The silver screen has projected a plethora of movies based on the lives of women who’ve given up “society’s ideal version of life” to discover a more meaningful existence.
In “Eat, Pray, Love,” Julia Roberts portrays Elizabeth Gilbert, a woman who relinquishes a husband, house and successful career for a quest of self-discovery eating in Italy, praying in India and finding her true love in Bali.
In “Wild,” Reese Witherspoon depicts the life of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who hiked over 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail to find strength and healing from an addiction, dissolution of her marriage and the death of her mother.
While Christy Rutherford, of Washington D.C., may not have a screenplay in the works, she too has chosen a road few would have the courage to travel, to find her true purpose.
After 16 ½ years of service in the United States military, in which her last ranking position was Coast Guard commander, she resigned.
“I quit,” stated Rutherford. “I didn’t like the person I had to be in that role. I needed to leave so that I could rediscover who life had buried.”
Rutherford’s rebirth wasn’t easy.
“I was woven into the fabric of that organization. Everyone knew me, I was one of only 13 African American women to have a commander position within the Coast Guard, which consists of nearly 50,000 people.”
The six-figure salary, status and meaningful work she was doing kept her comfortable for a spell.
“I’ve shaken hands with the United States President (George W. Bush, the 43rd president) for the work I’ve done,” explained Rutherford. “I spent 14 days in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. We were emergency responders, often first responders to catastrophic situations. We did everything from chase drug runners to organization regulation.”
While Rutherford didn’t handle the 2010 BP oil spill, she said this is the type of incident she could have overseen in her department.
With so much success, why change?
“I didn’t like myself,” said Rutherford. “I had become this overly aggressive maniac to get people to take me seriously.”
Who isn’t taking a commander within the U.S. Coast Guard with four degrees spanning from Business Agriculture, MBA, pastry chef and Leadership Development (from Harvard Business School) seriously?
According to Rutherford, there were more than a few to express their lack of approval of her despite her credentials and competence.
“I was told, ‘You just don’t belong here’ by more than one person,” she said.
Those not bold enough to speak it delivered the message subtly.
“No one would listen to me. For me to get attention I had to start kicking doors open or calling people out using unladylike language.”
Enough is enough!
“That wasn’t who I was, but I wasn’t given permission to be myself. I’m a happy free-spirit who believes in unicorns, rainbows and butterflies,” laughed Rutherford. “I started reading self-help magazines at 12; I was always the person who helped nurture others. I can spot their potential; I see them for what they can become.”
Rutherford said she began to re-evaluate her own potential through visualization and meditation. “I began to see myself helping people globally.”
She said to fully cooperate with her healing after suffering from workplace stress, she needed to fully disengage.
“I began to hear the voice of God speaking to me,” said Rutherford with a giggle. “I didn’t know it was God, I was an atheist. I’d had my fair share of southern religious people turn me completely off Christianity.”
Despite the negative, self-righteous Christians that Rutherford had encountered, through a series of resources and television programs, she began to read the Bible and accepted Christ.
“I began to gain strength. I started to believe I had the ability to control my mind, that I could break generational curses and that I could have financial freedom. And, not only could I obtain it, but that I could be a vessel to help others to do the same. Visualization equates to nothing without action.”
Rutherford had a Matthew 19:21 experience, where Jesus said "go sell your possessions and follow me."
“It was as if I heard God tell me to sell my car. I was like, ‘And how am I supposed to work without a car, Lord?’ she laughed. “People thought I was crazy and talked about me like a dog.”
It wasn’t just Rutherford’s car she let go; she gave up her house, too. She moved in with her brother, for what she thought would be a few months, for three years.
I’m sure “people” thought Liz Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed had lost their marbles as well.
Rutherford’s wilderness experience left her living off her savings down to the last dime so she could emerge a rejuvenated, unstoppable women’s leadership and success coach.
“I share my story unapologetically,” said Rutherford. “God led me through the lowest places in my life so that I could have a clear vision of who I am.”
Today, Rutherford is a globally recognized leader. She’s a Harvard Business School alumna who received certification from Georgetown University as an executive leadership coach. She's the president of LIVE-UP Leadership, a leadership development and training company. She assists various organizations to create a culture of high performance. She’s also a speaker, radio show host and author, who published five books within eight months.
“They were ranked as number one best sellers on Amazon,” she exclaimed.
The five books are “Shackled To Success: Redefine Success and Break Free from a Toxic Career;” “Heal Your Brokenness: 10 Powerful Days That Will Change Your Life;" “Philosophies of Iconic Leaders: 100 Foundational Truths to Center, Uplift and Inspire conscious Leaders;” “Philosophies of Spiritual Leaders: Inspiration and Guidance to Strengthen Your Relationship with God;” and “Manifest Your Dreams: Find The Light In Your Storm and Ignite Your Purpose.”
“Success isn’t success unless it’s balanced with happiness and internal peace,” expressed Rutherford. “It’s never too late to live the life you desire. You can have a life of total fulfillment, but it will require a decision to take action.”
Claudia Parker is an author, journalist, photographer and videographer. Her column has returned and will be featured the fourth (or fifth) week of each month. She can be reached at AuthorClaudiaParker@Yahoo.com.