Pinkies, please give a warm welcome, once again, to the wise and wonderful Stacey Curnow. Stacey is here to share her truth about the infinite possibilities of creating and following our dreams. If you are as inspired as we are after reading her story, you may want to check out the free teleseminar she's is offering tomorrow night to help others take steps toward their dreams.
Nine years ago my husband and I knew we wanted to be parents, but we were in no hurry. For one thing, alongside my dreams of being a mother, I dreamed of being fluent in Spanish to better communicate with the Latina women I served as a midwife. What’s more, I realized that I had time for one great adventure before I welcomed my own baby into the world.
I considered a few different possibilities. Previously that year, I had run the Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 23 minutes and figured I needed a bigger challenge. I had devoured Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer’s account of his trip to the top of Mount Everest, and for a while I was taken with the idea of climbing Everest myself, though I didn’t own a pair of crampons.
Then I started reading The Scottish Himalayan Expedition by the mountaineer W.H. Murray and was struck by something he wrote: “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.” I realized then that I could do anything I set my mind to, and it was not going to be climbing Everest—the thought of falling into an icy crevasse scared me too much. But the dream of living and working in a Spanish-speaking country suddenly seemed attainable.
And sure enough, as soon as I took my first step, providence moved. I applied to Doctors Without Borders and within a month was offered an interview in their New York office. As it happened, I was going to be in New York anyway to run in the New York City Marathon and could easily set up a time to talk with the organization’s director. They had no positions for midwives in Latin America, but I wasn’t interested in any other placement. So the director said she would keep my application, but she didn’t think there would ever be a desirable position for me.
I was discouraged by the director’s news, but I tried to stay positive, and started to look at other possibilities for achieving my dream. I was very surprised when, two months later, the phone rang and it was Doctors Without Borders telling me they were starting a new maternal health project in Mexico—and that out of all the applications they had on file, the director of the project wanted me to join the medical team.
It was time to Pleap ...
People thought I was crazy to leave my life in the States for a volunteer position in a remote Mexican village. I was leaving a great job at a time when there were few positions for midwives. My husband would stay and maintain our home, but at that time even he was looking for work that would take him away from Asheville. I would be living in a region of the world where there was no electricity, no running water and no one to call for help (or no one who could respond in a timely manner) if anything went wrong.
Doctors Without Borders made it clear that they had chosen this region because the Mexican government was allegedly persecuting indigenous people. (This threat of danger was a particular concern for my parents). I was leaving so much that was known and comfortable for something totally unknown and filled with risks. But I knew, like the Scottish mountaineer Murray, that I had created this opportunity by committing to my dream and I was not going to be dissuaded.
So I went. In June of 2002 I quit my job to work for 6 months in southwest Mexico. I worked with an all-Mexican medical team setting up clinics in remote areas of a region referred to as La Montana, or The Mountain. We ran our clinic from 9am to 2pm, taking a break from 2 to 4, and continuing the clinic until 6pm.
We always gave preference to women and children, but we saw everyone who needed attention, and we were available for emergencies 24 hours a day. We saw women in a continuous string; they often brought five or six of their children at one time. As expected, we saw a lot of respiratory and intestinal infections but also many skin problems, mostly scabies and infected bug bites. As hard as it was to run the clinic, it was also enormously fulfilling: most of the people we met were relatively healthy and enjoyed their lives centered on family and work.
I could recount many more stories of my life from this time – there were so many big challenges and even bigger triumphs and many, many small quotidian pleasures. But they will have to make up another essay (or book). What I want to say now—about an experience I had almost 8 years ago—is that I took what seemed like an impossible dream, and in spite of great doubts (my own and others) I made my dream a reality.
Back in the States, I found the dream job I had been seeking when I started my journey, a part-time position in a public health practice serving a large number of Latina women. Today, my patients remind me of the women I served in Mexico, and I’m grateful that my language skills and knowledge of their culture allow me to care for them as they navigate a foreign country.
Right now I have other great big dreams, even what I call unpursued passions, and sometimes I can feel discouraged and frustrated by a sense that they are impossible to achieve. But I only have to remind myself of my Mexican adventure and know that I really can achieve anything I set my mind to – anyone can.
I found that my time in Mexico changed my life in many profound ways. Mexicans value family and community above all else, and I have come to adopt those same values. I fully realize that if I had never taken that first step—if I had never committed to my dreams of service and adventure—I might never have appreciated the way I do now the gifts I receive from my family and community. But perhaps the greatest change I can trace back to that time in Mexico is the confidence I now have that when I move, providence moves with me, and that taking that first small step toward a dream brings it much closer than I could ever have imagined.
It's more than the decision
The message I want to leave with you in this note is that after the all-important decision to take a step toward your dream, patience and perseverance are necessary too. I think we all know that it’s not easy to have patience and perseverance. They really are something we do -- hard-won skills, developed with much practice.
What unpursued passions do you harbor? What steps might you take - or have you taken - to get you closer to that dream? I'd love to hear about your own run-ins with providence and the adventures that ensued.
Still dreaming big,
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