Tisha Wilson is a diamond in the rough. For starters, she’s a born-and-raised Nashvillian, which some may say is a dying breed. More importantly, she contains an internal drive and unmatched passion that’s rarely seen. I was first introduced to Tisha via Nashville Public Radio’s “Neighbors” podcast, when host Jakob Lewis peeled back Tisha’s many layers and uncovered a history most of us can’t imagine — how she became a high school dropout and a teen mom, how she endured homelessness with three young mouths to feed. Today, though, as Tisha wraps up her final classes to earn her Ph.D., she has redirected the pain of her past and instead uses it to fuel a much different present and future for herself, her family and those she works with every single day. It is my distinct honor to introduce you to Tisha Wilson, an absolutely amazing FACE of Nashville!
We first heard about you on the “Neighbors” podcast (“The Manifestor” episode). How did that come about?
Jakob’s wife attends my [b.fab.fitness] class at Coleman Park Community Center, and she went home and told him about the class. He came to a class I taught at the Frist, and it took off from there.
How has your life changed since being featured on the podcast?
I have to put on lip gloss to go to the store! I go into lululemon and they say, “Hey, little Manifestor!” I have learned to start walking in my purpose. I have truly earned something, and when you earn something, you are supposed to be appreciative. I appreciate the love I get from this community because I love this community.
People who don’t have a voice look at me, and they now have a voice. I’ve been at rock bottom, I’ve been homeless, I’ve had the lights cut off and repos. I’ve had to figure out how to keep the lights on. Often we are so embarrassed about it and don’t talk about it, but I’m happy that I get to share about it and make people feel better.
I don’t want to be the woman who went through so much, though. I want people to hear my success. My past is only Chapter One.
On the podcast, you say you work so hard because you “cannot lose again.” Tell me what that means.
Losing, for me, is rejection. Losing, for me, is not showing my boys what I have done with my life. It’s not getting the opportunity to be successful. That’s what losing for me is. I’m really big into the word “legacy.” It doesn’t matter about the mistakes, it’s what you will be remembered by.
Describe how you overcame homelessness as a single mother.
There have been two pivotal moments in my life. One was the moment that my youngest child asked me what grade I was in, and I had to admit to him I had dropped out of high school. In that moment it hurt me to explain to him that I was a dropout — the look in his eyes when he grasped that Mommy didn’t finish high school … that was a hard blow. In that moment, I decided, “I’m gonna change my legacy.” So I took that GED test and passed it on the first try. I wanted the next answer to be, “Look what Mommy did!” Once I got the GED, I thought I would be overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment, but I wasn’t. I still felt light years behind. And THAT is what fuels me.
I got my GED. Then I got my associate’s degree, and the next day, I enrolled for my bachelor’s. I got my bachelor’s, I got my master’s, and the day after I walked for my master’s, I enrolled in the Ph.D. program. I want to give my boys someone they know and love who they can say, “Look at the steps she took and what she got done.” We rely on society, but we can be our own superheroes for our kids if we just apply ourselves, and that’s what I’m trying to do is apply myself.
When will you NOT feel light years behind?
How do you measure your success? By how you feel? By accomplishment? Before the podcast, it was by accomplishment. Now, I measure it by what I feel … the feedback I get … how people look at me. I still look at me as this broken female, but that’s not what they see. They see a survivor. I thought while I was running this morning, success is not about accolades. It’s about something internal. I’m happy with where I’m at, and I have learned to embrace what I have accomplished, which is hard.
Why is that hard?
Because I’ve always looked at myself as a failure, especially when I got divorced a second time. I didn’t think I could even get to this point. Three years ago I was in a dark place. I got divorced. There was infidelity. I didn’t feel worthy as a woman. I thought maybe it was my fault, maybe I should have fought harder. That negative energy will take over, and it took a lot of soul-searching to forgive myself. It’s not about forgiving him.
So back to the other turning point …
Whenever you deal with someone you love more than yourself, you let yourself go. And I did, both mentally and physically. I picked up his habits — drinking, eating, not taking care of myself. I was 250 pounds. I didn’t care what I looked like. I was just walking around a shell of myself. I was taking showers at work with the lights off because I didn’t want to see myself, and one day, a co-worker came in. She turned the lights on to wash her hands, but before she left, she said, “You do know, this is not the way to live.” And then she turned the lights off and left. The next day I started walking to work, and walking turned into a slight jog, jogging turned into running, and within three months, I did my first half-marathon.
Tell me how fitness changed your life.
Fitness is everything! It gave me my mojo! If you’re not healthy for yourself, you will not be beneficial to anyone else. That’s why I try to encourage people to be physically fit — having that healthy outlet that gives back to you over and over. You give so much to everyone else, you can give 30 minutes to yourself.
How would you encourage someone else to learn to love themselves?
I call it “chasing demons,” and I can always spot them. They don’t make much eye contact. Fitness is an outlet where I try to reach their souls. That is what I try to do at Coleman. I try to get them to talk and I listen. A lot of times we get depressed because there is no one there. What’s magical at Coleman is they know I’m there. If there’s been a breakup, or they lost their job, or there’s something wrong in their personal life, they know I’m there and I’m not gonna judge. I’m there to hold their hand.
When I was down, no one was there, and I don’t want anyone to ever feel like no one is there for them. You never know how hard it is to not be able to feed your babies. You don’t know what it’s like to go to McDonald’s and just have enough for your kids’ food and hope they save a nugget or fry for you.
What’s your mantra?
My whole vision right now is to lead by example. We get caught up in social media. People ask me why I post so much [on social media], and it’s because I want them to see an average human being who goes on three hours of sleep and still works out. I want to be a tangible person who has been through it all and will never stop fighting even with one hand tied behind her back.
What’s still left on your life’s to-do list?
I want to find love, but in due time. I actually want to do more beach hopping. I only just went to my first beach. We went to Savannah, and it was right there. I have never seen that much water in my life. And I definitely want to start my own program for women. I don’t want there to be a lot of qualifications. I just want it to be somewhere people can come when they’re broken. I want to give them tools to help them. It doesn’t matter if they’re rich or if they’re poor. I want to be able to help them with whatever is needed.
If you had one day with nothing on the schedule and money was no object, how would you spend your day?
I would like to take myself out and shop and not look at the prices. I would also like to show up at NES, and for the next people who show up, I would pay their bill. And then for the next hour, go live on social media and say the next people to come pay their light bill, their light bill is on me!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Trust the process. Sometimes I get frustrated in myself, and I think my past will never let me be great because I run up on these hiccups and I start beating myself up. But “trust the process” means nothing happens overnight. Success is not measured in weeks, months and even years. In six years I’ve gone from being a dropout to a PhD. So trust the process. It’s amazing!
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
My soul, inner peace and red lipstick from MAC
Thank you, Tisha! And thank you to Ashley Hylbert for the fabulous photos of this amazing FACE.
Want to meet another inspiring woman? Allow us to introduce you to Dr. Erin Steidl, OB/GYN. Not only does she make other women moms with every delivery she makes, but she’s also a mom herself. Get to know our newest FACE of TriStar! CLICK HERE.