Fresh Blood Podcast Episode Guest - Gina Wilkinson

Intro Banner of Gina Wilkinson

Gina talks about her experience in war zones, living in Baghdad under Sadam Hussein and what she’s learned from her travels around the world.

Gina Wilkinson is a former foreign correspondent radio journalist and documentary maker for the BBC NPR and the ABC, as well as other well-known public broadcasters. She is an award winning journalist and has spent two decades working in hotspots around the globe, including the world's most intriguing and dangerous places she has since decided to trade in her flak jacket for an author's pen.

Gina talks about her experience in war zones, living in Baghdad under Sadam Hussein and what she’s learned from her travels around the world.

Gina Wilkinson is a former foreign correspondent radio journalist and documentary maker for the BBC NPR and the ABC, as well as other well-known public broadcasters. She is an award winning journalist and has spent two decades working in hotspots around the globe, including the world's most intriguing and dangerous places she has since decided to trade in her flak jacket for an author's pen.

And she now writes novels in her most recent release, when the Apricot's bloom, Gina draws on her own experiences, living in Baghdad, under Saddam Hussein, when she is not writing novels, she works in international development, helping to promote efforts to end poverty across the globe.

And she now writes novels in her most recent release, when the Apricot's bloom, Gina draws on her own experiences, living in Baghdad, under Saddam Hussein, when she is not writing novels, she works in international development, helping to promote efforts to end poverty across the globe.


Gina Wilkinson – Journalist, Documentarian and Novelist

[00:00:00] Jolie Downs: [00:00:00] Today we are speaking with Gina Wilkinson. Gina is a former foreign correspondent radio journalist and documentary maker for the BBC NPR and the ABC, as well as other well-known public broadcasters. She is an award winning journalist and has spent two decades working in hotspots around the globe, including the world's most intriguing and dangerous places she has since decided to trade in her flak jacket for an author's pen.

[00:00:29] And she now writes novels in her most recent release, when the Apricot's bloom, Gina draws on her own experiences, living in Baghdad, under Saddam Hussein, when she is not writing novels,  she works in international development, helping to promote efforts to end poverty across the globe.

[00:00:47] I am so excited to learn more. Gina, thank you for joining us on fresh blood, please. Could you tell us a little bit more about your story?

[00:00:55] Gina Wilkinson: [00:00:55] Oh, sure. Surely. Your listeners will probably soon pick up that I'm not American. I'm actually I'm Australian. I grew up in a variety of very small towns in Outback, Western Australia, and that sort of trend of moving around, continued into my adult life. I spent over 20 years living and working overseas as a journalist and later with my husband working as a novelist when I reinvented myself.

[00:01:24]So I guess you can say I've been a nomad from a very early age and actually I've got quite strong ties with the U S I lived in the U S on two different occasions. My oldest son was born while we only be in New York. And more recently we spent six years in Washington, DC, and we returned to Australia about two years ago.

[00:01:45]And so I'm back home now and enjoying life. 

[00:01:49] Jolie Downs: [00:01:49] Oh my goodness. There's

[00:01:50] Gina Wilkinson: [00:01:50] as much as you can with the corona virus.. 

[00:01:53] Jolie Downs: [00:01:53] yes. Why? Why? You got there right before the coronavirus. Huh? So just completely different world happening for you. Not only for the changes for your kids, but. Changes in the world with the pandemic, but there's so much to unpack there. So you grew up in, in small back towns in Australia.

[00:02:13] What was that like?

[00:02:15] Gina Wilkinson: [00:02:15] Yeah we moved around a lot. My father worked for a bank and he was frequently sent to places that were under a lot of economic stress to help farmers. They're trying to navigate that. So we were often in communities that were experiencing a lot of hardship at that time.

[00:02:31] So we moved around a lot and I I consider my home. to be a town called Maura it's in sub-center or Western Australia. It's a weak belt town population 1500, no traffic lights, two farms. And from all my travels, I've always found that the place that people nominate as home is usually the place where they finished high school.

[00:02:54] And that was the case for me. And my parents actually moved after I finished high school. And so my brothers considered a completely different place to be their hometown. Who's moving around. Yeah.

[00:03:03] that was definitely a different experience than growing up in the city. And since then, I've lived in very large cities, New York, Bangkok, for example.

[00:03:14]They all have something different to offer this. 

[00:03:16] Jolie Downs: [00:03:16] Oh yes. Fascinating background. And what was that like for you to grow up in, in difficult economic kind of areas? How you've grown as a person? Because you had that experience.

[00:03:26]Gina Wilkinson: [00:03:26] I think the fact that I had to move around a lot, definitely helped in terms of resilience. I was started off as a very shy child. And eventually, I had to train myself to be more outgoing and to make the first move if I wanted to make friends, because when you're moving into a situation where everybody else is already has their social circle they're not necessarily going to, take active steps to include you in it.

[00:03:54] So I think that was something that really helped me later in life as a journalist and as I guess, a novelist that ability to, Communicate with people that I might not necessarily. No, they're not a standing friend that I can talk to strangers fairly easily. So that was definitely helpful.

[00:04:14] And in terms of economic hardship I had a lot of friends living on farms. And I spent a lot of time when I was young working on farms that were under a lot of economic pressure. And I also lived in communities with large indigenous populations who were, suffering the effects, of the changes that had happened in their society since the arrival of British colonizers in Australia.

[00:04:40]It was, I think it was actually a good experience to see the different attitudes that people took towards each other, even when they were living in such close communities, there was still quite a lot of divides and. As a journalist later in my life, I was living in a, a major city and Right, wing sort of racist politics really started to rise up.

[00:05:08] And I remember many people that I worked with saying, where is this is coming from this sense of, grievance. And I think that time living in the country when farmers were under a lot of economic stress and they would see indigenous communities getting a lot of support from the government and they would say why don't we get this support and so on, but not really looking at the reasons behind the situation or the historical context.

[00:05:38]I think that helped me understand the rise of I guess the tribalism that we're experiencing in our lives and how people can not understand even what there other parts of their community are feeling. And those sorts of divisions, how they can really become entrenched. If there's not communication between different people in communities.

[00:06:08] And I think that was an interesting eye-opener that, that helped me understand movements and how. Society is becoming a bit more tribalized and separate. I think that was helpful. I also learned how to work as a shearing shed a assistant.. So always good to have another skill to fall back on.

[00:06:30] Lots of Ralph's about I led some great skills in terms of chasing sheep, herding sheep getting sheep organized for the sheer 

[00:06:38] Jolie Downs: [00:06:38] That's fascinating.

[00:06:42] Gina Wilkinson: [00:06:42] wide range of experiences. 

