Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Together Live 2017

I'm going to be real honest here, I had no idea what this was when I entered to win tickets.  All I knew was that Sophia Bush would be there and I love Sophia Bush so if she was going to be there then I wanted to be there too.

Thursday morning I got a comment back from one of my favorite blogs and insta accounts, The Nashville Guide, to send over my name and the name of my +1 so they could put us on the list for the night. Yes! Only six hours of subbing in a middle school classroom and a two hour drive up to Nashville stood between me being in the same room as my favorite actress.

Caitlin and I made it to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center just in time for the event to start. It began with an introduction by the founder of Together Live,  Jennifer Rudolph Walsh.  She introduced her purpose of putting these events together- women sharing their stories in hopes of inspiring others to do the same and working together to empower each other on our journeys to change the world. (Don't worry, men were invited - and celebrated - too!)

The first speakers were author and activist Glennon Doyle and all-time leading scorer in international soccer history Abby Wambach.  Glennon shared her story of her broken marriage and battle with addiction as Abby shared her story of turning to drugs and alcohol.  They shared a love story like only writers can.  Beginning at opposite ends of the stage with their eyes on each other, they spoke of how their lives changed when they met, moving closer together as each page of their story was told.

I love the story telling aspect of this event.  I think about how much I love reading and how I love hearing other peoples stories.  Part of why I started (continued?) this blog is because I love reading blogs.  Reading other people's stories has always been my greatest form of inspiration.

Following Glennon and Abby was Luvvie Ajayi and this girl pulled on my heart strings hard.  Of all the women speaking, I identified with her most.  Luvvie was born in Nigeria and moved to the states when she was a child.  She grew up wanting to be a doctor, and began college as a psychology/pre-med major.  After getting her first D in Chemistry, she ended up dropping the pre-med and graduated with a degree in psychology. From there, she worked in a marketing position. During all this time she had been keeping a blog, just for fun.  She knew she loved to write, but had never looked at it as a career path until her just-for-fun-blog won an award years after she was finished with college.  From there, she grew her blog and wrote a book, all the while taking as many risks and chances as she could.  She made it her goal to do the things that scared her.

Those of you who know me IRL probably just read that and said, "Gretchen, that is nothing like you. You grew up in Minnesota, which is about as far away from Africa as you can get," but hear me out.  Like Luvvie, school came really easy to me. I entered college as a business major, and after getting my first C in Macro-economics (go to class, kids), dropped it for an education major, thinking that was where my passion was.  Now, less than three years out of college, I'm quite certain that I don't wan't anything to do with that degree.  Like Luvvie, my blog that began as a hobby (well, as a way to keep my friends and family updated on my life in Costa Rica), now is something that I would love to turn into a full time "thing." I would love more than anything to just WRITE and do the things that I love.  Also, I'm pretty big on doing all things that scare me! 

Becca Stevens, founder of Nashville's Thistle Farms, was invited to the stage next. I had heard of Thistle Farms, but I didn't know what it was. She shared the origin story that resulted in the birth of Thistle Farms, an organization that's mission is "to heal, empower, and employ women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction" by "providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners."  So here is the awesome thing about Thistle Farms (okay, one of many awesome things), it is SO EASY to support them! You can visit the cafe on Charlotte Pike for locally sourced breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea.  You can also buy a variety of Thistle Farms brand products such as bath and body washes and lotions, candles, room sprays, apparel, and other products straight from their website linked above.

After a brief intermission, Sophia Bush and Ruthie Lindsey took the stage.  Sophia informed us that though scheduled, Connie Britton was not going to make it tonight due to being stuck filming in LA (boo!) but she had sent a recorded message for us.

Y'all. The woman I came for. And not surprisingly she spoke to my soul.  I was and am a lover of One Tree Hill which is where my love of Sophia Bush came from.  After OTH, Sophia ventured into the show Chicago PD which I also watched (while she was still a part of it).  She recently dropped the show and Sophia spoke of how she didn't feel she had to explain why she dropped it until she was ready to, but that she shouldn't have to go do work every day dreading it (with the "f" word thrown in there somewhere) and that hit me hard.  Because when it came down to it that was what teaching was starting to become to me, and as I recently told my best friend- if you don't love what you do, its not worth doing. As much as we tell ourselves to keep our work lives and our personal lives separate, if we are miserable at work, it is going to leak over into all other aspects and areas of our being.

