Toby Dorr: Hello and welcome to Fierce Conversations with Toby, the show where we talk about the hard things. Toby Dorr. In today’s episode, we’re gonna discuss the value of perspective believing in the power of who you are, letting circumstances define you, and the power of perspective and optimism and giving up and remaining true to yourself. Our guest today is Carly Fahey-Dima, Communication, and Cultural Manager at Grace Point Publishing in Colorado Springs.
Toby Dorr: Hi Carly. Thanks so much for joining us.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Hi Toby. I am, I’m thrilled to be here. I am thrilled to be your guest and I am excited to talk about the hard things.
Toby Dorr: They are important to talk about, that’s for sure.
Carly Fahey-Dima: They absolutely are. And they’re not the easiest to talk about too. I don’t talk about my hard things very often, so I’m gonna try my best for you. I’m thrilled to be here and absolutely believe in optimism and perspective. You are not your situation. That is the big, big message that I really wanna deliver in being here with you today. And I know that that’s a message that you also subscribe to yourself.
Toby Dorr: Definitely a message that’s near and dear to my heart. Tell us about a moment in your life – a crossroads – where you had to make a decision that pushed you in a different direction.
Carly Fahey-Dima: There are so many moments like that that happen along the course of all our lives – that push us in so many different directions. That’s just the fun part of life, right?
Carly Fahey-Dima: Yeah, and the one that really resonates with me and my perspective was when I was arrested in ninth grade, when I was 15 years old, accused by my own father of having beaten him when that was not the case.
Toby Dorr: Wow. A pivotal moment.
Carly Fahey-Dima: It really is. And what I always think about when I think about this moment is there’s really no crash course to how many unbelievable, unreal, like off-the-wall moments that can happen in your life that throw you challenges and push you in all sorts of directions. And that’s definitely one of the ones in mind that I’d love to touch on with you.
Toby Dorr: I think that those decisions that are just thrown at us and we have to quickly adapt to them, really make us stronger people. That’s what life’s all about – going through those difficult things and coming out on the other side.
Carly Fahey-Dima: They are character builders. They are opportunities to just figure it out and no matter what outcome comes of it, whether you choose, right or wrong, or you learn again and again and again. It’s. It’s all just moments where life says, Hey, we’re, we’re gonna get stronger from this.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So, you said in ninth grade when you were 15 years old, you were arrested because your dad accused you of beating him up, which seems pretty preposterous, but so tell me what happened and what was it like to be arrested by your own dad?
Carly Fahey-Dima: Yeah, so growing up my parents went through a pretty long and just very intense divorce. I think it spanned over 10 years. My father was pretty mentally and emotionally abusive during that time to me and my siblings. Between us switching with him and my mom for custody and things like that. So what happened is I came home from a marching band event that night. I played flute in my high school marching band at the time. I was in my gym shorts and my T-shirt, in south Florida, covered in sweat. And I come home to my father fighting and screaming and standing over my younger brother and my younger brother had a disability where his left arm was paralyzed at birth. My father grabbed him by his left arm on numerous occasions, and me being his older sister and not wanting all the progress he’s made with his arm to be ruined by some physical injury, I stepped between the two of them and pushed him out of the way. At the time, I was maybe less than five feet tall, a hundred pounds, and my dad had a solid foot and a half on me, maybe in height, and over a hundred pounds of weight on me. And as soon as I got between the two of them, he threw himself up against the wall, knocked over a bunch of pictures, and essentially created a crime scene. And he had his girlfriend corroborate his story at the time. So, the police were called and questioned everyone present and told me and my brother that in the time that it took for them to arrive, we made up our story.
Toby Dorr: Wow. How did you feel about your dad setting you up like that?
Carly Fahey-Dima: It’s interesting because he always pursued me, my mom, my stepdad – he always kind of taunted us in a way and would say things like, I’m gonna see you in jail one day. I’m gonna see you on the streets. So, kind of, you know, my family always talks about the laws of probability. It’s kind of one of our main core values in my family – the law of probabilities. If someone’s pursuing you and determined to achieve these things, it might happen. It’s not guaranteed. But if they’re looking for vindication…
Toby Dorr: So it probably wasn’t a total shock to you at that time.
