A few weeks ago, I launched the “The Road to Real” tour with T.J.Maxx; a tour where I will be traveling across the country, to sixteen cities, speaking to women about their accomplishments, dreams, challenges, journeys, and digging deep to find nuggets of wisdom along the way. I partnered with T.J.Maxx because they believe that women are living life on their own terms and want to celebrate these real women who live life in their own unique way every day. As women, we tend to look far for inspiration, and the goal of this tour is to shine a light on the inspiring stories gathered from women that surround us every single day. We don’t need to look far to get inspired; and if the first few stops of this tour has taught me anything, it’s that the amount of strength, courage, love, kindness, and desire to do good and be good, lives in woman walking amongst us daily.
I have always been interested in hearing and learning from real women. I ask a million questions all the time because I love hearing about people’s journeys and how they live their lives. When I heard about the tour T.J.Maxx was doing, I was hooked on the idea and desperately wanted to be a part of it. I am a big believer in learning from those around you and the people we see when we run into the drugstore or that we pass by at work, are often living incredible and inspiring lives that we never get the chance to hear about, and now we get to listen. We are all so busy, running from here to there, always going, rarely getting to really talk to people, listen to people, learn from people and get inspired by people. That is what this whole tour is about; talking, questioning, listening, learning, and inspiring, all from the women that surround us daily.
I will admit after the first leg of the tour, that I did not know what I was getting myself into with this experience. I knew it would be great, but I didn’t know it would have such a deep affect on me and how I look at the world; and we are only 1/5 of the way done!
So far, I have interviewed close to 90 women from Boston, New York, and Washington, DC. These women have been real, honest, open, raw, and vulnerable. Some have laughed, some have cried, some have been angry, some have questioned why I would want to talk to them, and some have just talked to me about life and allowed me to listen. These women do it all; they are working women, mothers, daughters, care takers, wives, sisters, friends and much more. I feel so lucky to be able to hear their stories and to allow them this platform to release such realness; this platform has already been a gift and one that I have learned so much from and continue to learn from.
I wanted to give you guys a little glimpse into some of the women I have had the honor of meeting so far:
Jeanine, who calls herself the “Moss” is a mom and boss to two young women in their 20’s. She and her oldest daughter run a non-profit company which provides tennis lessons for low-income communities which operates year round through school programs and summer camps. Having a daughter who is autistic has been a challenge, but Jeannine has drawn her inspiration from the generosity of others who have always given back to her and have been extremely helpful.
On how she became so strong:
“I’ve always been a little odd and a little unique. I’ve had a strong drive for doing things that were important to me or things that I thought were right. People didn’t always agree but it worked out for me.”
Kim is a young wife and mom who says her son taught her the real meaning of patience and love. Being a mom is a juggling act, but she makes it work and learns how to balance the different roles she plays in her life. Kim notes that her strong family and successful marriage is the result of communication and building a strong foundation.
On how she doesn’t lose sight of values:
“Stay humble. I’m from Maine and was raised in a very simple, happy childhood. Going back to my roots and realizing that what you’re going through that day is all relative. There is so much happening out in the real world, it could be worse. To continue to inspire [my son] since he’s watching me and he’s like a sponge. And smile. Remember to smile!”
Debbie wears many hats, she’s not only a mother and grandmother, but she loves to volunteer and is a retired English teacher. She grew up always wanting to be a teacher and has had the opportunity to work with children of all ages. Her passion was and still is to inspire young kids and to teach important life lessons.
One piece of advice she’d give her students:
“What you do, demonstrates who you are, so think before you do things. Every time you make a good choice, you’re building your character and your character is what you rely on when life becomes hard.”
Kim takes care of her mom, dad and two sisters. She studied psychology in college and wants to use her degree to talk to women today about the LGBT community and how to live your own life’s truth. Kim says the balance can be difficult – taking care of her family, working and living her life – but she says, “as women we gotta push through and find a level of balance, so I use examples of women I know… mothers who take care of three of four children, and I think how do they do it? I may not get everything done in one day, but that’s OK. Tomorrow is another day.”
On what success means to her:
“Being bigger than the image that you think you can be… It’s not about what you can’t do, but about the little things you can do. If you can do a little bit, it’s better than doing nothing at all.”
After recently being laid off from her job, Tammy, a wife, mom and grandmother, took a moment to gather herself and then, like so many women do each day, pushed forward. She kept her head held high, found another opportunity and moved to DC to pursue another career path.
On where she gets her inspiration:
“Sometimes you get a perfect stranger that you don’t have a clue what their story is but Facebook will make them relevant. All of sudden a zillion pictures of this person you’ve never seen. So, you’ll read about them and they’re just a regular person. I kind of pull from that a lot too”
Rania, is a wife, a mom to one daughter and works full time at Georgetown University. In the next few weeks, she will undergo open heart surgery and stopped by T.J.Maxx to pick up a gift for her close friend who has helped her get through an extremely tough time in her life and pajamas for her recovery. Rania’s passion and biggest inspiration in her life are family and friends,
Her advice to others:
“Remember to slow down and appreciate everything around you, even the small stuff.”
In the three cities we have been to so far, I have learned a huge amount, but the most important thing I have learned is that there is so much GOOD among us. Every single woman, no matter what her background, how much she has struggled, how many times life has knocked her down, wants to make a difference. Honestly, it has been so refreshing and amazing to see and hear each and every single woman say how much it means to them to give back, help those in need, and make the world a better place. I think we can all look at what’s going on in the world and get negative about humanity -I know I have had that feeling before; but what I have heard is that yes, life is hard and it will throw you for a loop, but never forget what’s important and what’s going to make a difference. I know it sounds cliché, but when you listen to a woman who is single mother with a disabled child, or a young woman who works long hours to provide for her sister who is struggling and her mother who is deaf, or a woman who lived in a homeless shelter with her two kids after leaving an abusive relationship and then coming out, and all of them saying that after everything they’ve gone through, the thing they are most passionate about is doing good and being a good person; THAT is inspiring.
I encourage you to follow along for the next thirteen cities to continue the journey as we meet and interview more women and continue to get inspired!
Thanks to T.J.Maxx for partnering on this post!