#MWWC18: Crisis

#MWWC18 Winner!
#MWWC18 Winner!

It was one week into the start of classes, fall semester 2012, when human resources contacted me to set up a meeting. As soon as the meeting was requested, my gut told me it wasn’t good. I told my teaching colleagues about the meeting and said, “I’m going to be let go.” They all flatly denied it. I mean, after all, I had taught there my entire career, with stellar annual evaluations. I taught two languages, I was Faculty Senate President, and I was well known across Virginia as an innovator and leader, being one of the first faculty members to teach nontraditional courses via compressed video, then later, online.

Although three years have passed, I still remember sitting in the office with the Director of Human Resources, the Vice President of Instruction, and the President. He handed me the letter saying my position was being eliminated due to a budgetary reduction in force effective December 15, 2012, while mumbling something like, “You are a great instructor, let us know if you need any help finding another job, blah, blah, blah.” The Vice President started crying, which caused me to tear up a bit. Then the President said, “I hope you don’t think I’m the Grim Reaper,” and I thought, “Of course, I think you’re the Grim Reaper!” I left the meeting in a daze and called one of my colleagues and said, “I was right.” Oddly enough, though, I felt a sense of relief, although I had just lost my “forever job.”

Formally learning to taste wine
Formally learning to taste wine

The next four months were the most difficult. I was going through the motions, trying to keep my students from finding out. I needed distractions and I’d thought about taking some wine certification courses to validate my wine writing on this blog. I did some research and found out a way to take both the Foundation and Intermediate levels of Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s (WSET) wine courses during that final semester of teaching. I took the Level 1 Foundation as a day course at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina, then the Level 2 Intermediate course online through WSET London, as facilitated by phillywine.com.

Wine Tasting in Mendoza, Argentina
Wine Tasting in Mendoza, Argentina

I poured myself into wine writing, tasting, and traveling, landing a gig as a wine and travel contributor to Plum Deluxe. I continued as a home-based travel agent, providing travel management services to a handful of wine businesses. I also hosted wine tastings at my local wine shop on weekends. I traveled and wine tasted around the world: Napa and Sonoma (California), the Finger Lakes (New York), the Boston Wine Expo, Northern Virginia, Lake Chelan (Washington), Okanagan (British Columbia), Mendoza (Argentina), and Portland (Oregon). Little did I know that this crisis would also propel me into a part-time job as an executive assistant for Preston-Layne & Partners, Inc. (wine sales) and Magnum Wines International, LLC (wine importer). At the end of 2013, one of my wine business travel clients texted me, “Have you ever thought of moving to Napa?” My immediate response was yes, and in January 2014, I moved to start my new career in the wine business. I also took and passed with merit WSET’s Level 3 Advanced course via home study, which in retrospect, was crazy to do my first 16 weeks after a cross-country move and a new career.

Who’d a thunk it? Wine saved my life. Literally. Crisis averted.

This post was the winning entry for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #18 (#MWWC18), as described here. To read other entries, click here. Thank you for your support of writers!

Horseback Riding as a Metaphor for Life

The horseback riding group
The horseback riding group

If you wish to be expressed, if you wish to live in your purpose, if you wish to Love and be Loved to the fullest – then become friends with uncertainty. See your life as an experiment in uncertainty. See your life as a giant dare to The Divine – you weren’t made to fall. You weren’t made to fail. You were made to learn. To Love and to pick yourself back up. Erase failure from your vocabulary. It was a lesson. Erase self-doubt from your mind. You have no idea how amazing and powerful you are when you are connected to your Source. Step into uncertainty today and a little bit every day. This is how an epic life is lived. ~ Mastin Kipp, The Daily Love

The past year and a half has been one of great loss and change. With moving forward comes an increased awareness of who you are and who you want to become.

Chocolate and me
Chocolate and me

I give beyond means and love endlessly. I share more of myself with others than I receive in return. I am also very cautious and controlled. I thrive on excellence to the extent that I am an overachiever and a perfectionist. However, in my recent personal journey, I have been letting go more: throwing caution to the wind, being more spontaneous, and learning that perfectionism is a hindrance to success, not a help.

View of the Andes on the way to the ranch
View of the Andes on the way to the ranch

Therefore, when I had the opportunity for a horseback riding adventure at La Quebrada del Cóndor in the Potrerillos area of the Andes, Villa Tupungato, on my recent trip to Mendoza, Argentina with Uncorking Argentina, I had mixed emotions. The former me and the new me were battling for control. Should I say no or should I let go? Then I thought, “When will I ever have this opportunity again? DO IT!” My heart won over my head, but it was not without doubt and hesitation.

The ranch
The ranch

You see, I’ve only ridden horses twice in my life: once when I was a fearless kid and once when I was an adult. The adult experience was traumatic because out of the blue, the horse backed me into some thorny bushes and tried to throw me off its back. The guide didn’t help, so my boyfriend struggled to get me off the horse in time. That was 16 years ago.

My horse, Chocolate
My horse, Chocolate

As we drove to the ranch, I became more and more nervous and uncomfortable. In this moment, I thought about my favorite website, The Daily Love, and how readers are taught that success comes when you are most uncomfortable. I forged ahead with my decision. “Uncomfortable is good,” I repeated to myself. I was almost numb as one of the guides put chaps on my legs. The time came for me to get on my horse, Chocolate (pronounced choh-koh-lah-teh in Spanish), and again, I needed the assistance of Eduardo, one of the guides. Finally we were off on a three-hour journey through the Cordón del Plata. The ride was unparalleled and will remain one of the top five experiences of my life, a combination of exhilaration, fear, trust, adrenaline, natural beauty, and the human and animal connection.

Cori, me, and one of our amazing guides
Horseback riding in the Andes, Mendoza, Argentina

At one point, we decided to head up to one of the highest peaks. The horses balked as it was the path least taken, just like we humans often do when confronted with change. The route was treacherous because of snow melt and mud. The horses stopped dead in their tracks with a few colliding into each other. A few of us were stuck on the side of the slippery slope. I closed my eyes and conceded my fate to faith and trust. At this moment, Eduardo appeared and led each of us and our horses to safer ground. Like life at its lowest point, there’s nowhere to go but up if you just let go, breathe, trust, and allow faith lead you back to light and joy.

The view from 3000 meters (approx 10,000 feet)
The view from 3000 meters (approx 10,000 feet)

We continued our journey without further incident. We made it to an elevation of about 3000 meters (approximately 10,000 feet) and we all felt like we were on top of the world, both literally and figuratively. The ride back to the ranch was downhill and easy in every sense of the word. I felt blissful and calm as I let go even more and gave my complete trust to Chocolate, Juan Martín, and Eduardo.

The asado
The asado

Upon our return, we had a grand celebration with a scrumptious asado (Argentine barbecue) prepared by Cato, one of the owners, and his team. I had no idea that my emotional, mental, and physical journey would make me so hungry and thirsty for food, drink, and adventure.