Life of my own design

Carrie Fenn

We all know it’s true: life is a journey filled with fast lanes, traffic jams, breathtaking vistas and ugly roadside motels. What that journey isn’t filled with is dead ends and U-turns. There’s no going back in this long, strange trip—only forward, and this week’s bio comes from a Charlotte woman who, after feeling as though her time here in our little town had run its course, took a deep breath and found that it isn’t the physical place that fulfills but how to occupy that place. 

Mary’s life has taken some twists and turns; there’ve been a few “I blew it” moments, but she’s discovered that some things that felt like failures were really just intersections—stops where the right turn became a left and brought her to where she is now, living a dream she didn’t know she had and discovering a new way of thinking, being and helping those around her.

You’ve probably seen Mary around. She’s petite, energetic and has a bright personality that invites you to give her a smile even if you don’t know her. She’s got two boys, now college age, who she watched diligently on the sidelines at games through their school years. She’s friendly with her ex, has lots of friends and a super cool house. 

Mary’s done some interesting things in her life. She started working as a teenager and through her college years, doing what most of us do: going to a job she didn’t care about. In her early 20s, she was working at a travel agency, making little money, watching other people go on trips, and (in what I have come to realize is typical Mary fashion) ditched that job, signed on as a cook on a research vessel, and traveled the world for six years. Then life did its slow-down thing. She got married, earned a couple of degrees, had her boys, stayed home for 10 years. When she went back to work, a school job made sense. She wanted to connect with people, help people, so she took a course of study to become a speech/language pathologist assistant and signed on at CVU. The work was good, but it still wasn’t where she wanted to be. She hadn’t found her ikigai, her reason for jumping out of bed in the morning and digging in. 

When I had my first extended conversation with Mary, she was getting ready to sell her house and leave Charlotte. She was planning to leave CVU when her youngest son graduated; she felt like she had done her time in Vermont and was, in her words, “out of here.” But the next time we spoke, things had changed. She had discovered a new modality that hit all her marks: profession, passion, vocation and mission in one beautiful package. In her words, it all “clicked.” Mary had found it, all the things she was looking for fell into place. She is studying biofield tuning, a therapy that uses tuning forks and sound waves for physical and emotional healing.  Mary’s work in biofield tuning is allowing her to not only make deep connections with others, but prioritize her own self care and health. As she says, this work is helping her to “create a life of my own design. I didn’t have all the pieces before, but now I have all the pieces.”

The most fascinating part of Mary’s story is her own self-awareness and her willingness to look back and objectively view herself and her choices; she doesn’t judge herself, or question, or doubt. She takes out her road map, and she looks at where she’s been, fondly remembering the wrong turns and realizing that each decision brought her right to her own front door. Mary’s opened that door, she’s stepping through, and there’s a whole universe of possibility ahead of her.   

At the end of our interview, Mary left me with an annotated quote from Out of Africa, the old Meryl Streep, Robert Redford movie.

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I lived someone else’s.”

Nor do I, Mary. Nor do I.