hereforthegirls | Co-Founders’ Corner: Kayakers Vs. Speed Boaters
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, June 01, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our series, Co-Founders’ Corner! These are posts by either of our two Here for the Girls Co-Founders, Rene Bowditch or Mary Beth Gibson. Enjoy these (sometimes funny, sometimes serious, always interesting) reflections on life!

There are lots of different ways to put people into categories – like introverts or extroverts, spenders or savers, glass half full or glass half empty, cat lovers or dog lovers. You get the drift. I have fun putting people into categories, and I do it without judgment. People are just who they are.

One way I like to think about people as they travel along the river of life is in terms of speed boaters or kayakers. The speed boaters know what they want in life, they have set goals, and they have a route mapped out for getting there. They are full speed ahead. An example would be my brother. He knew by the age of 40 that he wanted to be a successful business owner, marry, and have children. And he did. I admire him greatly. I am so not him.

I am more like the kayaker. I am along for the ride, drift with the currents, steer when necessary, and paddle through the rapids. Here is an example:

I was in my late 30s and living a very contented life. Somehow the river had taken me to a nice smooth stretch where everything was just flowing along so comfortably, and I was enjoying the pleasant view along the way. I had an awesome job as a human resources executive in a Fortune 500 company. I was part of a successful team rolling out innovative strategies in our division that was being recognized across the company. I worked hard but was rewarded well – well enough that my husband was able to be a stay-at-home dad. He actually had the harder job – taking care of three boys under the age of 5 – but he enjoyed it, and he was good at it.

I received a call from a colleague, Carrie, who had just attended a personal development conference, and she was pumped. Now this was someone I worked with but didn’t know super well; she was so moved by her insights, she wanted to share them with me. She asked, “If you could do anything, and success was guaranteed, what would you do?” Without a whole lot of thought I immediately responded with, “I would be a rock star, like one of the Go Gos!” Carrie said, “Well then why aren’t you doing it?” “I can’t sing.” “Okay, well seriously, what would you do?” Again, without a whole lot of reflection but from the heart, I responded with, “I would start a non-profit for young women to help them improve self-esteem.” “Why aren’t you doing that?” she asked. Hmmm… Well, let me count the reasons: I have a job I really enjoy working with a great team doing great things. I get paid very well to do it. I am the sole bread winner, and Bo would not be able to replace our income even if he did work. And on top of that, I know nothing about running a non-profit and no idea how to start one.

That was the end of the conversation. I thought. Little did I know there was white water ahead, and I was going to have to start paddling like hell to get through it.

Fast forward two years. There was a major change in the company, and the promotion I had been promised was gone, along with my position. Out of the blue, the successful, happy HR executive was on the streets. The job I loved – that was my identity and that supported my family – was gone. I was shaken, scared, depressed, angry, confused, lost. Equipped with a decent severance package, I took some time off to enjoy my family before initiating a job search. A workshop I attended for people in transition presented the benefits of starting a franchise. I was hooked. I could start my own company and if I worked my ass off, could replace the income I had lost. I was used to hard work. I could do this, so with equal parts of trepidation and daring, I purchased a coaching franchise called The Entrepreneurs Source.

The stress of it all had taken its toll, however, and more rapids loomed ahead. Six weeks after investing most of our life savings in this franchise, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and immediately embarked upon a grueling, year-long treatment regimen that included intensive chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy and then radiation.

My comfortable existence was now completely shattered. I worked the new business while undergoing treatment, but it was hard having the energy to learn a completely new career while fighting for my life. Not to mention, the things I valued before, like money and professional success, weren’t high priorities any more.

It was during treatment that I met the woman who would ultimately become my friend and co-founder, Rene Bowditch. We began hosting a group for young women with breast cancer to offer them love, support, and encouragement while they were going through a life-transforming journey. That small support group, initially six women in Rene’s home, is now a ten-year-old non-profit that is continuing to grow and spread a special brand of love to young women all over the country affected by the devastating disease of breast cancer. And you know what? One of the most important things we do is help these women rebuild their self-esteem after breast cancer, and if they never had self-esteem, we help them build it now. Somehow the river had brought me to the thing that I said would do but was too afraid to.

I don’t know what else life has in store for me downstream, and my kayak may have dents, but I have my paddle and my helmet, and I know I will be okay.

9 Comments
  • Crystal Silins
    Posted at 11:56h, 05 June Reply

    I didn’t know about the franchise you bought! So what did you end up doing with that? Were you able to sell? Or Bo took it over? Great blog! I bounce back and forth between speed boat and kayak. I honestly want my speed boat days to lessen, and stay on kayak time as much as possible. It’s more relaxing! ❤️

    • Vicki vawter
      Posted at 18:27h, 05 June Reply

      I totally agree with you on that more relaxing kayak – The older I get the more I appreciate it too!

    • Mary Beth Gibson
      Posted at 20:21h, 05 June Reply

      Hi, Crystal. It was a coaching/consulting franchise. I worked it for a couple of years while I was simultaneously building Beyond Boobs! and then transferred it to someone else to run. It worked out exactly as it should have. If I had been steadily employed at the time of my diagnosis, I never would have left!!! Thanks for asking. It’s raining so hard here today, I may need a kayak to get home! Love ya!!

  • Vicki vawter
    Posted at 18:26h, 05 June Reply

    All these years I have known you and I didn’t know some of this story – Loved reading it and SO glad you were able to turn ‘pain into purpose’ and your ‘mess into a message’ for so many!

    • Mary Beth Gibson
      Posted at 20:23h, 05 June Reply

      Hey, Vicki! I am glad you could learn something new about me. I guess that means I don’t spend all my time at the office talking! I am thrilled that you are on the same river as me and could be part of the story! Love ya!

  • Bob Morrill
    Posted at 20:23h, 05 June Reply

    On the river of life, whether in the kayak or the speedboat, you are always moving forward in positive action… with an exclamation point of love and generosity.

    • Mary Beth Gibson
      Posted at 12:14h, 06 June Reply

      Thanks, Dad! It is something you and Mom modeled for me. Love you!!

  • Madeline Cason
    Posted at 23:29h, 05 June Reply

    I loved reading this story and plan on sharing it with our group on Thursday 🙂 Beyond Boobs! is an amazing organization and I am so glad you and Rene took a leap of faith. It is so exciting to watch it grow and to pay it forward to women during one of the most scariest times of their lives. xoxo Madeline

    • Mary Beth Gibson
      Posted at 12:15h, 06 June Reply

      Thanks, Madeline! I am so touched that you would want to share it with the Richmond gals. Have a wonderful meeting, and I hope to see you soon. Also, I have been writing in my gratitude journal every night since you gave it to me and think about you every night when I do. Love ya!

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