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Meet Trailblazer Dan Mueller

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dan Mueller.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Dan. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I suppose my story starts where I learned and transformed the most: college. As a first-generation college student and a bit of a social butterfly, there were some hairy moments which paint a sometimes fuzzy picture of my four years in undergraduate studies. What I can say with some degree of certainty is that the lessons I walked away with from my time at St. Louis University really gave me the tools to dig into life deeply and dissect what’s important to me. A handful of internships with local nonprofits confirmed my suspicions that a life of service might be in the cards.

Fast forward four years, and I find myself in sunny San Diego learning more than ever, recounting my invaluable experiences with AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, and the skills I’ve gained along the way. If you’d have told teenage Dan that she’d find her way into a career of community organizing, she’d have raised her left brow and asked: “what’s that?” She probably would’ve laughed if you’d told her she’d launch a lifestyle blog and two podcasts (BOLO for Slow Bites & Chamber of Reflection), and she definitely wouldn’t have expected that her willingness to unlearn is what’s gotten her here.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Life has not been easy, but that doesn’t mean it has not been blessed.

It’s taken me a while to develop this perspective: one that honors the struggles I’ve faced while still fostering gratitude for the blessings that have made my life what it is. The problems I’ve faced professionally (unemployment, dangerous workplace environments, being overworked & underpaid, being asked to compromise integrity) seem like molehills compared to the mountains of personal perils (racism, sexual harassment, bigotry, discrimination) I’ve had to move to make room for who I am becoming.

I wasn’t sure I had any advice to give as I fancy myself a student of life until the end of time–one of my greatest challenges is acknowledging my own expertise and greatness. But I was recently interviewed by a now graduate from Stanford who was studying food systems, sustainability, and justice and when she asked if I had any advice for her and others leading change in the food system, my response came without hesitation: your energy is your most precious resource. Protect it. Self-care is a great start but knowing where you’re valued and your voice is heard without needing to justify your place at the table is crucial.

Truly loving yourself is a radical act.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I consider myself a Jill of All Trades, Mistress of None. What I mean is in short, I dabble. I have a vast array of interests and passions, and freelancing has allowed me to foster each in a meaningful way. Currently, I volunteer as Co-Chair on the Slow Food Urban San Diego board, provide pro-bono consult as to the Managing Director of Mongol Tribe, oversee community engagement for a project called Trejuvenation and am the literary assistant to Peripatetic Poet, Tomás Gayton. In my spare time, I volunteer with the local Amnesty International chapter, I Am Brother’s Keeper and the Mt. Hope Community Garden.

I’m always looking for ways to integrate different aspects of my professional and personal lives. It’s been a goal of mine for some time to receive my Yoga Teacher Certification, and I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship for my 200-hr training which I will complete this summer. Being able to blend a significant part of my self-care routine with my passion for connecting with others is a challenge I warmly welcome.

I’ve impressed myself with how quickly I’ve been able to root down and cultivate a strong sense of community. I don’t consider myself a particularly proud person, but I’ve been able to mobilize folks around issues identified by these communities as important, and that’s a pretty good feeling. Serving on the Slow Food board has been one of the most engaging, enriching and empowering experiences, and I’m grateful for the opportunities to serve alongside some of San Diego’s finest foodies.

I’d like to believe my leadership style, one of curiosity and compassion, is disrupting the too often compartmentalized structures that remove our humanity from our professional endeavors. Sometimes what sets me apart from the others is as “simple” as being the only person of color or woman in the room.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
My grandparents, who raised me, are two of the kindest, hardest working people I know. Each day they led by an amazing example that decency, respect and work ethic are what makes for a life worth living. They’re the ones folks call for help in favors both big and small and who continue to show up for others as if it’s their sworn duty. They live by love, and that attitude is contagious. I’ve never been afraid to get my hands dirty, and I’ve never viewed myself as being above any job. Arriving fully present, ready to do my best has gotten me everywhere I wanna be.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Hanuit, Courtney Gross, Rick Perez

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