Wonder Woman Wednesday: Meghan Williamson

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—————————————- Today’s Wonder Woman Wednesday I’m featuring on of the most incredible women I’ve ever had the chance to meet: Meghan Williamson. The things this woman has done at her young age are mind-blowing. It’s been an honor getting to have her in my life and I’m so excited she agreed to let me interview her.
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Name:   
Meghan Williamson

Business Name and Location:      
Pine Knot Projects    
Harrisonburg, VA

How did you get started doing what you’re doing? 
Growing up, I only wanted to be an environmental policy advocate. 
I went to college and then Washington DC pursuing that path, and ultimately became frustrated with the national policy making process, and the lack of real conversations and alternative paradigms.
I came back to Western Virginia trying to answer questions like how do we build sustainable economies? 
What would honest and effective environmental policy even look like? Ever since then, I’ve been playing in jobs that try to help me answer those questions.
Every year, my answers get a little more radical and a little less mainstream. I seem to have to reinvent fairly regularly.

What is your mission statement?
I work on projects that build alternative systems that address issues of sustainability, equality, and community. Early on, that was about building more local economies in which business are locally-owned and engaged in local foods, alternative energy or similar environmental focused activities.  These days, I’m more comfortable talking explicitly about which systems we also need to exit: 
How can we move investments away from Wall Street and into local communities? 
How can we become less reliant on the formal monetary system, and more inter-reliant on each other? 
What laws and power structures keep us from building fairer, place-based, regenerative communities?

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Who do you usually work with? 
Almost anyone who wants to work with me.

What parts of your job do you find most challenging? 
Too much computer time.  And recently, I’ve also felt too geographically scattered, doing work in Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Waynesboro.  Sometimes, when you’re trying to be place-based, you have to actually narrow down and BE place-based. I haven’t always been good at that.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 
The days when I remember we have more options, more beautiful ways of being in the world, than our dominant culture and media tells us we do.

What accomplishments are you the most proud of? 
Quitting.  I’ve had a number of jobs that were well regarded, in which my accomplishments were recognized and appreciated.
It’s sometimes seductive to want to stay in those comfortable places.  My decisions to leave haven’t always made sense to my family, or even myself…and they aren’t always easy. But I do find that when I’m willing to start-over, to pursue new edges even when there’s no clear new path forward, that’s when I grow the most.

What’s your favorite testimonial you’ve ever received?
A client once walked into my office and said

“Someone told me, if you have a crazy idea, come here.”

 
I’ve always felt deeply honored when people trust me enough to share their dreams or their hopes. I try to honor that, to respect their bravery. I think we all want to build a more beautiful world. & so few people tell us that we can.  

What’s the most effective way you’ve found to promote your business?
I try to live well in place, and to support other people’s desire to do the same. Projects, and the resources to pursue them, have grown out of that.

What motivates you? 
We’re actively ruining the world.
A global species extension in underway. There’s more plastic in the ocean than plankton right now.
Our climate is destabilizing, we have no real memory of what intact ecosystems even look like, industrial expansion strips the land and resources away from indigenous cultures that were thriving long before us, and our food makes us sick.
We traded all that for what? Big houses, long car commutes, and a lifetime of staring at screens under florescent lights?  
I’m over it.  Let’s do better – for both ourselves and for all of those (both human and nonhuman) who are dying for our livelihoods.

What cheers you up or encourages you when you’re down? 
Finding time to be silent and alone, preferably in less civilized places. There’s so much noise and energy in the world that’s actively destructive. Just finding space apart from it helps me hear my own thoughts.

How do you best take care of yourself?
When I’m at my best, I have time to put my hands in the dirt, to cook my own food, to set my own pace. I find that my least-scheduled days are also my fullest.

What is your favorite way to be healthy? 
Cut the sugar, ditch the car, eat food that lives here, and love somebody.

What is your greatest strength? 

I’m stubborn.

Who inspires you?
So many people. I think we’re all walking around with tiny grains of truth in our pockets, and I love how often someone totally unexpected shares one with me.

What have they taught you? 
Again, so many things. If I had to pick one for today, I would say that my partner, Kurt, is teaching me to be kind. Or maybe we’re teaching each other.  

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What’s the best advice or wisdom you’ve ever received? 
Plenty of people told me growing up that life is short, but I never knew what they meant until I watched someone I loved have his life, cut short.  I don’t think it does much good to say it, but maybe we can try to remember it: Life is short. These are the only days we get. How would we behave differently if we remembered that?

What’s your best productivity tip? 
Do the things that make you happy. Do the thing the 10-year-old version of yourself thought you should do with your life. Live the life that you imagine. Remember that every single moment we are producing something. We don’t have to “be” productive any more than we have to “be” human. We just have to choose how to spend our moments, and for whom.

Favorite book?: 
I have no idea how to answer this question. Books are like friends – I need them all, for totally different reasons. I read The Culture of Make Believe this year.  It’s hard, tragic, long, shattering, and I think everyone should read it.

What is your biggest goal for 2015? 

Say more true things
 

{Please send a photo or two of yourself at your happiest! And tell me a little bit about the photo(s)}  

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— The photo with the braids is on a bicycle tour with Kurt in Idaho, after we’d spent about 2 months peddling together, camping out every night, and visiting strangers and friends working on sustainability projects around the Pacific Northwest.

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— The other photo is me being content with simple things and good friends. 
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Thank you SO MUCH, Meghan, for letting me get to know you better. You are someone I definitely look up to and what I love most is how deep your passion goes and how much joy you bring to others along the way.

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