The following is the full response I received from Cortney Edmondson, the September 2016 featured Millennial for my monthly column at the local newspaper, The Wilson Post. Due to being constricted to a word limit, I use my blog as an outlet to post the full transcripts of my interviews. These transcripts contain a treasure trove of valuable content for anyone interested in learning more about the individuals I write about, as their experiences and insight provide an outstanding resource for those wanting an inside look into their success.
Cortney’s website can be found here.
MS: Tell me a little about your background and what inspired your passion to help others.
CE: I have experienced shame since the age of four, when my mother went to prison for assisting in a series of bank robberies. No one ever told me to keep that fact a secret, it was just something I learned along the way. I feared what others would think of me if they knew. Would my friend’s parents allow them to be friends with me if they knew my mother was a criminal? Would people treat me differently if they found out? Would the fact that my parent was a criminal hinder me from pursuing my dreams? Questions like this kept me from letting people get too close to me. I was hiding things from my friends at a very young age and suffered repercussions as a result.
The fact is that shame grows the longer you keep things a secret, and I was its slave. When I finally decided to share a glimpse of my story with a group of people, I quickly discovered that sharing my secrets was liberating. More importantly, I finally realized that the pain from my past did not have to be in vain because I could help people by sharing my story with others. People began to share with me that my story had made a difference in their life so I started brainstorming how I could share it on a larger scale.
MS: What exactly is the mission of ThursdayThrive? From what I’ve seen, it seems to encourage others to open up about the skeletons we all seem to be hiding. I sort of get a “be yourself” vibe from watching some of your videos, which I love because I can relate.
CE: The mission behind Thursday Thrive is to share stories of hope and to connect communities of people who are facing similar life challenges. The fact is we all feel so isolated and alone when we face adversity. In reality, there is always someone who has been in a similar situation and just hearing their perspective from the other side of the challenge gives us the hope we need to conquer it ourselves. We are all yearning for a community that is accepting of who we really are, one that encourages us to overcome. That is what Thursday Thrive is all about.
The main focus was to reach people who needed encouragement. However, the people we have featured have also experienced love and support from their communities as a by product of having the courage to be vulnerable and share what they have been through. It is a win-win for everyone involved!
MS: Is there a particular case you’ve seen or story you’ve heard that might have impacted you more than others? Hopefully something with a happy ending!
CE: The beautiful thing about these stories is that they all have a happy ending! For instance, in every interview, I ask the interviewee what they would change about their story if given the opportunity. “Nothing” is the only response I have ever heard! I think that is amazing considering some of the grief and heartbreak these people have faced. It tells me that no matter how traumatic the event, the blessings and transformation that takes place as a result is worth the pain.
With that being said, each story has impacted me in one way or another. Dee Matherly’s story was a game changing story for me though. We have very similar backgrounds and she too kept family secrets for over a decade.
When she finally decided to share, she had a lot of anxiety about exposing her deepest and darkest secrets. It was an honor to be a part of her sharing her story for the first time and to encourage and help her break free from her past. After we featured her story, she received an outpouring of support from her community. The feature prompted the perfect opportunity for her and her mom to discuss “the elephant in the room” for the first time in over a decade. Now Dee is an advocate for domestic violence and will be sharing her story publicly more frequently going forward. Thursday Thrive was a stepping stone for her to pursue a dream. It is so inspiring to be a part of such a transformation.
MS: What do you see for ThursdayThrive moving forward? Are there plans to grow the site, speaking tours, etc.?
CE: As a public speaker, I am passionate about storytelling. I know that people love stories, that’s why we have television, movie theaters and books. Everyone has a story, so luckily there is an endless supply of stories to share. I hope to one day be able to capture incredible stories throughout the world, instead of just locally. I took the first step towards this and recorded a story from a San Diego, CA resident just a few days ago!
Also, my vision from the beginning has been to create online community/support groups for different types of adversity. For instance, if people stumble on my site and they are a victim of domestic violence, I want to point them to a Thursday Thrive online community group of other people who are domestic violence survivors. Likewise, If they are a childhood trauma survivor, I want to connect them to a Thursday Thrive group of other childhood trauma survivors. I know community is so important during hard times. I hope to extend this platform to make community support more easily available for people.