Amy Schweim has a deep tan, an electric smile, arms that Michelle Obama would feel threatened by, and the scratches and scuffs to prove that she’s not just going for a joyride on that mountain bike of hers. Ah, but those long Midwestern vowels and “Gosh darns” give her away. Amy has just started a company, Women’s Radical Pursuits (womensradicalpursuits.com), that seeks to empower women via ecotourism, incorporating mountain biking and yoga, and she tells me about what it feels like to turn a dream into a reality. I tell her story here, in her own gosh darn words.
I had always said, “I’m a teacher. This is who I am. This is what I do. 8-5.” About a year ago, I met this guy – not the way you think – as a part of this conference of teachers, and he had this intense, good energy. He said to me, “You need to take my class about how to make money online!” and I was super turned off [shakes head vigorously] Selling? No way. But he was persistent and super convincing. He blew away this box that I had in my mind about how to make a living. He had ideas about passive income – selling books on Amazon, all of that stuff – but his questions about purpose and passions are what kept me glued to this guy. I thought I was going to be super bored, falling asleep, but man! I’d never entertained going outside of the 8-5. He got me to work through all of these big questions, and before I knew it, I had an avalanche of ideas about what I loved and what I wanted to spend my time doing and I started asking myself, “What the hell am I waiting for?” I’d be out mountain biking and I’d have to stop on trail to text myself these ideas that I was having.
It was like a tidal wave sweeping me up in it – crafting vision, what things might be like. Finally, in January, I committed and said to myself, “If I’m going to do this, I have to lay some serious groundwork.” I was in a job at that time, and through a series of circumstances, I did something I’d never done before – I left the job. The pull and draw of pursuing my dream outdid anything else. I started writing the business plan, the financial projections. And the more serious, tangible work I’d do, the more fears I’d have. “Oh my gosh, I’m investing this time and money – what if this doesn’t work?” But the cool part of all of it – and this is what I want to share with other women – is breaking those rote patterns of belief and doubts about what we can and can’t do that we fall back on all of the time. In March, I really started to push marketing the trips, and getting the word out about what I want to be doing and sharing.
I’m a Midwestern farmer’s daughter. Honest to God. I love the way I was brought up. My parents work harder than anyone I know. That’s the Midwest. That’s the mentality. I was sort of nervous to see what they’d think, but they’ve been 100 percent supportive. Oh my gosh. I had a little hesitation to tell them because even though I’ve not had a super traditional background – I’ve lived in South America, I was in the Peace Corps, and worked with refugee migrants in Oaxaca – I’ve always had a good, safe, 8-5 job. When I told them, I was amazed to hear them say, “This makes sense. This is totally you.” They’ve been so in my corner, my biggest cheerleaders. Here I am, a few months shy of 40 and making this enormous change, and here they are believing in me and my dream. That’s pretty amazing. Their support has also helped me to make a pretty significant change in how I’m seeing my age, too. Instead of wondering, “How’d I get here?” I’m thinking, “What’s gonna happen in the next 40 years?” It’s amazing what support can do.
We live in this society and culture where there are norms and pressures that we feel we need to fit into, and we’re trying to figure out what we’re really supposed to be doing. Social media encourages us to compare ourselves to one another and it can lead to a lot of insecurity and doubt. The empowerment I want to share through these trips is not about competition and being extreme, it’s about letting go of the pseudo-self and all of the stuff we try to form our identities around, and to be able to sit with who you are and to tune into your inner-knowing. We often get distracted by the noise, but when you take the time to go inward, to be OK with who you are, to be accepted for who you are, and to then just be who you are with those around you and do what you truly want to do, is what I want to share with other women. I want to ask them, “Once all of the stuff falls away, who are you?”
Cyle Talley does not have arms that Michelle Obama would be threatened by. If you have tips on how he might get them, don’t be stingy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org