In honor of Fair Lawn and Glen Rock’s high school graduations last night, TapInto had talked to Joan about reaching for the stars. She shares her very personal story in which she trudged through her own fears and came out a success.

Q. This is something many of us have heard, "reach for the stars, anything is possible," but when it comes to a personal dream, we tend to think it could never apply to us. We're not good enough, smart enough or fill-in-the-blank enough. Why would it apply to, well, just anyone?

Joan: I am living proof that anything is possible. To be doing the work that I am today proves that anyone can accomplish any goal with the right attitude, work ethic, and a few breaks.

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After graduating from college and embarking on a career in public relations, I got married and started a family. When I became pregnant with my first child, I made the decision to leave my job to care for my family. I had a second child and for the next 17 years, devoted all of my time and attention to them. They were my entire world and I didn’t do anything to take care of me.

Q. This is quite common. I would venture to say this happens to many women. How can this become unhealthy?

Joan: Along the way, I lost myself. I had no idea who I was or what I was capable of. My brain turned to mush. I can’t blame anyone else for what happened to me because I permitted it, maybe even caused it. I got so involved in giving to others with nothing expected in return, that it got easy for everyone else to take. But, one day, I realized that there was nothing left in me. I was depleted and had little left to give.

Q. How did you move forward?

Joan: In an attempt to replenish my supply, I decided that I needed to expend some time and energy on me. However, when I did this, my husband didn’t like the changes. I guess looking at it from his perspective, I was changing the rules that I created and my world wasn’t 100 percent about him. He didn’t like it and that began our downward marital spiral.

The problem was, I knew that if I went back to the way life was, I wouldn’t survive. I needed to make some changes, whether he liked it or not. Something needed to be about me!

So, I decided to embark on a personal journey. I had an idea for a business and went for it!

Q. How do you start working on that dream, on you? What is a first step?

Joan: You have to make the decision that it is really what you want. It can’t be a ‘this is what I want to do until something else comes up’ decision, because you will not be willing to do what is required, 100 percent.

It is not easy to stay on course. You will have obstacles and naysayers who will try to stop you. But, if it is a REAL decision, you will forge ahead, no matter what.

Q. When the negative thoughts come into your head, what do you do?

Joan: In the beginning, that was all I had, negative thoughts. After being out of the workforce for 17 years and with my emotional state, I did not believe in myself at all. I felt stupid, had no self-esteem, and was really beaten up. I thought everyone else was smarter than I, and that they deserved it more than I did.

But, I wanted to achieve my goal more than I wanted to stop. So…I forged ahead. I became the Energizer bunny and kept going and going and going. I stopped listening to myself and before long, every accomplishment started to chip a little bit away from my limiting beliefs. I used my achievements to replace my negative thoughts with more positive ones about myself.

Believe me, it is not an overnight job and it never ends. To this day, I have limiting beliefs about my abilities and work, but I push them away. I no longer listen to that part of me. It’s a choice and it’s hard work.

Q. How do you handle it when people around you don't believe in you? 

Joan: I ignore them. When I started pursuing my dream and vision, my husband told me that everyone was laughing at me and that I was making a fool of myself. There were 99 out of 100 people supporting me and cheering me on, but his was the sole voice I heard. It almost broke me. But, I realized that if I paid attention to him, it would destroy my work.

I learned that him putting me down was more about him than it was me.

There are many people out there who would like to see you fail. It’s usually coming from a place of jealousy or because they have something missing in their life. Happy people don’t wish bad things on others, they support others. I stopped internalizing what naysayers and critics say. Once you come to that realization, it gets easier.