Posted on by Francesco Clark

So, you have this one friend, and they know you so well, they might actually know you better than yourself.  Sometimes it might freak you out, but they text or call you asking to go out to dinner before you’ve even had the chance to tell them you had a stressful day, almost as if they knew and were pre-empting your invite. You’re reading their missive, thinking, “Say what? Yes!” Your best friend knows you inside and out, and sometimes-even calls you out on things you thought you could slip by unnoticed.

On one particular day, I just wasn’t feeling the spark I normally do. I felt off, but I knew I’d be okay, and if anything I could fake it and power through. Nothing was really that bad, and it was one of those times of the year (i.e. the fall) when you don’t have time to just relax, because there’s a lot to do and you feel pulled in every direction. Your phone breaks, your car gets a dent in it, and you can’t find your credit card all in a span of two hours, but you have an important work meeting, which you are already on your way to, so yes, keep calm and carry on. You’ve been preparing for this meeting for months. Luckily, it goes off without a hitch.

On the way back from work, my friend texted me with: “Roof Yule Free Dinner sale?” which autocorrect had authoritatively edited from: “R u free for dnnr tnght?” As per our weekly get togethers, and our familial lexicon from twenty-three years of friendship, I replied: “Yes, weirdo. Pick a place and I’ll meet you there.”

Upon seeing each other, and not even before either one says hello, she blurts, “So, what’s wrong?” And maybe a little miffed, not only by the fact that you’re wearing a pretty cool outfit, not-trying-too-hard but with a little effort, and also because you’re putting your best face forward, you realize your stress is written all over your face. But there’s that refreshing thing about what true friendship and how honesty just spills from one side of the relationship to the other, that you can’t ever fake.

That honesty is what brought me into the skincare industry. In the years leading up to Clark’s Botanicals materializing, life felt like it had bombarded me with too much: just a couple of years earlier I had hit my chin in a pool diving accident, leaving me quadriplegic. The doctors told me I wouldn’t survive even that first night, and my life turned upside down, into this dull, anesthetic that I hated. Slowly, as my family and friends helped me regain a sense of what my road to recovery would be, I began to regain a stronger sense of how I was to become.

I hadn’t looked in a mirror in three years, and I mean that in the literal sense. In fact, if I were in a room with windows and caught a reflection of myself, I’d burst into tears. All I’d have noticed was my wheelchair, and it felt like the harshest slap in the face life could have dealt. The guilt of all the stress and hardship I had put my family and friends through when I was in the ICU and the adjusting to life made me want to do just the opposite. I wanted to disappear into the background, and not be a worry. Because of this, I had lost a sense of who I was. I wore the same t-shirt everyday, shaved my head, and never left the house, except to do physical therapy.

And just as suddenly as my injury shocked me, the morning that a family friend told me Christopher Reeve passed away, I remember everything in slow motion detail. The Superman I had looked up to and met just two years earlier, passed, and no one knew why. I sat stunned the entire car ride to New Jersey, on my daily trip to physical therapy. As the news was unfolding, I began to realize that I had been relying solely on his being my advocate for a cure, and for strength. But what was I doing? All I worried about was not making others worry.

In that moment a subtle shift started to occur in myself. A resolve was made: one of action. I wanted to be part of the cure for spinal cord injury, and I wanted to become an advocate for other people with disabilities, or for anyone who felt like they have no voice. But that’s pretty hard to do from your room, never leaving the house.

The first thing I did was look in a mirror. This wasn’t an exercise in vanity, but more a self-assuring realization that I needed to confront what I was afraid of most, and it was myself. Three years of not looking at your face can be a good thing in spirit building, but I look busted. My skin, because it stopped sweating from my injury, was an amalgamation of acne, oily, flaky, and this dull-grey tone where I didn’t look like myself. But here’s the thing – I felt great for the first time in years! So, what gives? I felt betrayed by my appearance. Friends would assume something was wrong or that I was not feeling well, even though I had found a purpose. My appearance wasn’t an honest depiction of who I was, and for the first time I realized how powerful something as fleeting as skincare can be. 

I turned to my father: a medical doctor also trained in homeopathy, and declared I wanted to look good again, starting from my skin. Having tried everything in the market, over-the-counter and prescription, to no avail, we started with kitchen-made remedies. Gone was the ugly t-shirt and hospital pants I wore everyday, and for the first time in too long, I left the house without my family to join an advocacy group for New York State. I was terrified and embarrassed that I felt that way, but decided to tear that Band-Aid off without thinking twice. 

So here I am, telling my story on our new website and CB Blog to…whomever reads this. It’s not something I’d have ever dreamed of doing, nor did I have the courage to think it would make a difference, or that anyone would care, but that was me eight years ago. Today, I feel empowered and happy, and engaging with people I’ve never met, and it’s pretty awesome.

All of this comes back to the core beliefs that Clark’s Botanicals centers itself around: honesty and balance. Now, I look the way that I feel, and that might have seemed impossible to me not so long ago, but isn’t that what a life-changing event is supposed to do?