Wide Open Spaces

A fighter, a leader, an inspiration, and a teacher— those are words I would best describe my mentor. I don’t have to tell you who it is, because you already know. It’s that person who gives a child-like perspective on things. The person who takes you back to a moment in time when life was novel, beautiful, and the word “WHY” reveled with significance. In school, children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. Nobody laughs, nobody cracks jokes, and nobody tells these young souls that their dreams are impossible. So, why do some of us think our dreams are insurmountable?

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a beauty queen. My dad took me took me to an event I signed up for to learn about pageantry, and it was awe-inspiring. Beautiful little girls were told that they could walk a stage in fashionable clothing and display their talents in front of a live audience if they were able to raise money for a charitable cause. My spirit beamed with excitement. My mother said it would be difficult to raise funds and made mention of my crooked teeth.

In high school, I wanted to be a part of the softball team. My dad went out and bought me a bat, a glove, a ball, cleats, and anything he could think of to help me succeed. The girls on the softball team were an amazing group of women I so badly wanted to be a part of, except I wore makeup and jewelry, and they didn’t. I quit the team.

My mom never said I wouldn’t be able to raise money, or that I was ugly. (Quite the contrary, she tells me I’m beautiful every chance she gets.) The girls on the softball team never said I couldn’t wear makeup and jewelry on the softball field, nor did they say I couldn’t be on the team. Why did I interpret these things so negatively? I guess I felt like people, inadvertently, took something away from me. Pieces of me. Little pieces over time, so small I didn’t even notice. People wanting me to be something I wasn’t, and I made myself into something I thought they wanted me to be. One day you start to realize, you’re not you anymore. I lost myself a long time ago.

I became a chameleon, a Karma Chameleon, if you will – a woman without conviction. A woman without conviction until I entered the kindergarten classroom again; no, not the literal four walls – the metaphorical haven. I took lessons from my favorite book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I adhered to the instructions on the fundamental rules of life.

The last ten years of my life, I decided I wasn’t going to let anyone take a thing away from me; in fact, I was going to take from them. Let me explain it simply, pieces of me. All the pieces I admired about a person and all the pieces the things that defined them, I took them and made them my own. I was a social sponge who hung on every spoken word and learned what it is I liked about that tidbit and chose whether or not I wanted to incorporate it in my life.

Except one day, I realized someone took something away from me that I wasn’t sure if I would ever get back—my confidence and my self-worth. I took myself back in time to the moment that I was most confident and spoke up for myself. I was sitting in my car, waiting in line for a gas pump. I waited for what seemed like an eternity before a woman pulled right in front of me to pump gas. I’m not sure what happened next, some might say it’s the Southsider in me, while others might say it was instinct; but, I got out of my car and exclaimed, “Hey, I’ve been waiting in line, why did you cut in front of me. That’s not right and you need to leave.” And she did.

I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. Because it was yesterday, when I found the self-confidence to speak up for myself that I took away from me years ago. I went to Home Depot yesterday to get a tool for my husband. A gentleman asked if he could help me (like they always do at Home Depot). He didn’t comprehend what I was asking for, so he asked, “What do you use it for?” I explained, and he gave me exactly what I needed and walked away. I was speechless. I was trying to figure out how he knew what we needed even though I asked for something entirely different.

After confirming with my husband over the phone that the gentleman’s suggestion was better than what he was looking for, I went to thank the gentleman. He was assisting someone else and I patiently waited. Another man stepped in front of me. I smiled at him to acknowledge the fact that I was waiting for assistance from the same gentleman. When the gentleman was free, the man proceeded to ask the gentleman’s assistance. Without hesitation, “I said excuse me, I was waiting to speak to him, you saw me waiting and you need to wait your turn.” I turned to the gentleman and thanked him and walked away.

It was a transcending moment in my life. Much like the time my mentor told me, “Now you’re thinking like a marketer.” I could see clearly now. The clouds parted and I could hear the angels sing. It’s a joyful feeling and I want everyone in the world to experience what it feels like to speak up for yourself, as well as, the feeling to speak up for someone else who is unable. Be their voice, be their advocate—because someone is taking a piece of you, good or bad. Your words (or lack thereof) mean something to someone.

Who am I? I am a beautiful child of God made to share my story. A storyteller fueled by inspiration. My favorite color is purple. My favorite flower is a white rose. My favorite sports team is the Dallas Cowboys. My favorite Spur is Danny Green. My favorite eggs are poached. My favorite number is 13. My favorite season is fall. My favorite band is the Dixie Chicks. I belong to many teams, my favorite of which has led me to raise more than $35K in support of curing cancer. I am the best me, I know how to be. I am relentlessly useful, unapologetically human, and I lead worthy life.

My favorite thing in the world to do is to laugh.

If you’re not laughing at yourself enough, you’re not living. Live life to it’s fullest and don’t sleep in bed all day because you can. Sleeping is for the dead and baby, you’re alive! When you stand before God at the end of the tunnel, be able to say, “I used EVERYTHING you gave me.” Our talents are wasted the day we chose not to see the value in them. Take yourself back in time, and remember what it is you wanted to be.

I wanted to help people. I am the best storyteller I can be in hopes of inspiring billions of people. And, in my spare time, I’m going to find the cure for Alzheimer’s disease. What are you going to do?

If I could share one piece of advice, it would be this: Love Yourself, Girl, or Nobody Will

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” ~ Mark Twain

[Dixie Chicks: Wide Open Spaces, January 15, 1998]

Photo credit: Sarah Brooke Photography