Walking Away When You Have It All (2024)

On a Tuesday afternoon in 1993, TV-soap star Pamela Donnelly found herself walking on the streets of the Upper West Side in Manhattan, tears streaming down her face. She had been a successful actress, married to a rockstar, and seemingly had it all. But on this day everything felt like it was crumbling. She refers to this moment of her life as a “soul crisis.” Her mother had taken her to church as a kid so when she stumbled upon one with its door propped open, she decided to go inside. She found a place to sit and kneel and began to pray. Though she was quiet on the outside, on the inside she says she was screaming at God: “What do you want from me!?” Tired, disenchanted and only in her thirties, Pamela was desperate for a change but didn’t know where to begin. Almost immediately after this episode, Pamela walked away from her television career — (and her marriage) — and into the world of education. Today she’s democratizing high-end SAT and ACT tutoring (with the GATE system) that will reach every kid who needs help — especially the underprivileged. I had the privilege of speaking with Pamela during a recent CoveyCast interview during which we discussed the risks involved with reinvention, the inequality in our school system, and how to find your true purpose in life. Here are some time-stamped highlights from our conversation.

Reinvention starts with education
6:48 — Education is salvation from exploitation on so many levels. Education is a phenomenal tool for self-expression and self-discovery. It is never too late.

It’s about finding your purpose
15:00— Going from a TV-star to a teacher making $30,000 a year in a classroom seemed like a horrifyingly humble path but what I cared about was having a sense of purpose. I see it as having obedience to a higher calling. I felt the way I was going to be happiest was by doing what I was placed here to do in the first place. Not everything is a chess move on LinkedIn — sometimes the chess move has to start inside of ourselves.

Think about your legacy
18:00— I think the greatest joy in life comes from being of service to others. I don’t need to be mega rich to be mega happy; I need to be aligned with a higher truth. I’m in my fifties and I’m at a point where I’m thinking about my legacy — when I leave, what will I leave?

Let your kids be
27:00— They’re going to be who they are, you cannot project yourself onto them, but finding a mentor to help them through the process is important. Both boys and girls benefit from having a mentor who is not [their] mom because we want to have a loving relationship … [our kids] have to detach and go become individual adults living outside our home. If the last year of their life is spent in shrill critique of whether or not they finished that [college] essay — that’s really not conducive to the future we’ve spent 18 years building.

Reinvention is worth the risk
38:36— None of us gets out of here alive so you may as well pick something, get in a lane and commit to it and put the pedal to the metal and do some good before you’re out of here.

3 tips for manifesting your own reinvention
1. Get very quiet and ask your higher self, not your ego: “who do you need me to be in this life?”
2. Do not focus on money as part of the equation when deciding [what to do]. Money is a false god to serve.
3. Look for what you can give, not what you can get. Find a problem that feels unfair to you and seek to be a conduit for someone else.

To hear more about Pamela’s reinvention journey, her thoughts on free university and the best resources for aid listen to the full podcast on Podbean or iTunes.


DEAL ALERT: A special gift from Pamela exclusively for Covey Club members!Opt-in at PamelaDonnelly.com/Covey Club and receive a FREE e-copy of her bestselling book for parents, 4 Keys to College Admissions Success.

Know a teen in need of professional college admissions guidance? Covey Club parents looking to get their 9th-12th grader a college admissions mentor can email Pamela@gatecollegesystem.com and she’ll help CoveyClub members place an ideal mentor to work one-on-one with their students, with a 15% discount on all 20-hour and 40-hour packages. Pamela’s team helps build the right college list for applications, oversees essays, and strategizes financial aid/scholarships. Typical results include 9 acceptance letters for every 11 applications submitted and $35,000-$40,000 in merit-based financial aid.

Districts, school administrators, and non-profit organizations are also invited to visit GATECOLLEGESYSTEM.com to learn more about enrolling students in GATE. Partnerships are available, which cover 50% of all disadvantaged students who receive pro bono access to this popular new platform. GATE helps students ace financial aid, optimize essays, increase SAT/ACT scores, maximize GPAs and more.

Individual students interested in learning more about GATE can enroll at GATEFORSTUDENTS.com.


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Walking Away When You Have It All (2024)
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