I quit smoking four years ago, started running and haven’t stopped. That’s how I do it. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. I am a very proud Portlander, I can’t think of a better place to call home. I grew up camping and hiking. Mount Hood was only a couple of hours away so I was also able to develop a snowboarding habit. Summers in Oregon are treasured, as you may know, it rains a lot in Portland. Portlanders don’t waste a sunny day inside; personally I headed to the river – Wilson River, Sandy River, even the Willamette River – with my inner tube and let the current do the work…my kind of paradise.
I spent fourteen years in food service. I started at 14 as a hostess in a small diner and worked my way through nearly all positions in progressively fancier restaurants. It is addictive. The energy in a busy restaurant is an adrenaline rush. Waiting tables I learned one of the most important lessons life can offer; I learned to hold my judgment and see each person as an individual. It is always the people you think will stiff you on the tip that leaves you an extra five or ten spot. As much as I loved working in the industry I knew that I needed to move on to the next part of my life.
I struggled in college. I spent eight years working on my bachelors like many undergrads I changed majors five times; psychology, accounting, chemistry, nutritional science, business, and finally I landed on economics. I wanted to feel passionate about my studies and my future.
I remember when I was about ten-years-old searching through the newspaper for a homework assignment. The first section of The Oregonian always had the international news and I remember see a photograph of a girl, from Somalia. The article was about the famine that was killing thousands. I had a hard time understanding how there could be grocery stores full of food while little girls in Somalia didn’t have any.
It was a wonderful, crazy college professor that reminded me of the concerned ten-year old from my past. In a lecture about globalization I was reminded how interconnected we are. I changed majors for the last time that term and turned my attention to economics and development. Somehow I was going to take my degree in economics and make a difference in the world.
After graduation I joined the AmeriCorps VISTA program where I did volunteer work for a community development financial institution in Spokane. This was right after the housing bubble burst and social service providers were overwhelmed. I focused on financial matters for low-income people. After finishing my volunteer service I was hired on to continue my work. I did this for almost two years before I received my invitation to serve as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia, Africa.
I have been in Namibia for a year. I split my time training, mentoring and supporting my organization’s development goals. I am experiencing first hand what so many development authors have written about. Many micro businesses are stuck at a sustenance level; people are pushed into self-employment because there are few other options. I see how the shop owner has a hard time building stock to entice customers because most of the cash that comes in is spent buying food for the kids; all of a sudden the stock is gone, rent is due, and there is no money for either. I see people desperate for their big break. The most important thing I do is offering a calm voice to help them work through their latest crisis.
Running, Yoga and Business is where it all comes together. Running requires physical and mental strength; Yoga is the time I use to empty my mind and breathe; and business… well that is how I can make a difference. Running, Yoga and Business inspire me to be better and continue learning and oddly there is balance among the three.