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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Veronica Carrera of ‘140 Miles of Life’ Is Helping To Change Our…

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Veronica Carrera of ‘140 Miles of Life’ Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Edward Sylvan

The book is about a story that takes you into the Power of Self, power of spirit, and power of determination. It discusses childhood & religious trauma, racism, and all these “isms” that we all hope to eliminate in the world, but in my story, these “isms” are overshadowed by the power of healing, forgiveness, and love.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Veronica Carrera.

Veronica holds a B.A. in French from Brigham Young University and an M.B.A. from Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, where she was honored as “The 2015 Best Executive EMBA.” She recently completed the Inner M.B.A. (conscious leadership program) at New York University and is currently pursuing a Life Coaching certification with Jay Shetty.

Veronica’s story of triumphing over adversity, not only offers hope and inspiration for readers to discover true inner wisdom and acceptance but may save lives!

Hers is a story of love, loss, courage and healing.

Today, she is an avid triathlete and passionate advocate for human rights, a highly sought-after speaker and a successful sales leader at one of the top tech companies in the world. She is also the creator/producer of the LinkedIn Live show 30 Minutes of Wisdom-Rising in Consciousness & Mindfulness.

Veronica’s journey represents pure POWER. Power of self, power of spirit, and power of determination. She is an inspiration to everyone who strives for what is right in life and those who want to rise above the opposition. You cannot truly change the way things are unless you have lived through the way things are. Veronica has LIVED! Her spiritual path has led to physical endeavors that have enabled her to break though stereotypes and not only dismantle but destroy the framework that has impeded the LGBTQ community from success and acceptance. But Veronica is here to say “NO! Acceptance isn’t the goal, but integration. Integration of the soul through pure love and universal connection.”

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I am from Guayaquil, Ecuador. I grew up in a culture that was about connection and community. It is not surprising to see several generations living in the same home. Growing up I remember living with my parents, great-grandmother, grandmother, uncles, aunts, cousins, all of us in a five-bedroom home. Neighbors were like our extended family, and we took care of one another. Education was important, and I grew up in a place and time where we prioritize school over anything else. My schoolmates who lived on the same block or very close would come to my home every night so that we could do homework together and getting top grades on assignments and tests was celebrated and expected.

People in Ecuador are warm. We don’t go into a conversation asking about your position or what you do in life to make money. We want to know the human being, and I think that is very common among Latin people. I do not want to generalize, but at the same time, we come from a culture where we value the person.

I grew up with a single mom. She ran away with me from my father when I was 4 years old. Since that moment, life turned into an inconsistent, stressful and unexpected journey. Particularly because at a young age, I became acquainted with deep loss.

My mom used to pick me up every day after school. I would always put myself in the front of the line when the nuns lined up the kids so that I could be the first one to run to my mom when the school doors opened at the end of the school day. My mom was always waiting for me with a big smile and arms wide open.

Until one day, when school was over, and I stood in line as usual, the school doors opened, but this time I did not see my mom. All the kids ran to their parents as I anxiously waited for my mom to show up, but she never did. The school closed its doors, and I sat on the sidewalk by myself for hours waiting for my mom to come, until suddenly a taxi rushed towards me with the velocity and speed of an ambulance, and then there it was my mom’s sister, and with tears in her eyes, she said to me, “You are still here! Thank God! Mijita, ‘who would you want to live with, if your mother dies.”

The reality was that my mom was dying, and that was the end of an important chapter of my life- I think my childhood somehow ended there.

After my mom died, I went to live with my paternal grandmother who then brought me to the United States when I was 14 years old to live with my estranged father and his wife. I soon ended up in a foster home for a short period of time, and I learned not only how to survive within this system, but to acclimate to an entirely new culture and language.

This was the beginning of my life in this country, and it came with its share of challenges, but many powerful and beautiful experiences as well. I ended up eventually graduating from Brigham Young University with a degree in French literature and later in life, I received an MBA from Cornell University where I was honored as the best EMBA from my class. As an adult, I decided to race in the longest one-day endurance triathlon in the world called “Ironman.” Thus, this is where the title of the book comes from. 140 Miles is the distance of the Ironman (2.4 Mile Swim, 112 Mile Bike Ride & 26.2 Mile Run). Ironman framed this Memoir, and it became a metaphor for the story.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or change your life? Can you share a story about that?

There were a few books that inspired me throughout my journey, but I would choose Antigone. I was studying French literature in Aix-en-Provence, in the South of France when I took a class with an amazing French professor, and she introduced me to this book.