Carly Fahey-Dima: It wasn’t, I mean, it was a shock in the sense that, you know, I didn’t think I was coming home from marching band this evening and, and that I would soon find myself in the back of a police car, but that’s where the evening went.
Toby Dorr: Wow. And so tell us about your time after you got to the juvenile hall.
Carly Fahey-Dima: they took me away. I didn’t have any rights read to me or anything. They cuffed me at my father’s apartment and then took me to the Coral Springs Police Department, where I sat in a little closet-sized room where I just counted the ceiling tiles over and over again. There were 18 of them by the way. And I was just by myself for what seemed like forever, there were no clocks. I have no idea the passage of time that happened in there, but it was isolating. There were no updates. I was still handcuffed the entire time and I just kept sitting there, just kind of talking to myself through the situation, saying you’re not afraid, you’re not scared, you’re not surprised really, but this happened and you’re in it. Like, hold your reality cause you’re about to go on a ride now.
Toby Dorr: So it sounds like you were telling yourself that you had the power to overcome this, that you were gonna get through this, you weren’t just gonna give into it.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Absolutely. That was really what kept me going through the entire time is that I’m making the choices here. Regardless of what’s happening outside of me, my reaction is really all I have at this moment. Like, I don’t even have my shoelaces anymore. Those are long gone. Took away my earrings, like everything. I have my shirt, my shoes, no shoelaces, and a pair of gym shorts, and all I’m thinking about of what can I do for me to get through this. And all of that was perspective.
Toby Dorr: That’s so true. You know, I talk a lot about we can’t always control our physical circumstances. Sometimes we’re just in a place that we don’t like and we just have to wait it out, but we can control how we think about that circumstance, and that’s called perspective. We can either look at it as, oh poor me. How am I gonna make it through this? It’s dirty in here. I’m not comfortable. Or we can do exactly what you did and say, how am I gonna find myself here and get through this so this isn’t gonna defeat me? And that totally gives you control over your circumstances because your perspective has totally turned it around.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Absolutely. It’s incredibly powerful. And again, they, they don’t teach you that in school that your perspective is a superpower that you have in your pocket at all times. And it doesn’t matter what level of situation you’re in, whatever you can control or what you can’t control around you, whether you like it or you don’t, that perspective is the one thing that’s pretty unchanging, so long as you’re aware of it.
Toby Dorr: That’s absolutely true. Now, you told me that when you got to the juvenile hall, you made a decision there that you weren’t gonna be like everyone else. So can you tell our listeners about that decision?
Carly Fahey-Dima: Yeah, absolutely. So, like I said, I kind of was removing my physical self from the situation I was fighting a mental battle of just remaining me to my core. So, when I was actually brought into the holding cell with the other juveniles in the area that were arrested that night, I noticed one thing – being in South Florida, it was absolutely freezing cold. And I think you said that you related to that with your experience.
Toby Dorr: I was in five different prisons and jails. They were all freezing cold. I don’t know why. Maybe it makes people fight less, I don’t know.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Yeah. And that’s exactly what it was. And I clearly wasn’t dressed for, you probably a 60-degree air conditioning unit blowing down on me. And what I realized right away, when I saw how cold it was, was that every other kid in the room had their arms tucked inside of their shirts, like stretching them out and just kind of preserving that body heat, creating that kind of cocoon of self and showing that they really were being affected by the environmental factors of where we were all being held. And for whatever reason or not, I kind of held onto the fact that I wasn’t gonna do that. I said I would freeze, I would shake with anxiety, adrenaline, whatever it was, but I refused to succumb to the culture that they were instilling in this holding cell.
