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Eyes up, heart open

Carla Ten Eyck

I am nowhere without my community

Community. Where are we without it? … Tonight I was putting the finishing touches on one of the presentations I will be doing this week for the UCONN Women in Business class at Storrs. I was asked to just tell my story (how much time do you have, seriously?) about how I got started in business, what made me want to be an entrepreneur in the first place, what were the hardest and easiest things along the way… you know. The story. I have been in talks with Alexa there for many months, but things have come up and we have had to reschedule and so finally, here I am, ready to share my story. I have given many presentations over the years, all requiring different levels of preparedness. This to me? Should have been one of the easier ones to assemble, right. Since it’s about, you know. Me. And while it may have been technically easy in terms of images to pull that represented certain parts of my business life, what it did for me tonight, was something that I really needed to have done for myself.

I took that melancholy trip down ye olde memory lane and visited with so many friends along the way. I am blessed to have friends who have helped me in so many ways both big and small. Friends who maybe didn’t know how much the things they did helped me, and in the ways that they did. I feel like people that meet me now, and see how ‘successful’ I am (and I use quotes here simply because everyones idea of success is different) but not everyone knows how I got where I am now. Not everyone knows how hard I worked in school to get the scholarships I got, how every semester I literally had to say a prayer and a hail mary with my financial aid counselor to stay at RIT. How even though not one person asks where I went to school, or if I graduated, I have my very very expensive diploma displayed in my office. OK maybe it’s behind a Wonder Woman doll but you feel me.

I had so many people looking out for me along the way. One of which, who is probably one of  the most important ones, resurfaced on Facebook today and I literally squealed in my kitchen when I saw that he commented on my post. I owe so much to my mentor from when I was about 15, Sherman Williams. I can’t even. This guy was not only one of the most talented photographers on staff at The Hartford Courant, he was literally like a photography guardian angel for me. He looked out for every opportunity for me to participate in workshops and conferences and to make connections with people in the newspaper industry from the time I met him when I was 15 until the end of my college days. And keep in mind that in terms of technology this was BEFORE EMAIL. All we had was a rotary dial phone and a pager that looked like you were wearing a VCR on your hip.

Sherman would track me down during every college apartment move and faithfully call me and check in, and let me know about this project or this opportunity. And I would just follow through and do what he suggested, not really knowing if I was any more or less talented than anyone else. See, Sherman wasn’t one to sit around and blow smoke and laud you with a false sense of success. From what I remember he was about doing. He was super quiet, and not a man of many words (so I sure as shit made up for it) and just plugged along with me, helping me and in turn helping my career. We lost touch over the years and have recently reconnected thanks to technology. But I am not really sure if this guy knows how much I appreciate everything he did to get me on the path that I am on.

So, from the bottom of my heart, Sherman. Thank you for taking the time to help guide me! I promise to keep paying it forward, just like you told me to all those years ago!

Jumping forward to now. In the past few years I have had so much going on both professionally and personally. Throughout it all I have had the most amazing support of friends and family but also, and not to list them separate, but my industry friends who I also consider my friends and family, have come through for me in ways that have transformed me as a woman and a mother. From making my hair sparkle and glow like a rainbow, to helping me see my body as a powerful and beautiful vessel, to showing me how truly radiant and happy I am as a woman through photographs taken of me by my friends… man. I am one lucky lady.

I had a friend who told me how all of my friends loved to see me so happy, and would do just about anything to make sure that was so. But I can’t think that it’s just me that commands this from my friends. There is just this force that drives us all to make that little extra bit of effort to truly connect with each other, and I consider myself lucky to have the kind of friends that will see this through. I feel like, when I sparkle, you sparkle. And so on.

I have shared so much with everyone who have supported me over the years, from losing my Mom, through the dissolution of my marriage, then losing Eric Langlois, and now to a recommitment to myself and my children and my health. And while at its core, yes, it’s all about business, sure. That is technically how we all met. But it is this amazing community of friends that I consciously choose to surround myself with like a homemade quilt on a chilly night and run 5K’s in sub-zero weather, make waffles and wings with, do gin tastings with and stand around my island and sob into their arms with, and have marathon text therapy sessions with on the daily that I consider myself so honored to have.

So yeah. Business is great. But community is amazing, and it’s something that my business, and my heart, would just not survive without!

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