Episode 37: Visiting with Valencia Wilson of Gurnee, IL, and her story, “A Lost Wish”
SSPP ep 37 VALENCIA WILSON “A LOST WISH”
Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that everyone around you grew up knowing something that somehow you missed? On this week’s episode, Valencia Wilson shares with our hosts the story behind the story that she shared on the virtual She Said Story Sharing Showcase called “A Lost Wish.”
ANNOUNCER: Raising women’s voices. One story at a time.
Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.
JENETTE: Welcome to another fun, exciting, and feisty episode of The She Said Project Podcast. If you’re listening it’s because you want to hear another amazing story by another incredible woman who shared with us something powerful in a She Said show.
I’m your host, Jenette Jurczyk. So, Kerry Rossow, here with me, my feisty co-host.
KERRY: You know, “feisty…” I love that word. I think it’s fitting to today’s guest. It is my second favorite f-word. My first favorite would be “food,” in case you were confused. You know how I feel about the real f-word, but I love it—“feisty” can be our theme of the day.
JENETTE: Well we are all about finding those feisty, women who got something to say and putting them up, either live on stage in a That’s What She Said performance or, like we had to do in that crazy 2020, we went virtual and we launched the She Said Story Sharing Showcase. Not once, not twice, but three times and we got to meet a whole bevy of new wonderful women across the state and around the world.
And today’s guest is one of those women who joined us virtually (because that’s all we could do at the time,) so l’d love our listeners to join us in welcoming Valencia Wilson! Hello, Miss Valencia.
VALENCIA: Hello, everyone, I hope everyone is well.
JENETTE: Are you feeling feisty today? It’s our word of the day.
VALENCIA: Yes, I am feeling feisty today
JENETTE: You are joining us from where?
VALENCIA: I am in Gurnee, Illinois, in the north suburbs of Chicago.
JENETTE: Can you believe that we’ve been in this crazy lockdown world for almost a year now?
VALENCIA: Almost exactly a year for me. I was sent home in February of 2020 due to an exposure at work.
JENETTE: During the crazy lockdown time, I asked you to do something a little bit unique and a little bit different: to find and share a personal story on our story telling platform. And so first, I want to say thank you for jumping in and being bold and brave with us. And then I want to find out what you thought about that whole crazy experience.
VALENCIA: It was a mixture of emotions! At first I was like yes and then I was like no. And then, I was like what have I gotten myself into? And then, you know, once I’m committed, I’m not a quitter, so it’s okay, just push through and find something to talk about. And then after that, it was just kind of putting pen to paper and throwing up all these thoughts and reactions and emotions and a trip down memory lane basically—so, you know, it was cathartic in some parts, it was scary for some parts. Jenette helped me, you know, with the editing of it—so it hopefully rolled off the tongue smoothly. But, yeah, it was good. In hindsight it was so much better than I thought than in actually going through it. So, looking back on it and once we taped— it was phenomenal, but leading up to it, it was alot! [laughs]
JENETTE: So the story that you did find and develop was about a moment in your experience that tells a lot about you and your personality.
I am so excited—we’re just going to jump right into it. For our friends joining us, this is Valencia Wilson in the October 2020 She Said Story Sharing Showcase on our virtual zoom platform. Take a listen. Here she is with “A Lost Wish.”
VALENCIA: (originally recorded October 2020) It was a cold February night, snowy roads, hat, scarf, and gloves were a must. I finished a long day at work and continued my evening of meetings for community service with my sorority sisters. I caught my second wind and freshened up to walk into this meeting with focus, intent, and purpose… so I could be home by 10 o’clock. Oh, and by the way, did I mention, it was my thirty-first birthday?
Now my birthday had become less of a big deal the older I’d gotten and more of a day of gratitude and reflection. And let’s be honest, my friends and family from the south had no desire to come anywhere near Chicago in February. Ninety percent of the time, my birthday is the day of, the day before, or the day after the Super Bowl—so I’ve always enjoyed the residual fun of other people’s Super Bowl parties and the Halftime Show, in some years (side eye), shout out to Beyoncé 2016 and Prince 2007.
I was laying out paperwork and handing out the agenda so I could be home by 10 o’clock. As I laid out a ton of paperwork on the table and reviewed those directions on how we were going to be effective and efficient, I had my game face on—with focus, intent and purpose. I was feeling good, and then I noticed some of the ladies looking a bit distracted and mischievous. So I’m nosey, trying to figure out exactly what is going on. [pause] Lo and behold, someone was walking in my periphery with a birthday cake! Oh wow, are they doing what I think they’re doing? It was my birthday. I was totally caught off guard and a bit annoyed because a birthday cake was NOT on the agenda, and let’s be clear, everything runs by the agenda. But as a Southern Belle, I smiled, listened to everyone, inhaled a breath so big to perform this birthday song, somewhere between Stevie Wonder and 50 Cent.