[00:06:44] Jolie Downs: [00:06:44] And that is unique skill. That is a unique skill that is needed.

[00:06:48] Gina Wilkinson: [00:06:48] If anybody needs any shape or angles, just give me a call. 

[00:06:52] Jolie Downs: [00:06:52] That is great. And did these experience lead to your current work in international aid? Is that, was that a basis for it for you?

[00:07:00]Gina Wilkinson: [00:07:00] With my journalism, I've always looked at it as a way to try and create positive change because I believe in people need information and information is what you need to make change. And so I've always tried to do the types of stories where I felt it could have some sort of positive benefit if people knew more about that topic, I'm not, I was never really into doing the stock market reports or the sort of stuff you do when you're starting out as a journalist where you have to cover car crashes.

[00:07:33] These very unfortunate, but random events. I've always been interested in looking at stories about communities how we can improve equality, access to education, these sort of things. And my husband actually worked for UNICEF, the United nations children's fund, which does amazing work all around the world.

[00:07:56] And so I was exposed to what he was doing helping children gain access to school, have safe water to drink these sort of things. So I was also part of that international aid community. And I eventually started working in that area as well. 

[00:08:12] Jolie Downs: [00:08:12] That's wonderful. Now I'm curious. How did you become a journalist? Where did this come along in, in your story?

[00:08:18]Gina Wilkinson: [00:08:18] I was in high school and I was studying physics and chemistry and all these science subjects, which sort of my parents had said he has to do science, do maths. And then it was just before I had to have my university entrance exams. And I said, you know what? I really don't like science and math.

[00:08:34] I know I can do it. But what I really want to do is be a journalist. And my parents were absolutely horrified. They were like, oh, you'll never make any money. Which probably is true. But as some other benefits, so I suddenly swapped streams about three months before my university varsity entrance exam.

[00:08:54] And still when, as you get into university, On to study journalism there. While I was still a student, I got a part-time job working as a journalist and news reader on a local radio station. And it just continued from there. I kept working and eventually I was actually approached by NPR when I was slightly older, in my mid twenties they were looking for someone to report from Australia and the Pacific for them.

[00:09:24] And I started doing that job just part-time in addition to my regular job as a journalist, when I finished for the day, I'd go and file for America and. My husband's from overseas, he's from Canada and I had already actually spent long time, long periods overseas. I'd spent a year in Brazil when I was 18 as an exchange student maybe be after.

[00:09:45] And yeah, it was fantastic experience. Immediately after I finished university, I spent a year and a half in north America in the states and Canada. That's where I met my husband. And he had moved back to Australia with me. And I'd been back in Australia for a few years and I was getting itchy feet, being the nomad that I am.

[00:10:02] And I said, you know what, why don't we move to Southeast Asia? I talked to NPR, they didn't have a journalist based in Thailand. And they said from there you could cover me and my and Cambodia, Vietnam. So I just packed up and moved to Bangkok later on about five years later, my husband was actually offered a job working in. And this actually was the inspiration behind the novel that I've just released when the apricots bloom it's going to seem very hard to believe. But at that time, we were actually told to expect a very uneventful posting when he was offered that job. 

[00:10:41] Jolie Downs: [00:10:41] So you weren't worried.

[00:10:45] Gina Wilkinson: [00:10:45] at that stage. It was before the infamous access of evil speech by president George Bush. Iraq had been under international sanctions for many years. It was very isolated and nothing happened there without Saddam, her things say, so there was a very small international community. Only a few people were allowed in mostly United nations and diplomats, and it wasn't really in Sadam has same interests to have anything happen to them.

[00:11:11] People. So at that time, when I moved there, I could actually walk around in the streets in during the day and in the evening with probably more safety than I could have done in places like New York or London or any of the major Western cities at that time, because people knew, if she was a foreign, she was probably here without Suddam Hussein'ssaying say-so and no one was going to step that line of blind because of the terrible consequences, any sort of infraction, resulted in.

[00:11:39]My husband moved from Canada to Australia for me, and then he moved from Australia to Thailand for my job. And we thought, oh let's give him a chance to take the reins for a little while. And I'm going to admit the journalist in me was intrigued about the idea of to Iraq. I wasn't, I wouldn't have been allowed to practice my craft as a journalist Saddam Hussein didn't allow foreign journalists into Iraq, but that's the opportunity to get a glimpse behind, the kid and Iraq has been such a. Pivotal place in modern history and in ancient history to go, there was still appealing to me.


[00:12:14] Jolie Downs: [00:12:14] What was it like 

[00:12:14] Gina Wilkinson: [00:12:14] as I said, we were told it would be very other than full. And basically as we crossed the border, George Bush games, his access of evil speech and it soon became apparent that it wasn't going to be an uneventful posting, that it was actually going to be quite volatile and dangerous. We ended up in that situation, that wasn't what we were expecting.

[00:12:32]But you I guess you just adapt. And my husband and UNICEF were doing such important work there?

[00:12:40]As a, a journalist, I wasn't working as a journalist, but I was still absorbing information. And with the war coming, I knew that I would be in a position to report on things that other people wouldn't, I would have the background knowledge that other people probably wouldn't have in the Western media.

[00:12:58]And that, that would be something. And I guess also, we very quickly made friends with Iraqis. They're generally very warm people with a great sense of humor. Very loving and open. And I guess also there was some sense of not wanting to. Abandoned them in this time when they would need people like my husband, who was working for UNICEF journalists that knew about the context and would be interested in also an Iraqi point of view, not just reporting what Western military leaders had to say that sort of thing.

[00:13:36]Yeah, it was a complicated situation. Not quite signing up for, but that's 

[00:13:41] Jolie Downs: [00:13:41] only imagine. And I have, so I have, so I could actually spend an hour asking you questions about that. So I'll wrap it up into one. What would you say were the big takeaways from you from that experience? The life lessons that you carry around in your heart now, because of those experiences that you went through?

[00:13:58] Gina Wilkinson: [00:13:58] All right.

[00:13:58]I guess this. Positive and the negative. I would say let's start with the negative. 

[00:14:06] Jolie Downs: [00:14:06] Yeah.

[00:14:06]Gina Wilkinson: [00:14:06] I eventually went back to journalism when the war started and I went on to be a war correspondent. And I would say one of the things that I've learned is that under extreme stress, good people make bad decisions.

[00:14:23] And I think that was something that I also wanted to explore in my book. That sort of situation of how do people respond when they're under a lot of pressure? How do you, when they, when they're in a situation where perhaps they have to do something against their own beliefs, how do they resist?

