The past 12 days were a powerful and magical journey for me.
When I decided to hike the Alps with Richard, Sam and Holly Branson, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My Entrepreneur Organization forum mate, April Cleek, convinced me to join the Strive Challenge a few months ago during our monthly Young Guns meeting. April’s attitude and excitement were contagious so I said YES and committed. We ended up hiking more than 160,000 steps, 45 miles, and climbing altitudes of over 15,000 feet.
The hike was amazing. Let me paint you a picture. We ate prison food, struggled and peed in holes in the floor or behind rocks and bushes. We had no showers, no hot water at times, and it was an absolute BLAST. Our first night we stayed in a place with a ZERO-star rating, (I’d personally give it a -2 rating). By the second night, it was a little better and the third night was heaven. We had warm showers! The fourth night we stayed in a hut perched above a beautiful waterfall but there were no hot showers. The last night was a 5-star hotel and I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Even though Richard is a billionaire and could have stayed anywhere, he was with us the whole time. He ate the prison food, endured no hot water and was piled in the bunks with us amongst the music of snores. Speaking of, we want names of anyone who snored! We all struggled along the way and endured the journey together.
The Strive Challenge aligns with who I am, my purpose, and my beliefs. I believe in a growth mindset, helping others thrive in life, and backing innovations to move forward.
MOST people do not make a change until there is a disruption like a death, divorce, birth, loss of job, etc. In fact, many moons ago when we were being chased by dinosaurs that wanted to eat us, this primal trait served a good purpose. Today, we don’t have to out run dinosaurs and tigers. Yet, the news feeds off this fear trait that is still very activated in our brains. Companies market off our fears and they make billions off our DNA.
Before I go off in a different direction, let me focus on WHY Strive? To answer that, I’ll have to go back to when I was a little girl. I experienced a different kind of upbringing that was emotionally challenging. This was my strive through life. My mother suffered from debilitating OCD and because she suffered, my sister and I suffered. Imagine being a child and every night having to take 3, 4, 5, even 6 baths. I had my own strive to survive and avoid pain which taught me huge lessons in life and it gave me a gift to prepare me for the future.
My mother’s OCD led her to constantly wash us and throw everything away. Things like money, shoes, clothes, toys, beds, dishes, and food were all thrown away. I remember thinking, how are we going to eat, pay our rent, and stay warm? As a young girl, I could NOT keep anything of meaning or value because to my mother it was contaminated and she would throw it away. This was so heartbreaking for me. I just wanted security and to feel safe that we would be able to pay the rent.
Mom gave us another gift – the ability to see the difference between normal and abnormal. She would send us to our grandparents’ farm to spend the WHOLE summer while she worked to make enough money to buy things like clothes, shoes and school supplies only to throw them away. This was a special time in my life. I was free and I could play like a kid should. And, I could get dirty! All summer I went barefoot, played in the pasture and the barn filled with hay, played in the creek, played with the neighbors, and I had a dog and baby kittens to play with. Life was INCREDIBLE!!!
Then, it came time to go back to Mom when school was starting. My grandparents had bought us clothes, given us silver dollars, jelly shoes, bracelets and best of all – bubble gum machine rings. The summer would come to an END and I knew once we went back to Mom she would throw everything away. My grandparents would take us to meet my mother at a McDonald’s in Gainesville, Georgia. You have to understand; the farm in Mom’s mind was contaminated. So once my grandparents left, we would walk across the four lane road to the Holiday Inn and then begin the process of decontamination by taking 5, 6, 7 baths for hours. She would have food and new clothes waiting for us.
She would throw away everything my grandparents had given us. But, I was clever. On the farm we had a very large play house that my grandparents bought us that we could stand up in. It had an attic, where I would stuff anything and everything of value and what I liked so I would have it next year. So once we were finished with the first hotel, we would walk down to the Gainesville Motel to check-in. This is where she had parked the car and left more clothes and food items to get us through the hours of the washing process.
These struggles and painful events have prepared me for life. My mom’s paranoia, idiosyncrasies and OCD gave me the gift to understand WHY and to look deeper. I learned to alter and direct situations and to protect myself and others. My childhood experience shaped my WHY. I want everyone to feel safe, have security and be able to pay for what they need.
Growth happens when you are challenged and step out of your comfort zone. I believe it is often the most challenging experiences in our lives that present us with the greatest opportunity to learn and develop.
Even with my mother’s obsessive handicap, she did her best. She left my sister and I when we were 11 and 12 years old. I am grateful to have had exceptional grandparents who sacrificed their golden years to instill strong values of family, love, connection, integrity and honor.
My childhood was dominated by struggles and pain. This is what made me who I am today. I could have given up and let my mom’s issues destroy my life and ambition. The stories that we tell ourselves shape our thoughts and actions.The Strive hike this past week was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It reminded me of how my sister and I would work together to distract our mom from the thing that would cause us the most pain. My sister and I learned to work really hard together to avoid pain and hurting. The bond we formed is special just like the bond we formed with our teams on our journey over the Alps.
Unfortunately, I had to go back to work, but the Strive hike continues through the Alps another 1,350 miles on bikes then a swim to Sicily and a marathon run up Mt. Etna. I will be cheering them on from the Internet and afar! You can follow along and support them too by visiting the website. All donations support Big Change.
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