This week’s ‘Share Your Story; the Women the WSJ Missed!‘ has ACTUALLY been IN the Wall Street Journal. Debbi Brawley began skydiving at 55 and the WSJ let us all know. Fast forward seven years and Debbi is still going strong. When not jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, Debbi and her husband own and operate Brawley & Associates Real Estate in a resort community in Arkansas.
Here is Debbi Brawley‘s story:
KUELLIFE: What are you pursuing now, at this stage of your life, that surprises you or might appear to others as if it comes out of left field?
DEBBI: Skydiving. It is therapy for me, and I definitely need it as a de-stressor. I had always been fascinated with flight, but thought it was out of reach. My daughter came home for Thanksgiving one year and said, “hey mom, look at this”. It was a wingsuit BASE jump in Switzerland. From the moment I saw that first wingsult video, I knew “flying” could actually be an option for me. Even though starting to skydive at 55 seemed like an impossibility, I knew I had to try. It was slow going at first, and I had to research what it took to get my license and the physical requirements to do it. And then I began my journey. Looking back, I can see how that progression slowly breathed new life into me. I am a totally different person today, just because I took that chance and reached for something that I had always wanted to do.
KUELLIFE: What’s a typical day like for you?
DEBBI: Owning a real estate business is all consuming. I have very long days at the office, then I go home in time to eat dinner, work out, and then back to the computer for a few hours. With that said, we have a wonderful work family and we’re all very close, so even though we work hard, we enjoy being there.
KUELLIFE: With what do you struggle?
DEBBI: Worry!! I worry about everything and everyone. My goal this year is to stop analyzing everything and take control over my thoughts and have an attitude of gratefulness.
KUELLIFE: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
DEBBI: I motivate myself at work by focusing on the positive aspects of my job, which is helping families find vacation homes. Like most anything these days, the paperwork is overwhelming, so that part is very tedious. But I love the marketing aspect of what I do to promote our listings. As far as workouts, I know I can’t jump if I’m not in shape. I watch skydiving videos while I’m doing yoga so I have real-time motivation to keep going. And I try to mix it up – sometimes I kayak, ride my stationary bike, or hike so I don’t get burned out on one type of exercise.
KUELLIFE: What advice would you give fellow women about aging?
DEBBI: I think aging today is different than it was many years ago. Today’s women are actively pursuing their dreams when in past years, many thought their lives were over after the children were grown. They resigned themselves to just existing, thinking there was not much left to do. And I have heard those same comments from some women today.
But what I have have experienced in my own life and seen in many women, is there are SO many options for us that we never thought possible. My advice is this: don’t ever dismiss something you would love to do because of age. Set goals, start your journey and don’t give up, regardless of the obstacles. You will be surprised at what you are capable of, if you just give yourself permission to try.
And do what’s in your heart, regardless of what others say. One of my dear friends cried when I told her I was going to start skydiving. But here I am, 6 years and 900 jumps later, and I’m still going strong! I knew I belonged in the sky. I want to encourage other women to pursue their dreams.
KUELLIFE: What does vulnerability mean to you? What has the ability to make you vulnerable?
DEBBI: Letting go of the stiffness that has consumed my life ever since I had my first job 45 years ago and just being comfortable being me.
KUELLIFE: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
DEBBI: Honestly, being teased at school, especially in high school. It has helped me be more compassionate towards others and to always support the underdog.
From about 15 to 21, I was involved in a very destructive lifestyle. At 21, I became a Christian, stopped the destructive behavior and completely turned everything around.
And family events – the birth of my daughter and being a single mom and then marrying my husband with whom I’ve been married for 25 years.
KUELLIFE: Who influenced you the most in life and why?
DEBBI: My parents. My mother was very compassionate and loved everyone. I don’t remember her ever saying anything negative about anyone, which is a rare trait these days. And my father (still living) was a very intelligent, disciplined person, so that emphasis on discipline has served me well in my career. And my dad always finds a way to engage others in interesting conversations. Watching him has helped me understand how to meet new people and discover interesting aspects of their lives. Everyone has a story to tell!
KUELLIFE: What is the best advice you’ve been given from another woman?
DEBBI: Consider the source. When someone is being rude or angry, just try to let it go. You never know what someone is going through. Focusing on someone else’s negativity just sends you down a downward spiral.
KUELLIFE: What woman inspires you and why?
DEBBI: Dylis Price. She holds the world’s record as the oldest female skydiver. She started in her mid-50’s and continued until just recently at 85.
KUELLIFE: Are you grown-up?
DEBBI: Actually, I’ve been grown up for a long time. Now I’m allowing myself to be a little more free, and I love it!
KUELLIFE: What do you do for self-care?
DEBBI: I work out regularly and eat healthy. But skydiving is my mental & physical challenge, and my total escape from the world, even if just for a few minutes at a time. It is such a release for me, everyone at work knows when I haven’t been for a while, and they pretty much push me out of the office and tell me to go!
KUELLIFE: And last but definitely NOT least: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
DEBBI: 1. Compete in a freefly competition or participate in a head-up state record. 2 .Jump in Switzerland. 3. Lots and lots of travel after I retire!