[00:14:40] Do they give in straight away? Do they try and negotiate a different way out or did they just dig in their heels? So that was, I think an eye-opener that, you learn as you get older about the need to show compassion to people who make mistakes. If it's you that made it makes a mistake, maybe to forgive yourself try and learn from mistakes and looking at the more positive side, I would say that I have learned that. People in different situations in different countries, where we might bake our brand differently, or we might pray differently. I think at heart, we have, we share the most important things in common. We all want to be safe. We all want some sort of stability. We want love. We want to be able to speak our minds and whether you are a Iraqi, American, Australian , Thai these are things that we all share.

[00:15:39] And I think that is a very important thing at this particular moment in time when we do seem so divided. And there's also something that I tried to put in my book to show, the similarities in what we want as similarities in our lives,, because many people would say to me, wow, a Iraqthat must've been so strange, but actually, My female friends lives very similar to women's lives all over the world.

[00:16:04]They went they had to juggle work and home responsibilities. They were dealing with rebellious teenagers. One of them is always going on a diet and falling off the diet bandwagon, which is something that I can relate to, so there's a lot of things that we share. And I think at the moment, people feel so divided and that was a good lesson.

[00:16:23] I think that came out of that experience. 

[00:16:27] Jolie Downs: [00:16:27] Oh really good topics all around. And it's so true. That's the beauty of travel. Really? It helps connect you. The world, it makes you realize that you are a, we are souls of the world. We are, we don't belong to a certain country or certain state, a certain county, or what have you, it's we are souls of the world and we're all connected in the same way.

[00:16:47] And it's a wonderful, amazing lesson to learn in life and to realize so, yes, that's wonderful. Now I'm curious, because being a successful journalist, this is something that journalism is one of those careers that is seen as hard to break into and be successful in also a career that a lot of people are very interested in, even though I know it's one that has seen a lot of change in the industry at the moment.

[00:17:18] What do you feel has helped you be successful in this career and continue to grow in your success?

[00:17:24]Gina Wilkinson: [00:17:24] One thing that I found back in my day when I worked as a journalist was if you were young and you wanted to get into the business, you had to volunteer your time to, work at a radio station. That's how I got my first job. I volunteered to work at a radio station and eventually job came available and they knew I could do the job.

[00:17:43] And they selected you. Sometimes people aren't willing, you've got to be careful that you're not getting exploited, but volunteer opportunities can be a good way to get. Experience and to show people your experience. You don't want to be working 40 hours a week for six months with no pain, but if you spend some time, I did think two half day shifts a week or something like that for a couple months.

[00:18:09] And then I got a job. So I think, that volunteering can be a good way to learn skills make the contacts, prove yourself. And that's also relevant at any age. If you want to reinvent yourself, volunteering is a good way to. W get new skills, meet new people. And that's something that we need, no matter what age we are general is my guess.

[00:18:32] You also have to have some resilience. You have to be able to take criticism because you will be criticized and even more in this current era. 

[00:18:43] Jolie Downs: [00:18:43] Oh 

[00:18:43]Gina Wilkinson: [00:18:43] I'm, I don't work as a practicing journalist anymore. I hung out my flat jacket when I had kids. But I imagine it would be even more stressful today with social media.

[00:18:53]From social media, as much as you can, although as a journalist, you probably have to be tapped into it. It would be interesting, and I think media organizations are starting to pay a little bit more attention now to the impact that social media can have on journalists, because everybody's got an opinion on your work and, over time, we've also seen changes in the media landscape.

[00:19:15] When I started working as a journalist It was not a sort of the cult of personality that it has become you as a journalist. You were meant to be out of the story that you were meant to be telling the story of the people you interview. It's not about you, It's about them. And you're just the faceless journalist, which is handy when you're in radio, because people can see you.

[00:19:35] But I think of a time, a lot of the, what passes for journalism now is actually opinion.

[00:19:42] If you look at, what's on CNN, it's on Fox or it's on any of the major channels, it's not journalism it's opinion and that's a completely different category. And one thing I've noticed with my kids going to school is that they are being educated on what is news and what's opinion.

[00:20:01]What is fake news? How do you find out if information you're told is true and, I think that is needed for people of all ages, especially I think people of older generations who grew up where with journalism that was Very rooted in fact, but it's morphed over the years and I'm not sure that everybody is as aware as they should be about the fact in about how much misinformation is out there.

[00:20:32]Growing up, we didn't need to necessarily check is mine. Because journalists uniformly stuck to the three source rule. You had to have three sources before you printed it or published it. We were talking about our own opinions. We were trying to stick to the facts, but that definitely has changed.

[00:20:49]And that's something I think people of all ages also need to keep up to date on is how do I separate fact from opinion and plain misinformation, because that is something that, that I think is. One of the biggest threats to do to us, these as out as a community as well, and understanding each other 

[00:21:14] Jolie Downs: [00:21:14] health. 

[00:21:15]Gina Wilkinson: [00:21:15] Exercising your rights in a wide spear of things.

[00:21:18]Yes so that is interesting. I'm so glad my kids are getting trained on that from a very sort of young age at school to on side the safety, truth versus opinion or fact versus opinion. These things are really important skills that I think in a way, people of light of generations, we didn't get that training and everybody needs it. 

[00:21:41] Jolie Downs: [00:21:41] you're completely a hundred percent correct. And I'm glad that you brought this up. It's been a very important topic and I miss those days. I can. I just say that I miss those days when I felt complete faith in the reporters, I knew that they reporting with all of those boxes checked before that information came out.

[00:21:58] Gina Wilkinson: [00:21:58] Yeah, that's very true. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:22:02] Jolie Downs: [00:22:02] So now you became a documentary and as well, how did that have.

[00:22:06] Gina Wilkinson: [00:22:06] I guess I just found that you're all soundbite, the 32nd soundbite, which is the maximum you'll get on radio news wasn't enough to tell the story. And I had access to such interesting people in interesting situations and I'd go and interview them. And I think she had loved to play the rest of his story.

[00:22:28] And so that's how I got into it. I just found the programs that were airing documentaries and said, Hey, I've got this idea and a way away, I went, 

[00:22:39] Jolie Downs: [00:22:39] That's wonderful. So you just decided, you decided you wanted to do it. You called someone said, Hey, this is what I want to do. This is what excites me. And they gave you the green light and you went and did it. 

[00:22:51] Gina Wilkinson: [00:22:51] Yeah.

[00:22:51]I had a background in journalism. I had, done my time doing hourly news. I had gone to work Dr. To affairs where you can get a couple of minutes. And then, I knew how to physically I had the technical skills to put together half an hour of radio or more.

