Author Archives: Brittany VanderBeek

Symbols of My Grandma

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October 13, 2017 will forever be a date that I remember. It was the day that I learned that my grandma, Nene, passed away. I was broken hearted because I had gone through so many life milestones with Nene and I couldn’t imagine her no longer being in my life. I had the opportunity to write her eulogy, along with my mom, and share stories about Nene’s life from a granddaughter’s perspective. I wanted to pass along my words about Nene to you as she was a person that I, and many of us, can aspire to be.

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“I have spent time reflecting on what Nene has meant to me. I wanted to share a few symbols of Nene with you that will always remind me of her.

First, the rosary. Nene was one of the most faithful people I knew and was also an inspiring model of church principles, treating everyone with love and compassion. I am blessed to have a grandma who guided me in my own faith, encouraging me as she was my sponsor for my confirmation in the church. She answered my questions along the way and was the best sponsor I could ask for.

Second, a deck of cards: Nene always knew how to have a good time and was the best friend to those around her. She played cards regularly with her friends, often going out to lunch or planning get togethers. I was blessed to join her in some of those get togethers as a little girl, where she taught me Pinochle, Old Maid, and War. She was so caring that when I would cry about the prospect of losing a game, she would make sure I won by the end. I can say with confidence that not many people would do that for others, and that’s just how caring she was.

Third, French anything, starting with French toast and more recently with the French language: Nene made the best French toast I’ve ever had, and I remember vividly eating it at Nene’s black kitchen table, sitting between Nene and Papa Ed, when they would babysit me on weekends. To me, French also symbolizes exquisite taste, which Nene definitely had. She always dressed stylishly and classically like the French. And most recently, while I spent time in Paris and FaceTimed with Nene, she could understand my host mom speaking French in the distance and would respond with “oui oui.” I hope to continue to embrace the French culture that Nene demonstrated to me for the rest of my life.

Fourth, candy: Nene was infamous for her candy cupboard, which was like the holy grail for our family growing up. When all of us would visit Nene, from Sprucewood in Farmington Hills, MI and even in the nursing home, we knew we could find candy. Nene always made sure her guests felt welcomed with treats, and the candy again reinforced how sweet and generous Nene was. She has inspired me to always have treats at home for when guests visit me as well.

Last but not least, chardonnay or vodka, depending on the occasion: Every day was a celebration with Nene. Every time I got together with Nene, we would toast to something, whether I was having apple juice as a little girl, or a glass of Chardonnay as an adult. It always felt like a special occasion. I’ll never forget having my first shot with Nene when I turned 21, or when I made vodka gummy bears for Nene to share our love for vodka and gummy bears. Nene was the perfect example of living life to the fullest and enjoying each day. She was always ready to toast with a glass of Chardonnay or vodka!

As the days pass and we come across these symbols and others, may we be reminded of Nene and the strong faith, love, care, and joy she shared with us. Nene – I know you are already having a great time in heaven and I can’t wait to share a glass of Chardonnay with you there in the future!”

I hope that these words inspire you in the same way that Nene inspired me!

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What Can We Learn From An Apple?

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One of my favorite fall time activities is to visit apple orchards, indulging in cider and donuts. Last week, I went on a hunt for an apple orchard since they are less common in the Southeast than in the Midwest. I was lucky to find one of the most beautiful apple orchards I have ever seen in Zirconia, North Carolina – Sky Top Orchard! I was amazed that I had to drive up a mountain to an apple orchard overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nestled near the rows and rows of apple trees was a barn with farm animals and an incredible bamboo forest! I felt like I was traveling overseas when I saw the bamboo forest.

Walking through the rows of my favorite apple trees, I started to think about apple wisdom I have heard over the years. Some of the quotes you may have heard, and some maybe not. Below I wanted to pass along some great messages we can learn from apples:

Apples are a symbol of patience for us to wait for the “one” to come to us (aka our ideal life partner), and to not settle for anyone less. As a woman, I appreciate this quote: “Women are like apples on trees; the best ones are on the top of the tree. The men don’t want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and don’t want to get hurt. Instead, they just get the rotten apples from the ground that aren’t so good but easy. So, the apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality they are amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top because they value quality.”

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“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Apples are a reminder of how much our parents influence us and how we, as current or future parents, have the opportunity to influence our children. As we reflect upon who we are and who we would like to be, we can consider our circle of influences and what values and traits we would like to pass along.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples help us stay healthy by eating them regularly. There are so many ways to enjoy apples and get the nutrients we needed…whether we bake an apple crisp or pie, drink apple cider, or simply eat an apple off of a tree. I took this advice as an excuse to cook apple crisp last weekend…which has been one of my annual traditions (originally with my mom!) since I was born. I know some of you are thinking brown sugar and oats in apple crisp don’t have the same health magic as apples…but they are worth every calorie :).

