By Sara Teller
MEGH HOLLOWELL IS LIVING PROOF THAT SUCCESS IS BORN OUT OF STRUGGLE. In April of this year, she received a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. “I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector for over ten years and had been trying to climb the ladder,” she says of her decision to go to graduate school, although a job title far from defines her. While proud of her achievement, she adds, “I don’t worry so much anymore about climbing the professional ladder. I go at my own pace and hope that I evoke change along the way.” After all, it’s the fact that she’s persevered through life’s ebbs and flows that really matters.
In looking back on her life, Hollowell recalls, “I dropped out of high school my junior year to work full time. I had left my dysfunctional relationship with my mother and started a journey I called, ‘Who am I without my mother?’ I moved around a lot – playing music, writing poetry, womanizing, and living in complete manic highs and lows.”
She eventually decided to enroll at a local community college. “It wasn’t until an instructor told me I should apply to undergrad that I ever felt I would get an education,” she says. “I applied to the one college she recommended and finished my undergrad in two years, receiving a BA in Journalism and English.”
But she didn’t stop there. “I decided to go to grad school in 2009 after I did some campaign work in Arizona,” she explains. “Working towards my MPA degree meant that I could accomplish something. That I could fit in a normal world; a box. I had been living life so hard outside of the box I just wanted to fit in.”
And, she did it at her own pace. “After nine years in-and-out of school, I’ve come to realize that I received my education through my experiences, not a textbook or lectures,” Hollowell says. “I’m grateful I was able to start and finish something.”
HOLLOWELL EXPERIENCED FOUR TRAUMATIC LOSSES in less than two years while struggling to complete her degree – the passing of her grandfather, nana, and mom, and her beloved dog. She said, “Graduating with my MPA degree was very much for my grandpa, my nana, and my mom. I felt I needed to honor them by taking the last few steps towards completion.”
She was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013 shortly after her first marriage had just ended. “I remember feeling like I had failed at life. I couldn’t function – at work or at home. I was stuck inside myself. And I just wanted it to end,” she says. Now, she adds, “Medication has helped manage my psychosis and mood disorder. But I’m still in survival mode. I’m learning how I can be in the now and move from surviving to thriving.”
Hollowell’s mom took her own life. “As I sorted through her things, it became clear to me how hard she tried to live. To love and be loved. She wanted to find the joy of living. I fight for my own life every day. I fight it in honor of my mom, because I know she lived for me,” she says.
Hollowell has since remarried, and calls Naomi “the love of my life,” adding, “She has been my greatest support system these last three years.” The couple lives in Hazel Park, although Hollowell has strong ties to Ferndale, she explains, “I lived and worked in downtown Ferndale for many years previously and loved being part of the LGBTQ community.”
She works for a nonprofit as a development associate, where she loves serving underrepresented communities. “It’s really important to me to serve communities that helped shape who I try to be. A kind, compassionate, truthful person,” she says.
Of how she views life, Hollowell says, “I do see beauty in the world. Sometimes unbearable, unspeakable beauty. Looking from the outside in, it might be natural to assume that the difficult things I’ve experienced would blind me to what’s amazing in my life. That is simply not the case.”