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 prompted 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 clinical educator. Additionally, Joanna has founded several successful businesses 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 behaviors, 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. Joanna has also attended academic lectures, spiritual retreats, and healing ceremonies, as well as referred to countless media resources and her own experience as a registered nurse and consultant who collaborates with children, parents, and educators.
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."
Joanna recognizes that her experiences have shaped her into a resilient woman with significant life experience who no longer has ambiguity about her life purpose or her future. She has ascertained that life is about learning lessons, and when we refuse to do the work to identify the co-dependent patterns in our lives, 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, Joanna 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.
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 have included attending countless concerts; imbibing her senses at art festivals, farmers' markets, and wine tastings; swimming under the stars; hiking and running in regional and national parks; creating farm-to-table soups and baking organic breads; and adopting a pet African elephant called Lulu.
Today, Joanna spends her time working as an international educational consultant where she helps adolescents determine their futures; serving as a nurse writer and editor to global publishers; modeling for the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle industries; writing musical song lyrics; and blogging.
She also helps women 'Wake Up to Your Life' by living more mindfully and consciously, and not constantly compromising oneself to the point of no longer having an identity nor measuring one's self-worth based on the opinions of others. Recognizing that men require support too, Joanna assists this population in embracing the "new masculinity" construct to help them shed the "Atlas Complex of Men" where they feel they carry the entire weight of the world on their shoulders. She guides males to drop their aggressive, controlling, hypersexual, and unemotional facades in order to embrace their empathic, compassionate, and emotionally intelligent selves, which leads to more emotional fulfillment, financial abundance, and overall joy. When someone laments to Joanna that they are afraid of how their evolution will be perceived by others, Joanna responds with her favorite quote: The opinion you hold of yourself is the only one that truly matters.
To maintain balance, Joanna 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.