This daily #OneGoodThing was dedicated to celebrating extraordinary women I know last December. Many of the 31 bold, beautiful, brave women featured shared stories of perseverance after abuse, addiction, miscarriages, illness, and loss. They represent various fields and backgrounds, and I admire each for their passion and strength. The series was so deeply inspiring that I felt it needed to live on as a weekly feature in 2020. Each Monday, I’ll introduce you to another incredible superhero—including artists, businesswomen, union organizers, nurses, writers, teachers, movie makers, designers, reporters, and all-around badasses. It’s about finding the extraordinary in each of us!
Ilana Gauss is a San Francisco native. She grew up very much ensconced in the Jewish community—from day school to summer camp—and it has always remained an important part of her life. She loves gardening, making ceramics, and kayaking. And she is always happy to teach people how to snowshoe! Ilana also volunteers with Food Runners, a community working to alleviate hunger and prevent waste in San Francisco. She has spent much of the last several years working on rebuilding her inner strength and her vision of herself.
1. What did you want to be “when you grew up?” A lot of things. I wanted to be a veterinarian, a fashion designer, a marine biologist, and a hairstylist.
2. What makes you the most proud of yourself? I am at a point where I have a really good understanding of myself, having been diagnosed with ADHD when I was 38. From struggling to find out what that meant, I’ve now become an ADHD coach to help people like me. Now I have a career where my goals are around advocacy and understanding for people with ADHD. It’s important to recognize that our brains work differently and to leverage that to find ways to thrive, rather than struggling to fit in.
3. What darkness have you overcome? How did you find strength? Learning about ADHD alleviated most of my depression. I struggled throughout my childhood and adolescence to express myself in ways where I could be accepted. When you grow up with ADHD and it is undiagnosed, for me, it was like living a lie. I can now see that my life didn’t make sense and I was always trying to make sense of it and trying to do what was expected from society. But I didn’t even realize how much pressure I was under or how much stress I was experiencing because I was right in the middle of a big ball of stress. I thought I was not a person who stressed, but it turns out I had just been buried under all of these expectations and masks and shame.
Every so often, my spirit was able to shine. And that was what gave me hope that things could be better, that if I keep trying, something is going to work. I found strength in glimmers of hope when I had experiences that I was really proud of my achievements. Or when I was experiencing great happiness. Those were the exception, rather than the norm. I knew that I wanted to do more with my life.
4. Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.? I’ll be asleep—curled up with my dog. I am not a morning person.
5. What makes you smile the most? My dog cause she’s just a big fluffy ball of love and I get to be her mom and take care of her.
Today’s #OneGoodThing is sharing this extraordinary woman and my friend, Ilana Gauss, with all of you! We are stronger together, so let’s shine a light on our extraordinary sisters! If you’d like to participate or nominate a woman to participate, please send me a note or leave a comment! What was your #OneGoodThing today? Please share in the comments! Kindness is Everything.