For Mari Kitagawa, Organization Development Consultant, most of her colleagues know her as an experienced HR professional in Oracle’s Organizational Talent Development team who helps people transform their careers. However, very few of them know her personal story of overcoming adversity and how she channels this fierce determination to help others. Read her story for insights in how you can find your own inner strength and achieve your goals.
As a child, Mari participated in the Junior Olympics from Japan for swimming. Life took a sudden turn for her when she turned 15 years old and suffered a cerebral infarction in her sleep, leaving her left arm and leg disabled, that life took a sudden turn. “It happened at night; I thought it was something minor and would get fine in the morning,” she remembers. “But in the morning, I couldn’t walk or stop the alarm clock, and I fell from bed. I couldn’t figure out what was happening; I couldn’t yell or call for my parents.” Finding herself in the middle of an extremely challenging situation, Mari had to rethink how the rest of her life would be after the incident.
Fishing for motivation
Mari decided that instead of being a victim of circumstance, she would take on Fly Fishing as a sport to expand her life and motivate herself. “I felt like I had to do it for myself and for all the people who had supported me since the incident. I had to do it for my future,” she confides. After ten years of practicing and pushing herself, Mari became a natural. “Fly Fishing gave me a new life. I found a new version of myself that was bold, determined, and could achieve what I would have earlier thought impossible.”
While mastering her Fly Fishing skills, Mari also spent months reading any material available to her about Sailing and its strategy to compete in the 2015 Asian Paralympics. Her long period of intensive practice and preparation led Mari to the incredible achievement of winning the silver medal in the competition. “I brought home a medal for Japan; my country had never won an award in Sailing at the Paralympics before,” she says.
Victory at last
Finally, in 2016, Mari entered and won the Global Fly Fishing Championship in the Female category for the first time—achieving a global top ranking under those conditions was also a first for Japan. “My friends and family who supported me after the incident were the primary reason I continued and achieved what I’ve done so far,” she remembers. “When I was competing, I would close my eyes and visualize my friends and family’s reaction to me winning a medal—that gave me strength to keep going.”
Transforming through experience
Mari has faced challenges that few of us would encounter in our lives. Instead of finding defeat in adversity, she has chosen to transform her life through victory. Mari now uses her experiences to help and inspire others in challenging situations. She conducts workshops and works with Oracle employees on mental training, finding strength, positive psychology, and resilience. “Connecting with other people is very important to me,” she states. “I find inspiration in encouraging others who are going through a tough time.”