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Monsters University and beating the odds…



I was recently given a copy of Monsters University to watch with my kids. Since they love everything Disney it was an easy thing to say yes to. Even more, I love the theme of the film. It’s calls the main characters to have to stand up for themselves in life, even when things don’t go their way.And if they persevere, even when life is against them,they can make it happen.

We know how that goes down,don’t we?

I know this hit home for me, because when I was in my twenties I wanted nothing else than to be a firefighter/paramedic. I know I’ve mentioned it here before, but I haven’t really dug into it too much.

Jennifer rizzo firefighter

It was one of the best and hardest times of my life. I think the fact was that I was not only 20-ish and full of dreams, but I was a young woman who wanted a job that was a very male dominated. I was only 5’2 and 110 pounds and it didn’t help that it was the 1990’s.There was still a lot of sexism and hazing. Although it was starting to be realized, there was still a lot that was tolerated. Even from the public as jaws would drop when I rounded the corner driving the 72 ton ladder truck. I would have Dads at block parties want me to carry them across the street to prove myself.

Jennifer rizzo firefighter

I have never worked harder at anything in my life. All I did was work out. I would run up ski hills and push cars down the street. Anything to make myself stronger and better. I would go into the station early and chop at a log with an axe for an hour. I wanted it so bad I could taste it. Almost like a Top Chef contestant.

I worked out to bulk myself up to the 130 pound I needed to be. I studied so that I out-tested my male counter parts and when I was finally hired as the first and only female, it came with all of it’s own challenges.

I did everything from drive the firetrucks, to pull down ceilings. I rode the ambulance and put up with a lot of how shall I say it? Crap. While I had some supporters, I had a lot of guys telling me I couldn’t do the job, I wasn’t going to make it, and pretty much, I wasn’t good enough. I fought back. Hard. In fact, I dug even deeper to prove them wrong. There were a lot of tears and self-doubt.

Jennifer rizzo.com

But I loved every minute of it. I love the job. It was my life for years as I worked my hardest. Finally, when the time came for me to make a life change and start a family, I knew it was something I had to leave behind. The funny thing is, most of those same guys who were against me, came to me and tried to talk me out of leaving. I had proven to them I belonged here. It became the hardest decision I ever had to make, but it had to be done. Life sometimes makes a new path for us and we have to take it.

Jennifer rizzo.com firefighter

I still talk to all of those guys. It’s been 15 years and that experience still makes a huge impression on me everyday, and influences everything I do, because the one thing I never did was give up. And I have to be honest, as a woman with a few years behind her, I don’t know how I did it. But, I did. And I truly believe it shaped me to be the person I am today.

How about you? How did you believe in yourself and acheive your dream? For a chance to win a Monsters University Blu-ray Combo Pack and $50 Visa Gift Card, leave me your comment below.

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  1. Yes I did! I’m the first doctor in our family, on both sides, and aside from believing I could do it I worked really hard and now, I can’ t believe I’m a doctor here in the U.S.!!! Love MU and actually for Halloween my family and I are dressing up as MU students – with MU shirts and hoodies and all! My little one will be Sulley of course!

  2. Congratulations on your firefighter/paramedic achivement! That is just awesome, and I bet you helped a lot of people!
    Yes, I always believe in myself and don’t give up. One thing I always wanted was to help the developmentally disabled, and now I do that full time. I’m still struggling with other goals (like fitness, I need to lose 20 instead of gain 20!) my middle aged metabloism seems to be working against me on that one, but I love going to the gym and how strong I feel afterwards, so I never give up. Someone close to me has actually asked why I bother because I don’t seem to be losing weight, but I just laugh at them and persist.

  3. After my parents divorced when I was 6, I had to leave the US to live in South America with my mother. During the 2 years I lived there, I completely forgot how to speak English. I returned to the US and had to go back to school, absolutely terrified because I didn’t understand a word that anyone was saying to me. But I worked hard to regain my language skills and believed I would catch up. Two years later I won the award for top English student in my grade. This was my dream come true. The boy who won the Math and Science awards that year went on to Harvard years later, so those awards were very prestigious. No matter how unattainable a goal seems, you can’t ever give up.

  4. I believed in myself and achieved my dream when I graduated from college while working and taking care of my baby.

  5. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to work and go to business school. I was able to do both and graduate!

  6. I haven’t reached it yet but believing in myself helps me know I will get there

  7. I believe in perseverance . When my husband died suddenly in 1980, three days after I had been laid off from my teaching job, with two young teenage children, shocked, torn, grief struck, I began again. In the beginning I didn’t know how, I just woke up in the morning and began again. I went to my local junior college to look at new educational channels/programs . . . I took aptitude tests . . . I saw a counselor with my children. I listened to my friends. I cleaned houses for awhile to earn some money. I crafted and sold some of my things. I substitute taught. I volunteered. I obtained another college degree. I took a part time job at a hospital working in pediatrics with children hospitalized with life threatening disease. I became a new person, with a new career, resilience . . . Life, living, happiness is possible for each of us if we take the first steps and begin again. I would give any thing to have lived my life without my devastating shock and sorrow.. Yet . . . I am thankful for my determination to keep going. It has taught me, embraced my spirit.

  8. Encouraging words..thank you..yes, 7 years ago, after teaching in a local Christian school for 12 happy years I obeyed God’s leading for our family to leave our comfort zone and, like Peter, get out of the boat. For us that meant homeschooling and starting from scratch building new friendships and being stretched by very new experiences…and we have loved it…my babies are now a senior in college, a freshman in college and a 9th grader…hard can so often be so good!! 🙂 Blessings to you Jen as you walk out the next chapter God has for you 🙂 !!

