“Pursuing our dreams is not an easy task. It takes courage and determination to stay on track, not to mention a deep-seeded personal faith in YOU.” ~Christine Macdonald

The Renegade Spotlight feature on DaveUrsillo.com showcases the real-life stories of everyday men and women who are pursuing their dreams, living from within, and inspiring others while both defying cynicism and risking being misunderstood by others around them.

Today, I’d like you to meet Christine Macdonald, a talented writer and author who I befriended through Twitter. Christine’s particularly unique and inspiring personal story have garnished much deserved respect and attention. On top of her story, her visible determination and renegade spirit are things I have long admired. In the last few months, she has gathered significant and positive forward momentum in her writing career — and I’m very excited to see how the near future unfolds for her.

Together on DaveUrsillo.com, we are building an inspired community of genuine dream-pursuers who are changing the world. Are you among our ranks? :)

1.) In your own words, introduce yourself!

I’m Christine Macdonald, a 42-year-old writer, activist, speaker, ex-stripper, cancer survivor, and lover of chocolate.

Raised in Honolulu, now living in Southern California, I am working on my memoir (currently titled) Pour Some Sugar On Me: Tales From an Ex-Stripper, about life as an exotic dancer in Waikiki from 1987 to 1996. Most people think of coconuts and surfboards when thinking of Hawaii. My book takes you past the palm trees, behind the paradise curtain to a grittier type of lifestyle full of drugs, sex and tons of rock and roll.

2.) What dreams you are pursuing?

Let’s hear it for DREAMS! I am currently working hard on making my short-term dream of completing my manuscript, landing an agent, and having the book published a reality.

My long-term dream is to reach as many people as I can about overcoming personal obstacles. The common thread of my book is how far people will go to find their self-worth, and that feeling beautiful really does come from within. Although I went to extremes as a stripper, what I took from my experiences and discoveries are universal. I want to share the lessons I’ve learned. I write about it on my blog.

3.) What effects have these pursuits had on your life?

One of the reasons I began stripping (at age 19) was because on stage, I felt beautiful.

I was diagnosed with Grade 4 Nodulocystic Acne Vulgaris at age 14, and had severe scarring covering 80% of my face (I have since had nine surgeries to help remedy this scarring). When I stepped on stage, I hid behind my big hair (it was 1987) and the illusion of how validated I felt with every dollar bill I received.

Writing my story has been therapeutic in ways I never thought possible. As a recovering addict, I am re-living a period of my life when I was high on drugs and for the first time, really seeing myself clearly. I recognize and embrace how young and insecure I was and how much the drug use affected my behavior — quite a cathartic experience.

When I feel overwhelmed, I remember there is a delicate balance that needs my attention when pursuing my long-term dreams. I need to be careful not to ignore my current surroundings in life, while focusing on attaining future goals.

The quote, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” reminds me to appreciate what I have now, while going after future endeavors.  It helps me recognize that dreams can come true on the journey, as well as at the destination.

4.) What has pursuing your dreams taught you about yourself? About others? About life?

Somewhere along my journey to adulthood, I realized something: The life we want is the life we create. Following our dreams is not only our responsibility, but our ultimate choice in attaining personal happiness and fulfillment.

Pursuing our dreams is not an easy task. It takes courage and determination to stay on track, not to mention a deep-seeded personal faith in YOU. If you believe in yourself and can learn to forgive yourself when you falter, you will not only be on the right path, but closer to your dreams than you think.

5.) What are your sources of inspiration?

I am a big believer in personal therapy. I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t benefit from checking in with a therapist from time to time. We all have personal struggles and stories. A really great therapist will help you ask questions about yourself and therein lies the magic. Sometimes we think know the answers, when often it’s the questions we get wrong. Therapy helps me ask the right questions.

A huge source of inspiration for me (as a writer) is art — mainly words and music.  I can lose myself in the lyrics and melody of a song or a great book and suddenly my spirit’s pilot light is reignited. There is no better feeling in the world to me than creating something through inspiration from other works of art. Creativity breeds passion, which blossoms in to more creativity.

6.) Do cynics, doubters and pessimist’s affect you and your pursuits?

I have learned to take cynics, doubters and pessimists with a grain of salt.

Everybody has a story; people who try to knock others down may possibly be struggling with their own. I am guilty of doing that myself. I was insecure in my own struggles and lashed out. Nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes. The trick is to take responsibility, forgive yourself and learn from the experience.

As a result of bullying in school because of my appearance (I was called Freddy Kruger, Pizza-Face, etc.) I grew up with a bit of an emotional deficit where self-worth was concerned. Hateful words manifested inside my head and I started to believe I was worth nothing. To this day, I need to remind myself that I am in control of my thoughts and the way I feel about myself.

There is a great quote I learned a long time ago:

What other people think of me is none of my business.”

What a phenomenal discovery! The only thing that matters is what we think of ourselves. When we focus less on how others perceive us and more on our own worth, following our dreams becomes a labor of self-love.

Christine’s written features include SMITH Magazine, Guide to Literary Agents, Scribd, Salon.com, Open Salon and Anaheim Examiner. Interviews include Power Women Magazine, National Association of Memoir Writers (Memoir Writer of the Month), and LA Talk Radio.