What I’ve Learned in 40 Years
Some advice you can take if you want.
This may be more of a giant disclaimer than an actual blog. Today I turn 40, which means I’m feeling slightly nostalgic and a whole lot lucky. So sit back, kick off your shoes, pour yourself a bourbon, and humor me for a bit as I roll back through the different seasons of my life and impart a little advice on how to live.
One thing I know is the more I know the more I don’t know. The more I travel, the more I realize just how much I haven’t seen. The deeper I go, the more shallow I realize I am. The more I understand, the more I want to understand.
It’s hard to say who I am. I can think of many things I am not. I am not special. I am reflective.
I remember moments. I remember words, and I enjoy capturing those. I can remember things said to me for years, and I will often remind you if you inspired me or gave me confidence or a hit me in the gut with truth that I needed to hear. It’s a blessing and a curse. (I recently made a grown man — my high school art teacher — tear up. I told him that still today I contribute my photography style to him. He had no idea how much he meant to me). If you could peel back and see my heart, it’s grateful. Simply grateful. You can’t be angry and appreciative at the same time.
I am in fact nothing but a sum of all of the relationships in my life. I’m inspired by others. To be put on a deserted island would be my worst nightmare.
I had a beautiful childhood with two loving parents. My mom and I were very close and still are. She is love. I know I brought her joy because the joy my children bring me is indescribable. I didn’t realize this until I experienced it myself.
Growing up, I was a good kid, but deep within me burned a fire for freedom, love, music and independence. I still look at the world through the eyes of that wild child. When a flower is wild, it grows with no attention and isn’t restrained. That’s how I grew. I wiggled my way out of comfort and set myself up for full-blown disaster — a crescendo of fun and socializing. I spent an entire decade as mostly a piece of poo. It was a really spectacular decade, but it came with a price. I don’t regret it though; that’s how I learned.
After the University of South Carolina sent me an eight-month mandatory break because I was having too much fun, my mom, dad, and their two best friends loaded me up to come home. It was a day when no one said much. My dad was driving a yellow DOT truck bought at an auction. When we were all loaded, we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies. Friends and freedom and fun were taken away at home. My new mandatory time to wake up and work was 5 a.m. My dad told me that if I wasn’t going to do what I was supposed to, I could go to work for minimum wage. He humbled me by making me share my faults or mishaps with others. They (his friends and cousins) mostly laughed, and I realized it made me relatable. All people struggle with something. That is the human experience, right? The merging of human experience with God is what pulled me out of a hole.
Now, I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of. But I didn’t just dream it — I work for it every day. My partner in life, three kids, happiness, and health. I work at all of those. They are my reason for being, and I want to show them the good stuff, the bad stuff, and everything in between.
Physically, I’ve always had a big derrière. I’ve even grown to love that too. My favorite yoga teacher says, “We don’t do this because we hate our bodies. We do this because we love our bodies.” I keep my body and mind in motion.
Physicality as a woman is an issue. We are taught by culture, we unlearn, and hopefully, then we make peace with ourselves. To say I’m there isn’t completely true, but I would give myself a 90 percent. If I had one wish for younger girls it would be that they love themselves just the way they are. I wish I had the time back that I’ve stressed about being someone else’s definition of beautiful.
I’m still unlearning or outgrowing thought patterns — the “shoulds” can go to hell. A simple start to the day of coffee with my husband and laughter from my children are what feed my soul.
A good book, yoga class, and some travel to look forward to keep me going. I enjoy a full day of work too. If I get to be fully me, then I can live out my purpose by making the world a better place.
I know things are heavy and life is difficult, but I choose to see the beauty. I choose to create goodness. It’s an intention.
I can’t wait to see what the next 40 years hold. I don’t have any big plans. I may get the farm started one day. Maybe not. I want to keep laughing along the way. Funny is my favorite. Life is funny. I’m going to celebrate that — with champagne of course.
I don’t need fancy things but I do want to see the world. Travel grounds me. We are all the same. No matter your socioeconomic class, a mother nuzzles her baby. No matter what language we speak, we all enjoy a comforting meal together. Laughter and love make the world go round. That’s the only thing I do understand fully.
I want to be someone that I would like to hang out with. The less judgmental I am the less I succumb to other people’s harsh views or opinions. I am free by being venerable. If we chat, I usually start with the hard stuff and failures. I want to give you space to embrace yourself just the way you are. Flawed and human. I forgive myself, I forgive you.
I had a car accident. A bad one. By myself. I fainted going down Sunny Side Drive in Columbia. I had not eaten in days, and my car ran hot all the time so I couldn’t use the air conditioning … not to mention that Columbia is 100 degree every day. I had no gas in my car and no money to get more. Completely unconscious, I hit everything on that road until I finally slammed into an asphalt roller. My car was totaled. They cut me out of the car. My face, arms, and chest had severe burns from the airbag. When I came to in the hospital, I knew that my life was spared. God had spared me but why? I have spent the latter part of my life understanding why and LIVING fully.
I feel life. I feel my heart pump and my face tighten from my smile when my head is tossed back. I work at it some, but mostly I think I was born this way: purely happy. I’m eternally optimistic. The bad/sad parts are lessons to hold onto the good.
And there is so much good.