I’m Cheryl Himburg, I’m 43, and I’m perfectly imperfect.
Today I live in Kitchener but grew up in Prince Edward County. I’m a mom of two amazing kids who are my “why”. My son will be 22 this year and my daughter will be 17. They are fertility babies. I was a young mama and my kids are my greatest accomplishment, by far.
I was sexually assaulted in my teens. I moved out of the area for safety and took a lot of shame with me for a lot of years. That experience ultimately shaped subsequent relationships which were unhealthy and led me into a marriage that was unhealthy. In my 30s I realized that I had to face my crap, stop the cycle, and be healthy for my kids so I filed for divorce.
What was going well at that time was my career. I was working for Blackberry and although I struggled with imposter syndrome and the challenges of being female in corporate, I loved it. What I didn’t realize was that I was running myself into the ground with stress.
My dad passed away at 55 years old of a heart attack and he was the first in my family on his side to make it to 50. We take that very seriously. So when I started not feeling well the paramedics thought I was having a heart attack. Once we got to the hospital they realized it wasn’t my heart but the doctors couldn’t normalize my system. For three hours I was in and out of consciousness leaving me at risk for a stroke. They were just about to shock my heart to try to stop it, restart it, and normalize my rhythm when one of the doctors wanted to try one last thing. They put something in through an IV and my body responded leading to a diagnosis of Addison’s which is adrenal burnout. So many years of prolonged stress and unhappiness, I had killed my adrenal system. My body was going into Addisonian crisis.
So that was a really quick wakeup call, you can’t live a life you don’t love. There are too many impacts. These two humans were relying on me to be there for them. But once I had gotten myself and my kids back on our feet, Blackberry laid me off.
After I was laid off from BlackBerry I took another job, but it was just a job and I was so unhappy with it. Sunday afternoons would come and I was clenching, getting frustrated, and I could feel myself tensing up. Monday morning I would drive to work which was 30 minutes away and by the time I got there I would have a headache from clenching. It was a toxic environment, it was slow and bureaucratic, and it was nothing that fuels me.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40?
I made the decision to go back and do a bachelor degree which I hadn’t done because I had my kids instead. I thought, “I’ll chase my dream now”. My mom and I were on the train coming back from a trip to Old Quebec City — we had gone there for four days to celebrate me turning 40, her turning 70 — when I got my acceptance letter. I went into work the next day and got packaged out of the job that I didn’t enjoy. And though I was thrilled because the job was slowly eating away at me, my initial reaction was that this meant I couldn’t go to school. My partner at the time (now my husband), said, “no you’ve got to chase this”. So I started my business, did a business degree, and got married at the same time. Now I’m a business coach and strategist that empowers women professionals, executive, and business owners to shatter their glass ceiling and achieve ambitious results. I have designed a life that I love. I’m very passionate about empowering others.
When do you feel you are most powerful?
I feel most powerful when I’m empowering others to succeed and achieve their goals through my mentorship and leadership. It’s the greatest feeling. That’s why I became a board director with a local non-profit in Kitchener that supports young, unwed women who are pregnant and parenting, between the ages of 12-24. Many of them come to us from long histories of trauma. And they don’t see a way out. I can relate to them and share my stories of sexual assault and being in unhealthy relationships and being a young mom even though my circumstances were different of how I got pregnant, I still faced a lot of judgment and challenge.
I can show them that they can have an amazing life for themselves and for their children. It comes down to their choices. Each day you can make a new choice. It’s not perfection, it’s progress. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, it matters that you get back up and you make the choice to move forward. So definitely when I’m able to impact others on a directly personal level I feel very powerful.
What are the top 3 most important things to you right now?
- My family. Always my family, my kiddos, my husband, and my mom.
- My business. My word for this year was “immerse”. I finished my degree in December so this is my first year that I’m 100% in my business and I’m immersing myself in it, as well as in my family, my relationships, and in living.
- Personal development. I’m kind of obsessed with high performance and I always set high goals and expectations for myself. No one can be harder on me than me. So this year I’ve been focusing on personal development for managing my health better and establishing a morning routine. I’m not a morning person so this is a really big deal! I do a lot of reading. I love every day becoming a better version of me.
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
I check in regularly with myself, my vision, my goals, and how I want to be living my life now, not just 25 years from now. That’s a beautiful lesson from my dad because he knew he was fighting genetics and I know I’m fighting genetics so he really lived and he really taught us to live. So I review what my vision of living is now and 25 years from now. I review my business goals to make sure they are in line with my greater vision of life and it all comes back to designing the life I love. When I veer off I can get back on track quickly. Every day I’m connected with my personal vision and the intention I want to live with that day and being present.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
People sometimes ask me why I’m doing different things in my personal and professional life because they don’t necessarily have a direct impact on my daily life but do have an impact on the community and on the future. I want to leave the world a better place than when I found it in whatever way I can. It’s all we can do. It’s really about creating those opportunities to build senses of community, strengthen, and empower women.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
I would say go for it and do it scared. There will never be a perfect time. Never. Reframe your fear as excitement. Do it scared. If you thought you couldn’t fail what would you do? Do it! Go for it! Because even if I fail at what I’m doing but I’ve done what’s authentic to my soul, great. That will shift and pivot me to the next thing or things. Look for what truly excites you and find a way to incorporate it into your daily living. And, my final advice is, if it requires a fake smile, don’t do it.
How can people connect with you and your work?
To connect with me and to find out about my full-day mastermind for women executives, professionals, and business owners and my coaching programs, you can find me on Linkedin, Instagram, at my website keyelement.ca or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to my Power Profiles Series
Here I introduce you to powerful midlife role models in our community. May these stories inspire you, motivate you, and show you what is possible.
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