Guest blog by NDPC member Roxane Salonen
A native of Brazil, Chris was drawn to North Dakota by love and marriage. However, during her first years here she struggled with lost identity and a language barrier. These challenges, along with North Dakota’s unbearably cold winters, left her feeling frustrated, inadequate and, eventually, depressed.
In her homeland, Chris was a successful communicator and psychologist who had her own radio show. The radio show, she said, had come about when she was still in college in her early 20s. As a student of psychology, she felt that many of the exciting discoveries concerning the human mind and how it functions weren't being communicated to the public. She wanted to talk about the newly uncovered realities that had been so inspiring to her.
When she first approached the station, she was met with a “Thanks, but no thanks.” Not once, but twice and more. But Chris wouldn't give up. She knew she had something important to share. So on her seventh visit to the station, she asked if there were any “dead” times in the radio's scheduling. The manager agreed to give her a chance. Her show took off and led to many other opportunities.
Chris said someone recently asked her why she went back to the station seven times. It wasn't because she wanted to be famous and hear herself talk on air, but because she had something in her heart that wasn't meant for her alone. She believed in the message within. She believed in it so much that “no” wasn't an option.
But after being stripped of her identity upon moving to North Dakota and trying to make a go of it as a new mother in a land far from the tribal-based support network of Brazil, despair set in. Chris began to forget the messages she’d known so well back home. She began to doubt. She began believing the inner voice that said, “You want to do that? What if no one likes you? What if they laugh at your accent? What if...?”
It was a three-year struggle, but eventually Chris found her way out of the hole and once again began inspiring those in her midst and beyond. As a professional dancer and speaker, she’s brought her knowledge of the soul-body connection to audiences, especially helping women discover or rediscover their worth.
She’s founded a nonprofit called Women’s Impact that focuses on wellness and empowerment for women and girls. Its main goal is to help women connect with other women with the ultimate goal of eradicating this troubling statistic: 80 percent of those in poverty in our world are women and girls.
Chris talked about the power of words, the power of communication. She said because of her experiences of feeling powerless, she appreciates even more how much words and communicating them well can mean. One word can change a life, she said. “I know because it happened to me.”
She challenged those present to change the what ifs in their minds to why nots; to transform obstacles into realized dreams by making a simple change in the words we allow to guide our lives.
I've heard similar sentiments before, but Chris’s presentation was vividly told, shared from her unique heart, and it was easy to feel endeared to her through her sharing of struggles and triumph as a communicator. I left feeling uplifted and hopeful about my own unrealized dreams that have been tucked away for too long. It’s time to say, once again, “Why not?”
To learn more about Chris, visit her website.
Roxane Salonen blogs as the Peace Garden writer. She's a freelance writer, award-winning children's book author, newspaper columnist and a mother of five.