As we pass the half way mark of the Road to Real tour, I’m starting to realize just how life changing this journey has been and will continue to be as we finish out the tour. Having the opportunity to travel to sixteen different cities and meet new women every day has been amazing, but getting the chance to sit down and really talk to them and hear their stories has been the greatest part about this adventure. Every woman’s story is more inspiring than the next; proving that T.J.Maxx was right on point with their mission to shed light on the fact that we don’t have to look far to be inspired, and that inspiration is all around us – in our friends, family members, neighbors or even the woman standing next to you in the checkout line.
During the most recent leg of the tour we visited New Orleans and Denver – two cities I had never been to before, but was really looking forward to seeing. I knew that when visiting New Orleans, the stories were going to be intense and heavy. Hurricane Katrina was a devastating event in every NOLA-native’s life, and hearing how it affected each resident in such a different way was hard to hear. Homes, pets, jobs and dreams were all lost, but despite everything they’ve been through, these women have been able to pick up the pieces and move forward, showing just how strong and resilient they are.
When it came time to visit Denver, I didn’t know what to expect, but I found that each woman I talked with was extremely interesting and unique. One common theme among them was the ability to start fresh; many had moved to Denver to start a new life, try new experiences, or to find a better work/life balance. I also learned that, like New Orleans, most of these women had endured a lot, but worked through their struggles and came out the other end more self-aware and evolved.
Overall, although the stories in New Orleans and Denver differed, everyone had experienced hardship in their life, but regardless of what they’ve been through, they were still positive and upbeat about life, wanting to spread love, not hate.
Here are a few stories that stuck out to me during my travels:
Zynani, New Orleans:
Zynani grew up wanting to be a fashion stylist and today, she’s lived out her dreams and is an accomplished wardrobe and hair stylist. Her biggest piece of advice to others is, “love yourself – flaws and all. In the process of living their dreams and fulfilling their goals, sometimes people forget about themselves and that’s the first thing they shouldn’t do. If you’re not together, you can’t fulfill anything. You can’t do your job, you can’t wake up in the morning. You have to love yourself!”
One of the reasons I loved meeting Zynani, was not only because of her unique sense of style, but also to see her relationship with her sister, who she works with and looks up to. I actually ended up interviewing Zynani and her sister separately, and when I asked them each who they admired, they both said each other and became very emotional when talking about the support and love they both feel for one another. After hearing their stories and shared sentiment, I couldn’t help but think of my younger sister who I am also so close to. The whole conversation and experience was truly touching!
Laura was one of the women that I could have spent the entire day with. I found her career to be so fascinating and unique. Laura is a writer and conference speaker who specializes in the mind and body approach to childbirth. This special lady delivered her children into the world all on her own and at home (the bedroom and kitchen are just two of the locations where she has given birth)! On the most important thing she’s learned about being a mom, Laura shared that “it’s okay not to be perfect. I’m lovable as I am!”
Laura had an approach to child birth that I had never really thought about before; she talked about the process of childbirth as being something that is so natural for a woman to do and the reality is that our bodies are made to go through this process and the only reason it’s made out to be so painful is because we scare our minds into thinking that it will be. Her whole logic and outlook on having a child naturally was so interesting and a perspective I think everyone should hear.
Lezlie was another amazing woman that I had the chance of meeting in Denver. She is a great example of someone using a horrible and devastating event in her life to better the world, make a difference and help others in need. Lezlie is a dedicated mother, wife and career woman. Inspired by her mother’s death from a tragic accident, Lezlie volunteers at women’s prisons in her spare time. In her lessons of teaching and encouraging women in character building, one of her most important lessons is “when you love yourself, you’ll do things in life that will line up with that.” Lezlie decided to look at her mother’s death as a way to connect to women who need help and can benefit from her knowledge and teachings.
As we start on the final journey of the Road to Real tour, I encourage all of you to make sure you follow along via social media and of course check back for the final post recapping on all the women I meet in Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City!
Thank you to T.J.Maxx for partnering on this post!