Surviving to Thriving

sail away from the safe harbor...

I’m about to embark on a new life adventure and fulfill a longstanding dream deferred. In the early 2000s I went to San Francisco, CA for the first time with my soul friend Caitlin (this photo of me below was my first SF pre-cell phone camera selfie in the summer of 2000 Happy) I immediately fell head over heels in love with the city and returned several more times. I loved its breathtaking beauty, the hills, the trees, the water, the horizon, its diversity and culture, and most of all, its expansive healthy lifestyle and nourishment options on every corner. We were supposed to move there together in the great Unwreckable Journey of 2000 (made tee shirts and everything, complete with a fuzzy iron-on letter misspelling! Happy).

My twenties were a tumultuous roller coaster of severe chronic illness (Crohn’s) ups and downs, and while Caity made it out there, I never did. Life happens to all of us, and I believe it is the way we handle our circumstances that define us. Because I’m driven to continual learning and personal success, I admit a bit sheepishly my pride that despite my adversities I have been continuously employed since the age of 15, and graduated from college with honors after many hospitalizations and incompletes. More education may be in my future, but I am content with what I have already accomplished and embrace that I am enough, no matter how many twists and turns my journey has taken or how long it takes me to achieve my goals. We all have obstacles in our paths that challenge us and I am grateful for all of mine because they have chiseled me into who am today: a fighter, a survivor, and a person that I have grown to be very proud of. I haven’t always been able to give myself that grace.

And so, sixteen years later, I now have the opportunity to make this dream come true and move to the Bay Area in early October of this year and I could not be more excited. Many of you have heard about this over the past two years and supported me in a variety of ways as I have worked to forge a path for this to happen.

Today is my last official day at CCL. I will remain closely connected as a consultant and they will be one of my biggest clients. Little will change as I will stay on my two current primary projects, RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows and the Young Women’s Leadership programming and see those through. In addition I will be working to grow CCL’s social sector work and already have some promising leads. The good news is I will be back in North Carolina several times over the next year for a couple weeks at a time so will be able to stay connected to my community and family here.

It is the right time to take this leap and build my net on the way down. I have expanded my consulting business, vallmark* LLC (
www.vallmark.com) and am currently accepting new clients. My passions include helping build and deliver leadership programs for young people, empowering young women, coaching, writing, communications and speaking.

This shift will allow me the flexibility to be open to possibilities that present themselves as I find my niche out West. Yes, it has changed a lot in the 16 years that I've been longing to be in its midst, and the irony is not lost on me that I am a low-tech grassroots gal drawn to this current hub of innovation and massive growth. I am interested to find what is calling me there, whether its to be a grounding source for community work, a person/people, learning opportunities, all of the above... I remain open.

Over the past 9 years I have been so privileged to be surrounded by incredibly intelligent, caring, thoughtful and dedicated colleagues at CCL who continually inspire me, motivate me to dream bigger and bolder, and who have become trusted friends and advisors that I am beyond thankful for. I'm happy that won't change!

Meanwhile- little old Greensboro, NC over these almost 13! years since I was “banished” here from Austin, TX to get well- has grown into a place very near and dear to my heart. I now know I came here to meet some of my best lifelong friends who have been, quite literally, crucial to my survival and development into the most fully realized version of myself yet. I am getting verklempt... Really, just a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you for what you have given to enrich my life in all ways.

My sister and I have joked that over the years we have followed my parents around the country as they move- they keep running away and we keep following Happy. This is the first move I’ve made on my own and I know that in order to be the best family member I can be I have to follow my heart, even though it will feel hard and far away at times! I love them to pieces for loving and supporting me unconditionally.

Are things perfect? Of course not. Its true what they say about not waiting until everything is to do something. Do your research, prepare as best as you can, hedge your bets and jump in! Because #onelife, #yolo, and #betterlatethannever right?

How the West was won almost two centuries ago is a great narrative of facing and overcoming adversity on the quest for exploration and navigating unchartered territory.

It was during my Girl Scouts program almost 4 years ago where something clicked and I reached that state of flow and pure joy in my work. I realized that in order to be a role model, particularly for young women, it is of the utmost importance to live my fullest, most authentic life, no matter how scary that might feel to do, and to share my story and truth with others. I fight my humility by remembering I also owe it to all those who have not been as fortunate to see their dreams manifested. So with that, here I go…

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ H. Jackson Brown’s mother

SF post

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25 years of Crohn's.

25 years of Crohn's. Woah does that sound heavy looking at it in a sentence, in word form. So concrete and data parametered, defined. There's no hiding from numbers.

Thing is, numbers don't mean much to me, just swirl around in a survivor's haze, and I peek my head out now and then to come up for air. I feel young and "behind" and just waking up, which is why I always describe the experience as Rip VanWinkle-y. Nowadays I'm hitting my stride more and it's so exciting. For the first time, I am living my life from a stronger platform, getting to make informed choices and experience the present more fully. There are still plenty of challenges, of course. But I'll take these struggles any day over all the rest.

I think about what has kept me going, and even though at first glance my aesthetic may appear fluffy and over the top with all it's cheery rainbow goodness, it runs deep. The motto came to me at a time when I was having my first relapse of Crohn's and was out of high school for a month. I felt like I was dying, and I had to rely on the small things to keep me going. When I received a love note from someone that said "It takes both the sun and the rain to make a rainbow," it clicked. I didn't always like the fact that there were hard times, and I was 16- quite a dramatic and tumultuous time. The phrase has taken on deeper layers of understanding over the years for sure, and I can look back now at that streaky blur of an existence I had, clinging on for dear life while the wind blew me sideways, and see that rainbows
are roads between dreams- those rainbows during the dark times kept me hanging on and believing that there was a higher purpose. The roads have been long, 25 years long some of them, and I am weary sometimes. But I continue to trudge the road of happy destiny, because these roads are leading me to my dreams! It doesn't matter how long it takes. Being on the road is the journey that is important to where I will go and the dreams I have, I now realize. Those roads and walks are making me who I am: strong, funny, mentally tough, appreciative, grateful, tenacious, persistent, dedicated, sharp, competent, knowledgeable, my own Chief Medical Officer and health case worker/manager. I know stuff! People come to me for advice.

I remember visiting my cousin Guy in England and talking to him about his job- he is a private investigator for Scotland Yard, which is like the Brit's version of the FBI. I used to want to be in the FBI as a special agent (until my poor vision shattered those dreams!) and I was enthralled by his work, and wanted to know how I could sign up! He laughed and told me that I needed to put in my time as a beat cop for 20 years first. Wahhh Whannt Whaaaa.... that was a letdown! Happy But I think of it now seeing this magnet on my fridge below, and feel warm inside knowing that my connection with rainbows is something to the core and almost indescribable (yet I still try) - somehow I knew as a kid that they were placeholders, transporters to other dimensions and places (a la Rainbow Brite) and that I could rely on them to get me safely to the place I needed to be, when the time was right.

photxddo

Being a bone fide child of the 80's, I LOVED Rainbow Brite. I can vividly remember Starlite's (her horse) clomping as they trotted away on a rainbow bridge that they made appear with stardust to go help or save something. I always wanted to stand on a rainbow like they did, and still do Happy

rb-and-starlite-rainbow-brite-263731_300_236

Paint a Rainbow In Your Heart
If this doesn't make you smile, or get stuck in your head the rest of the day... Happy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMLJ3JJOBFs

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