A Different Tribe

A Different Tribe

Nicole Malachowski |

From the time I was a child, I always knew I would fly. I started flying lessons when I was twelve years old, soloed at sixteen years old, was on the collegiate soaring (glider) team in college at the US Air Force Academy, when to Air Force pilot training, and finally became a fighter pilot. When my military aviation career took an unwelcome hit from an unexpected tickborne infection, I focused on my physical health, only for my doctors to tell me that I have a brain injury from my infection and would never return to the jet. Besides the physical toll on my body and brain, my psychoemotional state took a hit, too. For a while, I didn’t know who I was anymore: I had been part of my USAF tribe for my whole adult life, but my tie was abruptly cut and it seemed that I would never fly again…


Eventually, through a lot of hard work and with limitless support from my doctors, family, and friends, I got my illness under control enough to reestablish a sustainable quality of life. I finally could see through the fog of my infections and sickness to new cloudless climes and starry skies, the best of dark and bright: tickborne illness advocacy, professional motivational speaking, and leadership consulting. I reclaimed my personal life and launched into a new professional world. Through the boundless firmament of advocacy and public speaking, I have joined a different tribe. I now have the express honor of supporting people with tickborne diseases and other invisible illnesses, as well as encouraging people to be the best versions of themselves personally and professionally.


Joining a different tribe can be overwhelming and unsettling at first, but it can be one of the best things you do to grow. It can be the step you need to evolve, grow, and thrive. A new tribe with new ties that bind can lead you to the best version of yourself. If my story imparts any valuable thing, let it be that joining a new tribe broadens your horizons, clarifies your vision, and allows you to contribute to the world in a more meaningful way. I am still flying.

Follow Nicole on Social Media!

Book Nicole!