Article by: Janeen Halliwell
There are milestones that baby boomer women share. We can collectively role our eyes, laugh or cry at the memory of buying a first bra or burning our first bra, getting married or living in sin, deciding whether to have kids or not, being a mom, a single mom and/or stepmom. We’ve all faced decisions about whether to work our way up the ladder, further our education or to take a different route altogether. And eventually we all change roles as we go from daughter to caregiver, supporting our ageing parents and eventually letting go once they are gone. After each of these milestones is reached, we all face the same question – how are we going to move forward?
At 48, I’ve done my share of moving forward. I’ve held the titles of wife, divorcee, wife again, and stepmom. I’ve owned businesses, done a masters degree, worked on four continents, travelled to 33 countries and sailed 9000 sea miles. I’ve truly lived. Even with all those experiences, I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to move forward when I lost my father to pancreatic cancer. It was immobilizing.
In the summer of 2010, my father was failing. After a heartbreaking visit to his doctor where he was told, “Scotty you are dying,” I witnessed hope fade from my dad’s eyes and leave his frail body. I put my work on hold and moved in with my parents. A visit to Hospice followed, at which time the inevitable became our reality. He moved in a few days later. And, at 1 a.m. on July 26, 2010, my father breathed his last breath, with me and my mother holding him as tightly as we could.
The months that followed were rough. To heal, my mother went to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where my husband and I had purchased a fixer-upper. We thought the sunshine would be a good thing, and Isla Mujeres, or “The Isle of Women,” is known for its magical qualities that heal people’s souls.
I visited my mother on Isla in March 2011. I was still grieving and finding every day to be difficult. It was during this trip that I decided that it was time to move forward. I gave myself permission to think about my future, and what I valued most at this juncture in my life.
It was clear to me that I wanted a project that would fill me with passion and purpose, while also being full of adventure and fun. And then, the idea came to me – I was going to organize an International Women’s Day Conference on Isla Mujeres. When I shared my idea with my mother, her eyes lit up and she said, “I would love it, Janeen.”
I had never taken on something so big and so full of promises. Promises of inspirational speakers, and promises to pay these speakers. Promises of an experience of a lifetime to registrants – that is, if there were registrants.
You see, registrations didn’t take off as I had hoped. They trickled in. Consequently, some of the people who were eager at the beginning of the project began to lose interest. Many dropped off. It didn’t look like a money maker afterall. I crawled forward.
In January 2012, I sat down with my registration sheet that contained 21 names, my project plan and calculator. I needed 63 registrants to pay for my promises. If 45 women registered, I would lose money, but still be able to run the conference. But at 21, I was deep in the hole. Do I quit or do I move forward, I asked myself?
I remembered why I wanted to see We Move Forward happen and I could feel my father cheering me on, and my decision was made. On March 8, 2012, 81 women gathered on Isla Mujeres to celebrate International Women’s Day. The 3-day conference surpassed everyone’s expectations.
Call me crazy or a sucker for punishment, but I am doing it again in March 2013. Why? Because the women who came to We Move Forward wrote me, telling me that the conference was “brilliant”, “crazy, amazing” and “life changing,” and that it “marked a turning point in …life.” For me, these words were all I needed to commit to We Move Forward 2013. Success is an interesting thing. There are many ways to measure it. I hope to see you there.
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