Today we’d like to introduce you to Kim McAffee.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
My story begins with what I believed at the time to be a rare and unusual scenario. In hindsight, I understand how common divorce is.
My parents divorced when I was a young girl. I remember listening quietly and attentively as I learned about this sudden upheaval in my young life.
Tears, questions, confusion, and pain are all I could see. Leaving the only home and neighborhood I knew in Rose Park, my mother moved me to Ogden, Utah after a custody battle.
As a result, my journey veered sideways and I began learning to navigate life on my own at the age of 14. My school years became a blur of just trying to survive a new city, a new school, and a new construct of what family meant.
Eventually, my father took full custody of my three siblings and me. I felt more secure and a sense of peace and joy. Unfortunately, this did not last long.
My father remarried and I was under the supervision of my new stepmother. Eventually that became unbearable for me and I found myself living with friends, sleeping on couches, and aimlessly seeking the security I once had as a young girl. I had no parents to refer to, no answers to all my questions, and no emotional stability to ground my anxious heart and unsteady thoughts.
I was always grateful to the people that opened their homes to me, fed me, and supported me while I tried to finish high school. At the age of 16, I remember living on Broadway, in downtown SLC. I was walking to work and I had an overwhelming feeling of forgiveness come over me toward my father and stepmother. I could not deny what was happening in my heart. I accepted it.
From that day on, I never held a grudge against my father or his wife for forsaking me at such a young age. Soon after, I reconciled with my mother. Understanding and human connection began to take root once again. My mother began to tell me her story about the divorce during quiet, soul-searching talks we had. She apologized many times and expressed that she was filled with shame and regret for walking out on her family. I told her I had forgiven her and would understand more in time.
I went on to graduate from school and began to travel aimlessly. A quiet, persistent voice spoke to my heart as I boarded a train departing Utah. Something within me whispered, “There is more to you and your life than this.” I never forgot this prompting. It carried me night after night, home after home, and year after year. I attended four trade schools along the way, attended modeling school, airline school, and a business school seeking to find some accomplishment or purpose in life, if you will.
I worked jobs, from fast food, and car washes to receptionist. As time went on, I eventually started to date and found myself in the hands of abusive men, both physically and emotionally.
I knew in my heart I did not belong there. Tucking away any pain and suffering, I continued to go forward seeking comfort, love, and acceptance. I moved to Las Vegas to get away from one party town that I knew was a one-way journey to death by drugs and alcohol. As a single mom, I faced obstacles continuously.
Yes, Las Vegas out of all places. I rented a two-bedroom apartment and started to look for a job. I familiarized myself with Vegas by driving endlessly by myself – something I think of today as a metaphor for those years of trying to find my way. Some days I got lost trying to find my way home.
My first interview for a job was for a flight attendant position with a new airline called National Airlines. I got the job!! Shortly after I began, I was promoted to a First Class Lead Flight Attendant.
Seven years later, I moved back to Utah again after the airline filed bankruptcy. I wish I could say this is where it gets better, but it is where my story continues. As a single mom of two, I continued to work, always maintained a job and continued to learn.
Like so many other women with a history of childhood trauma, I would find myself in the arena of physical abuse again. I recognized that I was in jeopardy and am so proud that I walked away to the unknown again for my sake and the sake of my two daughters. I literally left my home and lived in my car with my girls. Retrospectively I see that I had fallen as low as I ever have. I rented a motel to keep what I thought was some normalcy for the girls but the truth was to keep any dignity I had left. Tired, worn out, discouraged, and feeling defeated, I attended a church service with my mother. I surrendered my heart to Jesus Christ.
This is the beginning of my beautiful journey. It had been 17 years since I saw my father when he called me at the motel. He said, “I heard you need a place to stay,” as a peace offering. I will never know how he found me. Because of my decision to forgive him on Broadway years before, it was easy for me to accept that olive branch.
I could go on and on with stories of redemption and miracles and forgiveness like that outreach by my father. So many times, my life has been blessed by kindness and love since then. I have decided to write my first book to describe the wonder and joy I have discovered. In doing so, I look forward to sharing with and encouraging women who face opposition or challenges in taking another step forward in life.
In the meantime, I continue to pursue my passion and calling in supporting women. I find myself stepping out into my community and contributing in small ways. I donate professional attire to the homeless women’s project in hopes to support one woman in her journey to new beginnings. I am regularly invited to give talks at the BYU nursing forum on Resumes and Interview Techniques titled “Know Your Worth.”
I have started to collaborate with other women within the community which has led me to my mentor(s) and other women who see and encourage my vision and passion for helping other women.
I also volunteer with several organizations within our community such as the Intermountain Chapter of Oncology Nursing Society (ICONS) as their Pharmaceutical Vendor Coordinator, Assistance League of Salt Lake City as Vice-Chair, Member Services, and Volunteers of America mentoring young girls, to name a few.
Staying involved with Human Trafficking organizations and as a volunteer with Operation Underground Railroad are very close to my heart. Maybe this is because of what I have experienced and the grace that has protected my life.
When I am not working, I hold fun women’s luncheons, women’s bible studies, and book clubs in my home. More recently, I have begun meeting in coffee shops with groups entitled, “Koffee Chat with Kim.” I make house visits and host lunches mentoring women and building relationships. I do this fully understanding there is no grand scheme with me for all the trappings of success. These actions just serve my desire to lift others.
I’m always surprised when I meet women with similar journeys, (from the highly educated and high-ranking positions to the homeless women to women with addictions the rich and the poor) who have struggled just as I have. We all have different stories but we all identify with pain, rejection, or challenges. My investment is my time and I am grateful to share every moment I can. More importantly, in hearing their stories of overcoming and the hope that is spoken, I am their witness to a better future.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The fear of judgment and my choices growing up hindered me from being free. These fears and choices held me back from a purpose-driven life personally and professionally. Not everybody will understand or care to understand my story and that experiencing that judgement first hand made is very difficult.
The only real battle somedays is me. I try not to let my past define me or the judgment of others direct my paths. The healing process, support, education, and love have flooded my life over the years and are all in thanks to women & mentors that encouraged me along the way and the love of Jesus Christ that fills my heart.
My path is still unfolding and never really plateaus. I continue to rise and overcome measured step, by measured step. My past has served a purpose beyond my comprehension. Being able to support women in different aspects of their life and opening up my heart to see other women rise will be my lifelong passion.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I have continued to evolve professionally and started to engage with my position at Huntsman Cancer Hospital over the course of 15 years, starting out as the Administrative Assistant supporting 3 Outpatient Clinic Managers and 80+ staff members.
This was a rewarding and fulfilling position for 5 years. I then transitioned into the clinical setting with the Thoracic Oncology team as the New Oncology Patient Coordinator.
Meeting people newly diagnosed with lung cancer, and providing support to patients and staff was fulfilling. Having the amazing support of my physicians, and leadership within the organization was an honor. So was meeting patient’s needs at their most vulnerable time.
I was recently promoted as Executive Assistant to the President of Huntsman Cancer Foundation. I have taken the dive right into philanthropy and aligned with the vision to support cancer research. I continue to seek opportunities within my community and engage in networking with other leaders, women and organizations to make an impact on one person’s life.
“There is more to you and your life than this.”
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