The Shriver Report – How to Be Independent: Tips from a Woman who Broke Free

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How to Be Independent: Tips from a Woman who Broke Free

© Konstantin Yuganov –

Most of my blogposts have to do with the intangible or abstract qualities of the nature of independence. Today, I’m going to go out on a limb and share with you something intensely personal, in the hopes that it gives you an idea of what independence means for me.

Over the previous year and a half, I’ve met with a few nonprofit folks, learning from them and growing my understanding of what it means to more fully develop Women With Drive Foundation.

During one illuminating conversation with founder of the nonprofit Big Love Little Hearts, Estrella Rosenberg (@charityestrella on twitter), we discussed the concept of nonprofits as people – that is to say, how people associate the leadership of nonprofits as the drivers of the foundation. We went on to talk about how people wished to connect with the story of the foundation – the whys and the hows of its formation, mission and works.

Since then, I have thought a lot about what she had to say.

[Ahem]. It may seem laughable, considering that I have a digital footprint in several social media platforms, but I’m actually a pretty private person. However, in order to give my work real heft, “street cred” and authenticity, I feel that explaining the beginnings and evolution of the Women With Drive Foundation may underscore its importance, not only for me but the women whose lives we touch.

“There is no real security except for whatever you build inside yourself.” — Gilda Radner

I first read this quote in 1996. It was the point at which I could actually understand it. For much of my life, I transferred ownership of my independence and security to others: boyfriends, spouses, bosses…anyone but the person upon whom the responsibility rested (me). When I read this quote, I had been divorced for a few years and Gilda’s words galvanized me into action and henceforth accepting responsibility for my own choices. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I married a man because he asked me to.

I was very young, already mother to a toddler and felt as though I was “used goods.” I thought no man would want me, and so when someone asked me to marry him, decided that I had better say yes before he changed his mind. During the marriage ceremony, my soul gave one last ditch effort, hurling the equivalent of a mental “Hail Mary Pass” across my brain, shrieking, “What are you doing?!”

My answer to myself, “Everything’s paid for” (meaning the reception).

Everything is paid for.

I’ll say it was. I paid, and I paid again. It took seven years of my life to pay myself the interest on that decision. During those seven years, I had to face myself, do an assessment of where I was developmentally against what I was capable of achieving, and then take steps each day toward reaching my goals. Along the way, I had teachers and support helping me to develop skills and strengths, but ultimately, it was up to me to choose better for myself.

Women With Drive Foundation is the extension of my personal journey. I know what it’s like to be scared. I know what it’s like to feel that gnawing sense that you’re missing the mark – that you’re meant for greater things. And I also know that emancipating thrill of knowing that you’re where you’re meant to be.

“You cannot borrow security. You must invest in yourself.” ~ Molly Cantrell-Kraig

Our foundation gives a woman a car for two years in exchange for her participation in various assessments and programs that help her to identify her particular barriers to independence. Once determined, a plan is put into place to address them. She is a partner in her development and held accountable to meeting her end of the bargain.

In my research prior to establishing the Women With Drive Foundation, I found many wonderful organizations – locally, regionally and nationwide – that help women with developing many skills, but few who actually gave a woman a vehicle to facilitate this very necessary component of independence. There were none who incorporated the two-year developmental journey alongside the distribution of a car.

The car is the physical manifestation of her internal transformation.

The car is the sizzle. The real “product” or “the steak,” is the change that happens within the woman who completes the two year process of facing herself, choosing to develop that which she needs to empower and free herself. Through Women With Drive Foundation, I hope to systemically and organically empower women – to give them the tools to help themselves. In so doing, it is my wish that we elevate the Whole: her family, her children, her community.

Freedom isn’t free. Independence requires sacrifice, honesty and hard work. But that doesn’t mean we don’t all need help along the way. I’ve devoted my future to seeing the goals of the Women With Drive Foundation come to fruition. Thanks for listening to me share my story today.

This post originally appeared on the Women with Drive blog.

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Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a Reporter for The Shriver Report.
Molly Cantrell-Kraig established Women With Drive Foundation in order to build a collaborative solution to systemic generational poverty with a focus on providing not only the missing element of transportation, but the necessary component of process and structure for the participants they serve. She was included among the CNN10: Visionary Women in honor of Women’s History Month (March 2014), and featured as one of 32 global influencers in Social Media and Inspirational Leadership by The Huffington Post in February 2013.
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