Building My Dream Life

Effua Ampadu shares on winning in her career and education as a mother of nine.

Strong bonds—Effua Ampadu (third from left), and her husband, David, (third from right) with their kosen-rufu family. Photo:Phil Hatcher / Hatcher & Fell Photography.

by Effua Ampadu

Ever since I was a little girl, I loved being involved in track and field. It helped me develop a strong sense of self and a determined spirit. Together with my lifelong Buddhist practice, I realized early on that I could do anything I put my mind to.

As I pursued my dreams—first, on the Kent State University track and field team and then as part of the Ghana track and field Olympic team—these traits became my lifeline.

I had moved to Nashville in 2014 with my biological son, Kobe, but soon adopted the three boys of my longtime partner, David Moss, when their family safety net fell apart.

As Davieon, David Jr. and U-Dariun joined my family, I got a job supporting the Tennessee State University track and field team, which offered me an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree.

I worked day and night to make ends meet. From 5 to 8 a.m., I would take part in a strength-and-conditioning program. From 9 to noon, I did office work. After lunch, I would attend practice and then class until 11:20 p.m. Then, I would get up the next day and do it all again.

I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo abundantly every day and participated in SGI activities. The guidance of my mentor, SGI President Ikeda, kept me going, too. My struggles felt so huge, and I would think about how much he’d been through, saying to myself every day, What would President Ikeda do?

And my beautiful family continued to grow. While I was still working on my master’s, we took in five more wonderful Bodhisattvas of the Earth whose family was in a crisis. David and I now have two 12-year-olds; an 11-year-old; a 10-year-old; two 9-year-olds; and children ages 5, 4 and 3. We are all actively practicing within the SGI.

I continued to chant vigorously, with the determination, “No matter what.”

Even though my life was hectic, I graduated with a 3.8 GPA and a master’s in sports administration. David and I also married that summer.

Like most graduate students, I worried about the future, and I remembered that one of the highest paid athletic directors (my dream career) was actually located here in Nashville, at Vanderbilt University.

I set up an appointment to meet him, but he had to cancel—three times. When we finally met, there were no job openings.

I knew that if I could chant to get on an Olympic team that trained 5,600 miles away in Ghana, then getting a job less than three miles away should be nothing! I kept in mind Nichiren Daishonin’s words: “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens” (Happiness in This World,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 681).

I continued to chant vigorously, with the determination, “No matter what.” I applied for jobs in the department where I wanted to work, plus different ones within the university. In the end, I had filled out 35 applications in total. My husband and mother just kept encouraging me to chant abundantly every day, and they kept me smiling. Our family was united in prayer.

By this time, my bills were already two months behind, and my car was damaged badly in a three-car pileup. This cut off my income because I was an Uber driver. I just wanted to scream! Suddenly, I got a large check from my low cost car insurance company and had a dilemma: Should I pay to fix my car or pay my bills? I chose the bills. Since I refused to be defeated, I decided to fix the car myself. I watched online videos and learned how to put on a front bumper, hood, hood latch, two air bags, replace a fan, and fix the radiator and transmission. I even painted the car myself!

My never-give-up spirit finally paid off, when I got a phone call from Vanderbilt for a position in the athletic department. I started my new job on Oct. 1.

I still have a long way to go in my career journey—I plan to start my doctorate in education in the spring. On top of being an asset to my department, I want to contribute to the university that I will serve.

No prayer goes unanswered—with this conviction, I will continue to live out my mission.

(p. 5)