Erickson Merkel Foundation: Tell us a little bit about your family and friends growing up, and any positive effect that they had on your formative years.
Christie Gorveatte: My parents always encouraged us to show generosity towards others and the importance of serving others. From a young age, I remember my parents giving me money to donate to UNICEF and money to drop in the offering plates at church. They not only practiced these acts of generosity themselves, but they wanted to help me practice it as well – to see the value and importance of the act. Also, my siblings were my best friends growing up. All three of them have very bright and outgoing personalities in contrast to my more shy tendencies. They all taught me to laugh a little and don’t take life too seriously. They still encourage me with that truth as an adult when the struggles and problems at this stage of life feel a little heavier. They are always there to support me and assure me that there is always a reason to look on the bright side.
EMF: When you were going through elementary, middle or high school, did you have a clear idea on what you wanted to do when you ‘grew up’?
CG: When I was in school, I knew that I wanted to do something in the health field. My mom was a nurse, my brother was a nurse, and my sister was an occupational therapist. Therefore, the health field felt like the easy and natural choice. I also realized that science, math, and critical thinking came naturally to me! These signs of strength and familiarity pointed me in the direction of the health field very early on. Specifically, my desire to enter into the field of Occupational Therapy came after a shadowing experience with a local Occupational Therapist who was incredible at helping clients achieve independence and freedom despite their trauma and/or condition.
EMF: When was it that you realized that only you could be responsible for your future, and in what ways did you take control of your life after?
CG: I realized that my future was in my hands shortly after I moved away from family for my undergraduate degree. During my childhood, I was largely guided by my parents’ expectations and desires for me. However, when I became an independent adult, I realized that I was responsible for who I was and who I was going to become. And, this realization felt like so much greater than what career I would choose. That season of life was a great time of self-realization and I’m grateful for the choices and decisions I made to reach for greatness and goodness.
EMF: Were there any people you looked up to when you were younger, and why?
CG: My mother has always been an incredible examples of love, generosity, and hard work. She worked at the local hospital for the majority of our childhood; but she still managed to provide a rich childhood full of bedtime stories, beach days, gardening, and visiting people in our community. She is a super woman who has an incredible work ethic but still manages to deeply care for people. I think she would be one of the people I look up to from my childhood because that balance of productivity and caring for people can definitely be a tension – yet, she modeled it (and continues to model it) so beautifully.
Do you have any mentors now? If so, can you tell me about them and what they mean to you?
EMF: Are there any people living or dead who you draw inspiration from?
CG: My grandmother passed away almost ten years ago but there are so many things about who she was that inspires me to be a better version of myself. She was a woman of quiet confidence who enjoyed the peace and stillness of nature. She mothered fifteen children and loved her garden. She gave everything she had to provide for her children and others. My mother often tells stories of waking up to hitch-hikers sleeping in her living room. That type of generosity seems so rare these days. My grandmother made her house a home where everyone was welcome. For these reasons and many more, I am inspired by my grandmother’s life.
EMF: Are there any causes that you feel strongly about, that you would like to give back to someday, or that you’ve been able to help out so far?
CG: I have walked with a number of individuals who have or have had an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a hidden struggle for many. Finding the right resources and support is a huge factor in the healing process but can be difficult. I hope to give back to organizations that strive to make these treatment resources available to individuals with EDs. Further, I believe supporting and inspiring young girls to live with healthy mindsets towards food and their bodies is a huge part of the equation. I believe this is actively working to prevent the onset of these disorders. As a result of this realization, I volunteer with a local youth group to encourage young women to see themselves as having value and purpose beyond their appearance.
EMF: When did you get your first job, where was it, and what prompted you to get it?
CD: I began cutting my neighbors grass around the age of twelve. My mother was firm with only purchasing items that were necessary rather than simply something we wanted. I don’t know if the beginning of my grass cutting career was triggered by wanting to purchase something specifically, but I had friends who had started making money and saw the freedom of having your own money. Nevertheless, my mother was generous enough to help me cut the grass so I could earn spending money for my own.
EMF: What keeps you motivated through long weeks of work and study?
CG: I think what helps me stay motivated through long weeks of work and study is the satisfaction of completing hard things. I know that I’ve done hard things, had hard weeks, and maneuvered challenging situations and have seen the other side. Further, I know that I am stronger and better because of challenges so I focus on the goodness that will come on the other side.
EMF: What are your personal and professional goals?
CG: I aspire to equip people with the skills, tools, and support to be their best self. My desire is for people to experience freedom from mental health disorders, worry, anxious thoughts, and poor self-esteem. I believe that this goal will be the core of both my professional goals as an occupational therapist as well as my personal goals.
EMF: Why do you think it’s important for today’s undergraduates to have a clear understanding of debt and finances?
CG: It is easy for students to believe that debt is simply a small hole in their pocket, however, they forget that the hole will only increase in size if left unattended. Therefore I would encourage undergraduates to find a trusted person who understands debt and have them assist in setting a plan to eliminate the debt. Then, it is crucial for the student to grasp that debt is not without consequences, so find the drive to commit to the plan and make it happen!
EMF: Are you planning on any further academic pursuits after completing your current degree?
CG: I aspire to obtain my doctorate in Occupational Therapy after practicing as a professional for some years.
EMF: After dedicating yourself to work and study, what do you do to wind down?
CG: I love to go for walks and runs with my husband. Being in nature has always been a way for me to find peace and unwind. I also grew up baking with my mother so I love to bake in my free time. When I make cupcakes or banana bread, I feel productive while also getting a little treat.