Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, marketing, advertising and communications professional, Tracie Clayton, the secret weapon for companies working through progress, change and re-branding. Tracie has over 20 years experience in agency and industry experience and an extensive background in project management, event planning, promotions, community, and media relations. She has earned an invaluable reputation with the business community, suppliers, media, corporate officers and shareholders. Tracie was a Reserve police officer for six years logging over 5000 hours volunteer work. She was also the first female volunteer firefighter in East Highlands Fire Department. Tracie founded AMP, a successful boutique PR consulting business in 2016, sat on the leadership committee for TEDx Victoria for 2.5 years, and not afraid to completely change career course to learn something new, she embraced the TECH Industry just for fun! A Stage 3 breast cancer survivor, with 8 years all clear in January 2018, Tracie is a profile in surviving and thriving. Mom to two beautiful teenage girls, runner and fitness enthusiast, lover of cats, gardening, photography, yoga and her friends, Tracie continues to fight for the simple, happy and content life. And best of all, she dreams of being a gypsy and doing all the things!
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I keep hearing my grandmother’s voice in my head. She always used to say I had a lot of moxie. I had no idea what moxie meant but I thought she was saying I was cheeky and a spirited child. Now, I know what she meant. No matter what life threw at me, I was resilient, steadfast, exuberant, positive and ‘cheeky & spirited’. I am a Girl Warrior because I lean into the pain, sadness, discomfort and challenge of life. I’m not afraid of the hard. I can always find a way. I spread my love of life with joy, humor and enthusiasm. My armor is that I wear none. My heart feels bursting and full sharing my most intimate personal compliment with others.
Tell us about the Lady Tribe who coveted you when you were young?
Wow…these are doozies! My Mom was a very young lady when she had me; I’m pretty sure she was 20 or 21 but there’s no one left to ask so I’m going through old memories and folklore delivered to me right from the Lady Tribe. My Mom lived with her friends Jill, Cherie and Kathy and her sister, Susan. She had nothing for a baby, so they improvised. I slept in the bottom drawer of a dresser; I had a different babysitter every time she had to work. The Lady Tribe was my surrogate mothers, my family, my village. They all doted on me, and at the same time, treated me like a grown-up. One of my first memories was feeling like I had a lot of Moms. I still have threads with two of the Ladies, my aunt has passed away but there is one Lady who is still my steadfast ‘Momma’ to this day. Jill, or Jilly the Duck, has supported me, and now my children, day in and day out, through thick and thin. My mom would be so proud of the special loving relationship we have. And I know why my Mom loved her so much. She reminds me of my Mom (so much).
Your parents both died when you were a child. How did you deal with something so unthinkable and life altering at such a young age?
I didn’t actually know how hard it was losing one parent, never mind both, until I was a parent myself. I didn’t deal with it. I didn’t deal with it for years. I hid and buried all the feelings. I acted like I was strong and resilient to the point where that’s what everyone expected of me in every instance. I adapted, I shifted, I focused on immersing myself in activities and looked for comfort in knowing I could take care of myself. It probably took me fifteen years to let all the bullshit go and really allow myself to feel sad and miss them. I feel ripped off of having an adult relationship with my parents. I love them and appreciate them as if they are right here every day. I talk about them so they are not forgotten and so my children know how much their grandparents would have adored them. I hold their spirit close and cherish the memories of their pure crazy mad love for one another. It reminds me not to give up on people and this crazy world. I think they would be proud of the person they molded me into, and try to draw as much happiness I can from that.
What was the most important life lesson that you learned from your Mom Karen?
Karen didn’t give two shits what anyone thought! I love that she went blazing forward in all she did. Every memory, every picture, every story, every glimmer I have of her was her doing it her way. She truly believed that her life was just that. She taught me to do what you believe in and do it wholeheartedly, to learn how to apologize because you’re going to mess up, to be mad and passionate and all-in with your heart in love, to do things you love and never intentionally hurt anyone. She was a rogue spirit, and Girl Warrior in the truest sense.
