Chapter III: Penny

Meet Penny Kafkalakis.

Educator & small business owner at School of Autonomy and Mind Fit Connection
Instagrammer at @schoolofautonomy and @mindfitconnection
Facebooking at School of Autonomy and Mind Fit Connection and Penny Kafkalakis

This is her story…

When people see me walking down the street, they do not see the story behind the person I have become, and where I have been prior. I think that is the case for a lot of people, though. As humans, we just assume everything is fine and we are so good at hiding what is actually going on. I consider myself to be a quiet, humble achiever, and I like to see others around me succeed in their own ways. Some people think that I’m ‘rough’ and that my facial expressions are ‘angry,’ but I’m really the nicest, open person you’ll ever meet. I’m a great listener and the way people perceive me and therefore the way they deliver business proposals to me underestimate the amount of knowledge I have in more than one industry.

In my early to late teen years I faced battles with depression, five suicide attempts and self-harming. I was bullied at school for being overweight and teased for not being good at school academically. Finding myself, and my religion after being influenced heavily by primary and high school environments made a huge impact in my life as a young adult. Back then, I didn’t know the purpose of my life, why I was here, and I didn’t see my life beyond the age of 19 years old (which tied in with my depression/self-harming).

Right now the only battles I face are within myself, of self-sabotage and being extremely hard on myself. It all comes down to my self-awareness and knowing I can always grow and improve if I choose to do so.  I am constantly working on my own personal development, and have coaches, mentors and an awesomely strong support network of friends and family.

My biggest win is that I am alive. I am living my life with ambition, purpose and impacting many other lives through the health and wellness industry, hopefully with many generations to come. My continuing studies throughout my adult life are further enhancing my knowledge and growth to be able to share with everyone and educate people on health and wellness.

I have run my own business for nearly 8 years in personal training and remedial massage. I am currently studying naturopathy and aim to continue studying, with a masters and PhD. I have also created a website, the School of Autonomy, that is a platform for holistic practitioners in the health and wellbeing industry to share their knowledge and educate people about their bodies and how to prevent illness and manage their health. This vision is growing, with the dream being to turn the School of Autonomy into a real, physical facility where people can go to learn, and to use as a resource for all their health needs. We are here to empower people and reduce outsourcing of our own health.

The most important relationships in my life would have to be with my family, even though they love differently and teach in weird ways sometimes (by that, I mean they allow you to make massive mistakes and learn for yourself).

My first dog, Lightning, he was my best mate and taught me a lot about forgiveness, about always being there, about integrity, loyalty, understanding, love and just getting on with life with a smile, no matter what. And my best mates have helped me through the years, being the catalyst for me changing into the person I am today, and hand on my heart I can say that I wouldn’t be here without them. For all they have exposed me to, shown me, taught me, continue to teach me; it’s a feeling like no other.

My dream when I was about 12 years old was to play basketball for Australia in the Olympics. In my teen years, I thought I would have a house by the time I was 21. As I grew into my late teens I didn’t see my life past the age of 19 because of my depression, self-harming and suicide attempts. So, since then, none of this is life is anything I imagined. But I am so grateful I was stubborn enough to prove to my friends that it would get better, because it did and every day when I reflect on this, I can’t even describe the feeling; it’s like the deepest feeling of gratitude you could ever have. And now, my dream is to make the School of Autonomy a real, live facility for the world to benefit from, in the next 10 years.

These days, I get out of bed in the morning knowing that I have a mission and purpose. On the days I don’t feel like getting up, I reflect back on the people that have helped get me to where I am, and the people I inspire. I get a lot of leverage out of success stories and knowing the impact I make on others just by being here. My loves and passions lay within the work that I do; anything to do with this amazing machine we call the body. I get to work with mine 24/7 and it is the most exciting thing that people allow me to help them and work with theirs.

My biggest fear is knowing I have so much potential, as does everyone else. If we apply ourselves, we can do, be, want and see anything we want. Knowing this my biggest fear; it’s not living to the fullest of my potential, both for myself and the world.

My drive, determination and love for helping others make me ME. I always put others first and am extremely flexible with my time. I am always looking to contribute and give back to my friends, family, and of course my community, because the feeling I get when I help another person is the best feeling in the world. To know they have grown, evolved or changed because you I’ve been there, or that I’ve made some kind of impact on their life; that’s what I live for.

