Angela Pollock is one of the rare people you meet who truly seems to radiate a special happiness about her. And that’s probably because she is just that, happy.
After spending time with Angela, it’s easy to see where the happiness comes from: a strong sense of self, a career that is a true calling and a love of life’s simple joys. But these things don’t come by luck or accident. Angela has worked hard to cut out the negativity in her life and truly carve out room for what matters most to her.
From an early childhood experience that she calls divine intervention to overcoming toxic relationships and anxiety, we loved diving deep with Angela Pollock and know you will too.
What makes your life more manageable?
Life is hard to juggle at times. I am involved with 3 nonprofits, a full time job, finishing my Master's degree, currently planning an annual fundraiser I put on (with tons of help), and a wedding! In order to manage all of the moving parts I try to set boundaries for myself. I structure specific times in which I dedicate entirely to what I am doing. When I am working on that specific thing, I try my best to detach from the other stressors and commitments as best as I can. Whenever I am doing something, with someone, or working, I like to give my all to it and this is the best way I have found to be able to do this. I am an extremely visual person, so "to-do" lists, color coding schedules, and spreadsheets are my best friends!
What is most meaningful thing in your life right now?
There is nothing I am involved in that I am not extremely passionate about so I try to make each day and moment meaningful.
Family is an obvious answer to this and I am extremely thankful to have a large family that mostly all live in the area now! Another area of great meaning in my life is the work I do with individuals with disabilities. I am one of the founding board members of the Cape Fear Enrichment Program- a nonprofit that provides real life opportunities for adults with disabilities. I lead social gatherings for these individuals 2 times/week, one at Luna Caffe and one at Satellite Bar & Lounge. Such a simple thing as gathering to have conversation has allowed so many of them to work on social skills and friendships in a typical environment. I cannot express the joy I feel when I walk in and see individuals-who a few months ago would not even say one word answers - actually engaging, laughing, and having a CONVERSATION. Along the same lines, I do a fashion show fundraiser called the "I Am Beautiful Fashion Show" (next one is May 12!) that raises funds for 2 nonprofits in the community and features all individuals with disabilities. It began in 2013 and has grown from 12 models, to now 50 (plus a waiting list).
It is amazing to see how giving this opportunity to these individuals has boosted their confidence and made them feel valued and important by their community.
It has also been wonderful to see how so many people in the community come together for something positive and no matter how they arrive, they leave with full hearts and smiles.
What are your favorite parts about your work?
I am currently the Director of Development at OASIS NC, a nonprofit that provides supports for individuals with Autism including a private school. My favorite thing about this position is that I can work on my administrative and leadership skills, incorporate creativity and resourcefulness, while still working with individuals with disabilities. The staff is also made up of rock star women who get things done and being in the presence of this is good for the soul. It is such a perfect mixture for me and I am so thankful for it! While this is my paying job, my other work with nonprofits is also extremely rewarding. One idea I try to spread whenever I get a chance, is that "a person is a person, is a person". Many people who are not around those with disabilities sometimes wonder what the best way to interact with them is, or what they would talk about. I try to treat every person as the individual they are. Whether there are communication barriers, cultural barriers, developmental or social barriers- every person deserves to be treated as an individual. This may mean taking extra time, having patience, and talking on someone else's terms, but I think it is important to show others they have value no matter their challenges.
Could you tell me a little bit more about why you chose this line of work? Did you feel it was a calling, or a passion from early on?
The reason I chose my line of work is actually a very random story. I was a senior in high school and was driving down one of the busier roads in my hometown of Springfield, Ohio with a couple of my friends. I noticed a small child weaving in and out of traffic who also looked very disoriented. At the time I hadn't had much experience with individuals with disabilities, besides assisting in a classroom in elementary school, so I didn't recognize immediately that this child had autism. Even so, I knew I couldn't just let a child run in and out of traffic so I pulled over and was able to get him to the side of the road. A couple of others pulled over as well and called the police. While waiting, I noticed the child could only speak a few words - "Kmart" and "library" were the ones that were repeated the most. He was very upset - and seemingly scared - so I tried to relate to him the best I could with the knowledge I had (which was basically none). I started picking dandelions in the yard we were stopped in front of and turned it into a sort of game to collect all that we could find. I noticed he was calming down and was focusing on this new task at hand rather than the terror of being lost and surrounded by strangers. For some reason at that moment I just knew this was a sign of what my calling was in life. To top it off - just in case I needed an extra dose of divine intervention - the police officer that showed up on scene was my dad. Ever since then I have absolutely loved learning all I could about communication, behaviors, advocacy, and others ways to better the lives of individuals with disabilities.
What makes your eyes light up?
Seeing others experiencing joy…
I absolutely love being in the presence of people who are able to find the joy in the small things.
Other than that - my dog, Guacamole, and any vegan friendly chocolate dessert can really brighten my day!
What advice would you GIVE to your younger self:
I would tell my younger self to find the things you love about yourself and remind yourself daily! We are typically our own worst critic, but we have control of the way we think. If the worst critic constantly reminded you of how awesome you are, that you CAN handle anything, and that you are beautiful - how awesome would that be? Also - it is okay to say "no".
I was in an extremely toxic relationship for several years in which I lost all sense of my identity and allowed myself to deal with a lot of things that I know I would not at this point in my life. I have learned just how contagious toxic people and character traits are, and how important it is to protect yourself from them. This experience taught me how to say no: No to people that weighed down my soul, no to things I was uncomfortable with, and no to being around character traits that did not align with who I wanted to be as a person.
I decided to say yes to myself and ever since- have been working at making sure I am surrounded by people that make me feel lighter in life- not like a heavy load is on my chest and shoulders.
Another important thing to me is my mental health. I struggle with anxiety, so trying to keep that in control is a huge priority. I have found the things that work for me to help with this which include keeping a clean house (clean house - clear mind), scheduling at least one block of time a week to do something for myself, exercising (!), and asking for a hug when things get a little overwhelming (it is humbling and makes a huge difference).
What is your favorite way to recharge:
Taking a walk with my dog without my phone, painting, or my personal favorite..putting on " I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" by Helen Reddy, turning it up loud and singing it out loud.
How about your favorite simple pleasure:
Cooking while listening to records! I eat a plant-based diet so I have found a love for cooking and challenging myself to make vegan versions of typical foods.
What woman do you most admire:
I know this is a very cliche answer, but I would have to say my mother because she has had the greatest impact on who I am. She constantly looks for ways to bring others joy and make people feel loved and appreciated. These are qualities I was blessed to witness as I grew up. I could probably list a few famous, trailblazing women in history, but my mother is truly the woman I admire most. The qualities she possesses, has taught me by pure example, how to be a kind human- and I don't know if anything else is as important to me than that.
Thank you, Angela ... for opening up to us and sharing your story.
Do you know a woman who has overcome obstacles and shined through adversity? We would love to know them, too. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org