[00:23:09] And then I just started when I went, moved to Thailand, I just started pitching myself. I found out who the editors were of the various organizations and usually when I started, I would call them with an idea, a documentary idea. When I first moved to Thailand, it was the start of the year of the tiger.

[00:23:30] And I was able to join an American team of zoologists who were actually doing a tiger census in Thailand. And we went out into the jungle. We set up infrared cameras. We slept in the jungle and to track to get an idea of how many tigers remained in the wild. And my premise was with tracking these tigers.

[00:23:49] Will there be tigers left in the wild the next time, the year of the tiger? Case in 12 years. So I already had a story idea if you call up and just say, I'd like to do this and I go, great, what do you want to do? And you don't have an idea and you're probably not going to get very far.

[00:24:03]So I hadn't had an idea. I knew I could pull it off and that's how it started. And once, and to just know you can deliver, you're going to get more more work. 

[00:24:13] Jolie Downs: [00:24:13] Oh, it's wonderful. I love that. I'm curious. Is there a documentary that you did that has stayed near and dear to your heart?

[00:24:22] Gina Wilkinson: [00:24:22] Yeah.

[00:24:22] Yeah.

[00:24:23]It's, I think the one that was the most popular story I ever did was about elephants. I did so many elephants stories when I was living in Thailand. Everybody loves elephants until a lot of elephant stories, but the one that stayed with me was a story about the trafficking of children to work for begging rings in Bangkok is a hub for trafficking of all sorts drugs, weapons, people, animals, antiquities, all these sort of things come through Bangkok on their way to, and from their origination and destination.

[00:24:59] And one of the, the areas of trafficking is human trafficking and in Bangkok,. You'll meet children on the streets who are. Your first reaction is always, gosh, I've got to give these kids some money, but they are almost always working for organized criminal gangs, organized, begging rings.

[00:25:17] These kids don't get to keep the money and it's much better. My policy was always to get them food or something else that they could actually use as opposed to money, which would end up in the criminals hands. And I found an organization, the international organization for migration who would find these children then return them to their home communities.

[00:25:41]Not necessarily straight back into their original households because usually their parents had actually sold them. Usually they was sold,. Usually what would happen is A respected member of the village. The village would be suffering a lot of economic hardship would say, Hey, I've got a great job for your daughter in Bangkok, sewing.

[00:26:00] She's going to let make a lot of money, but for me to arrange it, I'm going to need, I'll give, or I'll give you an advance and you give me your kid. And then, so quite often they were tricked. They didn't realize what their child would be doing, but, they didn't want to send them straight back into the same situation.

[00:26:16] So usually they would go to a sort of an NGO where they would stay there for awhile. The NGO would work with the parents to make sure the parents had an income stream. They would give the kids an education and if they were older, some skills like working as a mechanic or working as a cook. So these kids could support themselves and stay in their home environments.

[00:26:37] But anyway so I was with, I, I. Got in contact with IOM. I said, I wanted to do a story about children. I'm working for these begging rings. And they arranged for me to ride on a bus with children who had been picked up by thai immigration.. They were in the immigration detention center and they were being returned by bus to Cambodia.

[00:26:58] And they were going to this sort of halfway house, where they would try and reintegrate them into the community and, traveling on that bus for many hours with these kids talking to them, learning their stories that, that is something that I, really was affected by.

[00:27:14]When you're doing a job as a journalist, you get put in a lot of various emotionally stressful situations. If you're doing the sort of, and you have to be like a doctor or a firefighter or a soldier, you can't be emotional at the time. You have to do your job. But, when I was listening to that story later, when I was back in my office, putting together these interviews with these young children, I remember one girl, she was nine and she had been trafficked to and from Thailand already four times.

[00:27:45]And I remember crying about that, and that's something that, I will never forget being with them and this, when we dropped them off at the halfway house, that sense of worry, will they be able to stay, will they be able to make it, or will they be like this.girl that I met on the bus who inevitably ends up back on, on the streets in Bangkok.

[00:28:10]That was that was very, Yes, very powerful. So many stories like that, but also, A lot of inspirational stories as well. Stories of people rising above these sort of situations, overcoming the worst sort of disadvantages that you can imagine and going on, usually these people, I find that actually go on to help others.

[00:28:33] And that's even more amazing, they take that negative experience, they turn it into a positive, not just for themselves, but for other people as well. And so that is really inspiring. So I guess as a journalist, you get the lowest of the lows, but you also see the most inspiring stories as well. So you get the full spectrum of what humans are capable of. 

[00:28:55]Jolie Downs: [00:28:55] Yes, no completely. And Gina, could you share the name of that organization that helps those kids for anyone who might want to donate or help in any way?

[00:29:03] Gina Wilkinson: [00:29:03] Sure. The organization that was bringing them back to Cambodia was called the international organization for migration. They help people all over the world. The organization they were working with was called goat DOH. It was a French organization. They ran the house, the the halfway house. It was a French NGO, I believe means a drop of water. This was quite a long time ago, so I'm not sure if they're still operating there, but I know IOM does great work all around the world of, for example, I actually ran into them many years later in, in Sri Lanka, they were rehousing people after the terrible tsunamis of 2004 something like half a million people lost their homes in Sri Lanka at that time.

[00:29:50] And IOM was in charge of providing them with shelter. So they do all sorts of work for people who are displaced. And that's something that also is becoming so much more common nowadays, as people respond to the stresses and various factors pushing them out of their homelands. 

[00:30:11] Jolie Downs: [00:30:11] no, thank you for sharing that now. Do you know, you've done a lot in your life? I'm really, we have, we've only just scratched the surface here. We haven't gone into the exhibit to the next stages and then reinventing yourself as a novelist. I'm curious out of all the things that you've done, what do you feel has been one or two of your greatest successes and why, and what did you learn from it?

[00:30:36] Gina Wilkinson: [00:30:36] Oh, gosh getting my novel published, I would say that was, it's so hard to get a book published. There's so many 

[00:30:45] Jolie Downs: [00:30:45] And this was a reinvention for you, wasn't it? You were, it was like the new stage.

[00:30:49] Gina Wilkinson: [00:30:49] yes. Yeah. I, when I left Iraq I, I had a lot of good experiences. I had a lot of bad experiences, but one of the things that stuck with me.

[00:30:59]Very soon after I arrived in Iraq, I was befriended by a local woman. And I later discovered that she was actually an informant for Saddam Hussein secret police. And she was reporting back on everything I did, where I went, who I spoke to and so on. And now I want to be very clear that I don't blame her at all for this, in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, if the secret police wanted you to do something saying, no, wasn't an option, for many years, and still, I guess to this day, I always wondered.

