Oh, you can get trained, and I’m full of autonomy, right, and then get a little bit of income that got you out of poverty, and then keep climbing the ladder to set bigger goals and more inspiring goals. So we did your purpose. And then I became a life coach and conflict management specialist. And so I use those skills like people are struggling with, like learning how to communicate properly and effectively with others. And if they could learn how to properly communicate, then collaboration happens, right. And when we rise together, we elevate each other right with collaboration, as a nothing was ever created on its own. You ever thought, but that thought can’t happen. I think if you already like with your with your podcast, you had experienced your experience. And it spurred something in you, that like led you to create this podcast. And in the podcast, you had the person who made the mic, right? You had the person who set the inner the internet up, you have all of your people who come and join alongside you. So your vision and our visions, they become ours, that they’re only activated when we properly collaborate with others. And so when I began to teach that, and it’s called Bright Futures, I said, I don’t like raising money, like I was great at creating the work. But if I was fully living in my bright future, what would I do? I would empower more leaders. Because if we can empower more leaders to do what they’re called to do, and their purpose, and help them get over their traumas of the past, then they can fully stand and the highest levels of leadership. And so yeah, that’s what I’m currently doing now is like, I create an exit plan from the org to empower more leaders. That is so amazing. I have it’s just, I There are probably millions of people out there who are probably were in your boat, and they’re probably sitting there wondering, how do I get how do I break the cycle? How do I break the cycle? And you’ve got, you’ve got the you’ve got the answer. Alright, and, you know, you should be, you know, you should be doing this all the time, you’ve got to get your message out. It’s very important. I mean, if you if you know how to do this, okay, you really, you know, how many people are stuck with a, you know, where they want to get out, but they just don’t know how, alright, and and it was, it was amazing when we finished the podcast, so I’m going to ask you to give your contact info, your email info, etc, and so forth. So but you also wrote a book, correct? And what’s what’s the name of that book? What’s that all about? So the name of the book is called I’ve written a few but the name of the first book is 50 dates at the board. And so for me 50 dates of the Lord. Wait for the Lord. Oh 50 Dads with the Lord. Yeah, did you? Did you have you had 50 dates with with God 100%. In that is what I found my purpose. Like, I had done all the education, right, I had gathered all these things and these skills, I have these great people that rallied around me, but I still missing something I was still seeking for more. And that’s when I began like my spiritual journey. And in that spiritual journey, I feel like really standing and asking the big questions of like, why do people suffer and why do you know like, I was a child, I experienced so much abuse and neglect and abandonment, like all these things, and and I wasn’t the only one like, why do we experience this and and in this journey, I was able to find like healing that I couldn’t find them there.
Right. It’s my faith journey. And in that is when I feel I was really led to my purpose and starting the organization
Ari:Wow, that’s that’s just,
that’s just so amazing. Yeah. Wow. So let me ask you this. And this is gonna be a tough question. I know it but who would you say in your life had the most the most effect on your life? And why?
Caren:It’s two people, two people. Yeah. Dr. Tom, he was the first therapist that I went to. And he, like I said, he’s passed away in the last few years. But he was a forensic psychologist, and he specialized in FBI profiling, and behavior analysis. Wow, he had a pro bono group, like, here’s this affluent, he charges 250 an hour. And he provided this pro bono group. And in that he was able to help rewire the brain. And then the second person is the therapist that I went to next, Audrey’s timely, and she like, she was a woman. And I’ve been so wounded by the mother wound and I felt so like oppressed, around, like, sunken around women. And she just joined me on my journey. And like, embrace me, I remember just supporting me as a woman. And we walked together for three years. And I found so much healing from both of them to be able then to be empowered to be who I am now. I could never have done it without those therapists and coaches. Wow. So let me let me just ask you one question. So what did I ask you earlier? But did you ever get to a point in your life, like so low, and you’ve been really low, but so low to the point where you said, You know what? I give up? I know, I had my dreams. But you know what? I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I’m giving up. Did you ever reach that point? If you did? Okay. How did you break out of that? How did you How did you know? How did your mind say? No, I’m not gonna do this is not me. The literally my first attempt at suicide is 810 10 years old. I couldn’t imagine like, my daughter is 15. And I remember when she turned 10, thinking, like, who thinks of that it’s such an age, right? And so I always had this feeling of like, I didn’t deserve live life was always going to be bad. Age 10, age 13, age 16, or attempted suicides. But then I had the kid so I had to hold things together, right. But June 26 2013, that’s actually when I began the book was the day I had a plan to end my life. I was like, I’d done all these things to fix myself. The GED, the E is like all these things, these programs counseling, but I still had this emptiness and this brokenness inside me. I was crying all the time. Like, I remember, my kids would knock on the bathroom door and say, Mom, come out of the bathroom. We’ve been crying for hours, like they were just in this home with his mother that was just so depressed. And that was when I did my call out to God, I was like, Hey, I can’t do this on my own. I’ve done everything I can, in my own power to be better. And I’m still so broken. And that’s when I felt like that journey was like, follow me. Take this next journey on your spirituality and faith. And that is what led me my purpose. Wow. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.
