#RoadToReal: The Midwest

After almost three months of traveling, visiting sixteen cities, and interviewing nearly 500 women, the T.J.Maxx #RoadToReal tour has come to an end. We started this journey in Boston on May 5th, with the goal of uncovering inspirational stories from women across the country, to show that you don’t have to look far to be inspired because it’s all around you. We just need to take a moment to open our eyes, maybe ask a few questions and really see the people around us.

I have always known that women do it all, with my mother always serving as my inspiration. Growing up, she never missed important events for my siblings and I, she attended our sports games, school events, was there for school picks ups and drop offs, and stressed the importance of family dinners, all while being an amazing wife and daughter, and later caring for both of my grandparents. I grew up watching her interview and talk to women, whether for her job or in line at a local coffee shop. She always had an ability to get women to open up to her, and now I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to do the same.

I saw that same strength, caring, passion and resilience in the women I met through this journey. They opened up to me in a way that I can’t explain; they shared their darkest times and their happiest times, and stories that have moved me and changed my life forever – not only in the way I view life, but how I want to live my life each day moving forward. I think about the laughter, the countless tears, and the raw emotion expressed by so many women all over the country. I heard inspiring stories of struggle, perseverance and vulnerability – stories about women balancing a career, motherhood and being a wife. Stories about women who have lost children or are single mothers. Stories of women who are caretakers for aging parents or disabled children. Stories of cancer survivors, recovering addicts, and domestic abuse survivors. Stories of first time college graduates, and so much more.

As I look back on this journey and all the incredible women I’ve met, I can’t help but get emotional. This experience has been far more amazing than I ever could’ve imagined.

This final leg of the tour we traveled to Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City, and it was by far the most raw and emotional. With every story I heard, the most common theme was the importance of love and to live life to the fullest. I‘ll also note that during the tour, the world and our country was in a state of fear, pain, horror, and unknown. Many women brought up the recent shootings and terror attacks, and their inability to make sense of it; most were at a loss for words and felt saddened by the situation we are in, but no one was hopeless. The need to love one another, treat each other with kindness, compassion, and understanding is what every woman agreed our world needs most.

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Kellie, Detroit:

On the most important thing she’s learned in life: “To love and have hope. I believe that if you maintain a love for everyone than regardless of anything that happened, you can use that love and be a person of integrity and do what’s right – whether it’s right for you or right for another person. And hope because, if you have hope, then you can continue on and you can show love.”

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Colette, Chicago:

On what she would tell the world: “Always have humor and live your life, don’t just exist. You have to live and not wait for tomorrow. Don’t wait for the money, do it now. Tomorrow is not promised, it’s a gift – my father truly lived and inspired me to live, because when it goes, it goes.”

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Becky, Minneapolis:

On the most important thing she’s learned in life: “Intentionality. We need to be intentional about what we do. We can’t just wait for life to come to us, we need to wake up and say, ‘this is how I want to be.’ Fifteen years ago someone asked me what would be said at my eulogy and I didn’t know – so, I wrote down 11 things that weren’t true at the time, but they are all true today. The three words that I always remind myself to be are kind, courteous and present. Life’s all about choices.”

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Sherri, Kansas City:

On being a mom: “Being a mom has taught me patience, understanding and unconditional love. I want my kids to learn perseverance and how to overcome challenges. I was a single mom for eleven years and it’s hard because you have to be everything, but then I met my husband and we gained a family. I was a single woman with one child and I married a man with five. We have a good time, there are challenges with a blended family but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

In closing, I want to leave you all with the most important thing I’ve learned from this journey: know that everyone you encounter, everyone you see, everyone you walk by, everyone you co-exist with has a story. We are ALL human, we are ALL struggling and we are ALL on this journey called life, just doing the BEST that we can. So the next time someone cuts you off on the road, snaps at you for no reason, sends you a nasty text or email, doesn’t treat you with kindness, show compassion for the fact that that person is dealing with one of life’s challenges. The more we can treat each other with kindness and love, the better the world will be and the happier you will be in your life too, I promise!

I am forever grateful to T.J.Maxx for giving me this opportunity; it has changed me in ways I can’t even explain and when I think about our journey I just weep because I feel I have been so deeply touched and moved. Thank you forever!

Thank you to T.J.Maxx for partnering on this post!

One Comment

  1. Raey Hurley says:

    wow, thank you so much for this post! i need to be reminded that there are real lives, real life lessons to be learned, and real connections to be made everywhere! Thank you!!