MPG 2012 Seattle Host: Lori Stone

All of our local Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the months leading up to our National Event on October 16, we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet Our Host: Lori Stone

I’m a collector.

I collect things and experiences and daydreams. I collect cool things in jars like sea glass and sand from my travels and I have boxes of old family photos lining shelves with travel books and souvenirs and weird figurines that mean nothing to the average onlooker. I have list after list of brilliant ideas, new inventions, and places I long to be. I love finding things—dropped shopping lists, coins, and other ephemera. I look lovingly at the passport vacation stamps I’ve amassed over the years and with a recent romp through Montana, I’ve been to more US States than not. Not too shabby.

So imagine my surprise when last summer I sat down and realized that my “someday” list had outgrown itself. Someday I will _______ (fill in the blank with anything and everything that I wasn’t doing by August of 2011). By age 40 (which unimaginably happens THIS November!) I had vowed to learn my new accordion, tour Vietnam, launch my dream freelance business, clean out my wicked, wicked garage, start selling my photography, buy a boat, and take a vintage silver Airstream RV, completely restored by hand, across the good ol’ US of A.

Someday. Why does it always have to be “someday?”

Someday…a hopeful word that came to finally represent the height of my inaction. All of the things I had claimed to wish for were sitting on a little slip of paper and my desires were in complete contrast to my daily actions and work.

You see, I’d spent the last 8+ years doing work that I really, really liked but that never truly fulfilled me. And, over the last 20+ years, I had—albeit proudly—turned my career into something very lucrative…a comfortable life, basic needs met, and potential to continue with great success on that trajectory. And like a second-grader procrastinating long division while staring out the window at the playground set, I often thought of so many places I’d rather be than answering even one more business email.

Couple that with the whammy news I got in late 2006 and you have the makings of a truly restless life. It was just over five years ago that I heard the words “it’s cancer.” I was diagnosed with endocervical adenocarcinoma, or invasive cervical cancer, at just 34, at the heart of this lucrative existence I had carved out for myself. I think this is what they mean when they say “stopped in your tracks.” I will jump ahead to happily report that I am in full remission. My treatment was successful and I can now add survivor-turned-advocate to my resume.

It was from this potentially tragic future that I began to actively take back my life to be what I desired it to be.

What I desired was this: a life lived fully, on my terms, spending my days both contributing to my local community and setting pace to leave a great legacy of someone who embraces all things joyful. I reflected back on all of the great places I had traveled in my life and it was always then that I truly felt most alive…from my romantic wanderings through Paris to my kayaking in Honduras to my meditation on humor and irony while sitting through a rogue cyclone on the Sunshine Coast of Australia.

So then in December of 2011—at the height of a wary economy and my consulting success – I reclaimed my procrastinated journey by finally saying “no” to a tempting work contract renewal and thereby saying “yes” to my wanderlust. I went on sabbatical for a year and I grinned from ear-to-ear as I drove home on my last day of work and realized what lay before me. For the first time in years, I had no clue as to what came next. I still don’t. Five year plan? No clue.

My days of meticulous racing are over and I have traded the frenetic energy of corporate life for one of wonder, adventure, and fun. What used to worry me now challenges me and I trust completely in the idea that my desires will carve the perfect path for where I need to be. Not to be confused with a lack of caring for where I am or my personal and long-term career success…I would argue that I now care MORE by owning how I spend my time and the quality of my life vs. the quantity and raw acclamation of money and goods.

Like many of us, my garage still desperately needs cleaning and my mortgage still needs paying and my life still has certain grown-up obligations. The biggest myth that we tell ourselves is that life and desire are mutually exclusive. I’ve discovered that this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve simply changed the way I view opportunity.

My official sabbatical will be wrapping up in a few months and I look forward to seeing what my next career turn has in store for me. In the meantime, I’m trading in my normally gloomy Pacific Northwest winter for a sunny, summer beach in New Zealand…#17 on my someday list.

Someday is now.

Lori Stone spent the last 20 years in the corporate, non-profit, and technology sectors and today specializes in communications and program management. In 2007, she started The Joy Guild, a side business at the time that incorporated her love of the arts, photography, teaching, and travel safaris from Paris, France to Moab, Utah to Melbourne, Australia. However, her full time commitment to corporate technology consulting over the last nine years kept her from fully launching her dream business.

2011 marked the beginning of Lori’s research sabbatical and career break. She is taking time off from contract management work and exploring the world around her by leading creative art retreats, traveling, writing, learning, continuing outreach as a cancer survivor-turned-advocate, building communities, and—most important—having fun. She continues to envision a world where people increasingly find play AND work that brings them joy and looks forward to her official business launch in 2013. You can find Lori on Twitter as @thejoyguild or on Facebook.

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

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