By this time, the cake was sitting right in front of me, smile still in place, and the mock choir ready to go. In my mind, I was calculating the time it would take to cut the cake, eat the cake and clean up - all of which was not on the agenda. Until this point, I spent most of my adult birthdays at TGIFridays with a free brownie, several appetizers, and a few cocktails. Was there a candle? Who knows. Did they sing? Quite possibly. But this right here, this whole experience was just feeling so weird and foreign to me. Here they go: HAPPY BIRTH- and then in the spirit of moving my agenda along, I blew out those candles. Right then and there. Yes, I did! All of a sudden I noticed some looks and now the choir started sounding like Stevie Not Wonder and 49 Cent.
What happened? What changed? Why all of these looks? So the ladies mustered their way to the end of the song and I was just so curious why was everyone staring at me in such disbelief. We were at the end of the song and the energy was just awkward. Then finally one of the older ladies just came out and said it, “Have you never had a birthday cake?! You blew out the candles before we finished the song. What was that all about?”
I simply replied, “I didn’t know I was supposed to wait until the end to blow out the candles.”
Now you may ask, “How was that possible? How did you not know?”
To explain that, we have to go back to my five-year-old birthday party at McDonald’s—my last memories of a formal birthday party. I had a beautiful ABC dress on and all my classmates were in attendance. That was the only major birthday party I’d had and I’m pretty sure my mother cued me on when to blow out those candles and to be camera-ready at the same time.
To understand why there’s a twenty-six year gap between these two parties requires you to know a little bit more about me. As a kid, I was an old soul. I had no interest in playing outside or with other children or with dolls. I had things to do, places to go, and people to see. I was on a mission - with focus, intent and purpose. While others were playing CandyLand, Hop Scotch, and Miss Mary Mack, I was at Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Gymnastics, and Piano—all by my choosing. I was so bored at school they moved me up a reading grade level. I was indeed an old soul.
I knew what people thought about me: a little black girl from a small southern town with limited opportunities and even lower aspirations. I was interested in pursuing my dreams and proving everyone wrong rather than blowing out candles and making wishes.
Now, do I feel bad about blowing those candles before I even made a wish?…..not really.
Do I wonder about the wish I lost out on? ...possibly.
I think it’s ok to be different. I eat dessert first. I wear flip flops until there is snow on the ground. I drive barefoot. But that lost wish - what would I have wished for? A promotion, a new purse, maybe even a husband.
But here are three reasons why I do not dwell on that lost wish: First, time has passed. And time waits for no one. (2) I was supposed to blow those candles out precisely when I did. It has been a conversation piece and source of laughter amongst my friends ever since. And laughter is good for the soul. And lastly, (3) my future is waiting with all new wishes.
What do I need to wait for my next birthday to make a wish? Every day I wake up is a new wish, and I certainly don’t need a candle to make it come true.
KERRY: Amen. I love, love everything about that! One, I love the whole thing of laughter, like we can talk about anything if we’re still able to giggle about it. And I loved just your ownership of all of it: “I’m not waiting for permission from some outside source.”
VALENCIA: Thank you.
JENETTE: But I want to know, have you learned since that birthday that, you know, that you can, you can make those wishes and you can take that moment and be celebrated? That’s what I want to know.
VALENCIA: Oh absolutely. Absolutely. I think, well, that was a case of you don’t know what you don’t know—so I mean, the whole premise of the story was that I didn’t know I was supposed to wait to blow the candles out, so clearly, I’d been marching to my own beat all the way up until then. And so, you know, even after having learned that you were supposed to wait to blow out your birthday candles, it didn’t really alter my approach. You know, I’ve always gone after what I’ve wanted and definitely, you know, I’m not going to wait to a February day to do that. And so, it just further affirmed it.
KERRY: I loved it. So, what was the feedback you got from folks who know you?
VALENCIA: Oh, it’s all been positive, so that’s definitely one of the great takeaways. Coming back to the first question, in hindsight, it was really good to connect with some people. I think some people, you know, saw it on my Facebook page I had probably not talked to in awhile, I got texts and messages on Facebook, so that was really cool for that.