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“Just because you find one bad apple doesn’t mean you should give up on the whole tree.” This quote is a new one for me, and I find it to be really insightful. We can interpret this in many ways. I am thinking about the people I meet personally and professionally…even if we meet one “bad apple,” we should not lose faith or hope about where we are, what we are doing, or where we are going. Everything happens for a reason, and everyone we meet comes into our lives for a reason.

What other apple wisdom have you heard? Share a bite with the inspirNational community! Happy Fall, Y’all 🙂

 

Reflections from Nashville

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Phew! What feels like gust of wind, and my first three months of my post-MBA career have gone by. It all started with a move to Greenville in July, and has since included two trips to Michigan, visits to Charlotte and Columbia, a month spent in Nashville for field sales training, a quick weekend in Chicago, and now back to Greenville. I have been “on the move” throughout, living out of a suitcase, and tonight is one of the first times I have been able to sit and share some of my most recent stories. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have not sat down for more than 5 minutes to relax (besides sleeping at night) in over a month. That phase is now over though, and I am back to “normal” life.

As the hectic few months came to a close last week, I decided to capture some reflections during my flight from Nashville to Greenville…

Living in Nashville as part of my sales training was one of the biggest blessings for me. On the weekends, I spent some time exploring and learning about the culture, which helped me reflect on the lessons I have learned over the past few months.

My first lesson from Nashville is the power of resilience. I have never realized how resilient I am or can be until facing the past few months of struggles…from a shooting of a colleague in my apartment complex, to family health issues, to going through a new challenging work training, to ending a long term relationship after I learned that my significant other wasn’t the person I thought he was. With each challenge, I felt extreme stress…lack of sleep and appetite and spontaneous tears. At the same time, I felt myself grow closer to God, praying consistently, and keeping my focus on my long term goals of good health, happiness with friends and loved ones, and positive impact in my career. I have bounced back from each hardship, potentially with a few more wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes, but also a wider smile to express my gratitude on the good days.

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Country Music Hall of Fame

My second lesson after spending time in Nashville is…country music is a powerful healer. After watching live music almost daily at my hotel and on Broadway Street, I felt tempted to get on stage and pour my heart out. I toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium, both of which told inspiring stories of the musicians from years past, who are no different than you and me, except for their incredible music talent. If you really listen to country music or just music in general, you realize how much you can connect with the artists as they sing about love, hardship, and daily life. I felt so connected to those performing, and at times empowered by their words, particularly about moving on from those who bring us down. One day you may see a country song written by me after all that I have faced lately :).

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Inspiration from the Country Music Hall of Fame

Similar to the country music lesson, I have been reminded how dancing soothes the soul. Nashville has no shortage of places to dance, and I took advantage of many of them. I have never felt so liberated to dance however I want whenever I want. While Nashville is known for bachelorette parties, I was happy to also run into a couple bachelor parties and had a blast. Every kind of dancing you could imagine, from salsa to line dancing to R&B, I was doing it. I have learned in yoga class that our hips carry a lot of our stress, so dancing helps us let go of that negative energy. So if anyone ever critiques your dance moves, just tell him/her that you are relieving stress and there can be no judgement :).

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Inspiration from the Country Music Hall of Fame

And finally…being far away from loved ones has reminded me the importance of a strong support network. I met the best community I could have asked for in my new apartment in Greenville. My friends from high school, college, and grad school have been there every step of the way through phone calls and weekend visits. I couldn’t be more grateful for them and many of you reading this post.

Nashville, and the country music that went along with it, was a strong reminder that I, and all of us, can bounce back from our struggles through the support of family and friends. We are often stronger than we give ourselves credit.

While a few more hours of sleep are in order now that I am back home in Greenville, I feel empowered and eager to start my next chapter. And I can’t wait to share more inspirNational stories along the way. The inspirNational me is back…using travel as an opportunity to reflect, become a better version of myself, and help others do the same.

Love Rocks Zion

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A few weeks after going to Seattle, I had the opportunity to visit Utah for my cousin’s wedding at Zion National Park. I flew in a few days early to take advantage of the excursions that my cousin planned. Let me tell you, my cousin and her now husband couldn’t have planned a better trip for our family.