An unexpected but equally important guest came out next.  Equipped with a translator, Lupe Gonzala, a neighbor to Glennon and Abby, came to speak about the unfair treatment of farm worker women immigrants.  She spoke of the sexual assault that she and the other women faced daily in the fields, and how it impacted her family at home.  She and other women had decided to take a stand and thus the Fair Food Sisters was born.  The organization's goal is bring awareness to and fight sexual abuse and forced labor.

Another unexpected guest, Karen Fairchild from Little Big Town was invited on stage next.  She shared about her time in the music industry, and how easy it was for women to be pushed to the back.  Karen discussed the importance of making sure there was room for everyone at the table, and to cheer each other on.  She shared how Little Big Town constantly works together to make sure all voices are heard even when the outside forces in the industry may only focus on certain individuals. 

Inspired by the Me Too Movement, the show ended with the women gathered together sharing their own stories of "me too."  If you're unaware of what the Me Too Movement is, you can educate yourself here.  I'm not going to disclose their stories, because they are not mine to share, but the courage they showed as they shared was empowering. I encourage those of you who don't know what this movement is to take some time to look into it, because just because it doesn't happen to you, doesn't mean it doesn't happen, and just because it doesn't happen to you, doesn't mean it doesn't matter. And on that note, me too.

Can I just say how empowering it was to be in a room of women looking for the best for EVERYONE.  Y'all things got political for a second or two, but guess what- there was no name calling, no excluding people from the "other side." That was such a refreshing thing for me.  Had things turned nasty, it would have totally discredited everything these women were trying to instill in the crowd, but they didn't! I say this because I can't tell you how many people I've lost respect for after seeing them use terms like "snowflake" or "lib-tard," solely because the ONLY purpose of words like those are to hurt and insult, and anyone whose goal is to intentionally inflict hurt in anyway is not a person who deserves my respect.  (I don't know any of the bad slang terms directed towards the other side, or I would have included them there.  You know why I don't know any? Because I am friends with kind people.)

There was no better time in my life for me to discover Together Live.  Those who know me personally know that I'm stuck in a limbo of not knowing what my life's purpose is and what path I am suppose to be walking skipping down.  I want to LOVE doing what I do for work everyday.  Too often I hear people say that work is work and you don't have to love it because that's not what the purpose of a job is, but I disagree.

I had this quote written in my notes under Karen's name, and so I'm going to assume she said it.  The quote was, "I don't have to sound profound, I just have to say the truth."  This quote stuck with me because I sometimes I struggle with writing things, and I struggle with speaking about things and when you have a blog that is a rotten thing to struggle with.  In this day and age, and especially with social media, if you say one thing wrong people can absolutely tear you up about it.  But when it comes down to it, its not always how you say something, but its what you say.  I don't have to use elaborate metaphors to get my point across, I just have to speak from the heart and speak my truth.  I struggled with writing this post, because I felt like these women had such beautiful stories to share and were so eloquent with their words that I would be unable to do them justice with this measly, messy blog post.  If you get the chance, I would encourage going to see Together Live 2018 (the tour is over this year!) so you can see, and hear, for yourself what I mean. In the mean time, they are putting out a podcast that just started called Together Live Presents: Do it on Purpose which I am loving right now!

I'm going to end this post with another quote from Glennon that I love, "Stop asking for directions to places no one has ever been."  So often we ask our friends and family for help and advice, and while there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that, when it comes down to it, your path is YOUR path.  No one has walked it before, and so no one can tell you which turn to take and whether you need to pack a bikini or a parka.  Life is full of never before navigated waters, and the beauty is in pioneering your own adventure!

If you're looking for some inspirational reads, check out the books currently out by the ladies above:

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle

Love Heals by Becca Stevens

I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach

Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle

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