So some of the people who were at that event, where I blew them out too early—the candles out—they watched it. So they really laugh hard because they remembered vividly that particular evening and they said it was just really great to kind of reminisce and relive that experience. So, some of the people who were actually there, watched it and had a good laugh.
Some of my Zumba class watched it. So that was pretty exciting. I got a lot of chats from my Zumba class, and they didn’t know me back at that time period. But even still, you know, I think it is a timeless story—I don’t know if you had to know me back then. So they watched it. Some friends from college saw it, so I mean, I’ve definitely gotten lots of feedback from all walks of my life, so it’s been really nice to connect, reconnect, with some people. And then, just, hear, hear the good feedback.
JENETTE: I can imagine someone being like, “Oh, now I get it. Now I understand—that story explains Valencia with, you know: intent, focus and purpose—it’s exactly, you know, who she is today.”
But I love taking moments and looking at that one singular moment in time, that, in the time was probably a few seconds, but how much it spurred a lifetime of laughter and deeper thought as far as granting yourself some wishes. But I love looking back at that one moment and how much of an impact that can have.
VALENCIA: I don’t think actually I acknowledged it until we did this episode. You know, I’ve had that story for years, but I don’t think until we did this that I really allowed it to give me the awareness that working through the exercise and writing out the story allowed me, so…
JENETTE: Right. You had a lot of other topics in mind that we talked through—but you came up with this one, and we talked about it—and it wasn’t a huge significant, you know, big dramatic moment, but it was one of those little moments that ended up having so many layers to it and the more you wrote, the more you found those layers. And I think that’s how you ended the story so strong with those discoveries, of “Well, I don’t need to blow out a candle to make my wishes come true” because that is so important, you know, as a message, that people can take with them from your performance.
VALENCIA: No, you challenged me to look deeper. Because on the surface it’s about blowing out candles, right? So, I mean it was really nice to kind of be challenged to kind of look deeper as to what the driving force behind “What was that really about?” What was the driving force behind, me needing to blow the candles out ASAP and hurry up. So it was really nice to push myself to see what, you know, the story was above and beyond blowing out candles too soon.
JENETTE: And so what’s next for you? Do you think you’ll find yourself on some more stages anytime soon?
VALENCIA: Well, this is the beginning of my theatrical works… but no, I think it does open me up to more opportunities like this perhaps without as much hesitancy. And it also frees me to be a little more open to experiences and opportunities that depending on my agenda, and my intent, and purpose, and focus if it does or does not fit. Whereas, you know, before, I would probably be quicker to say no or quicker to say yes, whereas now, I think I’m a little more fluid and open to new experiences.
JENETTE: Well, I couldn’t ask for more. That is just a wonderful reflection on the experience. I really appreciate that, actually, that, you know, this one small challenge gave you all of that. So thank you. Thank you for your time and your thoughts, and your energy. Obviously this experience had some impact on you and your Zumba class. So that’s .. perfect..
VALENCIA: And listening to the other ladies’ stories also, I wanted to just quickly throw that in—I think we had a range of stories and emotions and topics. And so I think at the beginning of the process, I was so focused on my story because that was my ownership and my part of the team. But once I felt like I could release that it was good to listen to the other women’s stories, and the duo that presented with our group—so it was really nice, to engage in other levels beyond just telling my story.
JENETTE: Thank you, thank you so much. Cuz that is part of the magic—that connection you have with the cast.
KERRY: That was one of the things that I had been concerned about by going to a virtual platform, was part of the magic is the connection that the women form between each other and I was so pleasantly surprised that it could translate. You can see how much each speaker was connecting and admiring each other and supporting each other. I was glad to be wrong for once.
JENETTE: Alright, we have that on recording, we have that sound bite, I’m keeping that. I will remind you of that, Kerry, when I need to. [laughs]
Well, we have this platform now, this podcast, which I think transcends, you know, whether it’s virtual, whether it’s live—we’ve been able to reconnect with the women who have shared their stories in all of those ways and share them with an even greater audience.
And so, I want to thank you listeners for joining us and share, share, share, because women’s stories have power.
Thank you for being here with us on The She Said Project Podcast.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening to The She Said Project Podcast in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in the podcast for the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That’s What She Said, LLC. For more information on our live shows go to http://shesaidproject.com
This podcast was made possible with support from Carle and Health Alliance and presented by Sterling Wealth Management, empowering women to live their best lives.
Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that everyone around you grew up knowing something that somehow you missed? On this week's episode, Valencia Wilson shares with our hosts the story behind "A Lost Wish," a story that she shared on the virtual She Said Story Sharing Showcase.
The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at shesaidproject.com.