[00:31:31] Were are we friends despite this? Or was it just an unpleasant sort of duty that she had to perform? And so that question stayed with me for a long time. And eventually I started writing a book inspired by that situation and it begins with. That the secret police in Iraq arrive at the home of a secretary who works at the Australian embassy and tell her that they want her to befriend her boss's wife in order to gain access to information that, she might find out.

[00:32:03] And, it's told through the eyes of the person doing the spine, the woman that she's spying on and a third person and an artist, because Iraq also has an amazing arts community. And so I wanted to take that real life experience so that, the start was inspired by real life. The rest of the plot is fiction, but there was a lot of my real life experiences injected into that.

[00:32:26] And I guess the great thing about writing novels is that you get to answer the questions that sometimes you don't get to ask in real life. Maybe you're not brave enough to ask the question. Maybe the person who asked the question or doesn't want to answer you Oh, you want me to get part of the story?

[00:32:43]Novels, whether you're the writer or the reader, they allow you to make sense of the world. Because so often when we're living our day-to-day lives, it seems so chaotic. And there's a great saying is something like, fiction is the lie that reveals the truth. And, this is something that I was hoping to do in that book is to take this strange experience and try and learn from it and look at it from different points of view.

[00:33:13]I talked earlier about how people do, good people do bad things. What do people do when they're under pressure? How do they respond? Do they give in, do they resist? And for me being able to write that book about, a subject, which was. It impacted my life in a country that was very important.

[00:33:32]Both on an international level and on a personal level. That was a great achievement for me, there were many times when I wondered if my husband would be the only person who would ever actually get onto the bookshelves in the U S in, in the UK, in Europe, in Australia, that has been really amazing.

[00:33:52] Cause it took quite a lot of, I got quite a lot of knock-backs and so on and certainly wasn't, I just knocked on the door first door and they said, Yeah.

[00:34:00] we'll put it out there. It was a lot of work to find an agent to get it actually onto the bookshelves. So for me, Great. And also, to have another career to be able to change careers was good because both my kids have some special needs.

[00:34:17] One of my kids is on the autism spectrum. My one of my other kids has a lot of learning disabilities, so they need a lot of extra help and, being a novelist gives me a bit more flexibility. I'm my own boss. So if I need to change my hours especially during the COVID lockdowns having our kids were at home there was no school for a year almost.

[00:34:38] So being able to, work when I could, but also help my kids having that sort of control over my working day was a great I guess benefit for my. 

[00:34:48] Jolie Downs: [00:34:48] yeah. Oh, we can only imagine. Yes. Okay. I Just in general with the pandemic and with the kids that made it all so difficult, but you had some special needs in there. I can only imagine how having a career that allows you to make your own hours and be flexible with your family. How would it, what a gift that is for the family overall.

[00:35:10] Gina Wilkinson: [00:35:10] Yes. Yeah. And I'm also very lucky that my husband also is very flexible. It helps out as well in all those years of, with the kids supporting my writing,, like I said, there were many times where I wondered if he'd been the only person who ran it and he definitely read it more than once.

[00:35:23] So 

[00:35:25] Jolie Downs: [00:35:25] Good husband.

[00:35:27] Gina Wilkinson: [00:35:27] check this again. 

[00:35:28]Jolie Downs: [00:35:28] And I love that. And thank you for sharing that. It wasn't easy that that you had to knock on a lot of doors. You had to be persistent with what, with your goal in order to get where you want it. And because that is such a key to reaching whatever it is that we're aching for.

[00:35:41]And being honest that it isn't easy, but if you keep going after what it is you want, you can get, there is something that we all need to keep being reminded of and keep seeing in other people. So now I'm curious, what about the flip side of it all? What about a time you failed at a really big mistake or obstacle challenge and how did you deal with it?

[00:36:03] And what'd you learn from it?

[00:36:05] Gina Wilkinson: [00:36:05] Yeah.

[00:36:06]I would say for me, I would say. Trust your gut is a lesson that I wish I had learned earlier in life. Also learn where to set boundaries. When I went back to working as a journalist in Baghdad I was offered a job working for the ABC in Australia as their Iraq correspondent.

[00:36:31] And I ended up in a situation that even though I was a very experienced journalist, the situation I ended up with was, dangerous and just too much for any one person to handle, I was a radio journalist, but when I arrived, they said, oh, and by the way, we want you to do television. Oh, and we want you to be your own camera person.

[00:36:52] I had no idea. I had no experience of TV. so I was like, Oh okay. Not realizing that, I had just signed up to do three people's. In a war zone on my own. And, as a woman working in a war zone, you've got also additional pressures on you. And, I feel like I did some of my best journalism in Baghdad, but I also did some of my worst.

[00:37:14] And I really wish I had learned to set boundaries and say, no, I'm not going to do that. No, I'm not going to, work for three days with no sleep because that's when you make errors are not going to work for months without without an afternoon or even an afternoon off. I think that is something that you learn as you get older, but to say no.

[00:37:41] And when I eventually did learn to say no I found that I got a lot more respect. When I was younger, I would. I guess I was raised to never say no to a task or a challenge to just keep going, but you also, there's persistence, but then there's also sitting realistic boundaries for yourself and not driving yourself into the ground.

[00:38:05] So you're in a position where you make mistakes and yeah, I remember after Iraq, when I moved to Sri Lanka, I was the only journalist in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit. And 

[00:38:17] Jolie Downs: [00:38:17] wow.

[00:38:18] Gina Wilkinson: [00:38:18] my husband actually was in the hospital at the time of dengue fever, intensive care. And I remember, the work was just rolling in, enrolling in, media organizations from all over the world, calling me about 24 hours into it.

[00:38:31] I hadn't slept. The only time I'd taken off was to go quickly down to the hospital, check my husband, come back. And I remember someone called and I said, you know what, I'm going to be taking my phone off the hook for the next four hours. I'm going to lie down and have a rest. I knew I had too much adrenaline.

[00:38:46] I wasn't gonna be able to sleep. And I was just gonna lie down and pace myself. Cause I knew I had learned from Iraq that you just can't keep going and going. And I knew it wasn't going to be a 24 hour or 48 hour story. It was going to be something that continued on for months and months. They seemed  so surprised.

[00:39:03] And they were like, you're going to work. And I'm like, I'm going to take the phone off the hook. And I'm just going to rest for a few hours. And they were like, Oh, okay. And you know what? I get a lot more respect after that from them. And that was a real eye-opener that I could say no.