  9. When I was in the 6th grade, I was pointed out to the entire class by my gym teacher as the slowest runner in the class. I later came to find out that I have a deformity in my lower legs that prevented me from being able to run well. I carried that comment with me, even through my adult years. My husband helped me to see the foolishness. Then I started to swim and lift weights. I was swimming a mile at a time, about 4 times per week. However, on my 40th birthday, I swam a mile and a half. More than I had ever done. And, when I finished, I cried and proclaimed, “That’s for YOU, Mr. Huntsberger!” What a feeling of accomplishment. I’ve also continued to ride my bike and challenge myself, in spite of two herniated discs in my back. I always say, you gotta keep moving. Great story, Jen. Love it.
    Fondly, Tami

  10. I love your blog, but I’ve never been inspired to write to you, before. I had no idea that the lady that taught me how paint a pumpkin canvas was such a bad@ss! Amazing story, truly inspiring and a real lesson in assuming anything about anyone. Thanks for the insight.

  11. I know that I have the power of God within me and through Christ I can do all things.

  12. I decided several years ago to go back to school to get my teaching degree. It has not been easy, because we decided to take our son out of public school to be home schooled, by me! Talk about life experience!!! I get that and much more on a daily basis. Through it all I have worked hard to maintain a 4.0 grade point and have become a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. My goal is to graduate either next June or December, this has been a hard journey, but the trip has been so worth all the hard work, late nights, stubborn student (hehehe), and all the sacrifices. So thankful and blessed to know that you really can teach an old dog new tricks.

  13. I always knew “it” was out there, but just didn’t know what “it” was. I constantly tried to come up with what my forever career would be, but kept hitting brick walls…until one day while I was watching “The Love Boat,” that I realized what my passion was…cruising!!! From there on out, I went to travel school and learned the trade. More importantly, I learned everything I could about cruise ships, cruise lines, and making people’s dreams come true! 30-mumble something years later, and selling dreams still gets me excited!!!

  14. congrats! I believe that god has a lot to do with reaching your goals and helping you accomplish anything you want in your life. 🙂 and i’m very happy for you!

  15. I was told I could not play volleyball in college cause I am only 5’3 I was always self conscious but I worked really hard and ended up getting a scholarship to play in college. You can do anything you put your mind too if you work hard! amypugmire@live.com

  16. I believe in myself because I know I am loved and I achieve my dream by expecting the hard way ahead and taking one bite at a time.
    tcarolinep at gmail dot com

  17. I believe I can succeed and I put my heart into everything I do. Set a goal and take action for my dream.

  18. Haven’t achieved my dreams yet, but I stay positive and don’t let others influence me in a negative way.
    jslbrown_03 at yahoo dot com

  19. My dream was to work doing something related to anthropology or archaeology (my major in college), but things changed after I got married then got pregnant with twins, and I decided to quit my job and pursue my NEW dream of being a SAHM!

  20. I believe in my self and achieve my dreams by having positive self talk, and reflecting on all of the things I have been able to accomplish in the past.

    Thanks for the chance to win!
    wildorchid985 at gmail dot com

  21. I achieved my dreams because I reminded myself “just keep swimming… just keep swimming”. I put myself through university and became a teacher (with debt that I have thankfully since paid off).

  22. I believe in myself with the help of prayer and also thinking positive thoughts. It’s amazing what you can accomplish by being positive! I especially have found this out coaching some of our kids sports that they are in. Their teams have accomplished so much when they are positive and support each other!

  23. Wow ~ You are truly an inspiration!

    I always wanted to be a teacher. Two weeks before I graduated high school life through me a curve and I was diagnosed with Lupus. I wasn’t able to go to college then or later, but later as a wife and mom (a dream I didn’t even know I had) I have fulfilled that dream. I “teach”, though it may be life lessons, without a degree.


  24. I never doubted you. But there is no accounting for the personalities and egos involved in a significant portion of the fire service.

  25. I believe in myself by following my dream to become a nurse, I am currently in school. I am following my dream and loving every moment of it!

  26. There is one dream I have not accomplished yet and am working hard towards the goal by starting off slow and working my way towards that goal

    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

  27. I married very young and had children. My dream was to have a long, happy marriage, and raise successful children. Many doubted us because of our age, but we knew what we were doing. With faith and trust we have have achieved that dream. and proved the doubters wrong.

  28. My dream was to become a Mom. We had some setbacks along the way and I wasn’t sure if I would every get pregnant but I did twice and I love being a Mom.

  29. I became a mom at 18 and though I had lost out on my dream of becoming a nurse. It took years but with lots of dedication I finally was able to graduate from nursing school.

    lisalmg25 at gmail dot com

  30. I’ve always had a lot of self doubt, so I work twice as hard to make sure what I do is top notch. That hard work has allowed me to achieve many of my dreams.

  31. I believe in myself and achieve my dreams by understanding that what I have to contribute is of value and by surrounding myself with positive thoughts and, better yet, positive, supportive friends. I also write out inspirational quotes each week and place them around the house as a reminder that I can reach my goals. 🙂

  32. 25 years ago I didn’t think I could sing, but I took singing lessons, joined two choirs and have been singing ever since.
    Thanks for the contest.

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