Catching Up with Mimi Christensen (2018 Graduate)

To follow is an update provided from Mimi based on a set of interview questions developed by Deborah Bosley and Heather Caudill and her answers shared in more detail with Sherre' DeMao. 

Q: Is there anything you'd like to tell us about you personally? (i.e., family, pets, hobbies, any fun facts)?

A. I am currently working on a manuscript for a book that will share my cancer journey from a perspective of both humor and enlightenment. While there is nothing funny about cancer, keeping my sense of humor throughout the treatment, I believe, contributed to my healing. When I was accepted into the WINGS program (spring of 2017...I think), I had cancer growing inside of me, but I didn't know it at that time. My major was English - Creative Writing. 

Some of my hobbies include tailoring my own clothing, quilting, sketching, and acrylic painting. I enjoy doing landscapes and table still life images, but I first started acrylic painting by painting a self-portrait. I enjoy classical music (listening to, composing, and playing), and I have played violin and viola for over 40 years, starting when I was 8 years old. I'm now teaching myself guitar and piano. Piano is much more frustrating for me to learn than guitar. The neat thing about the violin is that once you've mastered that instrument, other stringed instruments are much easier to learn.

I have a daughter, Elizabeth, who is 21 and married. I currently live with my mom, Corey, and my dog, Troy.
Q. During your time in school and in the WINGS program, what were the biggest challenges you had to overcome to complete your degree? Can you tell us a story about an accomplishment you are proudest of?

MC: Shortly after being accepted into WINGS, I was diagnosed with cancer. I made the decision to remain in college even though I had multiple surgeries and chemo treatments. Another WINGS alum recommended that I seek school disability (which I had no idea was a thing) to help keep me in school and keep professors from cutting my grades down due to absences. I was grateful for her advice. I graduated with a bachelor's degree on my target date, Cum Laude, in May of 2018.
Q. How have you have been doing since you graduated, and how your career has progressed over the years?

MC:  I am grateful that my cancer is in remission, allowing me to focus on my creative passions and my writing.  I have the help of a WINGS mentor, Sherre' DeMao, at this time with my book project. (And boy, do I need the help, haha!) I am currently composing my manuscript from my many journals that I kept while undergoing cancer treatment.
The journals were a key instrument in helping me stay focused on my goals (as well as being the perfect place to unload and decompress), and those journals now serve as a valuable resource for my book. My rough-draft manuscript is a combination of already written journal entries plus an additional 200 pages I've composed. Not everything will be used in the final draft. As I have been sifting through the 12 journals, re-reading them and creating this manuscript, it has made me realize that cancer peeled my brain away from strict social conditioning and made me a more unglued, goofy person. I am very happy with this result and the creative inspirations I am currently enjoying.

Q. What advice do you have for future mentors and students?  

MC: My advice to students is to do whatever you can to stay in school and graduate. Consult with your mentor and also ask for help from other mentors. There may be an area where another mentor has more experience that could be an additional help to the mentor you already have. The feeling of being overwhelmed can sneak up on you and the more support you have, the more likely you will be able to stay in school. If you are struggling, admit it. Your mentors are there to help you. 

My advice to mentors is that if you are feeling stretched thin with mentoring while running your business, managing your work responsibilities, or having life issues yourself, admit to it and ask for help. The feeling of being overwhelmed can sneak up on you and the more support you have, the better. There is no shame in admitting if you are feeling tapped out and needing a long nap. There is no shame in having someone else step into your mentoring role either.

Q. One of the themes for our 25th anniversary is a quote from members and graduate that begins with "I soar because....". How would you complete that sentence?

MC: This quote is something I've been thinking about for a while and in my head, I keep saying, "I soar because I said so." It may not be a conventional answer, but it's the answer I have swimming around in my head.  It boils down to believing that you can soar no matter what life throws at your gorgeous face.