The discoveries of a young Woman on Fire


As a woman, I grew up being encouraged to “blend in.” Into one another, into the background, into myself.

Since childhood, I’ve walked the fine line that exists between having confidence in my own success, yet being modest enough to hide my achievements. It’s exhausting, and even that’s an understatement.

Meredith Schoenberger speaking during the recent Women on Fire event in Chicago with Debbie Phillips (Photos by Heather Stone)

And, then I attended the Women on Fire Retreat, 33 floors above ground in the W Hotel’s Altitude Room overlooking Chicago, in the warm embrace of the WOF community, and for the first time that line to share my light disappeared.

That weekend in Chicago was a life-changing experience that overwhelms me with love when I think about it.

I’ve never been in such a supportive and accepting environment before.

I walked into this situation knowing maybe a couple of people, and I walked out with a whole lady gang, who are rooting for me to overcome and succeed.

It has left me close to speechless (a rare occurrence, my friends and family would tell you!), and every time I let my mind return to the memories of the retreat, I can’t help but smile.

Being only 23, and having the privilege of sharing an entire weekend with the largest collection of successful women I’ve ever encountered at one time, has me convinced that I’m doing something right.

I couldn’t tell you what that “something” is just yet, but I can tell you that I’m not as worried as I once was about trying to figure it out.

I was one of the youngest women to attend the WOF Retreat and I know that my age had an impact on the types of questions I asked and answers I sought.

I’m at a point in my life where the abundance of choices seems superficial; the competition amongst women feels toxic; and more than 90% of the time I feel completely lost, but am too anxious to admit it.

In my experience, women my age often seem more concerned about last night’s episode of Honey Boo-Boo and what “so and so” wore to her wedding than talking about their proudest moments and what their goals are for the coming year.

Very often, I’ve felt out of place when surrounded by my peers, and have been put-down one too many times for trying to offer encouragement and give unconditional love.

But at the WOF Retreat, I felt that I belonged.  I told Debbie that I knew I was meant to be there in that moment.

The Retreat, with women of all ages, was the first opportunity I’ve had where I was encouraged to celebrate myself in the company of other woman.

It was the first time that I felt I could be proud of who I am and how far I had come without the backlash of judgment or jealousy.

It also gave me permission to gush over the accomplishments of other women, and express the unconditional support that had been silenced in the past.

The Retreat provided women with the tools, the space and the love that it takes to tap into your most authentic self. And once you tap into who that woman is, you become one step closer to leading the life you have always wanted to live.

So, from this day forward, I’m taking a vow to no longer blend-in to the box labeled “female.”

I’m going to fight for my big dreams; I’m going to push forward in my next steps; and you better believe that I will always credit the WOF community for helping me to realize that I should.

The youngest attendees at the Women on Fire Retreat: Emily Neal, Elle Celeste and Meredith Schoenberger with Debbie Phillips (who is not so young!)

A Cleveland, Ohio native, Meredith Schoenberger majored in creative writing at Miami University.  She currently works as a talent coordinator for a music management company, and lives in Los Angeles.

Although not fully convinced that the West Coast is best, she has her sights set on New York City in the near future. She’s passionate about helping young women prepare for the real world and is currently on her way to making that dream happen.