— TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Your greatest personal demon can be your biggest blessing – that’s the message from Jeannette Walls, a best-selling journalist and author.
Walls, whose memoir, “The Glass Castle,” has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than four years, recalled the tough times in her life, such as growing up poor with irresponsible parents.
But she also shared how extreme difficulty can make a person stronger and can even be an advantage.
“I’m a fighter and a scrapper,” Walls told an audience at Indiana State University. That’s the benefit of her difficult childhood. “But there’s a downside.” The downside is believing you are unworthy, she said.
Walls told how, as a successful celebrity journalist in New York City, she was once horrified when she looked out of the window of her limousine to see her then-homeless mother fishing through garbage. Walls said that she worried people would learn of her mother’s condition, costing Walls her career and lifestyle.
Later though, Walls said she faced herself in the mirror and didn’t like who she saw. It was then she decided to write about her life and no longer hide from her “really weird” childhood.
“Life has a funny way of catching up with you,” she said.
Walls said she didn’t think anyone would read the book or like it. She also assumed it would bring her nothing but “shame and humiliation,” she said.
The opposite turned out to be true. Walls’ book has been translated into 22 languages and has sold more than 3.5 million copies. It is currently being made into a movie by Paramount.
“We’re all stronger than we realize,” Walls said.
Walls said an early dream for her book was that it would inspire a “rich” kid to treat a poor kid better. Then she dreamed her book would inspire a poor kid to believe in him or herself.
“The worst part about being poor is the shame,” Walls said.
Walls encouraged her audience to face their demons and turn them into strengths. If you can face the demons of your life and harness them, you can use them to your advantage, she said.
She also encouraged her audience to not fear failing. Fear of “falling” keeps some people from leading the lives of which they are capable, she said.
“There’s no shame in falling,” Walls said. “Pain is a very good teacher.”
Arthur Foulkes is a reporter for The Tribune-Star in Terre Haute, Ind. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.