Plenty of kids get asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” but only a few lucky adults ever get the same question thrown their way. And I'm one of them. When my daughter Christine was just seven years old, she tumbled into the kitchen one Saturday morning and said, “Mommy, I'm going to be an astronaut when I grow up. What will you be?”
My heart swelled and my brain did a somersault. At the time I was a wife to my college sweetheart, a loving mother, and a Physical Therapist. I'd been so focused on getting through the present, I hadn't thought about what or who I'd become later on! Clearly, though, my evolution was on my sweet daughter's mind. She knew there were bigger things in store for me.
And she was right. The years that followed brought huge changes, both sweet and bitter. I strayed from my marriage and divorced my husband. I followed in the footsteps of my late grandmother, and took a life-changing trip to Ireland, the land of my ancestors, where I danced with horsemen and communed with priestesses. I wrote my first book about those experiences, created a foundation to support the wives of wounded warriors, and launched myself into a life of writing and speaking. I researched and wrote my second book, learning about the strength and bravery of my fellow women in the process. I completely remade myself in ways I never could have predicted.
But my daughter knew I was on a path to change, even back then. She knew I was meant to dig deeper into myself, and maybe she also saw my desire to connect with other women and amplify their voices. That desire is something that was dormant for decades, but once it woke it stretched its wings and took flight. Now everything I do seems to center on the strengths and stories of women. My life has taken many unexpected turns, but I always circle back to two things: The archetypes that define all women, and the incredible stories those women have lived out.
In the coming months, I'll be diving deep into a project that marries the two. I want to highlight and hold up the compelling stories of strong women, both real and mythical, who have blazed trails for the rest of us. Some relied on their book smarts and ingenuity to drive their passions, others leveraged deep creativity, athletic prowess, or innate talent. They tapped the gifts they were born with or worked hard to cultivate skills, they listened to their hearts and demolished every obstacle, they harnessed their inner fire to step up to challenges, show up authentically, and stand out as individuals.
And every single one of them has lived a life guided by one of four central archetypes: Mother, Lover, Warrior, or Sage. These ideals may feel familiar, but they can manifest in unexpected ways. The Mother is the nurturing, healing, empathetic side of a woman, but she may not be a parent to her own children. Pioneering nurse Clara Barton used Mother energy to nurse and care fore countless Civil War soldiers, and Pearl Buck worked tirelessly to fill the needs of orphaned children. The Lover represents the passionate, playful, sensual creative side of a woman, and I see her in Bessie Coleman's unending love for aviation and Mother Teresa's love of humanity. The Warrior is the assertive, goal-driven side of a woman, and shows up in everyone from Joan of Arc to modern-day feminist Sheila Michaels. And the Sage brings out the intuitive, spiritual, wise side of a woman. She dominates in inspirational writers and speakers like Malala Yousafzai as well as artistic muses like Catherine Denevue. When this project is complete, you'll be able to meet them all, and marvel at their persistence, ingenuity, and ambition.
As I've researched profiles for these trailblazers and visionaries, it's made me reflect on my own life once again. Digging into their diverse backgrounds, unconventional tactics, and willingness to break rules has prompted me to ask myself which values, goals, and aspirations are truly important to me. What in my life is being supported or muted by my current life choices? Am I on the brink of a new journey, a new stage of growth that will allow me to expand further into my own passions and unique desires? It's been so enlightening, learning about these luminaries and icons, and their choices have led me to think critically about my own.
And I sincerely hope that when the project is complete, they'll do the same for you. That you'll recognize their achievements as remarkable, but also see their bravery and intelligence reflected in the women in your life and family and friends ... and perhaps most importantly, in yourself. That they'll inspire you to embrace what makes you unique, encourage you to release your fears, and lead you to be daring and bold in your unfolding life. I hope their stories weave into your own story, and that their journeys spark your own wanderlust. Just like Catherine de Medici and Wonder Woman and Mother Teresa, you have greatness inside you. Sometimes you just need a little whisper of encouragement to let it out.