Christy Velasquez – Founder & President, Orangewood Lane

I’m a chef from Los Angeles, California and moved to Lyon, France and started Orangewood Lane, which focuses on sustainable food tours and corporate events for international tourists and businesses.

Tell us about one of the toughest periods of your life.

It was about two years ago when I lost my boyfriend of twelve years. We met when we were both young. I was 19 and he was 23 and we shared a life together along with our two adopted dogs. When he passed, my world was turned upside down and everything I knew disappeared in an instant. It was a traumatic, debilitating, and life-changing event to experience at 31 years old.

The first year of his passing was the hardest. The milestones, as I like to call them, were the toughest to get through: birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. They’re all events I was hoping to sleep through and just waiting for the clock to strike midnight. That first year was also a wave of sadness, depression, confusion, and just a downward spiral of my life. I knew I needed to change things drastically to get out of this negative space I was digging myself into. I decided to take a chance and travel to France. I quit my professional job, packed my things, and traveled. I had my eat, pray, love moment and it changed my life. I slowly started to see what my life could be after such a great loss. I started seeing myself as my own person. There was my life before the loss of my partner and then there was my life after. I had the opportunity to change and recreate my life as I saw it. It was a blank canvas and I had the paintbrush. After a year of being on the road, I decided to settle in Lyon, France and started my own food tour business. I think about the past two years and how my life has changed. I think about what my life would have been if I didn’t lose my partner, but I also look at my life now and appreciate so much more of what I have and what I’m building.

Grief is a journey we experience after a great loss and it’s a different journey for everyone who experiences it. I know my grief will never truly disappear and I don’t want it to disappear. It’s a part of me. It’s a reminder of who I am and what my journey has been.

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Interviews are conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.

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