living your authentic life. an interview with jodie rummer.

I met Jodie through my sister. Seems like most of the FABULOUS women I meet are through Emily :) When I first met Jodie I was completely intrigued by her healthy lifestyle choices and her ability to juggle about a bazillion things at once. She was working on her PhD, writing a blog for her local gym, contributing recipes to the gym’s website, maintaining friendships, and in a loving relationship with her partner, Kim. My friendship with Jodie has really grown over the past three years and I also look to her for ongoing advice and inspiration. She is a remarkable friend and truly a genuine person to have in my life.

Photo Credit: Kim Kammo

Can you share a bit about yourself?

If I had only had “X” number of words, I’d say something to the extent of the following:

I’m on the brink of my dream career and living a fantastic, healthy, and happy life!

Sound too good to be true?

Ha!!  It’s a good thing that I probably (hopefully) have a few more than 16 words to explain… Amanda, please edit and grab what fits your project best.

I am most recently from Vancouver, Canada where I completed my Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia.  My upcoming career move is the craziest thing in my life right now, and so perhaps I’ll start there.  I’m a scientist, to put it simply.  My background and where most of my career research has focused is physiology, but marine biology was my first and will always be my foundation passion.  Throughout my research, I have investigated how fish respond — physiologically — to stress.  For example, how do they capture oxygen from their environment and deliver it to their muscles so they can swim?  How can this be compromised or enhanced during stress or changing environmental conditions?  I’ve applied my knowledge toward conservation and furthered a general understanding in scientific concepts in evolutionary and mechanistic physiology.  Prior to my Ph.D., I earned a Master’s degree in Florida and both Bachelor’s and Honour’s degrees in Florida and Illinois (where I was born and where most of my family resides).  I have since conducted research throughout North and South America, Jamaica, the Caribbean, Indonesia, England, Hong Kong, and China, and have many international collaborators. Other than my degrees, my most significant career accomplishments thus far have been 13 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 2 book chapters, and 9 editorial commentaries in addition to over 40 presentations at various scientific conferences worldwide.  I recently moved back to Vancouver (briefly) from Hong Kong, where I was living (sans wife) doing a short research fellowship, but I will be moving with my wife to Australia on August 3 to start my dream job!

So, what is this dream job I mention? It didn’t really happen as suddenly as it feels.  I had been working on forming a collaborative relationship and writing a very long research proposal for almost a year in preparation for this.  It was a long shot; I was well aware.  Reason being, I was incredibly junior for the position having just barely completed my doctorate.  Then, last December (2010), I flew to Australia, was interviewed over several days, and was offered a job.  Upon accepting, I was appointed a Super Science Fellow in the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (www.coralcoe.org.au).  The Centre is part of James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland.  Since it’s formation at the end of 2005, the ARC Centre of Excellence has become the world’s largest and most successful group of scientists actively involved in coral reef research and the effects of climate change.  My position is one of five Super Science Fellowships in the Centre under which the capacity of marine organisms and ecosystems to cope with accelerating climate change is being investigated.  I’m still pinching myself daily.

Indeed, 2010 was a crazy/exciting year for me.  Not only did I score this “dream job” as I keep calling it, but career-wise, I also spent the time (9 months) writing my first gigantic, official research proposal (the one that scored me the job).  I wrote and defended my doctoral dissertation.  I truly earned the “Dr.” prefix before my name.  I moved to Hong Kong to start my first post-doctoral position.  And yes, the last career accomplishment of the year was this interview and job offer.

However, 2010 was just as momentous on the personal front.  I got married!  To the perfect woman!  Kim and I even planned our amazing wedding ceremony and reception ourselves.  We had family/friends in town for a total of 3 weeks during which time – when we weren’t doing wedding stuff – we showed them as much of our fabulous Vancouver lives as we could.  After the wedding, Kim and I went on a 16-day honeymoon that we also planned ourselves, traveling via car, foot, kayak, helicopter, and ferry all around BC, the islands, and the Canadian Rockies!  We also moved our home 5 or 6 (maybe 7, I lost count) times that year, one of which was my half to Hong Kong.  Yes, I left my gorgeous wife just about 2 months after our wedding to move to HK for a short job (7 months).  During that time, I struggled.  All in all, however, I was able to really pull up my boots, set some goals, and live a phenomenal life.  I am so proud of my personal achievements while in HK.  Ironically, in a city of 8 million, I got healthier than I already was.  I did almost 200 hours of yoga, and I set and achieved the goal of doing some form of exercise/yoga every day.  I also decided that I would live strictly vegetarian unless I knew the meat was organic or the fish was a responsible choice.  Those two achievements alone made me super happy with myself.  My health and fitness ARE very important to me and can be difficult to stick to when everything else is so chaotic, but I did it and continue doing it.  The year 2010 is really the best way to describe me… who I am and who I am growing to be.

How do you define authenticity?

Well, to me “authentic” means genuine… being genuine means being true to yourself, your value system, honouring what makes you feel at peace and honest about who you are and your actions, what makes you feel whole and full of love and joy.  Being authentic also means honouring your commitments to yourself and others, being true to your word and your intentions.
Can you describe the path you took to get to the place where you are today? As in, how did you find your calling?