I flew into Las Vegas and drove straight to Bryce Canyon National Park for the Astronomy Festival. What started as a flat drive through Las Vegas turned into a mountainous, red rock drive through a gorgeous sunset. I arrived to Ruby’s Inn right outside of Bryce Canyon National Park, which was the perfect rustic hotel to stay at before a day of hiking.

My first day of hiking at Bryce Canyon started bright and early. I was blown away by the stunning rock formations, called hoodoos, which were scattered throughout the canyon. While all of the trails were beautiful, I highly recommend the Navajo Loop, which is moderately strenuous, but gives you a great glimpse of all that Bryce Canyon has to offer. The Queens Garden Trail also gives you more views of the hoodoos which look like figurines of queens when you use your imagination. The Rim Trail is a great option for those with strollers/wheelchairs, or those who are looking for a flat path. In between hikes, I stopped by the Astronomy Festival to view famous telescopes and look at the sun up close. It was fascinating and I wish I could have stayed another night to view the constellations. In the evening I drove to Zion National Park to meet my family.

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Bryce Canyon

Upon arriving to Zion National Park, I’m pretty sure my jaw didn’t stop dropping for days. My Hampton Inn hotel was located in the middle of the red rock formations and I never wanted to stop looking at them. I spent the first evening at the Whiptail Grill, which was an old gas station converted into a southwestern restaurant. If you are looking for a unique dining experience with delicious southwestern food, this is a must see! I also stopped by the Bit and Spur to catch up with some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins who I hadn’t seen in far too long. We had a great time and I knew the next few days of festivities were going to be a blast.

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Angel’s Landing


My next day of hiking was by far the most exhilarating hike I have ever done. I hiked with my family close to the Angel’s Landing point, where we all had to make the grueling decision whether to hike to the top….on an over 100 degree day, with extremely steep climbs, and a metal chain to support us along the way. I am proud to say I was one of the crazy ones who agreed to continue on, and with the encouragement (and lifesaving water in their backpacks) of my cousin and her now husband, I made it to the top! I felt empowered by this hike, reminded that I can do anything that I put my mind to. The full day of hiking led me to jump in the Zion river with my cousin (the bride!), which was a memory I will never forget. After I craved a nice afternoon nap and swam in my family’s hotel pool. My family spent the evening by the pool, catching up as more family came into town for the wedding.

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My cousin and I after our hike!

After an exhilarating hike, we spent the next day doing what I would call a refreshing, but also balance-testing hike…the Narrows. And I have to add that my cousin rented a convertible for the drive into the park, which was such a fun way to start the day. We rented heavy wader boots and hiking sticks, not only to look awesome and official ;), but to be able to trudge throughout a river filled with giant rocks. Each step through the river was a combination of wondering whether we would slip and feeling in awe of the rock walls surrounding us. I felt very refreshed in the water especially with the record high temperatures in Utah. After the hike, my family got dazzled up for the wedding welcome party, where we were greeted with local beers and wine, and cake, overlooking the Zion rock formations. Again, I was stunned and couldn’t believe that people actually lived in such an amazing place!

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The Narrows

 

On my cousin’s wedding day, I had some extra time to explore the farmer’s market and boutiques with Native American heritage gifts, trinkets, and the coolest rocks, bringing me back to my childhood days of collecting rocks. I bought some new rocks representing Utah and was inspired to look back at my old rock collection back in Michigan. I loved them all so much that the rocks are now part of my centerpiece in my Greenville apartment today.

And now for the #LoveRocksZion wedding…my cousin and her now husband planned the most intimate, personal ceremony. All the guests had shade umbrellas to help us keep cool for the outdoor ceremony, again, overlooking the Zion rock formations. No cell phones were allowed, which was a refreshing way for all of us to stay in the moment. I felt so connected to the ceremony. For the reception, we enjoyed a Southwest inspired dinner with geodes decorating our tables, and a cake in the shape of a geode! We danced on the outdoor dance floor with the sun setting around us and beautiful decorative lights overhead. One confession…I caught the bouquet that my cousin (the bride) threw. This was the second time this has happened to me…and I still don’t have a groom :). If anyone has any insight into this, I’d love to hear it :)! To me, there is no better feeling than having many of my loved ones in one place, at one time, dancing together. I will never forget this incredible wedding.

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My brother and me at the reception

My last day in Utah involved a drive back to Las Vegas, where I strolled the strip for several hours before flying home. No, I didn’t gamble or do anything else Vegas-y, except enjoy the views of what I like to call the lifesize adult Disney World. I look forward to going back to Vegas to experience all of the wild adventures they have to offer :).