[00:39:17] And so I guess, setting your boundaries pacing yourself when you're under a lot of, extreme demands. Is something important that you can take away from negative situations? I think 

[00:39:31] Jolie Downs: [00:39:31] really big. And I think this happens a lot with women too. I don't know if this is true, but I would imagine that perhaps as a woman in a war zone where you were you feeling like you had to prove yourself a little bit more to.

[00:39:49]Gina Wilkinson: [00:39:49] I'm not sure if it was attached to.

[00:39:50] being a woman, but that definitely made my job more difficult. Being a woman in terms of getting respect. guess from, some of the people I was dealing with some of the people I was working with. Yeah.

[00:40:03] I guess it, Yeah.

[00:40:05] it did make life more difficult.

[00:40:06] That's for sure. And also things like physical safety and sexual harassment they are big concerns for more of a concern for women in the field, in those sorts of environments, I think, than they are necessarily for men. It can go both ways in some situations. You will get treated more kindly because you are a woman you'll get access to power brokers who may assume that you're just a little woman and they don't have to worry about you.

[00:40:31]And then you can pull out your microphone and smile and go. And would you answer this question? So it's has negatives, pros and cons, I think sometimes I've been granted interviews where they thought all this will be easy. It's just a woman and I'm, I'm going to ask questions just like anybody at else.

[00:40:50]So I guess sometimes you have the element of surprise with their expectations. They're going to have an easy ride or something like that, but Yeah.

[00:40:59] I think there's probably pros and cons for sure. 

[00:41:01] Jolie Downs: [00:41:01] Yeah. It's very, that's actually very interesting. I didn't think of it in that way, but yes, there, there is a lot of, there's a lot of both sides  on those types of things. Now, how did you push through your difficult times through all of your various iterations of your career?

[00:41:17] Gina Wilkinson: [00:41:17] Yeah. I would say actually writing has been really helpful. When I left Iraq, I actually was ended up being diagnosed with PTSD and 


[00:41:26] Depression. 

[00:41:27] Jolie Downs: [00:41:27] Sorry. 

[00:41:28] Gina Wilkinson: [00:41:28] PTSD would stem from things like I had been working for the United nations in prior to the war. And, my workplace was destroyed by suicide bombing and my closest friend died in that.

[00:41:40] And 22 of my colleagues and also just that, that whole, being in a war zone is not something that you can walk away from unchanged. And after Iraq we moved to Sri Lanka. And, I tried to get some professional help. There was only one psychologist on working on the island and I went to see her and she said to me, I don't think this is by the way.

[00:42:02] I don't think this is a long-term strategy, but she said to me, when you were played by recurring thoughts Rob quickly write down, what's keeping you up at night, write it down on a piece of paper, then screw it up into a ball and throw it away and actually found that to be surprisingly effective.

[00:42:18] I think, in the short term, but then I started writing a book. This is my first it was like a memoir or more narrative non-fiction it was, I guess the story behind the story writing down, what happened in Iraq and all of the various things that happened to me in Iraq.

[00:42:36] And it had seemed like such a chaotic experience where I had No.

[00:42:42] control and. When I wrote it down, I was able to connect the dots and see how things played out. Why things played out the way they did and I'm writing to be very helpful in that way. And when friends of mine have undergone various tragedies, losing a child or suddenly losing a spouse, I tend in those situations to send them a journal and just say, you don't need to touch this now or any time, but if you want to, I always found it helpful to write things down because you can write things down that you might not want to say to other family members who are also suffering.

[00:43:26]One thing I've learned from, as a journalist, I've spoken to a lot of people in grief and. As a journalist, I found people, people often say, oh, you're a you're a coffin chaser or whatever. But in my experience, people actually wanted to talk to me 

[00:43:41] Jolie Downs: [00:43:41] Yeah, they do.

[00:43:41] Gina Wilkinson: [00:43:41] because they wanted to honor the person that had been lost.

[00:43:45] And they didn't want to talk to their family necessarily because they didn't want to upset them. So people stay silent because they don't want to upset other people who are other also grieving. But sometimes when you put it down, when you talk to a journalist or when he put it down on a page, you're talking to a stranger, you can say the things that you don't want to say to anybody else, especially if you're writing, you can say things that you would never share with anyone.

[00:44:11]Maybe you're angry with someone who's passed away for, I don't know, say there were a smoker or something and you'd be trying to give them up smoke and get them to give up smoking for 20 years. And eventually they died one cancer. You're going to feel some anger as well as loss. You can write these things down.

[00:44:27] Get them out. And, I know one of my friends, she wrote a lot, another friend had just lost a baby and she wrote up a letter to her child. And I think, that sort of thing can be very helpful if you can articulate what you're feeling and put pen to paper. So in all, you don't have to be a novelist.

[00:44:50] You don't have to be a journalist, but in your own personal life if you're undergoing some stress writing about it can make sense of it. And it also can relieve you. I think of some of that. 

[00:45:07] Jolie Downs: [00:45:07] I completely agree. I've lost numerous people and the most recent. It was the first time I started writing after in that grief period. And I have to say, w you're absolutely right. It was cathartic. And it allowed me to, when those strong emotions came up, it allowed me to have something to do with them.

[00:45:25] I would write them down and it was this outlet. That was a release because I was able to use an outlet rather than just having it bottled up and with nowhere to go. Because as you said, it's not always easy to talk to even your family members, or it's not always easy to talk to other people. And in a lot of times it is almost easier to talk to someone like a journalist, someone who doesn't know the family and you can just open up about everything.

[00:45:50] So I completely agree. I would never call it a coffin chaser if you're willing to talk to people about their loved ones. Okay, 

[00:45:59] Gina Wilkinson: [00:45:59] said that, I've seen the words out there and ambulance chaser, or there's that image of, journalists preying on people who grief stricken or whatever. But that, wasn't my personal experience, I guess it's also the way you do it, you've got to be respectful. And if somebody says, no, you need to respect that as well. 

[00:46:23] Jolie Downs: [00:46:23] Yeah. Yeah. Now I'm curious out of everything that you've learned through all of your travels experiences, what is something that you feel has brought the most benefit to your life?

[00:46:35] Gina Wilkinson: [00:46:35] Oh, gosh, the most benefit to my life. For me, I would say the most benefit I've got out of my travels has been all the amazing friends that I have got to make, being able to make in all different parts of the world. For example, Iraq, when I left Iraq this was early turn of the century, two thousands I think 2004 there wasn't an internet. There wasn't even working phones. There was no mail. So I left not knowing how I would really stay in contact with my friends. And yet 20 years later I guess this is the positive side of social media and the internet. We have been able to stay in contact and actually several of them proofread my manuscripts for my

[00:47:19] Jolie Downs: [00:47:19] I love it.