Toby Dorr: By refusing to stick your arms inside your shirt like everybody else, just gonna toughen up and, and take whatever they had there.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Right. It honestly felt like a power control where even the temperature can make you feel small and weak and helpless in that environment. And I just saw it as, This, this isn’t where I’m supposed to be. This isn’t who I am. I am a visitor. I am an observer of the situation. I’m taking everything in, but I am not, the same way if I went to a foreign country, I wouldn’t suddenly adopt every single cultural practice and language and everything just because I was there. I felt like a tourist almost in this setting. This is a weird perspective, but it’s perspective that helped me kind of hang on to the fact that, you know, Carly is not just some juvenile delinquent that belongs in this circumstance.
Toby Dorr: And this isn’t gonna be my world. I’m gonna rise above this.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Absolutely.
Toby Dorr: So how long were you there?
Carly Fahey-Dima: I was there just for the night, essentially. I was offered a few meals in my time there, which were peanut butter sandwiches which then got me being in my head the whole time. You’re not talking to anyone and no one’s talking to you. I’m like, what if I had a peanut allergy? That’s pretty common. But, I kept prompting myself with questions cause I personally just love sociology. I love the study of people and groups and cultures. So I really approached the situation even at that age of just looking at the culture of it and what was happening around me, processing it all, separating myself from it, and just still reminding myself of who I am and where I’m.
Toby Dorr: You know, I find that amazing because you were just 15 years old and you had the strength of character to come up with those hypotheses, which really are true. I spent 27 months in prison and people in prison do get institutionalized. And that’s exactly what you refused to do, was to let that prison, that juvenile hall control who you were and the way you were gonna act. And that took a tremendous amount of belief in yourself and courage too. It’s difficult to be cold and most people would wanna put their arms in and get warm, but to you, it was becoming an automaton just like everyone else, and you just weren’t gonna do it. You, perhaps officers watching juvenile hall, loved to see the kids get cold, and you just weren’t even gonna give them that either. You had the presence of mind to know you could get through this and, not let it define who you were. That’s pretty powerful.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Absolutely.
Toby Dorr: And then you went home your dad? Did he ever apologize?
Carly Fahey-Dima: Oh, absolutely not. He picked me up the following day because at the time I wasn’t allowed to see my mom, so he was my only kind of ticket out of there. It’s weird having the person who puts you in such a bad situation also be the only person allowed to take you out of it.
Toby Dorr: yes. That would be difficult because he could say you did something else in the car and turn right around and get you back in there for a longer period of time.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Exactly, and already my trust for him, just with my experience was little to none. I’d say the emphasis is probably on none. But he picked me up and I refused to sit in the front seat of his car. I sat as far away from him as possible, just for my own safety. And I made sure everyone saw I wasn’t anywhere near this person, because I also had that same thought of like, he could say, you know, I’m in the car doing the exact same thing, and send me right back. The only thing that was on my mind, which again, holding onto my reality, was that I have marching band practice at 9:00 AM today. It was a Saturday morning and all I can remember was that I’m gonna be late for marching band. He offered me breakfast on my way home and I said, no. I didn’t want anything more from him than to just get out of his presence. So, he brought me to his house. I went in and reassured my brother I was okay because he spent the entire night wondering where his sister went. And the last time he saw me, I was taken out in handcuffs.
Toby Dorr: That’s traumatizing.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Absolutely. But I came back. My phone was gone. I couldn’t contact anyone. My dad had raided all of my stuff and made sure I had no means of really documenting anything. But I just grabbed my water that I bring to band, and my sheet music and I walked four and a half miles to my high school.
Toby Dorr: Wow.
Carly Fahey-Dima: I was late, but I showed up and just ran right onto the field where my spot was in formation and everybody, you know, asked are you okay? What happened? Why are you late? And I just said I got stuck in other things. And it wasn’t a matter of embarrassment, but again, it was another way of source of me telling myself what happened to me just one night. I’m moving past it. I am here. I’m doing what I enjoy. I’m reclaiming whatever aspects of my life that happened prior. I’m not gonna let this become who I am. I’m in high school and these kids are gonna start defining me for what I went through. Instead, I said I’m gonna choose how they define me and I’m not ashamed of what I did, or what I went through. But I have my priorities in order, and I just need to hold on to whatever reality I have.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s really powerful and wise. It was very wise to come to that. When looking back, do you look at that incident in your life, that moment in your life as something that was so negative that you couldn’t find any good in it, or do you see it as something that you could use later in life?