I hope my stories help you if you happen to visit Utah one day. I can’t wait to go back!

Seattle’s Best

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Next up on my list of travel reflections is Seattle, Washington. I had the opportunity to visit Bellingham for a wedding in May and combined the trip with a visit to my preschool best friend who lives in Tacoma.

When you have the opportunity to visit the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend going to Bellingham, Tacoma, and Seattle. Below I captured some highlights from each of the places.

Bellingham: Ideal for a quaint, romantic getaway surrounded by beautiful yachts in the Pacific Ocean, and an adorable downtown. You can’t go to Bellingham without visiting the Yacht Club for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Make a point to try local Washington wines, both red and white. Stroll through the streets of Downtown Bellingham, where you will find unique boutiques and restaurants with some of the best seafood in the country. The nightlife is a lot of fun too, with live music, craft beer, and speakeasy style clubs. If you enjoy skiing, visit Bellingham for the world famous Ski to Sea Race in May. I happened to be there at the time of the race and the locals were proud to share stories of Ski to Sea Races in years passed.

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View from the Bellingham Yacht Club

Tacoma: Just 20 minutes outside of Seattle, Tacoma is rated as one of the most livable and walkable cities, with beautiful views of Mount Rainier in the distance. I tried some of the best chowder and seafood I have ever had at Duke’s Chowder House. Stop by the hip coffee shops for brunch or a quick pick-me-up, especially the Anthem Coffee Shop. There are cute boutiques and restaurants scattered throughout the city, so be sure to take a stroll one afternoon. If you’re up for a hiking adventure, you have several options around you. I hiked at Olympic National Park and was amazed to go from 70 degree weather to 30 degree weather along the 4-mile hike to one of the summits. I can’t wait to go back to this park and other parks near Tacoma.

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View from Duke’s Chowder House

Seattle: One of the most unique cities I have visited, with gorgeous snow capped mountains in the distance, fresh flowers and vegetables everywhere you go, gourmet coffee shops, free spirited people, and some of the cleanest air I have ever felt. The first must-see is the Pike’s Place Market, which has some of the largest, most vibrant flowers I have ever seen. Fresh fish samples are available at many of the booths, and you can watch the famous fish tossing show. Shop for artisan goods, fruits and vegetables, and local delicacies. I could have spent a whole day just at the Pike’s Place Market.

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Another fun opportunity is to tour the Starbucks Reserve, where you can learn about the coffee making process and the history of Starbucks, and try the latest coffee creations. I enjoyed an espresso with mint ice cream in it and it was to die for! I spent one afternoon in Capitol Hill, which was very proudly LGBTQ and open to all people. Capitol Hill is conveniently located near the Starbucks Reserve, so I would recommend that you stroll the streets there and make a stop at Unicorn bar – one of the wildest bars I have ever seen.

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If you’re into architecture and want to laugh like crazy, you have to try the Seattle Ride the Ducks boat tour, which gives you cityscape views through the pier…and yes the boat can both drive on land and go in water. Shoutout to my mom who did the same tour many years ago and it was still the same amount of fun that she had. After the boat tour, make a point to walk around the Space Needle, which I didn’t actually tour, but enjoyed seeing from the outside. Also, stop at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation museum, where you can learn about the inspiring acts of Bill and Melinda Gates through Microsoft and beyond in the communities throughout the world.

Long story short, for some of the freshest air, stunning mountain and coastal views, best seafood, most beautiful flowers, and delicious coffee, visit Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellingham!

Serendipity in Savannah

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Now that I am back down south and in the process of decorating my apartment with travel trinkets, I can’t help but reflect upon the trips I have taken over the past several months.

I want to start by sharing my trip to beautiful Savannah, Georgia. If you have been to Charleston and loved it, then Savannah will also be your cup of tea. If you have not been to either city, both Charleston and Savannah should be at the top of your travel list of Southeastern U.S. cities.

Why Savannah?

Go back in history, where you will be reminded of the majestic architecture and charm of a European coast town. Walk along cobblestone streets, with the most beautiful public squares surrounded by large trees that will remind you of a fairytale. If you have the opportunity, stay in one of the stunning, colorful historical homes throughout the city. I had the opportunity to stay in a historical home through AirBnB. It was amazing to see the historical exterior with an interior that included modern appliances and a modern layout. It gave me a taste of the “local” Savannah lifestyle.

