We had the good fortune of connecting with Susan R. Nelson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susan R., we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Coming from a large, somewhat dysfunctional family, growing up with four biological siblings and three step siblings, risk taking was a part of everyday life. If you wanted attention or more importantly to be “heard,” then you had to step into the light and just be seen first! The risk there was being seen in itself… because in the 70’s in a SE Texas town, usually not being the center of attention was best…. even with family!
Looking for more independence in a hope of finding my own way, I left home at an early age. I finished high school while living on my own and working a full-time job. Certainly not something I would recommend to any young person now, but it was a risk I needed to take.
In my twenties, while I would often simply refer to myself as free spirited, the most important risks I took then where those of being totally authentic. I actually even had a boss tell me once… “Someone may not agree with you, but they will always know where you stand. You are very much an open book.” Ironically, it would be many years before I totally realized just how open that book would be!
In 1993 my life was changed forever by a very disturbed young man with a gun in his hand. At age 29, while trying to flee during a home robbery, I was shot at point blank range. The first shot was to my left shoulder and the second to the back of the head as I turned to run. Somehow still breathing, I spent the next two weeks in a coma fighting for my life. Once I awoke, I was faced with the hard reality that I could not walk, I could not feed myself or care for myself in any way. I would need to relearn to read and to write. I would need physical therapy to relearn to walk, to use my arms, one of which still had a bullet in it and to use my hands that were also battered and scared from the bullet’s trajectory. You see, though I cannot recall it for certain, I believe I placed my right hand behind my head, in a hope to help defray the bullet, as I started to run from my would be killer. A risk I think that may have saved my life!
After a month in the hospital and spending the next seven months in a rehab center with my mind, my body, my heart, my soul…my life… completely out of my control and open for all to see, I vowed to bury and hide my newly “flawed” self! For years I worked extremely hard to ensure that no one would ever know that I am, what I thought I was… “damaged.” A risk that would haunt and stifle my life for years.
After many years of struggling, trying to find my authenticity behind this steel curtain that I had placed in front of me, it was with the unconditional love of my husband and my beautiful son that gave me the courage to finally take the risk to shine my light for the world to see. For how could I ask anyone else to be authentic or teach my son to be authentic, if I was still hiding? And to be certain that I could never go back to that dark place in which I had put my value, and to be certain I would never hide again, I took my biggest risk ever. In 2015, I published my memoir, “The Only Light I Saw Was in Galveston” “My Six Year Journey Back…After Death!”
Originally, my book was not written, and my journey shared to simply be read by others but as a means of escape from myself. So that I could again shine my light, be authentic and take the risks that had served and given me strength all my life.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Sharing my true authentic self; the good, the bad and sometimes very ugly. Sharing the fears, the courage and the light of letting myself be truly seen through my memoir has allowed me freedoms I never imagined; speaking before large groups at corporate events and public rally’s, motivating others to shine their own light. Lobbying the legislature on state policies and testifying at Senate hearings or sitting with other brain injury survivors, to hear them and let them know they are not alone. My journey and knowing that by risking my personal self, and to be able to shine light to others, is a gift of amazing value.
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.
That is a hard question because living in Austin, TX is like nowhere else in the US. There are more parks and outdoor spaces than any other city I have ever visited. There are miles and miles of hiking trails along creeks and rivers to wide-open country sides and tree lined rolling hills. Or if you prefer canoeing, paddle boarding, rowing or fishing, you could choose any of the five surrounding lakes to get your feet wet! The food here is outstanding with every type of cuisine imaginable. And in any venue type from a food trailer to 5 stars! It is a foodie’s paradise!!! Of course, it is also the Live Music Capital of the World so in most every season, if not every month, a festival of anyone’s liking can be found. Oh, and speaking of the Capitol….ours is actually taller than the US Capitol building in DC. And I must say just as grand inside! My motto for those who visit Austin is, if you are bored here, it is only because you want to be!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband, Chris Nelson for is undying love, encouragement, belief in me and support; My son, Elliott Nelson for being the brightest light and most authentic gift anyone could imagine; The book “The Greatest Miracle in the World” by Og Mandino for being a guidepost of self-love and risk taking; The countless friends and family members who love me just as I am… bullets and all!