[00:47:21] Gina Wilkinson: [00:47:21] Really wonderful. To check that I had all the details right. And helped me with research and we have been able to stay connected. And, the sort of life I've lived is, I've had some sort of extreme experiences and I'm able to stay in contact with people who have shared those experiences.

[00:47:41] Sometimes it's hard for people to really understand what it was like, but I've got friends all over the world who have been in similar situations. And, when you do go through war, I think especially, or some sort of terrible disaster that bonds you in a way even on in your regular life, if you go through some traumatic event with a group of people, you are going to be connected to them in a deep way.

[00:48:08] And I would say, for me, the best thing has been these, this friendship. Of people who, I've shared a lot of positive and not so positive moments with from all different backgrounds who have shown me different ways of looking at the world who have themselves to my way of looking at the world and being ready to make me part of their lives.

[00:48:36] Because I was usually the one that, you know, appearing from the distance suddenly arriving on the scene that have opened their doors to me. And that I think is, one of the things that I cherish most, I would say would be the, these friendships that I have been able to make over the years, all over the world and keep that's a real blessing.

[00:48:56] There is to be able to have, friends from all these different places and times, and still stay connected. 

[00:49:03] Jolie Downs: [00:49:03] Beautiful. I love that. Now, what about your definition for success? I'm curious. What is your personal definition for success, and based on that, what do you believe is key to having continued success throughout life?

[00:49:19] Gina Wilkinson: [00:49:19] Wow. I guess a personal definition of success would be being able to do support yourself with doing something that you get satisfaction from. Also having a support system. That's also, something that I would consider essential to my personal success 

[00:49:38] I would say there's a couple of different things that a key to having success, that flexibility and the ability to adapt, to changing situations, resilience persistence, but also knowing where to set boundaries and making sure you're taking care of yourself and that you're you're not consumed by pleasing other people all the time.

[00:50:03]I guess that would be, a recipe. I think that might help, but, I don't think I'm any sort of wise woman. So take that with a grain of salt. That's definitely opinion, not fact verified 

[00:50:16]Opinion. That's definitely in the opinion category. 

[00:50:20] Jolie Downs: [00:50:20] I can say that a jives with a lot of the opinions out there. So the category, it's building up. It's a good one. So other than that, if there are a lot of people out there right now who are struggling, we're still in a pandemic. There's a lot of changes that have been happening.

[00:50:35] There are many people over the age of 40 who are trying to find the right next path or the right next opportunity. And they're feeling a little scared and the filling little struggle. Is there any advice that you would give someone in that type of position?

[00:50:50]Gina Wilkinson: [00:50:50] This too will pass it's not all sunshine and roses. I think, everyone knows that and even the worst situations. You might not emerge unscathed. You might not emerge and changed, but you can get through it. And eventually, you will feel better.

[00:51:09] I've actually got a a work by a cartoonist in Australia. He's very well known called Leunig, and I've got something on my bathroom wall and it says it's titled lifelike. And it's a person is in a park and they're looking all sad and it says, life ache, it's unavoidable, it's incurable or it's, it's a terminal or something like that.

[00:51:32] And then it's got that same person lying under a tree with a flower, and it says you can't cure it, but you can manage the symptoms. I think if you have gone through some sort of traumatic event, you're never going to be 100% the same. It's always going to impact you, but you can learn to manage the symptoms unit.

[00:51:55] You can find joy again, even though it will take, time time is a great healer. And I guess you just have to have, face in that. 

[00:52:04] Jolie Downs: [00:52:04] Yeah, thank you for that. Managing the symptoms. That's a really good reminder for everyone. So this has been wonderful. I really appreciate your time, Gina. Before we go, is there anything that I haven't asked about or anything that  the listeners should know about as far as where to find your books, where to find information about you, anything along those lines?

[00:52:25] Gina Wilkinson: [00:52:25] Sure. If you would like a copy of my novel you can get it at any bookstore. If they don't have it in stock, they can definitely order it in. It was targets book club pick of the month early of this year. It is 

[00:52:38] Jolie Downs: [00:52:38] book, club, book people.

[00:52:41] Gina Wilkinson: [00:52:41] Costco is buyers picks, so you can get it at Costco. It was Buzzfeed's most recommended they put it in the historical fiction category.

[00:52:50] I'm not sure what I think about that, but it was most recommended. So I guess that's good. You can also find it online at Amazon. Or any of your online retailers, I'm also a big believe that you do independent bookstores in your local community. So if they don't already have a copy, I know there's a lot of, there's a lot of them out there.

[00:53:11] If they don't have a copy, just ask them and I can order it.

[00:53:15] Jolie Downs: [00:53:15] I

[00:53:15]Gina Wilkinson: [00:53:15] And if you want to stay in contact, I also have a website, Gina I have a newsletter that you can sign up for. I send it out maybe once every six weeks or two months. Usually I open my audio volt and I include a story that.

[00:53:32]I've done some time in my past. I did it during the lockdown. I started the newsletter and it was a way to, for people to travel without leaving home. And then, 

[00:53:41] Jolie Downs: [00:53:41] that.

[00:53:41]Gina Wilkinson: [00:53:41] The occasional shot of my cat. I'm not sure if you are aware of the strong connection between book lovers and cat lovers. Certainly there are some dog lovers out there, but the cat connection and just what I'm reading, what I would recommend it occasionally there's a cocktail recipe. 

[00:54:00] Jolie Downs: [00:54:00] Wonderful. 

[00:54:02] Gina Wilkinson: [00:54:02] Yeah. 

[00:54:03] Jolie Downs: [00:54:03] And we'll include those in the show notes too. We'll make sure and have those links in there. So before you go, I want to ask you my last question, just because I like to hear what people answer it with. What are you sure of in life?

[00:54:15] Gina Wilkinson: [00:54:15] All right. My children's love, my children, they get up every morning with a smile on their face. At least until I mentioned homework or putting your plate in the dishwasher, but gosh,

[00:54:36] that's such a hard one. I think that we need a connection. Yes

[00:54:41] we need the human connections. So don't give up on human connections. That's I think very important for our health and wellbeing and so many ways keep making those human connections. 

[00:54:52] Jolie Downs: [00:54:52] Hundred percent agree. Thank you so much, Gina. It's been wonderful. 

[00:54:56] Gina Wilkinson: [00:54:56] I'll thank you. Or I usually have a great day.

Jolie Downs:

I found Gina’s story fascinating. She has seen and experienced so many different things during her life.

