I had the pleasure of sitting down with my good friend and a Shelton local, Lisa Roshkind, and interviewed her about important parts of her life and dug deeply into her passions and psyche. *Note: The answers to the interview questions will be written in Lisa’s perspective, but the answers are not direct quotes unless it is surrounded by quotations.
1) What was the proudest moment in your life?
“Most people would say it’s my wedding or the births of my children, but it’s actually” in last June when I scaled Mount Washington. After undergoing rotator cuff surgery, I was discouraged and left asking myself, “What am I gonna do?” “I could have used my arm as an excuse…[climbing Mt. Washington] was something for myself to prove that I have it in myself to do it.” Climbing that mountain allowed me to process my thoughts and past and proved that all the hard work, especially my one month of training with my personal trainer to prepare for this, I’ve done had paid off. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my amazing support system. In the 4 hours it took me to climb the mountain, I met many remarkable people and I will never forget the day I climbed Mount Washington.
2) What was the hardest time in your life and what helped you overcome it?
I never called my stepson, Nathan, my stepson. He was always my “son”. Even though we didn’t have the easiest relationship due to our difference of opinions, we loved each other and I always wanted what was best for him. On May 28, 2005, my family and I lost Nathan to a heart attack. “My faith got me through it.” I knew I had to be strong for my family and be there for them instead of taking care of myself. The last time I saw Nathan was on Mother’s Day when he emerged from his Volkswagen with 2 potted plants for me. We were able to talk things out and I told him that I was proud of him. Even though we didn’t have the most ideal relationship, we were still family and I can confidently say that he died knowing that I was proud of him and that he was loved.
3) Who do you look up to in your personal life?
I’m inspired by many women who come into my life because they all bring something to the table. “You learn a lot from the women you surround yourself with.” If I had to choose one woman, I’d choose my mom because she is a hardworking woman. In her first marriage, she was a victim of domestic abuse. After escaping that marriage, she remarried to a man who mentally abuses her every day. Since I never had a real father figure in my life, I always say “Happy Father’s Day” to her instead of to her husband. She basically raised her kids by herself and I admire her strength. Not only that, she returned to school when she was in her 50s to become an LPN. My mother is such a strong woman whose determination inspires me every day.
4) What does it mean to you to be a feminist?
“I’ve never identified myself as one, however I do believe everyone deserves equal rights, education, and respect.”
5) What’s something you wish you could have told your younger self?
I wish I told young Lisa that she is worth it. “I wish I believed in myself more..I wish I believed in myself as much as I do now.” Through my experience with Mount Washington, I was finally able to process everything and finally deal with my past emotional struggles. I didn’t have a good support system growing up because my family life was rocky and I struggled with a weight issue since I was always the “tallest or biggest” girl. Mount Washington helped me realize why I’ve had such a toxic relationship with my appearance. People would always call me “big-boned”, as if it was less offensive than calling me “chunky” or “overweight”. In my junior year at high school, I was told by my softball coach to do basketball in the winter to “trim down”. That moment never left me and has stuck with me to this day. I hate to admit it, but I did basketball and didn’t enjoy it. It was self-punishment. I didn’t return to softball the next year. I also remember my mom taking me to Weight Watchers with her when I was 14. I’m an emotional eater and I wasn’t given the skills and support to help me resolve this issue. Since my body was constantly being ridiculed for being bigger, I started to believe that appearance was more important than my character and skills. When I was growing up, there was no representation of all sizes. “Thank God for up and coming ladies like my daughter who are making change in the world.”
6) What makes you feel most confident?
I’m most confident when I’m smiling. When I’m smiling, it means I’m happiest and that I feel confident in the work I’ve done. “Even if I fail, it wasn’t because I didn’t try...You may not meet the goal you want but that doesn’t mean you failed.” For instance, when I did my first marathon in 2017, the Marine Corps Marathon for Team Seymour Pink, I was cramping about halfway through and took a detour. Even though I crossed the finish line and earned a medal, I knew that I cheated myself and didn’t think I deserved the medal or honor of saying that I was a “Marathon Finisher”. With that said, I joined the marathon team again the next year to earn the finisher medal the right way. With the right training, nutrition and personal trainer, I was able to get redemption and earn that medal fair and square. I was so proud of myself and I couldn’t have done it without my awesome personal trainer, Laurean, who is the epitome of motivation and inspiration.
