For Liz Kalweit, Senior Writer/Editor with GeoEye in Herndon, Virginia, the path to success has not been easy. She has faced numerous obstacles–some less common than others–but has proven resilient and committed to living life to the fullest. Her inspirational story provides motivation to have faith and positivity when the going gets tough. Liz’s early years were spent growing up in Long Island, NY—the tenth of eleven children. When her father passed away suddenly at an early age, the family was faced with uncertainty. Liz immersed herself in her education and in pursuing a college degree. However, a few years into her studies at a state college in upstate New York, Liz took a semester off to follow an older sister to Northern Virginia. Her fascination with life and her desire to see and experience more of the world brought her to the D.C. area in 1984. It was here that she met Andrew, her husband of 27 years.
Liz and Andrew had an instant connection. They shared a love of traveling and the great outdoors. Together, they were able to find balance and stability, joy and laughter. The couple was eager to start a family and expand on the solid base they had created. Their dream would not come to fruition, however, as they were suddenly faced with the harsh reality of infertility. Going to great lengths to try to conceive, they finally conceded that it was not meant to be.
Today, Liz and Andrew find joy in their eleven nieces and nephews (as well as their pets!) and celebrate the positives in the life they have built together. They take time to nurture their relationship and focus on one another. They can frequently be found traveling to their favorite locations, like Arizona, spending a leisurely weekend on their boat on the Potomac River or exploring the region on Andrew’s motorcycle. The couple is even known to make Easter baskets for one another in springtime! They find even the smallest ways to make their relationship fun and meaningful.
Through the years, Liz never lost sight of her desire to finish college. In 1993, she completed her bachelor’s degree in English at George Mason University. She went on to earn a master’s degree in Public Communication from American University in 2003, all the while working full time. With her focus on writing and communications, Liz spent years in donor relations in the President’s office at the American Red Cross before moving into a corporate communications position with GeoEye. She feels fortunate to be able to write and edit as a full-time job and has built a career pursuing her passion.
She has met life’s challenges with vigor and has never allowed struggles to stand in her way. She completed her first marathon – the Marine Corps Marathon – in 1997 and remains an avid runner to this day. In 2009, she developed bone-crushing fatigue, swollen joints and blinding headaches which she attributed to the stress related to training at her new job. She was diagnosed with Lyme disease and treated with antibiotics to suppress her illness.
Her medical difficulties hardly made an impact, though. It is not unusual for you to spot Liz competing in local races throughout the year—and even indulging in a sweet treat afterward! Her accomplishments are many, from building a great career and family to finding the right balance of health and happiness. Liz Kalweit is undoubtedly a modern woman whose achievements inspire us to live life to the fullest.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU WHEN FACED WITH DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES?
In the past, I’ve struggled with poor body image, eating disorders and low self-esteem. I’ve always leaned toward being overweight. As a high school girl on the kick line, I starved myself and was very thin for a while. But as an adult facing multiple, difficult life challenges – infertility, the loss of a job, deaths in my family, major back surgery, a neurological disorder, Lyme Disease – I over-ate until I was borderline obese. Overeating had become my coping mechanism. Even today, when faced with difficult circumstances, I don’t want to cope; I really just want carbs. By keeping a detailed food journal, I eventually realized that the situation I was eating in response to didn’t change in response to my eating. The only thing changing was my weight. I was getting bigger. Clearly, that wasn’t going to work for me in the long run, and I knew I had to make some changes.
I had to learn how to respond to stressful situations. I never had those skills. One thing I learned is that when I overate in response to stress, I also isolated myself, and it has been really important to me to recognize that. When times are difficult, I make a conscious effort to talk to someone I trust. It helps me tremendously. Just making time for friends and family, enjoying a visit to a museum or taking a long walk with my husband can make a huge difference in how I perceive a situation. Getting out of my own head – however briefly – can shift my perspective. It’s hard for an introvert like me to make that effort, but it’s always worth it.
I’ve become more accepting of the difficulties that are always going to be a part of life. Life is cyclical, and the sun isn’t always shining. I think I’ve gotten better at taking life’s ups and downs in stride.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS THE KEY TO A HEALTHY, BALANCED LIFE?