Ari: Wow. You know, you are an inspiration. You’re an inspiration to me.
I mean, it’s just I, you know, I look at that, I go, wow, you know, if you can do all that, oh, my god, anybody can do anything. That’s it’s just
something so important there. Like anyone can do anything. Our limited beliefs, because of our past traumas and our coping mechanisms and our defense mechanisms. There are bricks, right. And sometimes those bricks they stack so high, but I think like what you say like listen to the whisper, I It’s this road to contentment that we’re seeking, right? And instead of running and medicating from the discontentment and the pain, if we face it, and we allow ourselves to move the bricks one at a time, we become so strong and happiness, lifting each brick away from the wall and become so strong that we overcome it. And so I think it’s like letting yourself truly believe that no matter what you’ve been through, you have a purpose. You have a special place in this world. And you can you can get there if you allow the voice within or behind you and around you to keep empowering you to get to a bigger place the whispers just keep listening to the whispers Oh my god. Oh my god. All right, is is my last tough question for you. Is there anything that you’d like to share with my audience before
We go words of advice, words of wisdom, something that can help people 100% Its discontentment is a gift and allow discontentment in the unrest and the uncomfortable instead of running and instead of medicating, face it and allow it to do its job of discontentment as a compass. And it’s like, if you allow discontentment to lead you, it will lead you to the road of contentment. It will charge you to seek the healing that you need and to do the work to find your full purpose. Wow. Wow, truly words of wisdom truly.
Ari: So Caren, if people want to get a hold of you, what’s the best way to do that? Social media emails? Give me Give it all. So definitely Instagram it’s where I’m forming my platform right now. And my instagram handle is at ca ra n Caren with a C underscore bright b r i g h t. Caren underscore bright. And my websites which is
Caren: www.BrightFutures.comRight futures CB calm now, is it a CCO is your real name is your real your last name really bright? It is really bright.
There. It is called Bright Futures right? It’s bright futures coaching and training. So I am a life and trauma coach. It’s what I do for a living. And so it’s so cool that I’m allowed to have this awesome last name of bright and have a company named around it which is so powerful and who I am in life, which is helping people reach their bright futures. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Okay, so bright. futures.com Is that what it is? Bright Futures. cb.com cb Caren brights Yeah, the best way is Instagram which Instagram. Okay, everybody, right? Caren underscore bright on Instagram. So if anybody needs any help if you need some words of advice, words of wisdom, Caren is the person to go to she is your go to woman. She specializes in helping women, correct? Yes. But also high performing women high performing women. But she’ll talk to anybody. Basically, she’s always there to lend a helping hand. Caren, thanks so much for sharing your story with my audience. I’m sure that you’ve touched the hearts of many of my audience. Good luck going forward. Keep up the good work.
Ari: You’ve been listening to WhispersandBricks, and I’m your host, Ari Schonbrun Remember, if you feel like you’re stuck in the mud, like you’re spinning your wheels, wasting your time and your career, your business or your life. If you know you’re not enjoying all the success, satisfaction and significance that you desire. Then it’s time for you to book a call with me at call with ari.com Check out my whispers and bricks Coaching Academy. And until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.