Driving down Station Road in Wilton, you may not notice anything special about number 15. But once you step inside Trackside Teen Center and meet Executive Director Lori Fields, you will be transformed. Trackside works to promote healthy, age-appropriate development for teens and pre-teens by providing an environment that develops positive social skills and enhances self-esteem. Fields brings a unique perspective to both the programming and the space itself. “I’m obsessed with rescuing furniture, giving it a new home, and allowing its story to carry on,” she says. ”A lot of what’s in Trackside was found this way.”
Fields has always been interested in stories. She recalls being the person in elementary school who always sat with the kid who didn’t have a friend. “I care very deeply about helping people extract the maximum amount of satisfaction from their lives,” she says. “It’s something that’s been inside of me – noticing who around me wasn’t feeling like they fit in.”
A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Fields found the profession during a life-changing moment while on a road trip with her mother in Maine, they came upon a devastating car accident. “I saw this woman lying on the ground, her head bleeding, and I literally watched the life go out of her,” Fields painfully recalls. “As I looked up, I realized her kids had seen it all unfold, so I ran to the minivan to try to comfort them.”
In college, Fields focused on crisis work and ensuring nobody felt alone. She also began to see that the stories we internalize in childhood stay with us throughout life and prevent us from living in a deeply satisfying way. Throughout her career, she has helped people recognize, unpack, and rewrite
You Belong Here
Fields’ own story of not deserving a good life also has childhood roots. One of five children, her youngest sister is severely disabled, requiring full-time care. “She can’t eat or walk on her own, and we are all deeply affected by that,” Fields says. For a long time, Fields held onto the belief that she didn’t deserve to have a great life because of her sister’s condition – and now, looking back, sees the way she sabotaged her own happiness. “I would think to myself, who am I to have great love and life when my little sister will never get to live like that? I came to see that I owe it to her to do all the things I am supposed to do,” she says. “You aren’t supposed to dim your light because you feel guilty or bad, but instead rise up and do what you are meant to do.”
Before becoming Executive Director, Fields spent three years on Trackside’s Board of Directors. While deeply inspired and passionate about the center’s mission, she debated whether to apply for the leadership position because she thought it might take too much time away from her family. One night while talking with her husband, he pointed out that she had been working for 15 years trying to help adults rewrite their childhood stories and here was an incredible opportunity for her to make an impact with a younger
That’s just what Fields is doing at Trackside. With a fresh look, a new motto, “You Belong Here,” and a fabulous staff of four – John Priest (Head of Programming), Marie Demasi (Executive and Program Assistant), Cindy Moser (Director of Finance and HR) and Lori – Fields hopes Trackside can help its members reframe their experiences, define who they are, and craft their narratives so they are compelled by their convictions and proud of who they are.
“There’s an urgency to figuring out how you want to live,” Fields said. “Knowing who you are is the only path to being at ease and living a healthy life for yourself.”
She credits her high school English teacher with helping her find her truth by exposing her to the transcendentalist movement and the idea of carpe diem, or seizing the day. Around the same time she was reading Thoreau, Fields had her own experience of feeling like an outcast, losing friends in high school after speaking out about something she cared deeply about. “My dad told me that when you stand up for what you believe in, you are never wrong. I would one thousand percent make the same move over again,” Fields says.
Fields finds her own place of belonging inside herself. “I have always felt like I belong next to and with anyone who needs a little help giving themselves permission to live their life the way they want to,” she says.
All of this happiness and soul work can come with a downside, but Fields takes care of herself as well. “Because most of the time I am the optimistic, glass half-full person, people never think I have a bad day,” she said. To recover and rejuvenate, Fields goes back to her Thoreau inspiration, “solitude, solitude, solitude. I am extroverted introvert and need alone time to replenish my soul.”
Trackside relies on fundraising and donations to provide programs for their members. For more information and to donate, please visit the Trackside website at www.trackside.org. •