What’s the biggest risk you ever took, and did it pay off?
Here at The Women’s Conference, we have been incredibly moved and inspired by the responses from our community. We’ve heard from women across generations and around the world who have risked so much and – for the most part - have gained even more. They’ve risked everything -- from walking away from successful careers to pursuing their dreams to leaving relationships and marriages – some abusive; from going into debt to start their own businesses to giving up the comforts of their lives to help others. The courage, resourcefulness and big-heartedness of The Women’s Conference community amaze us.
Below is The Great April Giveaway winning response, as well as the three honorable mentions. These women’s commitment to giving back and to staying true to who they are reminds us that it’s time to believe in ourselves – such that we take those risks that we might otherwise shy away from.
Cherie Davis, 50:
After finally getting my college degree at 36 (the first in my family), I sold everything I could and left a very successful career to backpack around the world at age 36. I went alone, with a one way ticket to Chile, a pack and boots. My purpose would be to help in communities where I could, teach about the environment, work in wildlife sanctuaries and getting to know more about the people that we share this planet with. My focus was especially on the women and I stayed with women in over 33 countries. It meant so much to me for them to share their world with me and to know that I brought something that enriched their lives in one way or another. I often stayed with the poor and helped by providing a little of what money that I had or helping in their fields. I tried to be the best ambassador that I could be for Americans and an example of what women can do. It took 4 years and I returned with my 45 pound pack at the age of 40 years old. I was then sleeping at friends homes, homeless, unemployed and had to start my life over at 40. It was a big risk. My career took more than 6 years to get back on track. It was one of the best thing I had ever done and it served to broaden the horizons of the children that followed me on their maps, friends and family members. My contributions were one family at a time. Women can do anything.....I am proof. Worth it.......I now work in my communities to be a better citizen of our world. I run a green business and know that we all have a bigger role to play outside of ourselves.
In August 05 as I watched Hurricane Katrina decimate New Orleans I hopped on my motorcycle and rode to Louisiana. I had 135 dollars in my pocket, a computer and a full tank of gas. I borrowed a cell phone from a friend. I arrived in New Orleans 4 days later and stayed there for two months rescuing animals, sleeping on top of my motorcycle and helping where ever I was needed. I didn't have a plan but I knew that one American with strong arms and a degree of optimism to spread could lead people who were tired and lost.
It worked, I saved animal lives, I helped heal hearts, I made friends who I will have for a life time and I felt bullet proof after that.
In 2000, I went to Washington, DC to testify before a subcommittee hearing on pediatric cancer research. At age 41, I had never been to Washington before. My 12 year old daughter, Katie, had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and she went with me. After telling my story, and shaking the whole time, the entire room stood up and gave all the kids present a standing ovation for the courage they had to fight the disease. It was out of that experience I dedicated my personal and professional goals to making a difference for other families living with cancer. Today I work for a cancer prevention organization in Alexandria, VA and I strive to make a difference each and every day. Katie passed away in 2001 after a valiant fight. To this day, strangers come up to me to tell me how she made a difference in their lives. I probably never would have come to DC if Katie had not gotten cancer. Now I know courage comes at the most unexpected times.
The biggest risk I've ever taken was coming to terms with my sexuality at 28 (I'm now 31), realizing I was gay and asking for a divorce after almost 5 years of marriage to a man. It was the most difficult decision I had ever made in my life. I was incredibly confused and scared, but knew that I wasn't living the life I wanted. Instead, I was living the life I thought I 'should' by my family (being raised Irish Catholic) and society's standards. I was afraid to admit to myself, never mind my husband (at the time), family, friends and colleagues that I was gay. I didn't know if people would accept me, never mind love me. When I came out, it was the most incredible experience. It felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, which I bared for years. Not only did I find myself and feel confident in who I was, but I found the love and support of family and friends, which I feared I would lose. My risk to be open and honest with myself, paid off in being a happy and confident woman. Had I not done this, I would never have met my partner and fell in love. And for me, love (of self and others) is the greatest pay-off.