As I mentioned above, 2010 was a huge turning point for me in my career, even though I had been working on various levels for 15 years.  But 2005 was the huge turning point year for me health-wise. About 6 years ago, I completely changed my entire outlook on my health and lifestyle.  I was probably pretty healthy, relatively speaking, at that point anyway; I had low body fat, was strong, had good cardio-vascular health and was running 10K races all the time.  I was slim and ate an ok diet but never felt settled, inside, you know.  So, I started to clean my slate, build a fresh canvas, so to speak.  I had various medical tests and found out that I had a pretty substantial allergy to gluten/wheat (celiac), and my body was quite vehemently rejecting it as well as lactose, but to a lesser extent.  I adopted a strict gluten-free diet and with the help of a naturopath, acupuncturist, and acupressurist, started looking into more traditional ways to nourish my body.  Today, I know I’m healthy.  I can feel it.  I eat as cleanly as possible, which leaves me with a clean slate every day.  So, when I do an activity or eat something, or are exposed to something that doesn’t work for my body, I know immediately and know exactly what it is.  Not many people in this day and age can say that.  Even when I was in Hong Kong… of course 8 million people and industry results in a lot of pollution… I still knew when a specific cleaner or a particularly bad air-quality day was bothering me.  It took more effort for me in HK vs. Vancouver, to eat clean… gluten free, preservative free, organic as much as possible, especially meat and dairy where hormones are likely prevalent.  But I did and still do.  I use natural products for everything, make-up, soap, cleaners, toothpaste, etc.  It’s not a chore; it’s the way I live.

That year… 2005… I also got a trainer.  It was a tough decision for me 6 years ago, coming from a physiology and science background, I thought, ok… I understand how my body works, muscle groups, training strategies, and having had sports in high school and such. I thought for sure I could manage on my own.  No. Wrong.  I DID need someone there to know everything about my health history and what my fitness and health goals were so that she could help to train me properly and encourage me along the way.   My ultimate goal, really, is simple too… it’s not as though I’m training for Iron Man or anything, I just want to live a happy, healthy, long life where I can do fun outdoor and indoor activities with my nieces and nephews, family, and friends without restrictions.  Is that too much to ask?

So, now I’m half way through 2011. I’m on a good path, but it is full of checks and balances.  So, don’t get me wrong, I struggle… sometimes more often than not. For decades, I’ve been afraid of becoming overweight, as I know that it is a high possibility.  Many people in my family struggle with weight, heart disease, cancer… and I was raised on the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.).  That fear has damaged me too, which has added another element to the journey.  So, I’ve been writing a lot and talking to people about that.  Like I said, it was a challenge at first, but I got onto a healthy eating and fitness plan… really a lifestyle, as it’s not just eating and exercise.  I relied on a network of other like-minded people for this, which was easy for me to come by in Vancouver.  I became an information junkie.  I learned as much as I possibly could and made it my mission to be an exemplar to others.  We do not live in a vacuum, you know.  We do have to rely on resources and others to make it in this life.  That’s what I did.  With the internet, I found so many fantastic blogs of people having the same issues I was having or had, I set goals for myself, and I did a lot of thinking.  Plus, I have such a strong scientific background that I didn’t have to “learn” as much to understand what was going on.  It all made sense to me, and I knew where to look for the most accurate information.  That foundation made moving to HK a lot easier too (although it was still one of the hardest things I ever did).  But, the first step in all reality… was showing compassion to myself.  I needed to give myself the same kind of compassion and love that I give others.  Instead of being down on myself for having a messed-up body, obsessing over things, beating myself up over it, I started telling myself that “yes, it must be hard,” and that “you are brave for deciding to make things different, for making changes so you can be better and healthier” and that “by doing this you will make a difference in the lives of others as well as your own.”
I know fitness and nutrition are a HUGE part of your lifestyle. How do those relate to being your authentic self?

Once you have the information… in science, in health, in fitness, in life… you can’t ignore it.  You can use it… you have to use it… you can build on it… you can learn more.  That’s how I live all aspects of my life.  You can’t look backwards, only to today and how your actions and choices will affect your tomorrow.
How does your current career reflect your authentic self?

I feel that I have to do something that is meaningful.  I have to be in a position to do what I love, be able to communicate it to others from all walks of life, and be able to make a difference in the world.  I love science.  It’s the only job I’ve ever done that I can see doing for the rest of my life.  I love that I can build and refine my foundation knowledge base and then develop really neat projects that advance our understanding of basic scientific concepts, are timely, and in line with important issues such as climate change.
Who inspires and motivates you to continue your path to being your authentic self?

My wife.  She is logical, brilliant, creative, responsible, generous, and honest.  But what I admire about her above all is that she follows her heart.  She supports and loves me unconditionally.  She’s there when I need her, but she lets me flail when I need to as well.  I’m lucky.
How do you ensure that you maintain your own authenticity, when often it can be a struggle?

Checks and balances… it can be tough.  I know the activities in my life that ground me when life gets too crazy.  I rely on them lightly all of the time… heavily sometimes… and rely on them solely during really hard times!  It’s important to know your “non-negotiables” in life.  For me, it’s exercise.  It fuels me.

For people struggling to find their own authenticity, what advice can you offer?

Build a support staff, so to speak.  Surround yourself with like-minded souls who will hold you accountable to your goals and dreams.  Write out what you want your life to look like so that you are able to set goals for yourself.  I always say, “how do you know what route to take if you don’t even know where you are going?”

If you had to use one word to sum up your year, what word would that be and why?

GOAL!  You could see that as “setting” or “achieving” goals, but I only see it as both.  With accomplishing several goals, I have room to redefine and set more.  There is no endpoint… no final destination, really.  It is all about the journey!

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Jodie, thanks so much for participating in the series. If YOU would like to take part in the interview series or know someone who you believe truly lives an authentic life, please send me an email: amanda[dot]coolidge[at]gmail[dot]com.

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