In October 2020, during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, Joanna Grayson (aka "JGray") sold most of her belongings, loaded her SUV with a few remaining personal items, and walked out the front door of her home with the intention to travel to new places, make interesting connections, and engage in adventures big and small…and she has not looked back since!
Like most people at the time, Joanna was frustrated with the isolation and uncertainty that plagued “the new normal” of our chaotic world. She had time to evaluate her life, and she realized that she was focusing too much on past disappointments and losses while simultaneously harboring immense fear about the future. In a word, she had become STUCK.
This prompted Joanna to embark on a healing process where she examined her life from the very beginning…a childhood fraught with emotional and physical insecurity that caused her to live in constant fear of triggering her abuser while simultaneously over-achieving and constantly people-pleasing in an effort to gain the positive attention, acceptance, and love from her family and others that she so desperately craved. She thus learned to dim her light and mold herself to meet others’ expectations.
Being a typical type A personality, Joanna constantly pushed herself to succeed. She completed two college degrees and previous careers as a publicist, etiquette consultant, registered nurse, and healthcare clinical educator. Additionally, she has founded several successful businesses, authored books, and participated in grueling physical contests, such as the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, Maui Channel solo and relay swim crossings, and English Channel solo swim crossing.
There have been immense past personal challenges that caused Joanna to shoulder a victim mentality for decades: childhood abuse, disappointments in relationships and partnerships, the untimely deaths of loved ones (two of whom committed suicide), and battles with multiple sclerosis and cancer (both in remission), just to name a few.
One of Joanna's primary quests for this pandemic-induced "magical mystery tour” was to gain an understanding into several constructs: the purpose of life, why human beings suffer, the effect of childhood and societal programming on human behavior, why many people in today's society engage in self-sabotaging acts and refuse to change, and what is required to self-actualize and attain inner-peace. Resources for this information have included neuroscientists, psychologists, and other clinicians and researchers, as well as shamans, yogis, reiki masters, mystics, witches, and teachers and followers of world religions. She has also attended academic lectures, spiritual retreats, and healing ceremonies, as well as referred to countless media resources and her own professional and personal experiences that have provided tremendous insight.
Recognizing that her challenges have shaped her into a resilient woman with significant life experience who no longer has ambiguity about her life purpose or her future, Joanna has ascertained that life is about learning lessons. When we refuse to do the work to identify the programming we were fed in childhood and our subsequent co-dependent behavior patterns, we repeat cycles that prevent us from reaching our highest potential. Joanna has learned to cultivate joy in her life, set boundaries with others when necessary, tap into her intuitive and empathic nature, let go of her past, and forgive herself and others. One of the most important life lessons she has learned is that peace, happiness, and joy cannot be achieved by external influences (people, things, situations), but rather these have to be cultivated and maintained intrinsically. Additionally, being fascinated with human psychology and spirituality, she has studied how to recognize those people and situations that are not meant for her highest good, and thus how to disengage from anyone and anything that can derail her progress. It takes hard work to get there, but once true self-reliance and self-love are achieved, life becomes exponentially easier, and thus much more abundant and enjoyable.
One aspect that Joanna has faced during her healing process is to understand the role men have played in her life and society at large. Not having walked an easy road where males are concerned, Joanna has been physically, verbally, and sexually assaulted; emotionally neglected; financially manipulated; and sexually objectified by men (like many women). Yet, she still believes that (most) men are good at heart and may require a little guidance to understand their place in an ever-changing world, and how to execute a more effective existence that does not focus on outdated toxic paradigms, such as dominating, controlling, and objectifying women.
Fascinated by the evolution of the Modern Masculine construct and thus men’s changing roles and responsibilities in today’s world, Joanna realizes that men are taught more about sports fundamentals and the inner workings of electronic equipment as children than how to process and express emotions, communicate effectively, and receive and give love in a healthy manner. This is not the fault of men, but rather the byproduct of a society where many men are raised in households where access to the father figure is limited or non-existent, taught in schools by predominantly female educators, and cared for by female family members and childcare professionals. Boys are taught that being aggressive, dominant, and even violent are acceptable masculine traits, and they must “man-up” or run the risk of being perceived by others as weak and ineffective.
The Modern Masculine is not weak (far from it!), but rather has the strength and insight to recognize that a successful existence integrates the yin with the yang, the feminine with the masculine. Joanna assists men in shedding the “Atlas Complex of Men” where they feel they carry the entire weight of the world on their shoulders and guides them to exchange their aggressive, controlling, hypersexual, and unemotional facades they were taught in childhood for their empathic, compassionate, and emotionally intelligent selves, which leads to more emotional balance and overall joy.
We live in a world where we’re evolving spiritually at an intense rate as evidenced by the emphasis modern society places on the benefit of the healing arts, environmental protection and animal welfare, and ethical corporate practices, to name a very few. Men are awakening to their crucial role in collaborating with women and other men to further these agendas that help the world grow in a positive direction. Joanna uses her background as an international educational consultant and retired registered nurse to champion men by teaching them how to care for themselves holistically, release fear, and evolve into more enlightened versions of themselves via her social media platform.
Since becoming a digital nomad, Joanna has enjoyed gorgeous scenery and natural wonders, experienced people from all walks of life, and lived in unique environments. These living situations have included a casita in Mexico; ranch for rescued sheep in Sonoma's Wine Country; wellness compound in the Utah desert; working family farm in the Santa Cruz mountains; ski mountain resort towns in California, Colorado, and Utah; hotels on the Las Vegas Strip and Los Angeles Sunset Strip; and everything in between. Activities that have brought Joanna much joy include attending countless concerts; indulging her senses at art festivals, farmers' markets, and wine tastings; swimming under the stars; hiking and running in regional and national parks; cooking Mediterranean-inspired cuisine; learning Italian; and adopting an African elephant called Lulu.
Individuals often ask Joanna what the most difficult component of her adventure entails, and she typically responds "constant change." Adjusting to new living quarters, joining an unfamiliar gym, determining the location of a clean grocery store, constantly interacting with unfamiliar people, and relying on GPS on a daily basis are some of the changes that require unwavering patience. Many people fear change and are unwilling to embrace it, much less entertain it. Joanna feels very strongly that change is the catalyst for our soul's growth, and accepting the premise that nothing is truly permanent breeds expansion, and thus freedom. As British author Virginia Woolf wrote, "A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living."
In addition to being a content creator, Joanna models for the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle industries; serves as a nurse writer and editor to global publishers; writes musical song lyrics; and blogs. To maintain balance, she is committed to a consistent ritual of exercising outdoors and practicing yoga, meditating and journaling to express gratitude, singing along to her favorite songs (albeit horribly off-key), and dancing in grocery store isles when the mood strikes (which is quite often). She also donates a portion of her income to organizations that support women and children of domestic violence, protect animals, and heal the environment, in addition to frequenting businesses that are mindful of the importance of making the world a better place.