Nothing has come easy for me, as such. I have put in a lot of hard work and long hours to get to where I am today, in business, personal and all other aspects of my life. Nothing comes by chance. It’s about knowing what opportunities to grab a hold of, and which ones to pass on. Listening to your inner voice, or your gut, if you will, has never steered me wrong. Just a few ‘told you so’s. All this work is 100% worth every tear, upset, and down day, because I know we cannot know what high, happy and joyful is without experiencing the lows, and vise versa.

To me, success is being happy within myself. Love is in everything everyone does. We wouldn’t do something if we didn’t love the person or the thing we are doing. Even if we deny love deep down, subconsciously we do things for the immediate love of that thing or the person we are going it for. You don’t do the housework because you like it, but because you respect and love whomever you live with. Pain means change, if we are going through struggle or having a not-so-good day, we must know that something awesome is coming. We cannot know happiness without sadness and joy without feeling pain. Life would be boring if we were always in the same emotional state.

I’ve been to America, New Zealand, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Tasmania and Adelaide. Travelling to these places has taught me that the world is huge, and that everyone has a different way of living. I’m intrigued by how others live and how they see life. To make friends with the locals would be the ultimate way to live, understand and have increased knowledge in another place. Spain, Matchu Pichu, Greece, Egypt and Italy spark my interest the most. I connect and resonate very much with the ancient buildings and life.

Family represents loyalty, integrity, honesty, supportive, belief and always there for you when you need them to help, have fun, laugh, or listen. Family can be anyone with all those traits. I believe loyalty is thicker than blood.

My beliefs now lay with the Native American beliefs of animal totems. I believe that we have animal guides, and the traits of those animals have a direct influence of how we can be; they have no concept of time they just live in the moment and be. There is a force that is greater than myself, which I call my higher self. An entity who is me, that knows exactly what my next move is, and guides me to it. I will receive lessons from my experiences and listen to my inner voice, and meditate on what’s next in a very broad context.

I connect with others mostly through social media or catching up for a coffee. My favorite way to connect though is when I go camping with mates, because I find that’s where people become the rawest version of themselves. The greatest power to connect us as people is each other and the way we interact, understand, forgive and accept.

Basketball has influenced my life, by teaching me to work in team environments, but also teaching me to work hard as an individual, to give my best to my team and myself. My parents have influenced my life, as have my basketball teammates, grandparents, the close friends who I call family, and mentors who have given me teachings, skills and tools to be who I am today. My experiences in health, being in and out of hospital throughout my life has given me the passion and drive to do what I am doing now. To help people get through what they’re going through because I have had a similar/like experience and I can relate and create a deeper connection with them.

Memories of absolute shifts in my life have stayed with me, moments and dates that I have met and experienced amazing life lessons, people and times where I have changed patterns I am in to further grow. I don’t wish to forget anything I have been through, for I am who I am today because of everything I have gone through.

We used to go out and play more at the parks when we were younger. We’ve had the best of both worlds growing up, that of which when technology wasn’t taking over and then into the transition of the internet and now hand held devices that can contact almost anyone in the world. The world now is evolving towards more and more of a fixation on phones, social media and ‘notice me’ trends such as taking selfies and wanting attention. It’s all about getting ‘likes’ on Facebook and Instagram, and if you don’t get them, you deem yourself not worthy.

Relationships are more insecure now, because of the amount of dating sites and apps that have made singles want to ‘play the field,’ until someone ticks all the boxes. They won’t stay loyal to one because there may be a better opportunity for a better partner. We have become extremely picky with mates, and in doing so, we take away the ‘fix something when it’s broken’ to ‘it’s broken, I want a new one.’ That goes with people, friendships, relationships and material goods. 20 years from now, I think we will see a lot of people escaping their actual reality into virtual reality, and people being even more disconnected from others in terms of face to face and touch. More on the electronic basis, which will increase disconnection from within.

My hopes for the world would be that people start taking full responsibility for their own health, be empowered to prevent diseases, and educate themselves on their physical, mental and emotional bodies so we are better able to connect, adapt and understand one another.

People can ask me anything about my life, and I will tell them. I’m an open book, because if I have just one ounce of something that will inspire someone or save someone, I have done my part. I wish to leave behind a legacy that we can be whatever we want to be if we work for it. We can create anything we want, if we work for it.

I am creating a movement as we speak, starting small and in the coming years we will have a world culture shift in the way we prevent and treat diseases and look after our bodies as a whole.


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