Your Dad was an artist. How do you honor his creative legacy?
My house is drowned in my Dad’s art. His paintings and sculptures are everywhere. It’s like he’s still here creating, and emotionally touching folks with what he does. My sense of artistic style is, him. What art do I love? So much, but what is my muse? Brian Clayton. He’s on a pedestal and staying there. When I do sketch, paint or create, it’s hard not to want to emulate him but I cannot. I have mimicked and ‘copied’ his sense of style but it was so uniquely him. I am currently in the process of re-framing every single piece of his original art (37 pieces) to bring new life and freshness to them. The original frames and art are more than 40 years old and it’s just a wee bit hard to alter them in any way.
You were coached by one of Canada’s top ski racer’s, Olympian Nancy Green. Wow. What was the most memorable piece of advice she gave you?
I was part of the Nancy Green ski team but Gerry Sorenson was my actual instructor. She was the daughter of my grandparents’ friends who owned the first McDonald’s franchise in the Kootenays. These were very early days for me, but what really stands out is her zero fear policy. I never felt afraid when I was racing or training. I loved skiing. She taught us to be passionate and work hard. Her enthusiasm and success rubbed off on her ski school. I soon found myself taking the afterschool bus up to the ski hill, then meeting my Mom in the Lodge for dinner, then night skiing and skiing all day every weekend. Find something you love and do the crap out of it!
You survived a near death car accident. What did that experience teach you about living?
Our bodies are amazing vehicles to get us through this life! They work hard to heal and can do fantastic things despite being broken. I completely took my health and wellness for granted. I didn’t appreciate the privilege of mobility until I couldn’t use it. My face was crushed to where I was unrecognizable, my ribs were broken and my femoral ball broken off my right hip. The plastic surgeon – also a super miracle worker, essentially put me back together like Humpty Dumpty. My jaw was wired shut for more than three months. I was in a steel body brace and in traction for three weeks in the hospital. I was in too much pain and too doped up to know how lucky I was at the time. This crazy accident of being hit by a drunk driver was life changing. Made me hyper aware of not drinking and driving or getting in a car with someone who had been drinking. And after walking onto my college campus two months after the accident to see our torn-apart car on a MADD flatbed display, was a sobering moment. There sat the metal that almost killed me but ultimately saved me too. Honor the temple!
January 2018 marked 8 years that you’re all clear from stage 3 breast cancer. Going beyond surviving, what do we need to know ‘for sure’ about thriving?
Mindset, positive attitude and willpower were the most important pieces of my cancer journey. From day one I decided I didn’t have time to be sick and just wanted to get on with it. That may be a simple-minded approach but it served me well. I didn’t buy in to being sick. I didn’t feel sorry for myself. And, even though I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through to the other side, I chose to live my life as if I weren’t sick. I worked, played and parented as if nothing was going on. I ignored that beast. If you want to thrive you have to be stubborn and hungry. Stubborn in the face of cancer. Do not go quietly; do not take it sitting down. Be hungry for life. Eat up every moment; drink up the sunshine; savor all the special memories. There are no ordinary moments in this life, so it’s important to slow down to see and feel them all.
You were a reserve police officer and the first female volunteer firefighter in East Highlands Fire Department. How did you get from fighting crime and fires to being a PR and Marketing professional?
