I will never forget the first time I met Cassandra Neece, or Cass, as she is known to most. I had just deplaned from my one way flight to Nashville, and was wrapping my head around the fact that I had just left my home of the last twelve years for an adventure in a new city. My husband and I were driving to Inner Light Yoga for the first time, and I was about to meet all of the current teachers and join them for a training weekend. It reminded me of that first day of school feeling when you don't know anyone, and you hope to God that someone will talk to you. Upon entering the yoga room for the first time and taking in the amazingness of it all, a bright and shining brunette walked directly up to me, smiled, and opened her arms for a hug. "Hi! I'm Cass!" she said. I hugged her right back and could feel myself begin to relax. I was so grateful for her kindness, and after a long day filled with so many emotions, that hug made me feel like I was right where I was supposed to be.
Over the past nine months I have had the joy of getting to know Cass, and have experienced first hand how her kindness and friendly nature translate into everything that she does. When you see the smiling faces of her yoga students, hear the laughter of her friends, and witness the happiness that pours out of her boyfriend Brent in her presence, its easy to see how much love she brings to life everyday. She's one of those people who just puts you at ease, gives you an immediate sense of comfort, and also makes you feel cooler just by being around her. She arrived for our photo shoot wearing an adorable neck scarf that made her look effortlessly beautiful and totally put together, and made me immediately want to go out and buy one for myself. So it's no surprise that Cass owns her own business where she creates brand elements for other entrepreneurs, designing and creating in a way that "empowers others to take the leap and go after their dreams, whatever they may be."
And for as much leap taking as she has helped her clients do, she's getting herself ready to take a huge leap of her own. Over breakfast at Marche Artisan Foods in East Nashville, Cass shared with me that she and Brent have been on a journey together of not wanting to do what is "normal" in life. They both have passions they want to pursue, and recently decided that the time was now to go after them. As Cass transitioned into working for herself full-time, Brent began growing his clientele in his photography business (@brentosthefreshmaker), and has quickly found success. He describes himself as "an unshakable optimist whose best days are spent exploring new places and meeting new faces", and he's about to fill many days in the coming year doing just that.
At the end of this year, Cass and Brent will be spending two months living in Nicaragua, and then coming back to the US to travel the country in a camper, stopping wherever they would like along the way. It's one of those trips that people often daydream about taking, but never actually do. Well these two are doing it, and their why behind it is simply inspiring.
A photography opportunity for Brent at a resort in Nicaragua is what put their plan in motion, and soon Cass found a position at that same resort as the Activities Director. The role offers her a flexible schedule which gives her the possibility to take advantage of something she's been craving lately--the space to create. So much of her time this past year has been devoted to creating designs and strategies to help other businesses grow. And although she finds so much enjoyment out of running her own business, she's hoping to use her time in Nicaragua to "live in the now", to get grounded in nature, and to create space to develop herself personally.
Cass explained that early in her career she was "scared all the time worrying about where the next dollar would come from" and that she felt like she was living in a society where people were "always looking for the next thing." She wants to choose her own path in life, rather than buy into what she "should" be doing at a certain age, or at a certain point in her relationship. "Why can't we just live how we want to live all the time?" she says. She shared with me that she and Brent are on this journey together, and during an Alaskan cruise they dove deep into their relationship and realized it is better to try something and fail than not try at all. They draw courage from each other, and feel more grounded in who they are now more than ever.
After they wrap up their Nicaraguan adventure, Cass and Brent will return home to Nashville for just enough time to donate and sell the majority of their belongings to prepare for the second half of their journey together--a cross-country camper trip to explore anywhere and everywhere. Talking to Cass about their thoughts behind the camper adventure was one of the most refreshing and inspiring conversations I have had in a long time. "We have always wanted to travel," she explains. "and by clearing away all of our stuff, we are making space for what we want. By living less expensively, we can create more space for adventure and more space for life." Cass started her clearing away strategies in her own closet, and was surprised at how easy it was to clean out other areas of her life once she got started. "I asked myself, 'how do I want my style to be?' and then created a closet that supported that. I wear what makes me feel good."
"By clearing away all of our stuff, we are making space for what we want."
So let me add one more quality to the many that Cassandra Neece brings out in others and definitely brings out in me-- SHE INSPIRES. She inspires me to get more out of life by living with less. She inspires me to be courageous and to go for it. She inspires me to spend time with the people I love and enjoy every second. And let's be real--she inspires me to clean out my closet and get myself an adorable little neck scarf. I'll miss her dearly while she's off exploring, grounding, and straight up living, but I'll be here in Nashville upon her return ready to give her a huge hug and welcome her home-- just like she did for me.