Carly Fahey-Dima: I absolutely see it as something I could use later in life. I know you’re really big on saying, you’re not your worst mistake, and I don’t even look at that night as a mistake. In fact, I look at it as like seeing for myself, what I was capable of. Because until you’re faced with a situation, as I can say, you are not your situation. Be optimistic, and persevere. But until I can apply that to myself, I never know if I’ve got what it takes to even practice what I’m preaching.
Toby Dorr: So, at times later in your life where maybe you weren’t sure you could deal with something, but you can look back on this experience at 15 and say, oh, I went through that. This’ll be a breeze.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Right, absolutely. And multiple occasions. Even with this instance, I mean, after the fact, clearly, I now had a criminal record to my name and the options I was given from the juvenile facility to clear my name was to write an apology note to my father and do community service, or I could take it to court.
Carly Fahey-Dima: I chose to take it to court. Obviously, the easy way out was to write an apology. Going to court was intense. I’d never been to court for myself before. I’d seen my parents go through, child support hearings and divorce hearings but never with myself as the person who’s being charged as guilty or not guilty. I’m still in my freshman year of high school. Like I’m just still just trying to go to marching band, finish my classes, do all those normal things, and I’ve got, you know, a court date coming up where I need to defend myself. So it was hard. I could have taken the easy way out of just writing the apology and moving on, but again, regardless of whether it was a mistake or not, I wanted control over this situation. I didn’t wanna just hit the delete button. I wanted a chance to speak for myself to tell my story and see whether or not in the eyes of a court I would be proven guilty or not guilty.
Toby Dorr: And so, what was the verdict?
Carly Fahey-Dima: I got a pretty great lawyer whose name I can’t recall at this moment, but he basically, in our preparation for the court, he’s said we know that there’s no way you’re capable of doing the things that this man is accusing you of unless you have a black belt in jiu-jitsu or some sort of special training. I can’t foresee someone of your stature and size and upbringing to be this violent person who would just beat the living heck out of their father. So in court, I was found not guilty. But what was interesting was because of – I guess who I was outside of the circumstance, which was just some band kids, I was in line to be valedictorian for my class. I was doing really well in school. I was in the honors societies and everything, and the judge said, you know, I’m gonna find you not guilty so that you can have a chance for college and your future and everything. Which again, didn’t really feel too much like justice to me because…
Toby Dorr: It’s like he was doing you a favor instead of like validating you.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Yeah. Instead of listening to me. So it was kind of a bitter victory. I was found not guilty and I was able to go to court and say all these things in front of the judge, have my lawyer ask me if I’m a black belt in karate in front of everyone. So it was an experience that I don’t regret, and that I’m glad I pursued. But at the same time, the result was conflicting internally because it was the result I wanted, but not from the means I wanted.
Toby Dorr: You know, and perhaps there’s a lesson in that, and maybe that’s why it turned out the way it did because had they found you not guilty and the judge didn’t qualify the reason, maybe it wouldn’t have stuck in your head as strongly. Who knows? There are a lot of things that happen for a reason and there are blessings in all of them wow, I can’t believe it, when you told me that you had these two options, I thought I was thinking to myself don’t say you’re sorry. Don’t sign the paper because that would be the easy way out, the sure way. Court was not a sure thing. If you’d been found guilty, you’d have tossed the dice on something that could affect the rest of your life, but the principal made you go ahead and toss the dice, so that’s pretty powerful.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Absolutely. And the entire time, I mean, I’m still viewing it from an outside perspective. I mean, having that event occur, I was in a state of shock for, I don’t even know how long, like I spent time in class just processing it and processing it and rethinking it, recounting the ceiling tiles, remembering how cold I was remembering being fingerprinted and pictures were taken and I just kept saying, I don’t know how I got outta this the way I did. I surprised myself with my ability to really show myself that it’s all perspective, it’s all mentality. Like it, it was a mental marathon. Honestly, just going through it.
