Christine Vick–A Life Lived Simply and Well

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Recently, a woman in her mid-twenties shared with me, “After being diagnosed with cancer, I’m trying to figure out how to disrupt myself!”

Wait.
Hold on.
Having cancer is disrupting yourself.
As well as everyone else who loves you.

Sometimes you jump to a new curve.
Sometimes you are pushed.
In either case, it is an opportunity to grow.
For you.
And for the people who love you.

Today, I am feeling disrupted by the death of Christine Vick.

She was young.
In her 40s.
Died of cancer.
I didn’t know her well.
But many of my dear friends did.
They loved her deeply.
The stories they tell, that her husband and children will tell;
The meaning they make of their lives;
Will be very different
Because Christine died young.

In memoriam, I am republishing her essay, originally published on May 31, 2009, which was featured in Dare, Dream, Do.

***

My college self would be disappointed with my life today.

Back then, I had it all mapped out:  graduate in three years with a B.A. in English (check).  Serve a mission for the L.D.S. church (check).  Get an M.A. in English Literature (check).

But then I started to go off course:  Get a PhD (ummm…)  Secure a tenure track position by the time I'm 28 (ummm…again).  Have three kids (oops, four) and a white picket fence (nope).

Turns out my 18 year-old self couldn't see the whole picture.  Like that I'd be burned out by academia after my master's degree and feel miserable about applying for PhD programs.  Or that I'd quite like what I imagined then would be very mundane tasks:  cooking, decorating, organizing and hanging out with my kids.  I rarely say this out loud, but I don't even mind cleaning (except for doing the laundry–which is my Achilles heel).

Christine Vick by LaNola Stone Image courtesy of and copyrighted by LaNola Kathleen Stone.

When I was younger, I dismissed any field or career that was less than rigorously academic as “fluff”.  I don't know where I got this idea, because my parents have encouraged all my efforts and never pushed me in any direction. Nevertheless, this philosophy guided my early decisions and left me feeling like a failure when I found my studies unfulfilling.

By the second year of my MA program, I was unhappy, frustrated and fed up, but I couldn't admit (even to myself) that I wanted to quit.  The dream of being a professor had always defined me, and letting it go made me panic.  What would I do?  How could my life be relevant?

Pride played a big role too.  I'd always been so vocal about my goals (I'm still learning the value of saying less, a lot less) that I was just plain embarrassed not to follow through.  Especially when my fellow students were busy being accepted into PhD programs across the country.

My pain eased a bit when I moved East and took a part-time job with a small community newspaper.  I was no longer surrounded by academics and it became clear that most people aren't concerned with the roles of Renaissance women, applying continental philosophy to modern texts or deconstructing old English manuscripts.  They're just trying to earn a living, balance hectic lives, and find a little free time.

Two years ago I was approached by a friend of a friend who was starting her own magazine about organizing (a favorite topic and hobby of mine).  She was looking for part-time editors and wondered if I'd be interested.

I said yes immediately.

One of the highlights of the job was a trip to North Carolina to interview the Flylady, Marla Cilley.  It was my first “business” trip, albeit with my 6 month-old in tow.  I enjoyed meeting Cilley who was fun, vivacious and full of empathy, hanging out with my boss, eating out, overcoming my fear of prop planes, and seeing the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.  It actually seemed more like a vacation than work, since I normally spend my days in Cinderella mode;  scrubbing, cooking, chauffeuring and trying to be patient with lots of little people with lots of needs.

christine-vick-son-lanola-stoneImage courtesy of and copyrighted by LaNola Kathleen Stone.

Being a part of Organize not only gave me the experience to start my own website Store and Style, it taught me a valuable lesson:  for a task to be valuable, it doesn't have to be weighty, solemn, or make history.

It just has to be important to me.  If it's fun too, even better.

I love editing–knowing what to add, move around or rework so an article shines. I love organizing–helping people see how a little order can make life easier and more enjoyable.  And I love making school lunches, reading to my son on the front porch while waiting for the bus, baking cookies and painting my daughter's fingernails.  Lucky for me, my life can encompass all of these activities.

Looking back, I'm glad I didn't pressure myself into starting a PhD program–I know I would have quit.

I'm also glad my college self is no longer in charge.

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