As I was testifying at the Massachusetts State house last spring in front of the Joint Committee on Health and Public Service to help influence improvements in the system of care for stroke survivors, I had this powerful sense that this was exactly where I was meant to be. This felt like my purpose in life and I realized then, that maybe my stroke wasn’t just this horrible thing that happened to me, but maybe a gift. I began to look at my situation differently. What initially had felt like an obstacle, I could see now as an opportunity. I realized I was lucky to have experienced and recovered from a stroke, and now can share that experience to help others. More importantly, I had realized that my stroke had set me back on a life path I thought was gone.
I have been to the State House speaking to lawmakers a few times since my stroke four years ago, advocating for changes and improvements in different aspects of stroke care. That specific day last spring speaking to the Joint Committee on public health, I realized I was doing something I had set out to do from as far back as my college days. In college, I was a policy studies and political science major. My goal was to become a lawyer or lobbyist and advocate for issues I felt were important. However, those plans got derailed by different life events. Since my early twenties, I have tested out a lot of different careers, none of which lasted very long, mostly because I always had the feeling I didn’t really belong. The older I became, and the further-and-further away from those college days I got, the less likely it seemed I that I would find my way back to what I wanted really wanted to do with my life. As I hopped from career-to career in marketing, sales, and eventually fitness, I still couldn’t shake that constant feeling I was meant to be doing something more. Not just that I needed a new job, but the anxious feeling I needed to find a more meaningful way to spend my life, and doing nothing was not an option. I just didn’t know what that role would look like or how I would ever find myself in such a position... this is where the universe stepped in. I suffered a stroke.
My stroke changed the way I live my life. I now seek out embracing a healthier life, not only physically but mentally and spiritually. Initially after my stroke, I just could not even begin to understand why I had to go through this awful and disruptive situation at such a young age, a time in my life when I felt so healthy. Looking for answers to that question drove me to seek out many different holistic healers and to delve into countless books that helped me begin to learn to connect to, and find more spiritual meaning in my life. What I believe now, is spirituality is about the journey of self-improvement, and no matter where you are on that journey, there is always room for inspiration and growth. I think of spirituality as that feeling… like a strong pull inside drawing you towards finding ways of incorporating a greater sense of well-being, health, and happiness in your day-to-day life. I call this feeling spirituality, others may call it something different, like mindfulness or god. I believe all terms encompass a vastness of beliefs, tips, tools, ideas, vibes that can be both physical and mental that inspire positive change, sometimes small and other times life transforming. Part of my own spiritual journey has been to realize that when we are open-minded to trusting and believing that we will be guided to amazing opportunities for growth in all aspects of our lives, that it starts to happen for us.
Looking back now I feel all throughout my life, I had been ignoring a lot of subtle signs and nudges from the universe that I was going in the wrong direction, career after career, project after project things just weren’t working out, no matter how hard I was trying. In each of my roles, I was driven, I worked hard, and yet was always extremely stressed out and unhappy. Interestingly enough, during that time of my life I had completely neglecting the spiritual aspect of myself.
Today, the more I turn towards a spiritual minded life, the happier and the more at peace I feel. I find comfort in believing that the difficult times we face may in fact be the universe guiding us towards becoming a better, truer, version of ourselves. The difficult part is that to experience this shift in our mindset, we must be in a place in life where we are ready to pay close attention to what is really going on around us. I am happier now than I was before I had a stroke. The anxious and antsy feelings I had for the past 20 years have been replaced by excitement and a never-ending source of motivation to do whatever I can to help others live healthier.
I am grateful for the valuable skill I learned in my many and various careers because those skills are helping me do the work I want to today. For example, I learned strategies for promoting myself through my different positions in television advertising and marketing. I learned writing skills as an analyst for a consulting firm. I learned to hustle in real estate sales, I learned about entrepreneurship though helping to launch a sustainable caviar company. I learned to be comfortable speaking in front of people through teaching group fitness classes. All those tools I learned are extremely useful to me today. And while the journey I have been on has been challenging, confusing at times, and very bumpy, it lead me to the new more fulfilling path I am on today. A path to helping others, to advocating, to realizing that whatever issues a person is dealing with in life, we all struggle, we all suffer at times, but that we don’t have to let those challenging times define us, we mustn’t allow ourselves to stay stuck there, stuck in our struggles and pain. The obstacles we face are gifts getting us to dive deep into ourselves and look for places we need to grow to become better, brighter, healthier and to find our path.