Working in the financial industry has not only gifted me with valuable knowledge, but also lifelong relationships—in particular, a ten-plus year friendship with Carla and Michael Novak.

Through many happy hours, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the couple and become familiar with Michael’s consideration of others and warm spirit.

Unfortunately, earlier this year, Michael, a Patrolman of the Linden Police Department, passed away due to an illness. When I heard about the news, I, like many others, was saddened for the Novak family.

Death is never easy and everyone experiences the many stages of loss very differently. Moreover, although discussing the loss of a loved one can be difficult, I think it can be helpful and maybe comforting to others, since it always feels good when you can relate to someone during life’s most defeating times.

I’ve always known Carla to possess a friendly and assertive demeanor; and despite Michael’s passing, these qualities about her remained unwavering. Inspired by her perseverance and strength, I want to remember Michael and shed a light on Carla’s resilience.

Below is Carla’s Resilient Warrior Story—where she discusses a bit about her career path, motherhood, losing Michael and who and what enables her to keep her head held high.

Thank you Carla for sharing your story—you exemplify how we must keep fighting the good fight, even when life hits us hard.

GET TO KNOW CARLA

What are three words you would use to describe yourself and why?

Three words I would use to describe myself are:

Honest. This one is self-explanatory - no one in my life has ever had to wonder how I feel about things.

Fair. I've always tried to look at a situation from all angles and then come to a conclusion.

Funny. Really, it's more sarcastic but nevertheless I make people laugh.

Which industry do you work in and for how long?

I’ve worked in the financial services industry for ten years.

Is it the same industry you aspired to work in growing up?

No, when I was growing up I wanted to be a famous singer or a psychologist. When I got to college I took an economics class and realized that economic theories can be applied to everything; not just money and the economy, but for social issues as well.

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in your industry?

Only one - sometimes I'm told that I can be too assertive and that it intimidates people. I take it as a compliment and keep it moving.

What advice would you give to other women who strive to be in your industry?

To understand that they will have to be aware of the different personalities they will encounter and how to work around those different personalities to meet their objectives; and most importantly, to be themselves and to be honest.

Which achievement are you most proud of?

My most proudest achievement was when I earned my MBA. Partly because it took five years and throughout those five years I was pregnant and then a new mom, but I still finished.

MOTHERHOOD, LOSS & HOPE

As a mom, I'm sure you wear a lot of hats. How do you balance motherhood with other aspects of your life?

I don't think things are necessarily balanced. For example, I prioritize my sons first, then my career. My sons always come first.

Unfortunately, you and your two sons had a heartbreaking experience with the passing of your husband. Can you tell us about that hard time and how it impacted your family? How have you and your family overcome the experience?

It is gut-wrenching. It has impacted my family forever. I would not wish for anyone to go through this. I know that death is a normal part of life, and I've always told my sons that. However, in my mind my husband would pass when he was an old man, not at 41. At times I re-read the texts he sent me and one always sticks out, the one he sent me of an elderly couple walking hand-in hand down the street - he said "I can't wait for that to be us". I know that life is not always what we planned. I know that he wanted to watch his sons grow up and teach them the things he knew about life. He was the most proudest of his boys. I have texts upon texts of him telling me how much he loves them, how he can't believe that we got so lucky with them and how they are such good boys. I plan on showing them when they are older. I tell my sons what has happened isn't fair. I know their grief will be different when they get older and see other dads with their kids. They will wonder why did mine die. The most important thing I've done is tell them that we will miss him forever and that he deserves to be missed because he was a great man. I don't think this is an experience we overcome - it doesn't go away. The sadness and grief will always linger.

What advice do you have for other single moms and widows who may find it hard to overcome loss?

My advice is that you can't control what happens to you - but you can control how you respond. You are the example of how your children handle adversity. Think of your actions and your words. Your children are watching.

How have you remained resilient?

I'm Catholic, that helps. I believe in signs from the life beyond. I am visited daily by a Cardinal, a blue jay, and a wood-pecker and I always feel that's him or God is sending me a message that where he is he's okay and that he's watching and protecting us. I'm also resilient because of my kids, they bounce back faster.

What advice would you give to anyone who may feel discouraged from pursuing their passion(s) due to adversity?

Don't give up - no matter what you face. You will always wonder what-if and that's not acceptable. Find someone who has your back; there are people willing to help you. God always sends those people to me when I need them most.

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(You're never alone. Sharing your story can be therapeutic; in addition, to being a source of motivation to someone else. You're. Never. Alone. If you're interested in being interviewed, please email Melvin@melvinataylor.com)