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Shari W. Quinn: Love Yourself First

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“The greatest revenge is success.”

This heartfelt revelation comes from Shari W. Quinn, a now-published novelist who took pen in hand to therapeutically rise above an unbelievably hurtful situation involving her best girlfriend of 20 years and her boyfriend. Her novel, Disloyalty, details the affair they had and the surrounding circumstances of the betrayal.

Shari, a native of Albany, New York, lived in suburban Atlanta for eight years before relocating to New York’s Capital Region. She is a leader in education, a college instructor, and has been in higher education for 15 years. She has served as a guest speaker in more than 75 high schools throughout New York State.

“Becoming a writer was never part of my plan, nor was it of interest to me,” she noted. “From an early age, I always wanted to become a teacher. I’ve always been fascinated with education and over the many years grew a passion for the field. As a child, I excelled in school; I was a fast learner who was deemed an exceptionally gifted child, and I was often bored in class. Oftentimes I would get in trouble for taking over the class to instruct my peers. I spent half of one day in kindergarten before being advanced to the first grade at age five at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Albany.”

Shari’s mother pushed her and whet her appetite for knowledge by making sure her childhood was peppered with learning new vocabulary words and watching educational programs such as 60 Minutes. Thus, failure was not an option.  The writing bug took hold after the mindboggling betrayal by her former best friend of 20 years. “I began documenting and journaling the account of events that had taken place surrounding the betrayal. It wasn’t until I shared my story with someone that I realized the dramatic events were worth fictionalizing into a novel,” she confirmed. “I wanted to share my story and turn this unfortunate circumstance into something positive. I had much to write about and so much built up inside that it was both easy and therapeutic to get it all out.” She completed the book a brief four months later by following a disciplined writing regimen.

Shari is clear about the effects the events she recorded have made on her. “As far as friendships, it is important for me to have positive and healthy relationships, and I value the sacredness of friendships and wanted the same in return. As a result, I am no longer friends nor connected with my former friend. However, I sometimes miss the friendship because we were extremely close for over two decades, spoke daily, and our families were well acquainted. It was customary for me to call her to share what was currently going on in my life or good news, and I missed having that close friend. But I needed to be more of a friend to myself and productively use my time. Despite the outcome, I sincerely wish her the best and hope she has peace with the situation. Since then I have formed wonderful relationships with some of the most amazing women you’d ever want to meet. They have been very kind, authentic and helpful–all without an agenda. It’s a good feeling when someone doesn’t want anything from you.”

She strongly believes there is a silver lining and lesson in every situation, no matter the circumstance. After writing Disloyalty, she took time to reflect on the situation and on herself, and took inventory of those in and around her life.  She assessed whether certain relationships were adding value to or subtracting value from her life. If existing relationships were toxic, unhealthy, or people lacked good character and principle, she distanced herself from them or let them go.

She recently wrote her second book, a howto manual, 42 Strategies to Market Your Book: An Author’s Guide, and was accepted into Northeastern University in Boston for her doctor of education degree in educational leadership. She started classes in January 2015.

“For six months I prepared myself for the rigorous application process and researched the education topic that I presented in my essay for acceptance. My dissertation will be a qualitative study to explore the academic achievement gap to address college readiness, retention and completion of adult distance learners in higher education. I currently am an Academic Partnership Specialist with Excelsior College, managing our academic partnerships with community colleges in parts of New York and New England, and an adjunct marketing instructor with Excelsior’s School of Business and Technology,” she discussed.

Shari is proof that anyone can rise above a situation. A teenage mother, she gave birth to her first child at 17, the day after high school graduation. She wanted to work against the grain and the status quo of the teenage mother and, at 17, began college. At 19, her second child was born and she continued school, earning her associate’s degree in liberal arts from Hudson Valley Community College, where she was on the Dean’s and President’s list many times. She completed her bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from Siena College in three semesters and earned her MBA with a concentration in marketing from the University of Phoenix in Atlanta. Prior to her acceptance at Northeastern, she completed two years toward her doctoral degree.

“I married my high school sweetheart at 21; together we have three children, Sharia, Ruffus IV and Malik. I also have two grandchildren, DeShari’ay and Anthony Jr. We divorced in 2006, and I am currently the sole caregiver for my 68-year-old mother, who is suffering from dementia that was accelerated by head trauma after being hit by a car years earlier,” she discussed. “I moved my mother into my two-bedroom Niskayuna condo with my 17-year-old son, Malik, and me after she could no longer care for herself. It’s difficult to watch a once strong and independent person slowly deteriorate before your eyes, but I am honored to care for her since she so selflessly cared for me. I am my mother’s only child, and the caregiver task can be exhausting at times, but my son is a huge relief along with the full-time aide I hired to help me during the day.”

Her mantra that everything happens for a reason has helped her identify and understand the purpose of this particular experience in her life.

The lessons Shari has taken from this experience have been multiple. Of primary significance is to love herself first. “Loving yourself gives you a level of happiness and peace that no one else can bring, and it will give you discernment to recognize and discard the alternative to prevent it from disrupting your peace. The people in your life should add to your happiness, not subtract from it.”

She also advises women to set boundaries and stick to the parameters. If the relationships do not align with your values and expectations, separate from them. Bad company corrupts good character. She learned the difficult way that what people say and do have nothing to do with you. It is only a reflection of them. “Try not to take it personally. You can only control yourself and how you respond to it, and the most important lesson and hardest thing to do is to forgive. Forgiveness is not for the other person, but for you and necessary for you in order to have peace,” she insisted. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to accept the person nor accept them back into your life, but it does mean you accept and acknowledge that ‘it’ happened; thus you release the person of any consequence or emotion tied to their wrongdoing, and you happily move on.”

Shari helps aspiring writers in a myriad of ways, and her book has surprisingly motivated several to publish. She admits inquiries have been overwhelming and extremely humbling. Writers have reached out to her and shared the dream of writing a book or that they have been working on their writing project for years. She currently mentors and coaches a couple of aspiring authors on the writing process, writing techniques and publishing, and plans to help them realize their goals under her publishing company, Shari Quinn Publishing.

Where does this role model find inspiration? “Every morning, after first thanking God for another day, I glance at my regularly updated vision board to keep my eyes on the prize. I am self-motivated, very ambitious and goal-oriented with a personal commitment to excellence. I always strive to do and give my best, and I am my biggest critic and largest competitor. I only compete with myself.”

Her three children also keep her motivated because she wants to set an example for them so they will know all things are possible, and with hard work, perseverance and dedication you can accomplish anything. Giving up is not an option.

With Shari’s current schedule and responsibilities, spare time is rare. Her free moments are spent cooking, traveling and enjoying the stillness of nature.

Despite the situation that led to the birth of Disloyalty, she considers this experience a blessing in disguise because it pushed her to a higher level of consciousness, happiness and success.

“It allowed me to rediscover myself and my purpose in life, which is to add value to the lives of others and to genuinely help people reach their goals. Whether it’s through education, motivation or inspiration, I hope in some small way I am able to help people smile, reach their destiny or know their purpose,” Shari reflected. “Above all goals or anything in life, I simply want to be happy.”

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