Hard to believe but I haven’t always been big and loud and outspoken and animated. When I was in my late teens, I didn’t really fit it, always felt like a bit of an outsider and as such kept to myself more than most. Cheerleading in grade 12 was the first time I kind of came out of my shell. On a whim, and by request from a friend, I ventured into the foray of police and fire services. It was there, I found the real gal inside. Confident, proud, assertive and outspoken. All of these traits were simmering inside and needed something to ignite them. I loved doing what no one thought I could do. Female officer and fighter, no way. Yes way – and then some. I dedicated thousands of volunteer hours and worked my way through the ranks until I hit a wall. A wall of the man who I loved (at the time), who made me choose between marriage and family and that of a municipal service worker. He didn’t want a cop for a wife and didn’t want to have kids with someone who was a cop. I chose to be a mom and a wife even though I never thought in my whole life I wanted either of those things. But I’ll tell you this. I am so glad I did it. I am a better person on the whole because of it. It cemented my moral compass and how I wanted to treat others because of all that I saw and experienced. And then…I loved my daughters immensely but couldn’t fathom never working again. I have the busiest mind, anxious spirit and drive to ‘do all the things’. Having ADHD has definitely helped me in a career in PR, where you need to be able to do 100 things at once and juggle them every time some aspect of something changes. And, I honestly believe that I didn’t find my career, it found me. Somehow – and I don’t believe in coincidences, I just started having roles where I could let my crazy sparkly light do great things in marketing, advertising, design, events and media. And with more than a decade in there working in philanthropic business development and sales, I fully rounded out the Master of all Trades in marketing that you have to be these days. I love it. Every single day. Love what you do or do something different. True story.
What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?
I’m sorry life hasn’t been easy on you. I’m sorry you’ve been alone and scared at times. All these things that haven’t killed you, will make you stronger. Just wait to see all the happiness, love, joy and moxie this life is going to bring you!
What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
I know you think you know who you are. I know you think you know who you want to be. I know you think you know what love is. And, I’m glad you think you know it all but remember you are like a flicker in the fire. And all the things you think will burn and turn to ash and you’ll need to start a new spark based on everything around you. Allow yourself to blaze in this life. Never let your light go out.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
There are these two little creatures who have blown my mind. Two littles, who’ve grown into women and continue to amaze me. My daughters Chloe and Payton have shown me what strength, character and love, look like. Their essence and spirit is so strong. For all the things I have endured, they have too – they have lived so much of what I have lived, and as young people. And, then add to that their life experiences that have been difficult and painful. Maybe, just maybe, I got to be the conduit from my Mom to them. They definitely got a lot of Karen in them. I hope one day, they can look in the mirror and feel as much pride in themselves as I have in them. I certainly know my Mom is beaming watching over them. Just watch them go, they are going to Warrior the shit out of stuff!
Right now, I’m really trying to simplify life. De-clutter, purge and ‘let go’ of so much of the past. I want to live more with less and be more present for what life has to offer. My internal compass says to keep pushing the boundaries in business; bringing my strength to my work and helping folks elevate themselves in a world saturated with spin. Starting to more finely tune my integrity in life with what I do in my work. Share that out with like-minded people and see where that fit is wanted and needed. Also – more nature, more travel, more sunshine. These things make me the best version of myself. Maybe some more learning? Maybe true love? Definitely more music. This interview is making me want to write a book? My memoirs? Something for sure. Pen name, Poppy Louise. All names changed to protect the innocent (and not so innocent).
Blue sky. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
The gypsy in me says, “How could I possibly tell you that?” Wherever spirit takes me. There are no coincidences. However if you believe in; think it, practice it, do it, become it, in order to manifest your own path, then I would say I’ll be traveling, adventuring and feeling my way through the world. Want to find a way to do what I love for work while I traipse about. I feel drawn to so many places as if I’ve been there before or just really need to get to. I want to immerse myself in culture, music, food, art, life and nature in as many places I can. I’ll always call Victoria home per se, but will make this my landing place to come back and visit.
What makes you laugh uncontrollably?
Babies! Animals! My friends! Life!
Cry out all the tears?
Ditto and every single photograph, song, story, book, movie, TV show, cartoon or commercial that even has one iota of emotion to it. I’m an ugly crier (and often make cry-ish noises). Not embarrassed, totally owning it. My girls will definitely attest to this.
If a bioflick were made about your life, what would it be called?
Dreaded Exit Eleven. The mishaps of my life, dating and that one time when my engine seized at Exit 11. Pretty sure I’m going to create a greeting card series of the most memorable events. Coming soon!
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