Antigone made me think about the way I viewed life as a Mormon. Mormonism taught me that I had to be perfect to fit in God’s plan, and in this elusive pursuit of perfection, I ended up breaking myself, particularly because although I was morally and religiously proud, ironically, I also dealt for a long time with this inner struggle, a secret that could get me eventually excommunicated from my faith. It was painful for me after many years of struggle to accept that I was gay. Gay and Mormon. Those two things do not go together, and I had to eventually understand that life is not black and white, that life is complex, and that if I did not want to end up as Antigone — dead — I needed to choose life.

To tell you a little bit about the book, “Antigone is a tragedy written by Sophocles in the year 441 BCE. She was known for her unwavering beliefs, but morally arrogant. Antigone is heartbroken at the news of her brother’s death. He was killed because he transgressed the laws of man, and she decides she must bury him to honor the laws of the gods. “When Antigone buries the body, she’s going against the law of the newly appointed King, who happens to be her uncle. Ultimately, because she was unwilling and unable to sit with life’s complexities and imperfections being morally arrogant, she chose to die.

One interesting imagery for me in the book is when the King, Creon, attempts to save Antigone’s life, in the French version of the book, he tells her, “Antigone. Fermez les doigts (Close your fingers).” What this imagery is trying to convey is to let go of this illusion of perfection and give up this idea that she could have it all by trying to grab everything with her hands wide-open. Because when you try to have it all, some things will fall through your fingers. So, when her uncle, the king, told her, “Fermez les doigts (Close your fingers), he was trying to teach her to accept whatever she could grab with closed hands, whatever life gives to her, and be grateful.

I think this was the first time that I started to feel that there is wisdom and beauty in the imperfect, and that imperfection is a part of life so that we can grow and experience life fully. If we can be at peace with our own imperfections, sit with our light and shadows and embrace all of who we are, we are much more capable of sitting with others’ imperfections, which leads us to have more compassion.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

I have always been passionate about learning what it takes to be a great leader. I have been fortunate in my life to have had the opportunity to lead at some amazing global firms. But I did have to learn some lessons the hard way. For instance, understanding how to navigate politics in the workplace and to not take anything personal. It was hard for me. That is why one of my favorite books is The Four Agreements; I learnt a lot from its teachings. The more you rise in corporate America, the more politics you encounter, and either you learn how to swim, or you drown. It takes great diplomacy and activism. How do you balance the two is art at its best. It requires great emotional resilience, strength, integrity and intellectual rigor.

When you are in leadership, especially when you deal with people and organizations, you must learn to sit with the complexity to remain objective while striving for efficiency, integrity and fairness and not lose sight of the grander vision.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

There are three central themes in the book that I consider myself an advocate and activist for. First, knowing that you are enough.

  1. First of which, the importance of being who you are, that you are enough, whole and perfect exactly as you are. Whenever anyone or any institution would have you think that there is something wrong with you, that you are broken because you not conforming to their idea of perfection, then you must walk away from this. You must choose yourself first. No one else can do that for you.
  2. With respect to the struggles that have followed the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ+ people in every region of the world still face marginalization and repression. The council on foreign relations in an article stated, “The global campaign to secure protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other (LGBTQ+) people has made significant progress in recent decades, especially in the realm of marriage equality. Yet in many countries, LGBTQ+ individuals still face repression, imprisonment, and even the threat of death.”
  3. There is so much work still to be done and one of the key reasons why I wrote my Memoir, 140 Miles of Life, is because I thought it was important to have the courage to raise my voice and become a spiritual advocate and human rights activist for LGBTQ+ rights and for any marginalized group of people. As a Mormon, I went through years of torment and struggle. The Mormon church teaches you that Homosexuality is a crime next to murder. So, I lived with that narrative in my head for so many years and I went to a really dark place where I contemplated suicide. At that moment I could have ended it all, but I chose to live. In fact, I read so many stories of gay people in the Mormon church who lived in shame and committed suicide because they felt ostracized by the church and their families. I want my story to be able to save lives just as mine was saved.
  4. Create a different narrative for people of color. As a society, we have faced centuries of racial injustice, systemic inequality, unconscious bias and we have made some significant progress, but we still have so much more work to do. It is no surprise that there are still those who look at people of color and immigrants as not deserving of the same opportunities life has granted to them. People of color have worked very hard to break barriers to bring about change and pave the way for others. Therefore, I felt this deep purpose to share my story and join other powerful voices of people of color to change the narrative, reclaim our power, and define our future. As an immigrant who came from Ecuador, I faced challenges in my life, but I have also experienced so much goodness. I lost my mom at a very young age. I did not grow up with my father- I had a difficult background. I spent some time in a foster home, but despite everything, I graduated with honors in high school. Later in life, I attended Cornell University where I was honored as their Best MBA. I often broke barriers in corporate America, either being the first Latina woman in the room, or the first woman of color in leadership, and I navigate a complex world where I am often the only one who looks like me in the room, and I want to leave a good legacy for others who look like me. People of color are standing on the shoulders of giants. Our ancestors are ancient keepers of wisdom, we come from royalty and empires, and our history is rich. I am here to say that you can be anything you want to be and that we have to change the stories that are being told about us. We have to remember who we truly are and who we come from. I believe we are waking up to our greatness and the future is bright.
  5. The liberating power of forgiveness. I have a story to tell you that may sound like a fairytale. I lived many years with unprocessed childhood and religious trauma. I had a difficult childhood, losing my mother at a young age, eventually coming to the United States to live with my estranged father and his wife and ending up in a foster home. Also, growing up Mormon and coming out as gay and not being able to reconcile my faith with my sexuality; consequently, facing years of shame and guilt and ultimately being ostracized by the church.