Like a lot of women, I’ve allowed work to control my life. Going home at the end of the day meant starting my second shift of work in my home office. I worked during the evenings, on weekends and holidays. I was so stressed out by work that I didn’t have time to be a very good wife, sister, aunt, friend or neighbor.
The idea of a healthy balance is different for everyone. We are usually the first ones to know when life is out of balance, but we bury that recognition because we are busy trying to please other people. And if we can’t see it for ourselves, our spouses or friends tell us – even our pets let us know!
But what can one do about it? For me, the answer has been letting go of the idea that there’s a perfect balance to be achieved. Sometimes you have to settle for “good enough.” One thing that works for me is staying true to my values and beliefs and making space for the people whom I cherish. That’s not always a popular position to take. Over the years, it has forced a career change (I started out in IT), and once it meant taking a rather steep pay cut. But if you don’t do the things that you instinctively know are right for you and the people around you, the resulting stress can ultimately make you sick. Worse, you live a life filled with regret. To me, balance is about making choices that are right for you and the people who matter the most to you most of the time.
I also think a big part of living a healthy, balanced life is acknowledging and letting go of guilt – that nagging belief that no matter what we do, it won’t be enough. For example: You’re leaving work at the end of the day, and the boss looks at his watch and says “Working a half day today?” So you work late the next day, but then your husband is sitting home alone eating a frozen dinner. You can’t win. You can only try to do what will matter the most to you in the long run.
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER THAT WILL INSPIRE OTHERS TO BE THEIR BEST?
First, don’t believe everything you think. I think I saw that on a bumper sticker, but it stopped me in my tracks. It’s true! So many times we can be our own worst enemies. We tell ourselves “I can’t do it,” “I’m not good enough,” “They’ll never hire me,” “I’m too fat,” and so on. Don’t believe a word of it or you’ll never get anywhere. Because you can do it, you are good enough, they will hire you, and you look fabulous.
Next, be resilient. The word conjures up the image of a gloriously stubborn weed that refuses to go down without a fight.
Someone used that word to describe me once because of my ability to not just recover from adversity, but to thrive. In today’s struggling economy and challenging job market, resiliency is an excellent trait to have.
Finally, have faith. Believing in a power greater than myself has given me the faith and confidence to keep moving forward, even during the most difficult times. Faith can be such an intensely personal thing, it can be difficult to talk about, and it takes many forms. But having faith helps me find both courage and confidence.
AS ONE WHO WORKS IN COMMUNICATIONS, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST WAY TO SHARE IDEAS AND INSPIRATION? DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO CONNECT?
I’m kind of old-school, I guess, because I still mostly prefer “face time.” I enjoy connecting with people when I can see them and hear them – you can see their reactions, there’s more spontaneity, and ideas flow more freely. I’ve noticed my energy level at work directly corresponds with the amount of direct interaction I have with people. It’s energizing.
But there’s no one best way to communicate anymore. I e-mail my sisters, I text my husband, I call my doctor, I Facebook my nieces and nephews. I use social media personally and professionally, and information travels at speeds that are scarily fast at times. If you have a message to get out, you need to use the medium that makes the most sense. For example, where I work, we have to reach the employee at the desk and the employee embedded with troops overseas. They will have different preferences and different capabilities for processing information. We also engage our employees and other professionals who are interested in what we do through Facebook, Twitter and other outlets.
As the company I work for prepares to merge with our only U.S. competitor, managing the scope of change in communications is something we have to negotiate fairly often. What’s the message? Who’s the audience? What’s the best medium for both? It can be tricky finding that right balance.
WHAT GOALS HAVE YOU SET FOR YOUR FUTURE AND WHAT IS YOUR PLAN TO ACCOMPLISH THESE GOALS?
Professionally, I adore my current job. I work in an exciting industry with great people, and I’m doing the work I love to do. It’s a trifecta! I couldn’t be any luckier. But as a writer/editor, I definitely lean toward the editing part of my duties. My future is uncertain right now because of the merger. I don’t know whether I’ll be offered a position with the new company or not. A decision is just months away, so big changes are just around the corner for me. Either way, in the future I see myself in a position that has a heavier emphasis on editing.
Tanya Schoor is an enthusiastic freelance writer who enjoys researching activities and ideas that benefit Washington area families. She graduated from The Ohio State University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Atmospheric Science. Tanya currently resides in Loudoun County with her husband, Greg, and their dog, Boomer.