We’re honored to once again have Courtney Poole, a boss lady, on the blog. Courtney combines her passion for social justice and her love of style and decor in Rose & Fitzgerald, where you can purchase artisan home decor made by Ugandan artists.
My life has been a series of big-leap decisions. As a restless college student in Texas, I interned with a non-profit in California for a semester. I lived in a van for four months with three fellow activists, raising awareness about a war in East Africa. I remember feeling terrified of the unknown, but it turned out to be a rewarding experience that opened my eyes to a really big world.
It also led me to Laren, the co-founder of the organization— who is easily the most unique, steady, passionate, driven, fearless man I’d ever met.
We fell in love fast, but nothing about our story was easy. I returned to college, and Laren continued to pioneer a global movement, which required him to regularly travel to Africa. We survived three years of long distance, and got married after I graduated. We both had to surrender, trust, and let go of our expectations during those three years, and I’m convinced it’s the only way we made it through.
The next major decision came about due to dire circumstances. Our first three years of marriage weren’t actually blissful. While I struggled with the demands of a new job, in a new city, as a new wife, with new friends, my San Diego-born husband was thriving. He was well respected in a community of like-minded world changers. He knew exactly who he was and never wavered in his belief that the work he was doing was the work he was made to do.
Unfortunately his work took him away from me more often than I could handle. While he was gone — for weeks, sometimes months at a time – my resentment and jealously built until one day it nearly exploded. I felt second best to an exciting, dangerous, career that gave my husband a sense of purpose. I didn’t want to take that away from him, but I knew I needed more. I needed to find me, to lean into my own passions and purpose, to explore who I was meant to be… and I needed more of him while I worked through this.
It was then that I suggested we move to Africa.
My rationale was that he could be home more because he’d be closer to his work. I could go through the process of letting go and surrendering to this crazy story I didn’t currently know how to fit into. Starting over in a foreign place, without the comforts of friends or familiarity, felt exciting and risky… and in many ways, necessary.
In the fall of 2012, we boarded a flight to Uganda, and that’s when the real adventure began. Words can’t describe how difficult life was when we arrived in our new home. There was so much doubt—did we make a mistake moving here? Could our marriage survive in this new setting?
Yet, despite the overwhelming fear and uncertainty, I discovered an inner drive that propelled me forward. I made it my mission to build a real home and community for us in this completely foreign environment. We leaned on each other for support in ways we’d never had to before. We went through hard, painful seasons as a couple, hurting one another and seeing one another at our very worst.
But through this process of constant growth and digging deep into my inner strength, I learned how to be completely present in the day-to-day. Life felt real and raw and fragile, and I didn’t want to take a moment for granted.
In the end, we fell more deeply in love with one another than we’d ever expected. We built a true foundation of trust and compassion for one another as imperfect people in an imperfect world. We knew we could conquer anything together, so long as we continued to choose one another each and every day.
The three years I lived in Uganda can be summed up by the word surrender. It was only by surrendering to this new environment that I was able to embrace the challenges that were upon me. Life was an intense mixture of beauty and tragedy. It felt dangerous, less secure, yet somehow more full than I ever knew it could be. I grew to love and embrace the culture. We shared a connection to adventure and nature in all of its mystery and power. And our marriage was strengthened by our experiences in this new world. Moving to Uganda was the best thing we’d ever done.
With newfound independence and self-confidence, I built a small business from the ground-up in Uganda, something I never knew I had in me. Taking a dream and turning it into reality — despite so many doubts about its feasibility — was incredibly empowering.
Fast-forward to now, and it’s a company that employs 13 incredibly talented Ugandans at our design and craft studio in Kampala, and partners with artisan groups in two separate countries. It shines light on hidden talent in far-away places, and hopefully, adds a bit of beauty and meaning into the world.
All because I was willing to let go and just try, against all odds—all because I was willing to surrender.