Humans of the Wheatbelt - Lou Johnson

Humans: Humans of the Wheatbelt is an initiative by the Wheatbelt Health Network. Photo: Anna Cornish.
Humans: Humans of the Wheatbelt is an initiative by the Wheatbelt Health Network. Photo: Anna Cornish.

As a young person, I yearned for a deep connection to place and community. I craved that sense of belonging that comes from living in the place where one's ancestors have lived, generation upon generation.

I was born in the United States, and we moved a lot throughout my childhood, including living in the UK when I was six years old. I remember feeling a strong connection to place when we lived there. I would love to do a DNA test and then visit the places I have the strongest genetic connection to, to see if there is any resonance for me.

My husband is from Victoria, and when we got together, he had just purchased a block of land in Pingelly, so it was a bit of a package deal. We moved here from Hilton, near Fremantle when our girls were six and three, and owner built a load bearing straw bale house.

I found moving to Pingelly opened my mind and heart much more than living in Fremantle surrounded by like-minded people had done. Learning that we are all human, that there is always common ground to be found, even with people who have completely different backgrounds, values and stories, is a powerful thing to learn.

My younger daughter misses Pingelly though - the open space, quiet, big skies and real dark we have out here, and she comes back to visit often. I am lucky to have two gorgeous grandsons - a five-year-old and a nine-months-old.

I had a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in my mid 30s, and more recently, a debilitating chronic illness for about four years. I am feeling so grateful to now be fully recovered and back to normal energy levels. I am getting back into my poor neglected garden and feeling creative again. I am enjoying being in my 50s - feeling a new confidence, and shedding whatever is not important or nourishing.

Everyone experiences big challenges at one time or another in their lives. The most challenging times for me have been facing the near death of both of my daughters. My younger daughter went into anaphylactic shock and stopped breathing after a bee sting. It was totally unexpected and terrifying, but somehow I kept it together and first aid training kicked in.

My older daughter struggled with some major mental distress through her adolescence, and it was a rough journey, with some steep learning curves for our family. I am so happy we have all pulled through.

I am the assistant manager at the Pingelly Community Resource Centre, and have been with the centre for more than 12 years. I feel privileged to be working in such a community-focused environment, and my manager has been an amazing mentor over the years. The centre flows to fill any gaps that need filling, and is woven into the fabric of much of what goes on around the community. For some people, it is simply a place they feel welcome to drop in to every day and connect.

If I had any advice to give a younger version of myself, it would be to build your connections with people, make the effort to learn to actively listen, and learn how to communicate in an assertive, non-aggressive way. Act from your heart, and think about what you can contribute, not just about what you get.