Fun being the one interviewed. Check out this article in Shout Out Colorado published January 24, 2023. Shares more on my thoughts regarding Risk-taking and my career path.
We had the good fortune of connecting with Annie Lindgren and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Annie, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I associate risk with opportunity: opportunity for new experiences or opportunity to practice lessons learned along the way. Taking risks means embracing opportunities with the potential to change your life. It is stepping out of your comfort zone and refusing to settle for anything less than what you want in any area of your life. It can also mean ending up in situations that weren’t what you thought or hoped they would be, but even in those situations, there are opportunities.
I have taken risks in my career, especially over the past five years. I lept from a solid government job to cashing in my retirement so I could work a part-time nonprofit job. I lept from a job as an Executive Director of a nonprofit to owning a business and trying to make a living as a freelance journalist. Then, when the pandemic turned life upside down, I lept back into the nonprofit mental health field where I could be of service. Only some of my leaps have been successful or well-timed. But, I gained experiences through each of them, they all served as a stepping stone to what happened next, and I have been able to figure out many things that worked for me and didn’t work for me. As a result, I am now on a career path that I love, allows me the lifestyle I want to live, and fulfills my need to serve and work in the nonprofit world. And I am not afraid to make another leap if my work satisfaction changes.
I take risks in my personal life, too. I became a parent at age 17, moved my small family two states away from any support, and bought a hobby farm in northern colorado. I climb mountains, and in my 40th year, I finished all 58 of Colorado’s 14,000kft mountains. I do a lot of solo traveling, camping, and hiking, and I have spent months traveling around the US with my dog. I love living life to the fullest through life-changing experiences. Whether it be experiencing other cultures or terrains, training for new adventures or hobbies, or figuring out how to work remotely on the road while living off the grid, I love the learning and new skills obtained. My mental and physical health is best when I have goals and projects. I am constantly educating myself on the safety and training aspects of my latest obsessions so I can go about them safely and enjoyably.
Taking risks is an avenue for living life to the fullest. You only know what’s behind a door if you check it out. When an opportunity comes my way, I weigh the pros, cons, and financial and time requirement implications. I educate myself in all areas of the topic, ask many questions, and make decisions based on what I believe to be the best path forward. Life is constantly changing, and decisions made rarely become long-term solutions. But it’s worth it in exchange for being in any situation that isn’t truly fulfilling.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have lived a unique and challenging life. I beat the odds, am incredibly resilient, and spent many years flying by the seat of my pants. I had a good first decade, rich with experiences growing up on a horse farm in rural Missouri. However, life turned upside down in my teenage years, as I experienced six years of life-changing trauma. I went from being a straight ‘A’ student and talented horseperson to being a high school dropout taking care of an infant. As a single parent, I also cared for my father, who died of cancer at age 63. At age 23, I was alone but determined to provide a good life for my son. After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, I moved to Colorado to raise him on a farm far away from all that needed to be left behind and back to being surrounded by horses and the mountains I had grown obsessed with.
Since I didn’t have a chance to explore life’s opportunities before becoming a mom at age 17, I set off on a course made up of a checklist of things to do (and not to do) in being a ‘good parent’ based on what my parents role-modeled. I was raised on a farm, so I should raise my son on a farm. Education, career, and financial stability are essential, so I over-achieved my way up the ladder. I decided on a career path that would help at-risk youth in ways I didn’t receive help myself while also assuring that I could continue working on my mental health and provide a better life for my son.
Once in Colorado, I worked for a nonprofit residential treatment center for teenage girls for four years. However, taking care of a child and farm on a single nonprofit income was not sustainable, so I got a job working for the government in Child Welfare through the Department of Human Services. I did this for six years before the stress and secondary trauma of being surrounded by the topic of abuse and neglect in children got the best of me. Meanwhile, I decided I loved the nonprofit world and achieved a Masters in Public Affairs with an emphasis on nonprofit and community services management. In 2017, my son turned 18 and moved out on his own. I was 35 and keenly aware that until then, I had been living a life of necessity, checking boxes, and powering through. I was stressed, alone, and didn’t know who I was. I hadn’t planned life past ‘getting the kid raised to adulthood.’
