You Are Not Your Worst Mistake

Have you ever made a mistake that changed your life? A mistake where you felt like you could not come back from it? That is exactly what happened to our guest, and in this episode, she told us how she helped someone escape from prison, went to prison herself, and how her world has evolved since then.

In this episode, I sit down with Toby Dorr, whose life is like an actual movie – almost. Lifetime is making a film based on her extraordinary life. She has a phenomenal story detailed in her memoir “Living With Conviction: Unexpected Sisterhood, Healing, and Redemption in the Wake of Life-Altering Choices.” Her story started on February 12, 2006, when she helped a convicted murderer at Lansing Correctional Facility escape from prison. They ran for 12 days until authorities caught up to them in Tennessee. They were forced onto a highway median at a hundred miles per hour and into a tree. The arresting US marshal said to Toby, “Don't let this be who you are.” Twenty-seven months later, she completed her time in federal prison. She has since remarried, finished two master's degrees, and has successfully rebuilt a broken life.  

“You are not your worst mistake.”

That is Toby's message to all our listeners and readers. She knows how “the escape” will surely be her most extraordinary experience. But Toby also knows that her gift to the world is greater. She has a message to all the women out there who said, “that could have been me”. This story was difficult to share, but Toby knew that the lessons shared from her experience would be a blessing to others. She describes “the escape” as something out of character for her. Toby felt invisible her whole life, but that changed when she met John Maynard, the prisoner she helped escape. Some events contributed to her story, including the loss of her daughter, Emily, 18 hours and 31 minutes after birth. Toby would keep crying when Emily was mentioned, and her husband didn't know how to deal with her and her emotions. They went in different directions in how they processed their grief, grew apart, and now they are divorced. These difficult moments in Toby's life led her to where she is now. A good place where she can acknowledge her experiences and gain wisdom from them.

In one of our episodes, I mentioned that you don't need to have a difficult past to have a story worth telling to the world. In Toby's case, however, her story was most extraordinary, and it was really important for her to share her experiences with the world. I admire her bravery in telling such a powerful and personal story. She hopes to impact those women who also feel invisible and tell them they need to escape their own personal prisons. Toby went to an actual prison, where she realized that her previous life was more of a prison.

“Be honest with yourself.”

When Toby decided she wanted to share her story, she started filling up journals in prison. She reminds us how important it is to be honest with yourself, even how ugly your story gets. Try to process the feelings associated with those memories and just write them all down. The most important thing is to write down everything you can remember and avoid leaving any details out. Your readers will know when you are not telling the whole story. Your story is worth nothing if you are not being honest and protecting yourself.

Toby also published a workbook series to provide hope and inspiration to struggling women. The “Unleashed Series” contains programs and exercises to help women grow and find their purpose. Her series is a great company to her memoir, which can inspire readers to be the change they want to see in the world.

“Those really difficult places in your life are the ones you need to be the most grateful for, because that's where character is born.”

In this episode, we have witnessed how great Toby is. We gained a ton of wisdom listening to her talk about her struggles and the difficult choices she has made. She is the perfect example of how you can choose to live your life on your own terms and how you can change your story after life throws you the worst curveball. Her book resonates with many women because we were all stuck in our own prisons at some point – whether it's a literal prison or something difficult happening in our lives. These prisons exist so we can break them down and emerge more powerful and braver than ever. Toby shared her story, and may it give us the courage to look into our lives and make our own changes.           

Key takeaways:

  • Finding a publisher who can understand you and make your story work for you is crucial. A publisher who's willing to listen and get your book where you want it to be.
  • Consider indie publishing if you want to be part of the whole process. You can be involved in all the discussions and decisions about your books, and your story will not suffer. 
  • Reading your book aloud or with an App can help you with the editing process.
  •  If you know someone who's struggling or hurt or in prison, be that person who makes yourself available to them. And you can then be part of a big change in the world. 
  •  It's okay to let go of some people who do not support you and don't want to come along on your journey. Know that you can make it through without them.

Connect with Toby Dorr and find out what she's up to:

Media appearances:

Book, Living With Conviction: Unexpected Sisterhood, Healing, and Redemption in the Wake of Life-Altering Choices by Toby Dorr