What Do Rats Have to Do With Living Alone?


I was 24 years old and leaving Minneapolis for good.

I had moved to Minneapolis after my sisters and I left our rat infested apartment in Duluth, Minnesota. Have you ever heard rats crawling in the walls?

We didn’t know the apartment was occupied by big hairy rodents. We saw it as a super cute, three bedroom within our price range.

We had insisted on having our own rooms (after sharing bedrooms all our lives), hence the three bedrooms.

After we moved in, as I settled into my own bed in my own room, was when I heard the first scratch, scratch.

For the first few days, I laid awake trying to figure out what was making that god awful scratching sound.

Was it the neighbor moving a chair across their floor? No. Was it the dog trying to tear down the screen door to get outside? No. Was it my sister moving those metal hangers in her closest? No.

Then, as I slowly started to figure out what was making the sound, I became petrified that those rats would crawl out of the wall and crawl all over me in the middle of the night. It became a ritual to scan the ceilings and walls and floors for any possible hole they could get out to get to me.

After that, sleeping was virtually impossible hearing them scratch and run and fight inside the walls and then my very vivid imagination would envision them doing the same things on my bed covers (with me under them.)

I was scared to shut my eyes. I was scared to admit I was scared. I was scared to tell anybody.

It got so bad – the embarrassment of potentially being wrong about what I was hearing was outweighed by my sleep deprivation and the utter terror of being bitten in the middle of the night (now you know another reason I hate horror movies) – that I finally asked my sisters if they heard anything. That’s when we put it all together. That’s when we decided to leave.


My sisters and I split up for good…me barely 17, my little sister Linda 16 and my older sister Cindy was 21.

Linda got an apartment in Duluth by herself. (I know! I can’t believe we let her do that either!) I got an apartment in a northern suburb of Minneapolis by myself and Cindy moved into an apartment in a southern suburb.

Each of us was on our own for real. We’d already lost our parents. We had hung on living together as a “family” for another two and a half years. But now, we were leaving each other behind.

No adult was telling us “bad idea ladies” and, in reality, we wouldn’t have listened to any adult anyway. We thought we were all grown up. We thought we knew everything. It felt like we had lived through everything anyway.

Which is what kept me stuck for years. The feeling that I knew everything. The feeling that I had ‘been there’ and ‘done that.’

Of course, knowing everything is a perfect cover for fear. You don’t have to face what you don’t know. You don’t have to ask questions. You don’t have to look stupid or appear foolish or risk humiliation. You can act like you’ve ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ too.

Fear is so tricky and so insidious. It’s such a good hider.

I had already been told I was getting a full ride to college which became a way to prove to myself that I knew what I was doing and didn’t need anybody.

I got the landlord to rent an apartment to me with no credit or credit card which made me feel so grown up.

And I had already ‘done it’ with my boyfriend. Oh, so very mature. (Not!)

All those ‘adult’ decisions hid how emotionally immature I really was. How much fear was making my decisions for me.

Have you ever wished you would have behaved better in a situation that brought out your worst?

Have you ever felt like you were a kid inside an adults body?

Have you ever felt like you ‘should know better’ but didn’t know exactly what you should know?

Do you ever feel like you must have missed out on some major learning along the way? That somehow you missed something in some class somewhere? Missed some important conversation?

Me too.

Fear just kept me believing that I was bullet proof and was fine and dandy all by myself. In fact, I thought, I was better by myself.

People treated me like I had it all together because I puffed up my chest and put a smile on my face, but that’s the last thing I felt about myself.

I stayed stuck for another twenty years because I just kept trying to keep it all together.

Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel like you are just trying to keep it all together?

Trying to pretend you’re doing better than you are. Not lying necessarily but not telling the truth either. Just putting that smile on your face or nodding your head while you say, “I’m fine. All good here.”

But I wasn’t fine. Not for a long time.

And that’s why I had to leave Minneapolis. I had to leave before I was sucked into a marriage I didn’t want and a job that had me drinking nightly with a boss who was fighting his own demons.

Fear is the cause of hundreds of feelings and emotions.

Oh, how I wanted to master fear. Oh, how I wanted to figure the bugger out. I wanted to figure it out so bad I devoted my life to doing just that.

Becoming a ‘fear expert’ didn’t happen because it was a nice academic exercise or a great business decision, I became a fear expert because I was HAD TO FIGURE IT OUT. It was ruining my life. And I didn’t want it to anymore.

Fear doesn’t have to be running your entire life to be making a negative impact.

BUT if it’s deciding what you eat, or who you sleep with or how you express your passion, it’s deciding way to much.

How do you know if fear is on patrol?

You’re not happy in an area of your life. You’re dissatisfied and frustrated or you don’t trust yourself and your decisions or you worry you’re not enough, not good enough in some way.

And having you believe that, is not okay with me.

Because I know that’s just not true.

YOU ARE ENOUGH. Fear is just a really good liar. I’m gonna show you how to truly know this for yourself tomorrow.

Just know this: I believe in you. I trust your soul.

It is leading you …follow it!




By Rhonda Britten

Rhonda, voted America’s Favorite Life Coach is here to help you get unstuck. “Everyone needs Fearless Living”- Oprah Winfrey With her acclaimed method called Fearless Living, Rhonda Britten has helped thousands of people let go of indecision, gain clarity of purpose, and take life-changing risks. Her work exposes the roots of fear and gives you the tools to move beyond that insidious universal feeling of “not being good enough.” The result is unstoppable confidence and a world of unlimited possibilities.

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