All this compounded deep subconscious trauma masked by a “successful life”- A successful corporate leader who graduated with an MBA from an Ivy League school and was honored as the top EMBA. Also, being surrounded by many people who thought of me as successful and happy, but all of this, covered up the silent cry inside of me of one who felt the emptiness of an unhealed and unawakened life. Ultimately, my spiritual pursuit and inner journey led me to an Ayahuasca ceremony in Costa Rica in this place called Rythmia.

When I participated in this plant medicine ceremony, I took the ayahuasca brew given to me by the Shaman and then laid on the mattress. All of a sudden, my mind took me to the time when I was a 9-year-old child, the day I came out of school and my mom never showed up to pick me up. I saw myself sitting alone on the sidewalk for hours waiting and hoping for my mom to just come. Suddenly, I was overcome with sadness, and tears started to fall from my face as my body kept on intensely shaking. Out of nowhere, Ingela, one of the Shaman helpers, put her hand on my heart and said, “Love that little girl.”

As I lay on the ground trembling, feeling the intensity of my sorrow and torment building inside my body as a pressure, I kept on looking at the stars, the trees and the sacred fire that was a few feet away from me. Then the same woman who had asked me, “who loves me unconditionally?” came to me, blessed my heart by putting some sort of oil over me and then said, “I want you now to go to the fire and give whatever is in your heart. Say your name, then your father’s name, then your mother’s name and then give the fire whatever is in your heart.”

Right there in front of the fire, I forgave the troubled relationship I had with my father and his wife. As I was letting all of it go in an instant, I was filled with compassion. Then, others who had hurt me deliberately or unconsciously came to my awareness, and I forgave them. At that moment, I wasn’t aware of the enormity of the moment. It was cosmic forgiveness. As I forgave all, I was also being forgiven, redeemed, and healed.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

The book is about a story that takes you into the Power of Self, power of spirit, and power of determination. It discusses childhood & religious trauma, racism, and all these “isms” that we all hope to eliminate in the world, but in my story, these “isms” are overshadowed by the power of healing, forgiveness, and love.

I think one of the interesting parts of the book is the way I give you a detailed and intimate tour of the Mormon church dogma. You will learn so much about this religious institution.

I got baptized in the Mormon church when I was 14 years old. I ended up serving as a missionary for two years in Chile and attended Brigham Young University. I was a leader in the church, and I truly thought I had found the true church of God. Mormons have some great values, so I have a lot to thank them for.

At the same time, there is another side of the religion, which you will find details in the book. Once you go deeper into their beliefs and history, you will find inexplicable things such as the Mormon temple masonic rituals. You are told in the Temple ceremony that you must not reveal what goes on inside the temple or you will be destroyed. I still remember the moment I was sitting on my bed writing this part of the book and not being able to stop until it was past 3 am. I was feeling the enormity of this moment to have the courage to share this experience as I listened through the silence of the night, this thought in my mind, “The Truth Shall Make You Free.”

Also, in the book, I describe the church’s discriminatory belief on the origin of indigenous people and people of African descent- The book of Mormon teaches that their “dark skin was a punishment from God.” As I look back, it is hard to believe that in this time in history, there are people, institutions, and dogmas that use their “sacred text” to instill the superiority of the white race and view people of color as less than. This cannot be more damaging and hurtful; ultimately, it dims the light within all of us.

However, the most fundamental dilemma in the book is the church’s stand on homosexuality as a terrible sin, being considered a crime next to murder.

