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    25 Years with Olivia

    By Jill Cruse

    oliviaMaking $700 a summer at Girl Scout Camp in 1978, I remember sitting at the Camp Staff house, loving my job and listening to Cris Williamson’s “Waterfall” in the background. I wrote in my journal, “I want to work somewhere that serves women, travel the world and experience different cultures, improve my photography and just do what I love.” BAM! I had a spiritual experience I will never forget.

    At that very moment it was as if I could see every atom and molecule swirling around, and in, me. I could not discern my arms with the tree branches, my fingers with the leaves or my breath with the wind. It was that feeling of complete “oneness” people talk about. It lasted maybe two minutes, but it was a moment in time I will never forget. My life has never been the same since.

    I fell in love with a woman in 1979 and struggled with my own sexuality. Things didn’t work out, and I was devastated. I listened over and over to Cris Williamson’s The Changer and the Changed, trying to mend my heart and figure out who I was.

    My first concert was Meg Christian and Holly Near in 1980. It was my first time being in a room with over 200 other lesbians. I felt like I had come home. The music and feeling of community was amazing, and I decided at that moment I was a lesbian, and it was OK.

    I worked as a P.E. teacher, coach, professional Girl Scout and city recreation supervisor for nine years, but I was no longer passionate about my work. In 1989, I quit my job, took out all of my savings and went back to school to learn computer graphics. Six-months later I was freelancing with my friend Jill Davey at JPD, and Judy Dlugacz hired me at Olivia to design the first Cruise Program schedule in November of 1989.

    At first it was only 10–20 hours a week, then Judy started having me do other projects like warehouse shipping, along with other odd jobs. It quickly turned into a full-time position by April of 1990. I answered the phones, took reservations for the trips, processed all the monthly billing, hired the staff and artists, wrote up job descriptions, planned the daily cruise program and more. Soon, Judy offered me the cruise director position. All my Girl Scout, P.E. and coaching experiences came out to play, and I felt like this job was made for me.

    I spoke to Meg Christian several years ago about this Olivia Angel that always appears to help avert or solve potential problems. Meg said she was present during the collective days too. And to this day, that Olivia Angel is still watching over us all.

    olivia2I am still amazed at how my 1978 journal entry came true and how important service to others, doing what you love, intention and gratitude is in our lives. I still feel like the luckiest woman in the world, and I thank Judy and our Olivia Angel every day. To know I have been able to combine my love to serve the women of this community, my passion for photography and my spiritual journey all into my job and life is incredible. Judy started a company with the right intentions—to serve and make a difference for the lesbian community. I am, and will be, forever grateful. Looking forward to the next 25 years!

    Jill Cruse is Vice President of Guest Experience at Olivia.