I love discovering secrets. Answers. Treasures. I love connecting with people– old friends and strangers– and searching deep into their past experiences to read empathetically into their present. And oh, do I like advice– really, any form of guidance– on this journey that is my wild, winding life.
My first time in Los Angeles was filled with many highs (think: riding the Santa Monica ferris wheel, sunset-dancing on a rooftop with new friends, recovery-Sunday brunching) but this spontaneous interaction with soul-strangers on the canal-backstreets of Venice Beach takes the cake. Good’s & Grateful’s, meet Leigh and Richard.
“Hey, before you all go, can we ask a favor of you?”
The five of us, recovering slowly from a luau-themed, June-gle joint-birthday-party the day and night prior, were about to trek back to the car to assess the debris-damage that awaited us back home. We had just mustered enough energy to cap off our sunbathing on the bridge of one of the euro-inspired canals in Venice Beach, California, when Leigh approached us.
“Can you take a picture of us, but make sure you get the water in the background, all right?”
The 60-something-year-old woman with soft, pixie-cut blonde hair and layered gold and silver necklaces handed us her phone.
Leigh and her husband, Richard, in an all-white denim ensemble with slick-tousled silver curls and a gold-link chain on his right wrist posed. They posed with the smiles and comfort of two human-souls who have lived out their own dreams and lives, learned lessons along the way and laughed years alongside each other in moments leading up to this very spot on the Howland Canal bridge in the culturally rich Los Angeles neighborhood of Venice Beach.
The duo stood to return the photo-favor with stylish, matching, double-shade sunglasses with the outer lens’ flipped up, and we decided that they were way cooler than we were and consented to be adopted by our new grandparents.
I got to talking with Richard as his beloved ran with energetic youth to the water below, throwing up two peace signs in pose for another picture.
With a kind, seasoned disposition, he told me that all of the jobs, experiences and chapters of his life in production design, film studios and travel led him to where he is now– where he likes to be. At his 70-something-year-old age, he’s just gotten into real estate and is learning the business side of all of his prior professional endeavors.
“I almost went to RISD,” he says when I tell him I hail from Rhode Island.
“I chose to go to NYU instead and I’ve often wondered how such decisions play a role in changing your life. You kind of wonder what could have been… it’s oh, well, though.”
The nonchalance in his voice expresses his contentment with the way his life played out. His “whatever” is genuine and soothing. Maybe it all being “whatever” at the end of the day really can be a beautiful thing.
By the time Leigh returned and had gone back-and-forth about living the L.A. life with our token local in the group, the curious journalist in me was arising.
“So, one piece of advice?” I started, my state of dehydration from the night before altering the emphasis on all of my syllables.
“One piece of advice for us? Alright!” Leigh said, sitting back and intertwining her fingers palm-to-palm.
“Oh no, no. I meant if you two could give us millennials one piece of advice…”
Leigh enjoys this.
“Oh, that’s good! Ok, here’s a good one.
“All those hang-ups or insecurities or feeling like you’re not pretty enough or fit enough, forget about them. All that thinking your thighs are too big, etc., throw it out. I remember lacking that confidence all through my 20s and when I look back at pictures of myself from that time, I was smoking hot!
“You are beautiful right now, embrace it, enjoy it while you have it. Because you won’t have it forever!
“And enjoy the ride down,” she tells us.
Save your money. Think about retirement early on. Calculate your risks and invest in something that will offer a safe financial return for later.
Richard chimes in in response to a, “What about you honey, what’s your advice?”
“Save money, but also remember that money isn’t gonna’ do it all. It’s not what it’s all about. Do something that you’re passionate about… don’t do a job you don’t like, just for the money. Then you end up miserable living in a nice house.
“I remember being young and not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I was quiet and insecure and I didn’t talk too much. I didn’t know. I tried a little bit of everything, and I knew that whatever I did I wanted to be the best at it. And that meant working with the best.
“You know, there is value in formal education but start working different jobs, get your hands dirty.
“And travel while you can. Travel teaches you everything.”
Though the five of us had planned to trek back to the car more than 20 minutes ago, we are content.
“Thank you for speaking with us,” I say.
“This is the kind of stuff that I love. Maybe I should just keep traveling to new cities, interviewing people and write a book, after all.”
“That’s a great idea,” Leigh says, “write a book!”