7) What are three things you’re most passionate about and why?
I’m most passionate about my family, Seymour Pink, and my health. Through all the love, laughter, and tears, and, even with the yelling and anger, I didn’t pick them, but I love them. In the words of my late son, Nathan, “Live life, have fun, and laugh.” I’m also passionate about Seymour Pink, which is a nonprofit breast cancer organization. I became a part of Seymour Pink through my best friend, Debbie, who was a part of their Marine Corps Marathon team. I accompanied her on our first ever marathon and never looked back. I’m so proud to be a part of Seymour Pink because their “community spirit is what I love the most” and I appreciate how they’re all about giving directly back to the community. Lastly, I became passionate about my health when I became an “empty nester” and finally was able to put myself as my #1 priority. I embarked on my weight loss journey to improve my health so that I can live a long, happy life. Through my health journey, I’ve learned that “it’s not about my weight or how I look, it’s about how I feel.”
8) What made you want to become a marathon runner?
I’ve always secretly had running a marathon as an item on my bucket list. I was inspired by the show, “The Biggest Loser”, when the contestants would run a marathon at the end of the season. In 2017, I joined Seymour Pink’s Marine Corps Marathon team as a “cheerleader” with the intention of supporting my best friend, Debbie, who was doing her first marathon. Then, “in a moment of insanity”, I decided to join her because she couldn’t do it alone! “I wouldn’t have joined if it wasn’t for Debbie, Mary Deming [the founder of Seymour Pink], and Seymour Pink.”
9) If you could make one change or improvement to the world to further gender equality, what would you do/change?
If I could make one change to the world to further gender equality, I would eliminate all the labels. “Society puts labels on everybody - religion, skin color, gender, political beliefs, etc… We need to see past the labels and accept people for who they truly are.” When it comes to the workplace, it shouldn’t be about gender or sexuality, it should be solely about a person’s qualifications. I have this analogy: Take everybody, put them in a room with the lights off, and lock them in. Think about it. You can’t see each other’s skin color, gender, religion, etc. You won’t be able to discriminate and you’ll work together to escape. The world would be much more peaceful if there weren’t any labels or prejudices.
10) What’s a typical day in your life like?
On a typical Friday, I wake up at 5:30 AM and finally get out of bed at 6 AM. I feed my dogs, drink coffee, and perform some typical household chores. At 6:45 AM, I have a half-hour workout session with my personal trainer, Laurean, then go on a 1-5 mile walk or run afterwards to get refreshed. After that, I come home and drink a 2nd cup of coffee. While I’m enjoying that 2nd cup of coffee, I have “me” time. I meditate, journal, give thanks, pray and speak with God, and review over what I want to do that day. Then, I hop onto my computer to work. I’ve been enjoying working remotely because it’s less stressful since I’m not rushed and I like how flexible my schedule can be. I can take a break at any time, then return to work whenever I’m ready to go. Even though I’ve been working more at home than I was when I was in-person at the office, I don’t mind the productivity. Eventually, it’s 8:30 PM and I go up to bed to watch Hallmark and doze off to sleep at some point.
Meghan Hatch-Geary is a compassionate, generous, curious, and woke high school English teacher at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, CT. Her passions for reading, public education, and civic engagement are shared and modeled for her students every day and in every other aspect of her life. It’s no wonder she was awarded with the title of the 2020 CT State Teacher of the Year because she truly cares about her students. For instance, she refers to them as “my kids”, expressing the connection and bond she establishes with each and every single one of her students that enters her classroom. In and outside of school, Geary advocates for feminism and equality. She believes in the philosophy that people should always be learning and evolving.
Geary explains how some people may view feminism as a dirty or scary word and praises women for doing an excellent job of redefining what it means. “Being a feminist means being a person who advocates for gender equality. That is it,” shares Mrs. Geary. Equality is a fundamental value and she believes everyone should be a part of the movement. “If you believe in the American way...then feminism should be a no brainer and people should be outraged when there are inequities,” she elaborates. She shares how it’s as essential as it’s ever been, with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum.
