Alumni Spotlights

Cali Gilbert, '07: An Inspirational Journey

November 12, 2013 by Lisa M. McMahon, M.A.'09

Cali Gilbert, '07, with the America's Cup.

Cali Gilbert, '07, with the America's Cup.

It's been said that it's always darkest just before the dawn. In Cali Gilbert's case, that couldn't be truer. In the span of 12 months, Cali found herself without a home, without a job, without a car, and without the relationship that had inspired her to relocate to the West Coast three years before.

“It was literally the year from hell,” she says.

With nothing to lose, Cali decided to start over and pursue her passions for writing and photography. That decision changed the course of her life.

Drawing upon the lessons she learned that fateful year and using the photos she took of her beloved adopted community of Sausalito, Calif., Cali composed her first book, It's Simply ”¦ Sausalito: An Inspirational Journey. Despite the fact she had published a magazine years before, she needed to teach herself the process of book publishing. Her painstaking research and networking with individuals in the publishing industry paid off when she released her 82-page paperback in November of 2011.

Two months later, Cali published the second in the series, It's Simply... GOLDEN: 75 Years of Inspiration, featuring original photography and inspirational phrases celebrating the 75th birthday of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Since then, she has completed It's Simply”¦ SF: Our City by the Bay, and It's Simply ”¦ Sailing: Our Voyage to the 2013 America's Cup, which focused on young sailors competing in the first-ever Youth America's Cup and offered words of wisdom from veteran seamen.

Becoming an author was never the plan for Cali, a former figure skater and travel enthusiast who attended Niagara as a nontraditional student in the sports management program. She was hoping to combine her love of sports with her passion for the nonprofit sector, perhaps organizing events for local community organizations. And it seemed as if she was well on her way: two months before she graduated with her bachelor's degree, she was offered a job as director of special events for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Northtowns in Buffalo. She began that position in December 2007.

For the next year, she helped the organization develop and strengthen partnerships with local businesses, including the Buffalo Sabres, with which she had completed an internship as an undergraduate student.

Even while working at what she describes as her dream job, Cali knew that she would eventually make her home in the Bay Area. In 2008, she made that move. She pursued a master's degree in sports management at the University of San Francisco and launched Serendipity Promotions & Event Management, a full service event management firm that served the area's nonprofit sector.

It seemed as if Cali had created the life she had always dreamed of. And then her world came crashing down around her. The recession made job opportunities scarce, and with no steady income, she could not afford a car or a place to live.

Reflecting on the circumstances that brought her to where she is today, Cali says she would never have written her books had she not gone through that dark period. In fact, her most recent book, It's Simply ”¦ Serendipity: Four Steps to Manifesting a Life of Bliss, details this time in her life and shares what she did to help get through it.

“I have found that life tends to be a series of fortunate accidents that lead us to precisely where we are supposed to be; a place destined to fulfill our soul's purpose,” she writes.

In addition to her books, Cali released an 18-month sailing calendar in partnership with Oracle Racing Team USA, donating a portion of the proceeds to a local youth sailing program; has exhibited her work in galleries across America; and is supporting underserved children in her community through her event company. She has two upcoming books in the works: It's Simply ”¦ LOVE: Expressions from the Heart, scheduled for release in February 2014; and It's Simply ”¦ Tuesday in Paris, her first fiction book. In addition, she hopes to start her own publishing company to assist other aspiring writers.

“I just think there's so many opportunities ahead of me and this book series is just the beginning,” she says. “I'm just getting started.”