By Mandi Donohue
I got the chance to chat this week with the incomparable Donni Reddington. She’s not only hilarious and vivacious but like this fellow Libra, she’s a serial job changer. When society tells us we need to stick with one thing in the name of “responsibility,” she follows her muse.
For Donni, following your heart, much to the chagrin of family and friends, meant changing her major five times while earning her associate degree at Wenatchee Valley Community College. It also meant earning her cosmetology license at the same time, and using her haircutting skills to help pay for the two-year degree in fine arts and sciences.
After mulling the idea of a bachelor’s degree in education, racking up student loans for a life path she wasn’t entirely sold on, she decided to take time off and do some soul searching in Colorado. “To me, it’s just crazy, right out of high school, that young kids are supposed to make these huge decisions,” she said. “I just didn’t want to be one of those friends that went for their degree and then ended up going back for another. I didn’t want to be in college for 20 years.”
Instead, she worked as a Nordic groomer and did a stint on ski patrol at Vail Mountain. She also worked for the U.S. Forest Service. She toyed with the idea of degrees in forestry or business, but her soul finally rested in the idea of nursing. “My grandma was a nurse,” she said. “Growing up with her and always being a people person, whatever career path I chose, I definitely wanted to work with people.”
She also appreciated that within the degree itself there was great flexibility and so many options. Whether it’s working in an urban setting or rural, working in orthopedic or as cardiac specialist, “for someone that needs a lot going on in life that is stimulating, this would be the career for me.”
She grew up on a farm in Tacoma in a family that showed and bred Appaloosa horses. They visited the Methow frequently. A buckle-winning barrel racer and the last of three girls, her mother cried when she gave birth, disappointed she wasn’t a boy. Thankfully for them, she came out of the womb a tomboy and was always fascinated by vehicles, cars and motorbikes.
She would go hunting with her dad. And, “I was really into Matchbox cars,” she said. “I had a couple of Barbies but I always would cut their hair. I should have gone into some industry with cars or motorcycles. Maybe a heavy equipment operator!”
Growing up, she also always had a camera. After a photography class in high school, she was hooked. To Donni, photography is a gift she can give to people, their memory keepsake. She also loves when she’s able to take photos of someone with no self-confidence, have them look at their photos and think, “Oh my God, there is a beautiful person inside there!”
“To me,” she says, “that’s the most rewarding.” She currently shoots a lot of adventure sports here in the Methow and works with various motorcycle brands in their marketing.
She moved back to Washington and after earning her nursing degree, began designing her own house in the Methow. “For a while I wanted to be an architect but when I realized how much math was involved, I thought, ‘no way!’” She also started dating her now-fiancée, Corbin Massey (“like the tractor”), a freight ship captain. One night, during a gorgeous sunset, teary-eyed they decided to move to the valley full-time. Now they make their time count, biking and skiing, enjoying each other’s company, both with lengthy commutes.
“I had a scare with cancer, and with my dad’s [Don Reddington] Alzheimer’s, working in an environment where I see death, to me, it was really important to have my life set up so we can go out and live now and enjoy it,” she said. “I think it’s so important for people to enjoy their life now, while we’re younger and while we can. But for so many Americans, it’s what we’ve been embedded with: work, work, work, work, work.” When she does senior portraits, she’ll tell high school kids to go travel, find themselves and then find a way to apply it.
It takes bravery, artistry and courage to live past the “flaky” stigmas given to adventurous and creative souls like Donni. It is also why she has the audacity to sincerely and humbly muse, “I’m happy to do your interview but I don’t know, I haven’t done anything extraordinary!” I, for one, beg to differ.