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Experience the haunted stories of Savannah. Did you know that Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in the United States? With its longtime presence in the history of the country, significant trade with influxes of people, and presence during times of slavery, there are many people who have left their spirits in Savannah. You can go on ghost tours, grave visits, or haunted pub crawls. I went on the haunted pub crawl through Ghost City Tours and highly recommend it. I tried local cocktails (key lime pie shot was amazing!) and beer while learning the haunted history of residents and visitors past. Some of my favorite pubs were Tondee’s Tavern and the Six Pence Pub.

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Enjoy delicious Southern cuisine, ranging from shrimp and grits and other seafood, to barbecue. If you are into the haunted scene, the Old Pinke House has delicious food and swanky cocktails in the basement. The Pirate’s House will give you all the seafood you could ever want, tropical drinks, and a real pirate might visit your table.

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Basque in the sun on the beaches of Tybee Island, a short 15-minute drive away from downtown Savannah. The pier has an incredible walkway where you can order an ice cream and watch fisherman work their magic. I happened to see a fisherman catch a shark and another one use a net to catch crab.

Stroll through Forsyth Park, with path after path of beautiful trees, fountains, and open fields to throw a frisbee, have a picnic, or lay down and read a book. I spent one afternoon throwing the frisbee with my boyfriend and walking through the farmer’s market.

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Visit the home of the Girl Scouts of America. If you love Thin Mints and Samoas as much as I do, you can buy Girl Scout cookies for a discounted price at the museum.

Learn the Irish heritage by visiting the breathtaking cathedrals (by morning, and pubs by night ;)). And if you’re looking for a wild time, visit Savannah in the month of March, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. I visited during my spring break, which was the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day and so much fun. Everyone was wearing an ounce of green, the restaurants, bars, and stars were speckled with shamrocks and leprechauns, and the fountains were spouting green water!

Go through all of these experiences and you might, just might get a sense of serendipity. I know I did. The telltale example for me was walking along River Street and a mother and daughter pair asked if my boyfriend and I wanted a picture together. They asked us to be sassy and romantic, so we went along with it and had a fun little photo shoot. It also turned out that the daughter was my age and had just moved to Greenville. She invited me to her birthday party the following week, which I ended up attending as I was touring apartments in Greenville. I had a comforting feeling that I was exactly where I was meant to be, and my new chapter I was about to start in Greenville was exactly where I was meant to be. That serendipity brought an endless smile to my face and propelled me through my last semester of graduate school.

I hope that you can also experience the serendipity that Savannah brings. It may surprise you and provide you with the exact reassurance you need for your return trip home.

 

Day 1, Chapter 1

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Please excuse me as I dust a few cobwebs off my blog page. It has been my longest time in 3 years without writing and boy do I miss it. But that also means I have had one of my busiest, fun-filled summers where I have spent all of my time soaking in every moment with family and friends.

I am writing at the end of day 1 of my new career journey, overlooking my pool from my new Downtown Greenville apartment and drinking my first glass of bubbly in celebration. To think that the last time I wrote a post was the beginning of my summer vacation is unbelievable. It has been a whirlwind – two months of living out of a suitcase between Traverse City and Metro Detroit, Michigan, Seattle, and Utah.

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Image Source: YouTube

Over the past week, I have driven across the country to move and get settled before starting my job today. The moving process (and may I add, all by myself), has been a great time for reflection. I drove from Traverse City, Michigan all the way to Greenville, South Carolina with stops in Detroit and Knoxville in between. The best indication of my incredible summer vacation was how jam-packed my car was. My little-Ford-Escape-that-could fit all of my clothes, geodes and gemstones from Utah, coffee accessories from Seattle, succulents and cacti, linens and dishes for my new apartment, and even a huge wine barrel! Some people thought I had enough things stuffed in my car to open a boutique, a home goods store, a floral shop, or all of the above. While all of these are physical things, what I felt most while driving was all the love I was carrying with me as represented by the trinkets. I am so grateful for all the love that many of you have shared with me over the past two months. I did my best to see as many loved ones as possible before moving, and all of you welcomed me with open arms, reminiscing about the past, sharing in new experiences, and dreaming about the future. The love I felt is what is propelling me forward as I embark on one of my most exciting adventures, and I thank many of you for your amazing support!

Now begins my role in Michelin’s Global Leadership Program, where I will have the opportunity to rotate in various departments and locations throughout the company, focusing on marketing, supply chain, and sustainability, and preparing for management in the near future. I am also going to continue the 1SC2Sustain partnership I started last year with the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and Michelin. I am eager to share my recent trips and my reflections as I start this next chapter, which will be full of introspection and personal growth. I can’t wait to continue pausing to reflect, write, and interact with the inspirNational community. Thank you for following along, and as always, please share any comments or thoughts you have along the way!