Richard and his kind disposition laugh.
“Alright, your turn,” says the ever-spunky and ever-lively Leigh.
“What’s one piece of advice you have for us?”
“Never stop sharing your advice,” I say.
Three weeks ago, I went, slightly impulsively, on a women’s surf, fitness, yoga and adventure retreat in Lagos, Portugal.
Envision: 7 a.m. beach circuits, learning how to surf in warm, green waves, the most delicious, locally sourced meals thrice a day every day, bottles of Portugal’s famous vinho verde, and the most amazing, encouraging group of women all living together for one week.
Read: the healthiest, most inspiring and well-intentioned week of my life to date.
It was a food critic’s most delicious dish yet, and an artist’s palate of all things brilliant and beautiful: green wine, 50-shades-of-turquoise blue water and fearless red energies of first-times mountain biking, horseback riding and jumping off a 30-foot dam. Add in constant sunshine, orange sunsets and purple zinc painting the faces of every unstoppable surf-chick-warrior in our tribe.
Beyond the divine meals and wine, we got a taste of the life of the unmatchable Sophie Everard, (who actually oozes radness) and was the chief-organizer of the Mad To Live Women’s Retreat in partnership with Lagos’ very own, The Surf Experience.
Sophie is a traveling, writing and endlessly-exploring fitness blogger, sponsored by great organizations and companies for her own drive and very greatness. She alone was an inspiration in embracing unconventionality in part of one’s pursuit of truth. How can I ever thank you for providing a space that turned into the best week ever for so many of us?!
There is something to be said about the power and brilliance of a group of women who have come together as a team. I have experienced it before within my own group of girlfriends, and even more so on athletic teams in high school or college.
Women are intuitive and capable, instinctually maternal and because of this (evolutionarily speaking) created to take care and to love. We women are vessels with complex depths, and it is this empathetic intelligence that is both the essence of our magnificence and at times, the root of our aching.
Thus being, there is a special type of community, companionship and comfort in a group of women that has chosen to support and encourage each other’s depths. There is a wholeness in feeling understood by one of your own.
It is the understanding that you are not alone. You are not crazy or small in this world; rather in your safest space, surrounded by reassuring people who understand and appreciate your depths, you are grand. You are undoubtedly the very best being for everything your heart dreams of doing.
Yet we live in a world, swarming with distorted representations in mass media, that aim to keep us women apart.
It is oppression stemming from fear, and the imbalance of energy and the suppression of the Sacred Feminine over centuries that now requires many years of healthy, perpetual restoration from both male and female counterparts.
Humans have a less-than-grand history of making certain groups of people feel small out of fear of their potential to be great; perhaps even greater than the fearful themselves. But a true partnership in this life is bringing the other up to their fullest potential, understanding that they could never fill your particular role in this life-web; only you can do that. Lifting someone up to their greatness could never take away from your own, for they could never succeed in your role; it is not, nor can be for them, just as their role is for them alone, and could never be for you.
I’m learning that it is not a man’s role to understand those depths of a woman, or to mirror them. The Chinese principle, yin and yang, the union and dance of opposites, honors exactly that: the differences between the two energies.
And I believe that a true man is not threatened by equality of the sexes; rather, he finds discomfort in the privileges he experiences in a system without it.
There was divine energy among the group of women collaborating with intentions of being healthy, driven, open-minded and full-spirited that week in Lagos.
In the very most, this is a prayer for the rejuvenation of feminine sacredness and a restoration of male-female balance. In the very least, it is my whole-hearted hope for all women to experience the community that a women’s retreat offers, as a stepping stone to a life system where all of us have each other’s best interests and spirits in mind and heart.
A wise friend of mine recently said to me, “there is perhaps nothing more powerful than a group of women dancing together– so long as they have each other’s backs.”
And during our time in Lagos, Portugal, we danced. And we laughed and explored and cheered each other on and saluted the sun and ran and fell and stood up once more every time. And it was not until the very end of the day when it was time to rest that we finally stopped– only until the sun came out again the very next morning, and we were ready to take on the world all over again.
Check out below for Sophie’s video compilation of all of our fun activities during the week! Disclaimer: there is a clip of me being dragged on stage from the bathroom and free-style singing in front of a crowd before a DJ was to come on. My hands were wet. Enjoy! 😉