Growing up she moved around with her family a lot, which taught her core skills that have helped carry her through her life and career. As Gina shared, she was a naturally shy child but she wanted to make friends. Being the new kid in town did not lend itself to friend making so Gina had to train herself to become outgoing. Gina taught herself how to take the active steps to connect with others, she learned how to communicate to different people and talk to strangers easily. And this has served her well through out life. Learning how to connect and communicate with others is a huge key to success and fulfillment. 

While this comes easy to a certain people, for a large percentage, learning how to connect with others is extremely difficult. I have dealt with social anxiety for most of my life and have had points where I found it a struggle to connect. When we moved to a new town as a new family, we knew not a single soul. I raised my boys during those early years very much alone locally, I had to drive an hour and a half or more to see family or friends. After a few years of constant travel or visitors on the weekends, I knew it was time to find my local community. I decided to make myself a plan. I outlined what I would do, where I would go and how I would volunteer over the course of the following year. I MADE myself go to meetings I did not want to go to. I MADE myself participate in events and speak up in various situations I would have never participated or spoke at. I MADE myself introduce myself when I would rather shrink to the shadows. I MADE myself show up over and over and over again, when all I wanted to do was stay in my safe space and feel comfortable.  These were very conscience and forced decisions. Each time I was faced with one of these situations, I want to be very clear,  I did not WANT to do it, I never WANTED to do any of it that first year, but I made myself because I did want the outcome. So I deployed the best strategy that we all have at our disposal at any time. Fake it until you make it.. I showed up, I faked it and I slowly started to develop friends. I slowly started to make those connections and over time they grew and grew until this beautiful, large community of support and new found family was created.

You don’t have to be a certain ‘type’ of person to find or build your community – you can simply make the decision that this is what you want, create a plan of action that includes showing up and being present with no excuses and then execute. Stay the course, finish the plan and you will find your people.

I commend Gina for making her decision to switch from math and science to journalism right before entering college. As she shared, her parents were not happy about this decision and tried to talk her out of it, but she stayed true to her own wants and desires and therein is the crux of Gina’s success. Gina took the time to listen to her internal voice, she made the decision to stay true to her own authentic self and because of that, she has successfully traveled down every path she has chosen for herself. 

I know this is not easy to do, a huge percentage of us did exactly as our parents wished of us and many continue to do so, for one reason or another. It takes courage to listen to yourself

Gina has lived in Australia, Brazil, the United States, Canada, Bangkok, Sri Lanka and Iraq – she has lived among peace and she has lived among war. She has learned a lot about humans and I appreciate what she shared with us. 

As she said, under extreme pressure, good people will make bad decisions. When you are put in an unfathomable situation, people will do things they never could have imagined. We need to have compassion to people who make mistakes. If you make a mistake, spend time reflecting and learning from that mistake and then forgive yourself. Do the same with others. 

Talking with Gina about this made me think of an excerpt In The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace by Jack Kornfield where he describes an African forgiveness ritual

When a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the centre of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual.

Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a  time, each recalling the good things the person in the centre of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted.  All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length.  This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days.

At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration  takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.

I think this is beautiful and something we can all learn from.

The next time you make a mistake, focus on all the attributes that make you great, think about all the things you are grateful for within yourself. And the next time someone else makes a mistake, give them that same kindness, remind them of all their good and let us all move forward with our days in gratitude and unencumbered joy. 

After all, As Gina shared, regardless of who are you or where you live, we all share the most important things in common. We all want love, we all want safety, we all want stability and we all want freedom. There is an invisible cord connecting us all. When you strip away all of the layers, at the core you will find understanding that every soul can relate to. Travel truly is the best form of education. Travel teaches us, travel opens up your heart, making you understand that skin color is like clothing, irrelevant in the substance of a person. Travel opens your eyes to the ways we all communicate and relate to each other that transcend language, culture and location. Travel strengthens the mind with understanding, with learning, with expansion leading to new ways to see the world around you. Travel connects you to humanity, finding your family of souls that knows no borders. 

Be sure to carve out the time to travel, take the time to connect. Spending money on travel will only make you richer. 

Gina had great advice on how to get break into that job or industry you’ve been wanting to be a part of – volunteer – volunteer your time and work for free in the industry you want experience in. You spend a couple of months learning the new skills, making contacts with people in the industry and proving yourself and you can open the door into where you want to be. 

Gina used this method to leverage her own career, leading to becoming a successful journalist, which laid the foundation for her becoming a documentarian and later, a novelist. 

Her winning formula for success: Support yourself doing something you get satisfaction from, Be resilient and persistent, be ok with and learn from criticism, stay flexible and adaptable and know when to set your boundaries, all the while remembering to take care of yourself. 

I appreciated Gina bringing up fake news and the importance of understanding what are facts and what are opinions. The over abundance of misinformation that is out on the internet is absolutely the greatest threat we currently have facing us. It is a very real, literl and immediate threat to our democracy. I beg of each and every listener to do their own due diligence in researching (with verified trusted sources) anything they are going to believe to be true. Check sources with Reuters, AP, Bloomberg, NPR, WSJ, The Hill, Newsweek – these are neutral publications leaning on facts vs opinion. 

Gina had great overall life advice peppered throughout our conversation. 

When she was struggling with PTSD and depression she was given advice to write down what was bothering her and then crumple it up and throw it away. This is a great practice to use to help purge your thoughts in the short term but what Gina found was that writing helped relieve the overall pressure in the long term. It’s a release that allows all the emotions bubbling up a place to go rather than percolating and bumping around inside making you feel on consistent edge.  Writing allows you to make sense of the world and your own story. You start to see the connections in your own life that led you from decision to decision, your own life patterns emerge and become clear with understanding. It’s a gift you can give yourself with a pen, a piece of paper and a little bit of time. Write your story and let it reveal your truth. 

As Gina shared, there is no cure for life ache, life will happen and there will be ache, but we can manage the symptoms. We can be aware of what is happening, we can get help by talking with loved ones, talking with strangers or talking with a therapist, we can journal and work through our feelings and emotions, we can proactively find things to feel grateful for, we can meditate, or pull out one of many other tools available at our disposal. This too shall pass and eventually you will feel better. So if you are experiencing a time of life ache, hold on, have faith, manage the symptoms and let time do it’s healing. You will find joy again. 

Finally, Gina shared the importance of trusting your gut and learning where to set your boundaries. You must take care of yourself and only you know where your limits are met. Many of us tend to do and do and do for others without stopping to ask what we need for ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to honor our own needs. After all, when we take care of ourselves we are able to take care of others much more successfully. It is ok to say no. It is ok to say yes. What is important, is that you are Honoring your own internal voice. 

And that is my wish for us all, that in whatever choice you make in life, you are listening to yourself and always honoring the voice inside. 

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