So, I left my good-paying government job, spent a month in Nepal on the first of many life-changing trips out of my comfort zone, and took a job as an Executive Director of a nonprofit in my hometown of Wellington, CO. A year later, I rehomed all my animals and sold my farm. It was time to make traveling and my happiness a priority. The nonprofit job was part-time, allowing me a week off a month for road trips. I also started writing monthly articles for the local newspaper, which I thoroughly enjoyed. In September 2019, I decided to leave the nonprofit job and start a business, Sunshine Ink LLC, where I would be a travel writer and freelance journalist. In March 2020, I was supposed to spend a month in Australia and New Zealand, but the pandemic canceled that trip. So, I set out for a road trip in my Subaru Outback with my golden retriever Maverick, and we wouldn’t return home until July, after four months of boondocking on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land from Texas, to New Mexico, to Arizona and Utah, and on up to Idaho and Montana.
The pandemic ruined my plans to be a travel writer, but I was writing for the newspaper and ironing out the kinks of working remotely. The road trip was life-changing; it was an epic time to be out with many stories to share. But, I needed to find a role in helping with the pandemic’s ripple effect, and ‘being a writer’ wasn’t paying the bills. So, the day I sat down to look for jobs was the day the nonprofit I worked for when I first moved to Colorado posted a job that was a perfect fit. I was back working on the administrative side of a nonprofit. I held on to my job at the newspaper and could do both jobs remotely and sustainably. In 2021, I bought a project house in Wellington to call home and a 13ft Scamp camper for making life on the road more comfortable.
2022 rolled in, filled with hope and opportunity, quickly squashed by nothing working out as planned. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is that all things are subject to change without notice. So, I made more career changes prompted by multiple nightmarish situations. But, I finished the year with two new jobs under the umbrella of services I now provide through Sunshine Ink LLC. I found my niche as a grant writer, fundraiser, consultant, and marketing specialist in the nonprofit world. I continue working remotely from home or the road and in the mental health field, serving at-risk youth in northern Colorado.
I also climbed more mountains in 2022 than ever, completing my goal of summiting all 58 of Colorado’s 14,000k+ elevation mountains and achieving my highest summits of 19,000k elevation climbing volcanos in Ecuador. Not a bad way to kick off my 40’s!
Even in the struggles, things happen for a reason. Therefore, we must remain patient, present, humble, and determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I give 110% to everything I do, which has paid off through the opportunities that have come my way. Life has not been easy, but I refuse to wallow in life’s circumstances any longer than needed to figure out which way to go next; life is too short. Timing is everything, and with time comes understanding. My life is far from perfect, but I don’t have regrets. I worked hard for the life I live, am proud of my story, and am grateful for opportunities to impact the world around me positively.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am not a city person, so I would grab food, beer, gear, and hit the road. Colorado is full of treasures, in any season. Four wheel drive roads to ghost towns, historic sites, hot springs, camping or backpacking, rivers and alpine lakes, and endless mountain escapes. The Alpine Loop near Lake City, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the Great Sand Dunes, Grand Mesa, Mesa Verde, Crystal Mill, the Maroon Bells, Rocky Mountain National Park, Zirkel Wilderness, Rawah Wilderness, Red Feather Lakes, Dinosaur National monument, Phantom Canyon and Victor, Pagosa Springs hot springs, the list goes on and on. Colorado’s greatest treasures are beyond city limits.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shoutout to my dad, for his unwavering support and unconditional love during the most challenging years of my life. He died when I was 23, but all the things he passed continue supporting me along my path through life.
Shoutout to my son, for giving me a reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I owe my life to the choice that grew into an awesome young man, and I am forever grateful to be his mom.
Shoutout to my mom, who taught me I can do anything if I put my mind to it, and that woman are just as tough and capable as men.
Shout out to all the amazing humans I have crossed paths with in my adult life; college professors, employers and mentors, friends and strangers. All those who took the time to answer my questions, encourage my direction and growth, believe in me when I didn’t always believe in myself, and offer advice when it was needed most. I live an independent life, but I would not be the person I am today without the teachings, care, and support of so many.
Sunshine Ink LLC, Annie Lindgren