Name: Crissy Cook
Location: St. John, USVI
Occupation: Office Manager and Artist
Tell us a bit about what living on the island of St. John in the USVI.
There are definitely pros and cons to living on a tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean. St. John has a population of around 4,000 people and 70% of the island is a national park. It is home to some of the most beautiful beaches with insane turquoise blue, crystal clear water and endless hiking trails. It is laid back and the temperature is 84 degrees on average year round. The power goes out often, sometimes for hours at a time and that can be really frustrating but then you remember you live on an island and you can take a break, jump in the ocean and cool off. Almost everything is imported so everything is expensive and choices are limited. You have to plan ahead for supplies or do without.
What was the impetus for living and working in Dallas to moving to St. John?
I needed a change in work/life balance so I got a job and moved down 4 days later.
You have a "You can't tell me what I can and can't do, just watch me" motto in life. Where did that come from? And how does it inform how you make decisions now?
I am very self-aware. I know what I am capable of accomplishing and what my limits are so it doesn't make sense for me to listen to someone else tell me what I can or cannot do in life, especially if I haven't even tried yet. I might fail the first few attempts but I will learn from my mistakes and figure it out. I also don't believe there is only one way to live life. I feel like you should do what you need to do to grow as a human being as long as you aren't hurting yourself or anyone else in the process.
A year after you moved to St. John, a hurricane hit the island and destroyed your home. What was that like?
A year after I moved to St. John, the island was destroyed by two Category 5 hurricanes (Irma and Maria) that hit us within two weeks of each other. I watched my home get ripped apart, board by board, while cinder blocks and other debris slammed against the hurricane proof windows. I witnessed the entire storm from the top of the second tallest peak on St. John. The damage was so bad that it took us 3 days to chainsaw down the mountain after Hurricane Irma passed. Three days with no connectivity (phone or internet) and no electricity. In other words, my family didn't know if I survived until I was able to get to the other side of the island, climb up a 3 story building and make a 1 minute phone call to my mom THREE DAYS later. I lived without electricity, running water, phone or internet for 6 months. That's how long it took my area to be reconnected to the world. St. John had a limited supply of food and water, our ports were blocked by sunken boats and we do not have an airport. Helicopters were literally the only contact with the outside world. I chose to stay and help rebuild. It's a decision I will never regret.
You have said you are a very creative person. How did focusing on your creative outlet of jewelry making change you after the hurricane?
My mind went into survival mode immediately after the 2017 hurricanes and I could only focus on what was an essential task to survive each day. As we slowly recovered, I realized that wasn't good enough and I had to do more to regain my normal mental strength. My degree is in Studio Art and I have always been a creator in one medium or another so I went back to the basics and made time every day to work on the art forms I knew so well before the storms.
Creative thinking is imperative when searching for solutions to overcome any obstacle in life. Creativity isn't only a word to describe artistic endeavors. It's a necessity to improve and grow.
What advice would you give to other women who are living in the down moments of life right now?
Remind yourself that for every 'down' moment there is an 'up' moment. Nothing lasts forever. Routine is key so make a plan and stick to it. Every. Damn. Day. Anything worth doing in life is never easy. Accept the fact that you'll always have to work hard to achieve goals.
What's the greatest thing you have learned about yourself over the last five years of your journey?
I am resilient. I already knew that about myself but the last five years have reinforced it in the most powerful way and now it's impossible to forget it.
Anything else you want to share with us?
My brother's best friend from the United States Naval Academy was one of the pilots that was deployed to assist with the search and rescue efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in 2017. I can't begin to describe what it felt like to look up into the sky and see Keith fly overhead in his U.S. Navy helicopter. I will forever be grateful to him and the Dusty Dogs of HSC-7 for their strength and commitment to serve in the military. Go Navy!
A question we ask everyone...what do you want to be known for?
I have worked hard for all of my achievements. I have earned every accomplishment on my own merit.
My favorite quote is...
"My life is like a sandwich, the bread always comes first." - overheard on St. John from a local 6 yr old kid and it makes me laugh every time I repeat it.
"It is what it is until it ain't anymore." - Anonymous. I can't remember where I heard this but to me, it is the ultimate 'move on' quote. Things change and we have to adapt. It reminds me to not live in the past and to focus on moving forward.
You can connect with Crissy on @KikiCreativeJewelry on Instagram