Author: Tamika Willstead
As I sit here and reflect on everything that has happened in the last couple months, I can't help but feel thankful! Thankful for the opportunities that Ladies Offroad Network and Charlene has brought into the light for us. Connecting ladies who have the same passion for offroading adventures. It doesn't matter if you’re a Jeep girl, Yota girl, UTV girl, or Motocross girl, we all have the same love for offroading. We all come from different backgrounds and all have different stories. Which brings me to my story.
What brought me to this stage in my life? It has been a long journey of trials and tribulations. Lots of ups and downs, rights and wrongs, dreams and nightmares. But ultimately, it's really all about what you take from your experiences and how you let it affect you. I turned 40 years young this week and feel like my life is just beginning. I have successfully raised 3 wonderful boys and couldn't be happier or more proud of them. But it hasn't always been this great.
I went through some traumatic spots in my life, like all of us have. I pushed through them like they never even happened. Childhood trauma, a physically abusive first marriage, and a mental abusive second marriage. I never really confronted these traumatic issues and just filed them away in the back of mind. Until I was going through my long drawn out divorce, where all these situations decided to come back and haunt me. It changed my personality, it changed my life, it changed me altogether. After seeking professional help, it was brought to my attention that I had C-PTSD. Which is complex post-traumatic stress disorder. I thought PTSD was just for veterans coming back from over seas. But in fact, it's not. Anyone can get it from any kind of traumatic situation, and it has different levels of severity. Mine just happened to be from multiple traumatic situations that I never addressed, and all came back to haunt me at the same time. I eventually ended up having a mental break down. With the help from my counselor, I learned different calming techniques. Which helped, but not completely.
A friend introduced me to offroading. At that moment I knew I had found my calling. Offroading was an outlet for all my emotions. It was calming, invigorating, exciting, an adrenaline rush, and every kind of emotion wrapped all into one. But the downside to offroading is breaking stuff, but the upside is fixing it. I compared it to myself and how broken I was. I was able to fix things I broke and got right back out on that trail. That's how life is. When things get broke, you fix them and get right back out there. That turned into being my motivation. I knew that I needed to make offroading part of my lifestyle. I wanted to make bigger and better rigs. Still raising young men I had to show them that I could do this and that I wanted it bad enough. So, I went back to school to become a welder. I told my boys, everyone has to work for a living. You might as well do what makes you happy.
I finished welding school in May. I learned how to do stick, Mig, and Tig, and I am now AWS Certificate Tig welder, I also finished on the Dean's list. While going to school I started following all these badass women in the trades. Such as Jessi Combs, Bogi Lateiner, and Barbie The Welder. Yes, there is more but these are the ones that stood out to me. I also started following this group called Ladies Offroad Network. I watched for almost a year as they had their Top 10 challenge weekend, a convention, and all these different educational classes and courses. I wanted so badly to be part of it but was intimidated. Then I saw it. It was a post about challenging yourself, putting your story in to become part of this amazing crew of badass women. I procrastinated and almost missed the deadline. I filled out the application, added my short story and hoped for the best. Just in case I didn't make the cut I still got my membership because I knew I wanted to be part it. I wanted to learn more about everything offroad, and what better way than to learn from women who empower each other instead of tearing each other down. From there it has been one hell of a ride.
I made it all the way to the Top 10 challenge weekend. I'm not the most knowledgeable about vehicles or about driving these off-road vehicles, but I'm wanting and willing to learn. That's what got me here today.
The Top 10 weekend changed my life. It educated me in so many ways. I can confidently use different tools to get myself or help someone else get unstuck or in a not so ideal situation back on the trail. It helped me form friendships that will last a lifetime. It helped me feel more confident in myself and the direction I'm headed in my life. There is a place on the trail for us women and it's definitely in the driver seat!!
If you’re not already part of Ladies Offroad Network, you should be. What are you waiting for?
Photo Credit: Rachel Speir - RS Marqueting
Author: Tamika Willstead