Toby Dorr: it. You didn’t let yourself be a victim. You didn’t fall into the victim trap, like, oh, this terrible thing happened to me. You stood up and found your power and found a way out. And that’s what changes the world really, that kind of attitude.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Right.
Toby Dorr: I’m just curious. Did you remain living with your dad?
Carly Fahey-Dima: Yeah, I mean, part of my perspective and my mentality is that I did have to remain living with my dad, which was just years of mental torment and I got to the point where I used to have on my hand every day, I’d write how many days it was until I turned 18. Every single day. And I’d look at it like on my left hand, and I’d erase it and, you know, change the color for whatever holiday’s happening. And I’d just watch it tick down throughout my life and know that I’d be released from that prison. Just keeping that mentality that this situation that I’m in again, is not permanent. It’s not. It’s not something I can control. I can’t just go live on my own. I can’t go live at a friend’s house. I am legally required to stay one hundred percent of my time with this man who had me arrested and continually tormented me. And again, it was just, I’m gonna get out of this. I’m gonna find myself in this, I’m gonna find strength in this and I’m gonna get through it.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s an amazing story, and I loved that you said you were gonna reclaim yourself through this process. And the other thing that really stood out to me, as you said, perspective is a superpower it truly is. I think people don’t realize how much power owning your own perspective can give you in any situation. It’s a game-changer, really.
Carly Fahey-Dima: It is, you said it perfectly. It is a game changer. You could be dealt the worst hand possible, and you can flip your perspective to figure out how this is a learning opportunity, how to find your strength in this, and how your character is going to be tested. Even if you haven’t figured out on the spot, even if you’re not thrown into a situation, you know exactly what you’re gonna get from it. Just holding onto perspective, just repeating, look at this from perspective is what’s gonna make all the difference because you can’t always change what’s happening around you.
Toby Dorr: You can’t, and perspective gives the weakest person in their darkest moment all the power. And I think that’s great that you called it a superpower. I love that.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Absolutely.
Toby Dorr: Well, Carly, thank you so much for joining us today. Is there anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked you about?
Carly Fahey-Dima: No, we covered almost all of it. I’d say that this was a fantastic interview experience. You made it very easy to talk about the hard things. And even in this situation, I feel like I’ve grown more from the experience just retelling it and recalling it.
Toby Dorr: Telling our stories gives us power and helps us grow because the more we tell it, the more we let it take root in ourselves and find the good in it. I
Carly Fahey-Dima: Right, and perspective truly is my superpower.
Toby Dorr: Thanks for your vulnerability and your willingness to tell us about your hard things.
Carly Fahey-Dima: Absolutely. This is my first time publicly speaking to someone about them. I’ve written it a few times and, you know, taken different, different courses of perspective and how I write my situation. But having it out there in a conversation is a different type of kind of therapy and healing and as you said, rooting it.
Toby Dorr: Well, I look forward to the book you’re gonna write one day. I’d like to sign up to be one of your beta readers when you’re ready because I think you have a powerful story to tell.
Carly Fahey-Dima: I appreciate it, Toby. Thank you.
Toby Dorr: You’re welcome. I want to remind you that none of us are our worst mistake. We all have so much more to offer the world, and those so-called mistakes really are just blessed opportunities to learn and grow. Carly has shown us that so well today. Next week, we’ll continue to bring you inspiring stories by people who’ve identified a need for change and are working to make a difference in this world. Subscribe to our Patreon channel, Fierce Conversations for special inside access. Go to patreon.com/fierce conversations or look for the link in the show notes. This is Fierce Conversations with Toby. In my memoir, Living With Conviction, I recount a conversation I had in prison where my friend Lisa told me, ‘In here we can talk about all the hard things. In fact, I think we must’, and so we shall. Until next time, this is Toby. You can also find a link in the show notes to get a copy of my memoir, living With Conviction. Thanks so much for joining us, and don’t forget. Perspective is your superpower too.