“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”
― Maya Angelou
“We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.”
Erika Lynn is a force of nature. She is wild and hilarious and being in her presence makes you feel more alive. In fact, if you looked up the word “extrovert” in the dictionary, you might very well find Erika’s lovely picture beside it. I got to know Erika when she attended one of our “Life by Design” weekend retreats. Early in the weekend she suggested that we all head out into the night and howl at the full moon. We all laughed politely; Erika wasn’t kidding. She is also a beautiful and accomplished 29-year-old social worker currently working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. I am so grateful that she is sharing her wild wisdom in this glimpse installment.
What does the word “Spirit” mean to you Erika?
To me Spirit means connection. We are not here alone. How great is that? We can do this whole life thing better together than alone. I love people! It sounds kind of cheesy but people are my passion and where I find Spirit in form. The human spirit is awesome and fascinating. I love talking to people and finding out what makes them tick.
I feel really grateful to have found my purpose at a young age and it links to my idea of spirit.
One day on the playground in fourth grade I realized what I wanted to do when I grew up. There was a kid being bullied on the playground. He struggled socially and I vividly recall one day seeing him face down on the playground, wearing a Packers Starter jacket just sobbing. My classmates went inside as the bell rang and I just sat next to him while he cried. I didn’t even say anything but I was there with him.
That was the day I think my profession as a social worker chose me. However, my larger purpose is to be with people and be a bridge and support where I can. Spirit for me is found within that bridge.
Your current position must be rough at times. How do you see Spirit at play in the kids you work with?
People always said to me, “You are a big kid yourself Erika. You should work with kids.” I am so glad I finally am because kids are phenomenal! You ask a kid what they like about themselves and they tell you! They are authentic and resilient and can have fun despite some truly heart-breaking circumstances. They inspire me everyday. Standing next to them on their journey reminds me of being on that playground in fourth grade. I am honored to be a witness for them and help to empower them when I can. Spirit is within that connection.
Where do you find God Erika?
I find God on mile 4 of my runs. Before that, I am in my head worried about something from the day or grumbling about how my back is tight or my feet are sore. I am a high-energy person so it takes until mile 4 to exhaust me to the point where I can find some silence.
At mile four, the noise is cleared and I begin to feel a presence all around me. I am more able to focus on the sun and the clouds and the shape of the clouds- all of the beautiful things that came together to form this precious day. There is a feeling of perfection in that moment- like I am in the perfect moment at the perfect time.
Going on that run 3-4 times a week is a choice I get to make and I choose it even when I am tired and cranky because I want to cultivate the connection I find along the way.
I am also insanely close to and in love with my family! My husband Tony, my sisters, my parents, my in-laws, my nieces, my nephews, and my cat Einstein; they are everything to me. Even my awesome girlfriends are like family to me. Connecting, loving and sharing my life with all of these awesome beings help me find God.
You are such a joyful person Erika. Where do you find joy?
Well, my family of course but I also have a few vices- like Cheetos, Doritos, tootsie rolls, dove chocolates and Coca-Cola classic. Once I opened a Dove chocolate and it said, “You are flawed and fabulous” and I just love that! We have to be both to find joy. I am human and I have to have graciousness towards my human-ness. My goofy, wild, grounded side is as much a part of me as my spiritual side. Could I improve on some things? Probably. But I have put in my time breaking myself down. These days, I can find joy in being flawed AND fabulous.
Being joy-filled is a conscious effort for me. My work and my own experiences have shown me that Life can shake us up and make us question things. But the more I choose joy the more I feel that I matter and that my life is important.
People who are passionate and living on purpose bring me great joy too. Watching them tap their passion fills me to the brim with joy and inspires me to follow my bliss as well.
How does being wild connect you with spirit?
Being wild to me means being in flow- not worried about what anyone thinks of me or caught up in insecurities in my own head. It means being alive and going for it.
Life and the people I meet along the way inspire me! I love to think of it all as this conversation between the world and myself. And to date, it has been a good, deep, soul-searching, loving, learning, challenging, and joyful conversation. Sometimes I let it go to voice mail, but most of the time I pick up that line and shout, “WHAT’S UP? LET’S GET WILD!”
My goal during this gift that is my lifetime is to engage in opportunities that will challenge me to grow on all levels of my mind, body, and spirit. Sometimes to really do that, you have to get a little wild.
What is next for you Erika?