I loved my faith and for many years I tried to hold on tight to my beliefs, but I knew I had this painful secret, or I realized it over time, that I was attracted to women. Sadly, as members of the church, we were taught that if we prayed hard enough, fasted and dedicated our lives fully to the church, God will bless us by getting rid of these sinful feelings. But in a futile attempt to get rid of my gayness, I ended up falling in love with a woman at Brigham Young University and later leaving her in an attempt to restore my standing in the church and be forgiven. But I continued to struggle for years, and I was filled with shame and guilt. It became a never-ending unbearable turmoil and pain until I went to a really dark place and contemplated suicide.

140-Miles of Life: A Remarkable Journey to Self-Acceptance and Love issues a clarion call to all supporters of the LGBTQ community. Far too many LGBTQ youth and adults commit suicide from having been shamed by their church and families. My story is a story of triumphing over adversity and not only offers hope for readers to discover true inner acceptance and inner peace, but I hope it also saves lives!

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

When my grandmother died about 5 years ago, it broke my heart wide-open. It is said that only when your heart is cracked wide open, raw and vulnerable that you are able to discover those hidden gems deep within your soul.

Grandma’s loss gave me gems of wisdom. It helped me realize that life is short and that I had a story to tell and that my life had purpose. That God didn’t help me rise through all of it without giving me a purpose as well.

When I first started writing, I did not fully know what that purpose was. I knew that the central part of the story would be growing up Mormon and coming out as gay, but I knew there was so much more than this, I just didn’t realize it until I started writing. The more I wrote, the more I evolved. More things happened in my life to help me see more, understand more and transform in ways I didn’t even expect. It is as if I was guided to start writing at the perfect moment and end it exactly at a moment when I had found so much healing and I wanted to share this healing with the world.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I have had people who have contacted me after reading my book and one of them shared something that touched me. She said, “My sister is gay and, in our country, this is not accepted. She can be put in jail if anyone finds out. Thank you for writing this book, I want to make sure she reads it. It is going to help her so much. You know she is not going to feel so alone.”

Also, I have also been contacted by immigrants and people of color who have thanked me for being one more brave voice out there to help raise awareness, but what I am most proud about is that they tell me that I am doing it with love. If this is what they get out of the story, then I feel that I did something right.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I personally feel that we have been talking about equality, fairness, justice for a long time and politicians, communities and people know what the right thing is to do- treat others as you would like to be treated with dignity and respect. But many still need to wake up and understand that we are part of the human family and that we are all connected, and that” no one is free until we are all free.”

Martin Luther King also said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is about empowering others to be the best version of themselves. And you cannot do this with a self-servicing mindset or lack of self-awareness. The opposite is true, you need to be grounded and have a service-oriented disposition. This happens when a person does the personal inner work to become the best version of him or herself and elevate those they lead.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I was lucky to have a great mentor, Gay Walley. She is a successful writer who believed in my story and instilled in me the faith that I needed to go through this process. When I received my first rejection from an agent, I started to doubt myself and I remember Gay calling me, “Ok. You got your first rejection. Everyone gets rejected. It is time to contact other agents and publishers. Your book needs to be published.” After our call, I sent a message to Adelaide Publishing House and a few weeks later, they told me they were interested in publishing my story. So, maybe the message here is if you are blessed to have someone who believes in you, that is such as gift. But most importantly, remind yourself that if you have come this far, there is a reason why, so believe in your purpose and don’t give up.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have two and I think they very much represent my life and the essence of my beliefs. These two quotes have been my guiding light for many years.

“In the battle of life, it isn’t the critics who count. It isn’t the one who laughs as the strong man stumbles or shows how the doer could have done it better.

The credit goes to the man who is in the field of battle, whose face is covered with dust, sweat and blood. Who fights to attain great feats? who falls time after time because there is no effort without error or defect. Who best knows the great cause? Who in the worst of all cases if he fails, he fails fighting so that his place is never with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt
 — — — -

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

Oprah Winfrey and Jada Pinkett. They are both people I admire and whose life purpose has inspired mine.

Oprah is an oracle of wisdom and higher consciousness. She has elevated humanity with her presence and God-given gifts. Who wouldn’t feel extremely lucky to have breakfast or lunch with the Queen of Television? It will be a dream!

Jada Pinkett is a goddess and a vivid example of someone who shows us the beauty of authenticity, inner wisdom and conscious evolution. I envision myself meeting her one day and having a true connection and sharing our purpose-driven life on the Red Table.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

veronicacarrera.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/veronica-carrera/

Instagram: @verojolie2020

Facebook: 140 Miles of Life

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Veronica Carrera of ‘140 Miles of Life’ Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.