“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” - Maya Angelou.
When I was 9 years old, my family relocated from Texas to Illinois for my dad's new job. I had developed so many friendships in Texas and was devastated when I had to move to a different state, having to start all over in building a new network of local friends. Moving was really disheartening for me and this was a change that I was not well-equipped to handle as a 9-year old. Would I ever fit in and make friends in this new place? Luckily, my older cousin was located just down the street from our new house and would kindly let me tag along whenever she went to any social events, which was wonderful in helping me expand my social network.
One afternoon, just a short while after I moved, my cousin took me to one of her friend’s house, Morgan. I remember my cousin knocking on the front door of Morgan's house, with her opening the door to greet us. Poking out from behind Morgan was her little sister, Leigha, an adorably cute curly-haired brunette that smiled back at me. Realizing that Leigha and I were the same age, we were introduced to one another and found out that we would be attending the same school to start 5th grade that coming fall. Leigha was my first friend I ever made when I moved to Illinois, and is someone I still have an unwavering friendship with to this very day--21 years later.
Leigha and I shared an instant connection the moment we met, and I'll never forget how kind she was in letting me join her friend group at recess since she knew that I was new and didn't know anyone. She provided comfort, warmth, and friendship at a time that I was feeling very alone. Our connection has never waned since then. We have seen each other grow up through middle school, high school, college, and many years beyond. We have celebrated and supported each other through it all: puberty, teenage angst, obstacles, challenges, joys, heartbreak, true love, marriage, but what ultimately has always glued us together is the passion we share for growth, wellness, and in helping others improve their lives. Leigha is one of the strongest people I know, and has dedicated her life to transforming the challenges she herself has faced into helping others heal and face their own challenges. I wanted you to get a glimpse of this wonderful soul by asking her a few questions about herself and her journey.
What do you do?
L: I work for a small Milwaukee-based corporate wellness company working with individuals to help improve health behaviors and work on goals. I try to help them live and feel healthier emotionally and physically. I also am in the process of launching my health and wellness website/blog that will be coming out later this year.
How did you get to where you are today?
L: It’s been quite a personal journey. Years of chronic health issues led me to pursuing undergrad and graduate degrees in Psychology and Public Health, which led me to the growing world of coaching psychology. It’s been a very nonlinear pathway and very challenging, but also incredibly rewarding to see a lot of myself in people’s struggles and then being afforded the opportunities to help them move forward to healthier lives.
What inspires you?
L: Strong women that have risen above adversity. Oprah Winfrey, Audrey Hepburn, and my mom are so inspiring to me. Their individual life stories are just remarkable and really inspire me to continue pursuing my dreams and feeling comfortable with sharing my own story.
What are you passionate about?
L: I am a healer and empath, by nature, so helping others is a huge passion of mine. Educating myself continuously so that I can help to educate others in the diverse world of health and wellness, is a huge part of myself and now my career. I also really love learning about people’s lives, their stories, and what experiences have shaped them.
What is/are something(s) you would tell your younger self?
L: Oh my gosh, so many things. I think the biggest thing would be that your feelings are valid and that they will lead you to pursuing bigger things so keep writing and keep asking questions. Listen to your heart and your gut. Lastly, you are a beautiful girl and you’ll figure out your curls one day.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
L: I always say my dad is my voice of reason. When I was in grad school and up late writing 20-page papers, I would call him to vent and express my exhaustion and frustration. He would always say, “this too shall pass”. It’s so cliché, but he was right. Those four words have helped me through some really dark times in my life.
What is the best advice/pieces of advice you have for others who are on their healing journey?
L: It’s a process that is so individual. There will be dark days along the way, but I promise they will not last forever. Know that it’s okay to ask for help and find someone who you truly trust to help you along the way.
What are the biggest life lessons you’ve learned?
L: My personal struggles really have made me stronger and given me an increased ability to show empathy. Mental health and wellness is everything and practicing self-care is an absolute necessity. Lastly, love, of any kind, is the best part of the human experience.
What do you do to balance your life when it feels unbalanced?
L: Balance is super important to me. The biggest thing I can do when things feel a little crazy is slow down and try to get connected back with myself. Whether that’s through writing, meditating, taking a bath, or dancing around my house to my favorite oldies.
Leigha Griswold holds graduate and undergrad degrees in Public Health and Psychology and is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She loves reading, watching documentaries, listening to the golden oldies, and spending as much time as she can with her husband and her cat.