I'LL NEVER FORGET THE FIRST TIME I SAW HER: AUTUMN JONES
Lisa Harris ~ May 30, 2019
In the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge, on the other side of the Bay, I became friends with a woman named Autumn Jones. I’ll never forget the first time I saw her – tall, striking, and owning the space around her. A fierce and fair negotiator, she earned the respect of her team and business partners. I, too, was in awe of her. With style and grace, Autumn embodied women’s empowerment long before it was a buzz word and she was a leader in the making. Our professional paths merged as corporate retail buyers on the same team in the Spring of 2000. In the beginning, we were merely colleagues, never knowing at the time, I would one day hold her first born child, travel with her on business trips from New York City to Los Angeles and spend hours sharing our hopes and fears. Almost 20 years later, I know now, God simply had so much in store for us.
Our time together in California was short, only 2 years. However, our friendship was just beginning to deepen. Through business and family travel, we managed to see each other almost every year since leaving the Bay Area. In 2014, I invited Autumn to walk beside me in a new chapter, one that would require both of us to dig deep, lean in and further strengthen our friendship. Every conversation and every stolen moment with Autumn, only solidified my belief that the world needed to know her. With an abundance of love, outbursts of laughter and a few curse words, she accepted my invitation to model for my new passion project. At first, it was the website, then my book, Unveiled Beauty: Handwritten Stories from a Poetic Heart and finally, sharing her story on the Unveiled Beauty stage.
With God’s grace, all knowing, all-powerful, Autumn Jones boldly took the Unveiled Beauty stage on Sunday, November 11, 2018 at the Unveiled Beauty X Fashion Show. This video served as an introduction to Autumn and gave the audience a window into our forever friendship.
That night, +200 people in the Twin Cities community had the honor of baring witness and supporting Autumn as she courageously walked us through her story, a 12 year fight with cancer, and the importance of having both empathy for others and caring for ourselves. Here, at Fashion Meets Poetry, it is our promise and commitment to the women on our platform to never share the intimate details of their story unless that is their intention. Today, I would like to share with you my thoughts of the evening and a little bit of what Autumn had to say.
When I look at this photo, I am reminded that a picture is simply a snapshot in time. It is the memories and the emotions that breathe life into this singular moment. In this particular moment, I am holding my breath and gently unwrapping my own bravery in order to gift it to her. I see her in ways others may not. Fierce – yes. Confident – yes. Strong – yes. Scared – yes. Knowing Autumn as I do, it was her intention to show the audience her strength, yet her heart was craving to be seen. With the soft fluttering sound of angels' wings all around her, the audience watched as Autumn boldly stepped into her vulnerability and stood in her divine beauty and bravery. Slowly, I began to breathe again. The melody of her voice and the power of her story commanded a room full of people and captured their hearts. My heart soared as each person fell in love with her just as I had many years ago.
I wish everyone could have been there to witness the beauty of that moment and the richness of her story. Like I said before, Autumn's story is not mine to tell, but I will leave you with a few words she shared with us that night:
“This season has been longer than I could have ever imagined. However, the things that have kept me going are important lessons for all of us especially when we are going through difficult times. One is the importance of self-compassionate care. As I grow older, I have learned that “life happens” to many. I empathize with others, sometimes to the point in which I diminish what I am personally going through. Empathy for others should not equate to diminishing care for oneself. I struggle with this and give so much to others that at times I have very little left for myself. It is okay to say “no”, and to put energy into yourself first, so that you can continue to give to others.
My name is Autumn Jones. I am a woman, a wife, a mother of two. I am a daughter and sister. I have amazing friends who always make my gratitude list. I am a Human Resources professional who thrives on helping people win at living their best life. I love to travel, scrapbook, laugh, dance, and to sit curled up with a good book or watch a good movie. Oh, and did I mention that I have breast cancer. I have had it for over 12years. It is a part of my life and yes, at times it sucks. But it does not define my story. I think Stuart Scott, an ESPN Sportscaster who battled cancer, said it best with, “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” Along with leaning on my faith and support from my village, the way in which I have fought cancer is to live my best life, because it is the only one that I have. “
IT'S NOT ALL RELATIVE: THE ART OF SELF-COMPASSIONATE CARE
Life-altering and devastating news can arrive unannounced at any point in our lives and leave us in a state of despair. In 2007, Autumn received this type of news. To fuel her inner strength, she pushed forth wearing her invisible ‘survivor badge’. Throughout the years, people reacted in shock and with that, a powerful revelation unfolded. When we discover someone is dealing with a more difficult situation than our own, we often downplay our personal struggles with beliefs that “it’s all relative”. What if it’s not relative? In the trap of comparison, we diminish the reality and enormity of our own journey and sacrifice self-compassion. In this captivating talk, Autumn shares her journey of navigating a 12 year fight with cancer and reminds us of the importance of having empathy for others meanwhile administering self-compassion care.
Autumn is an executive leader in human resources within the software industry, with over 20 years of experience in leading, coaching, developing, and training others. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Hampton University in Virginia and is pursuing her masters from Pennsylvania State University. Born and raised in Southern California, where she currently resides with her husband and two very active children. Autumn demonstrates resilience and strength as she continues to balance family, a high-demanding career and her fight with cancer. “Cancer has taught me how deep my faith is in God, and just because man says it is so, does not make it so.”~ Autumn Jones
Video courtesy of The Producers, Kirstie House & Ellie Dress
Photos courtesy of Andrew Schroyer and Amy Jeanchaiyaphum