I have to admit something...
I’m a recovering joy chaser. I've spent years of my life looking for joy in all the wrong places, and actively convincing myself that my joy was sitting cross-legged (or probably meditating in crow pose) waiting for me to find it. I spent years of my life traipsing around the world calling for my joy to come back to me, but no matter how many rocks I looked under, I could not find it anywhere.
The first time I remember coming face to face with pure joy was in 2003 during my time in the Peace Corps, Swaziland (the country with the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate). During those two years, I bared witness to extreme loss and incredible joy, both ultimate lows and highs that pushed me beyond what I thought my emotional limits were. It was here in Swaziland that I cracked open. I learned how to actively summon my courage daily - giving up was never an option. I courageously chose joyfulness everyday. It felt easy to experience joy and love when surrounded by loss because the contrast was so blatant - dark could not exist without light.
Living in Swaziland taught me...
It was an incredible gift to witness just how powerful love, laughter, community, and connection were, and even when side-by-side with death, the emotion of love never ceased to amaze me. I felt full living amidst this combination of joy, love, and pain, and because of this, most days in Swaziland felt precious and purposeful. (Take a peak into my Swaziland experience here)
The day I left Swaziland to return to New York City I wrote a journal entry – “Swaziland, I leave my heart with you,” and just like that, my joy disappeared. It was only when I settled back into NY life that the trauma set in and I spent years struggling with PTSD after witnessing the loss of so many people that I loved. No matter how hard I tried, I could no longer summon my joy – all that was present were painful memories. So, in an effort to heal myself I began searching, returning to Swaziland every year for the next ten years, looking for a feeling that I feared I might never find. I turned over rock after rock, but my highs felt fleeting. It seemed like my joy was refusing to come home.
The tidal wave came in 2009 during a trip to Swaziland when I unexpectedly lost and buried three people very close to me in the span of ten days. The pain was overwhelming, my emotions were uncontrollable, and once again, I cracked open. This time however, it was a swell of unprocessed trauma that broke me. In a small sweat lodge on the top of a mountain in South Africa, I begged myself to change. It was then that I realized I had been living one inch outside of myself, and it was time to come home.
When I returned to NYC I quit my job in documentary film production and became the personal assistant to a New York City playwright. He taught me two things that I will be eternally grateful for – the power of creativity as a form of healing, and the ability to make something funny out of nothing. It was here that I learned to laugh again and to write, even when I thought I had nothing to say. It wasn't easy, and the processing was arduous, but I wrote about every painful memory I could. When I finished, I re-wrote, over and over again. I gave my stories love, and I honored them fully. It was during this process that I awoke to the memory of laughter and connection, and in that place, I found hope.
With hope came an awareness of my resiliency and grit
In the past 15 years I’ve:
Gave a speech at the Kennedy Center, see it here!
Worked in Samoa paving roads with the Public Works Department
Led professional scavenger hunts
Camped in the Serengeti
Studied African drumming in Ghana with the first recognized female drummer
Planted trees in Costa Rica
Was chosen to speak at the JFK Service Awards Ceremony, see it here!
Swam with whale sharks in Mozambique
Taught Cultural Anthropology at Mariah Carey’s summer camp
Traveled to Brazil to shoot a documentary on child prostitution
Hung out with Lemurs in Madagascar
Been a NYC bus tour guide
Sky dived over the sand dunes of Namibia
Worked as a pre-school teacher in Lower Manhattan
Been on a five day naked vision quest
From this place I began to listen to my heart, to practice self-compassion, and to process the pieces of my story over, and over, and over again. My true story was never about a joy who simply didn’t want to come home, but rather it was a story about a woman who feared her joy so much, that she gave it permission to come from everywhere but within.
Joy still takes courage. Giving myself permission to feel love, compassion, and connection everyday takes work. However, now I have learned hopefulness. I let my dark co-exist with my light, and I use it to propel me forward. I honor the grit and pain from my past. It has created the deepest, most unique, compassionate parts of my being, and I am here to share that story. I am here to hold up a mirror for you, so you too can hear the call, you too can honor your purpose, and you too can get gritty in pursuit of what matters most.
Education, Coach Training and Credentials:
Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from the Coaches Training Institute and the International Coaches Federation.
Certified in Applied Positive Psychology from The Flourishing Center
Certificate in Mind-Body medicine from the Center for Mind-Body Medicine
Worked in Team Building for Over Ten Years.
Over 15 Years of Volunteer Experience in Southern Africa
Peace Corps Volunteer - Swaziland 03’-05’
Affiliate of Capes Coaching, a creative coaching company for actors, artists, and creative professionals.
MFA in Creative Nonfiction writing from the New School
BA in Cultural Anthropology from Colorado College