Getting Up by Giving Back

  • Written by Andrea Goulet

It’s amazing the curve balls life can throw. Or in my case, a chair. What was meant to be a tool of intimidation and destruction helped me find CreateAthon and ultimately became a source of strength and healing.

Let’s rewind. When I was eighteen, I met a guy (let’s call him Jake) at a party. He stood up, hushed the crowd, and proudly announced that I was the woman he was going to marry. Next came candlelit dinners, roses, and heartfelt Hallmark cards. Romantic, right?

At twenty-one, I married Jake. At twenty-two, we moved two hours away from my family and things started to change. He slowly took over the finances, manipulated my friendships, and isolated me from my family. At twenty-five, he hurled a dining room chair at my head. (Don’t worry – I ducked.)

Friends swooped in and put me in touch with a local non-profit that helped domestic violence victims. It took a while for everything to register – I was a victim? But wait. I didn’t look anything like the pictures in the poster-clad office. I was young, healthy, professional, and smiled a lot.

I gripped my chair and felt padding coming out of the upholstery. It occurred to me that quality communications were simply out of this non-profit’s reach. As a budding copywriter, I vowed that someday, somehow, I would find a way to fix this. After I healed, I would spend my life helping the non-profits that helped me in my darkest hour. It was the least I could do.

Two years later I found myself back in my hometown. I had dealt with my trauma and was ready to give back. And, like most things in my life, I dove in with full force. I put together a pro bono team and completely revamped the website for the local YWCA. It felt great to do the work. It felt better to learn that they earned a $50,000 grant as a direct result of the new website. But the process was long and difficult to fit into my schedule. I found myself pushing away paying client work in order to pursue my heart’s purpose, and I knew this model simply wasn’t sustainable.

Later that year, I was introduced to CreateAthon on my hometown’s campus (where I also happened to be an alumna). I was asked to join the “Brain Trust”, a group of creative professionals who acted as mentors to the students throughout the event. I couldn’t believe the amount of creative energy and talent that emanated from the room. It was as if someone had taken the traditional 4-month creative process and condensed it into just one day. The same magic occurred; I watched as non-profits thrived from the work. But something else happened that I never expected. My creative batteries were recharged.

This year, I’m gearing up for my third CreateAthon, and I can’t wait. The energy is electric, you can see it, and feel it, and it lingers for months. I consistently do my best work after this imaginative all-nighter. But, to me, CreateAthon is more than just the buzz I get from helping non-profits. It’s my chance to heal. My way of telling Jake that he can never hurt me; that his chair, which was aimed at harming me, has actually helped me find my life’s purpose.