“Feminism still matters and representation matters.”
Mrs. Geary gets her passion from not only her colleagues, but is especially grateful for her parents, Linda and Dan. She considers them to be, “two of the most wise, hardworking, compassionate, and generous people [she] knows”. With a smile on her face, she shares how, when she gets older, she wants to be able to look back on her life and say she has lived a life her parents would be proud of. She expresses her gratitude for her supportive husband and fellow colleague, Paul Geary, whose work ethic, intellect, and curiosity inspires her everyday. She also says how she wouldn’t be where she is without her best friend and colleague, Lisa Olivere, who inspires her to take risks and helped her find herself as a teacher and activist.
When Geary was an intern at Woodland Regional High School, she became a part of the school’s women empowerment club, Woodland Worldwide, which was spearheaded by Olivere and another teacher. When the other co-founder of the club transferred to another school, Olivere invited Geary to become her co-adviser and the power duo has worked effortlessly to bring justice to women’s issues ever since. Geary believes that Woodland Worldwide “fills an essential need in [her] school, district, and towns”.
Beyond Woodland Worldwide, Geary is a role model for her students as she tries to encourage others to believe in themselves and empowers the women and people in her life. In her class, she has her students read works written by diverse people and not just the traditional authors who are white men. She believes the voices of the youth, women, queer, Black, and all communities should be heard and honored. Providing an equitable classroom involves making sure diverse perspectives are given the spotlight. When asked how she models equitable or feminist behavior for her students, she recalled an event two years ago where she realized how much she and her female colleagues talked about diets and weight loss at lunch a lot. She had the realization that this is exactly what she would be telling her students not to do and here she was participating in a toxic, self-deprecating conversation. After confronting the issue with her colleagues and friends, they’ve had much more positive, joyful, and meaningful conversations since.
“We feel guilty for putting ourselves first. It’s a difficult balance to find...self care is not selfish.”
It took a while for Geary to become the strong, self-actualized woman that she is today. She spent some time traveling the world in hopes of finding her true passion and purpose in life. She first prefaces how grateful and fortunate she is to live a life free of strife and recognizes her privilege. She shares how this overseas traveling experience was eye-opening and life changing. There were days where she felt alone, uncertain, like a failure, and that she was “avoiding reality”. Overall, she viewed the experience as being positive. Her favorite destination was her first trip, which was to West Africa, mostly Ghana and Togo. That’s where she had the opportunity to teach and travel. It was a profound experience because she explains how she has never done anything like it. At the end of that period in her life, she was proud of herself for being brave enough to persist through the difficult times and found the experience to be very humbling. She “saw the world for the first time in a very different way”.
When asked what she would tell her younger self, Mrs. Geary responded, “I sold myself short too many times in the pursuit of being likeable.” She regrets her younger self undermining her abilities and changing herself to be perceived as likeable. Geary explains how direct women and direct men receive different treatment. “Women have to compromise themselves to get ahead. We’re told we’re bossy while men are told they are assertive and a leader.” She explains the expectations that women are raised to meet and shares how females are always pressured to be quiet, nice, and obedient. “We feel guilty for putting ourselves first. It’s a difficult balance to find...self care is not selfish.”
Mrs. Geary believes there is not enough representation in our government’s leaders and thinks that the United States’s government institutions should better reflect the makeup of our society. She shares a statistic that women make up 23.7% of the 116th Congress while more than 50% of the US is made up of women. Feminism still matters and representation matters. Mrs. Geary shares her frustrations with the imbalances in representation in government when it comes to gender, race, and ethnicity. She considers teachers to be the “cornerstone of our democracy” because teachers have an impact on their students’ lives and should be shaping our next generation into well-informed citizens, positive leaders and activists. For example, Mrs. Geary encourages her students to read more, stand up for what’s right, and vote.
When Mrs. Geary is not busy cooking nutritious meals for her and her husband, working out, or grading papers and designing lesson plans, you can catch her practicing with her band, Group Therapy. Their next show will be an outdoor concert at the beautiful and historic Mona Lisa’s Pavilion in Wolcott, CT in October.
For being only 15 years-old, Laput demonstrates what it means to be a feminist and to be selfless.
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