I've lived most of my life adapting to my surroundings. Since I've relocated every two to three years my whole life, I've had to restart many times. When I was younger, I wanted so desperately to fit in and make new friends fast, so I became what I thought the newest location wanted.
Then, it became a habit.
|The Fractured Glass ladies with Janet Wallace |
not long before our lip syncing debut.
My third day of college, I met my husband. I had just turned eighteen. I adore him, and I'm so very blessed (we have three beautiful girls and just celebrated 20 years of marriage in March). Still, I went from my parent's house to getting married right after college.
We kept moving. All three of my daughters were born in different states (IL, CA, and MD).
When my first daughter was born, I was scared on so many levels. I still didn't know who Tia was, but I needed to raise a daughter and give her the confidence to know who she was. Before she was five, I had two more daughters.
I struggled to find myself. I searched my soul weeks before my first was born. I knew I needed to love myself to truly love others. What was something I always loved?
|With Kelly Martin (my happy)|
I started. It took ten years to publish my first book. Slowly but surely, I started figuring out who I was. Yet, I kept it to myself. Very few people knew I'd written a book.
Then, after a few more moves and a couple more books, I found out about UtopYA. 2014 was my first year. For the first time in my whole life, I knew I belonged somewhere, and I saw more of the real me.
Earlier this year, I took a course from Janet Wallace (Social Deviants): StandUp. StandOut. RakeItIn. Through weekly calls and thought-provoking exercises, I began to further uncover the true me. She's buried pretty deep, so the work is ongoing. But I was hopeful.
Then, I went back to UtopYA. Most of my life I've lived in fear of not being good enough and not being accepted into a community. No more.
I am brave. I am lovable. I am worthy.
Nobody can take that away now that I know. Some people in my life are having a hard time adjusting to the "new" me. I can no longer pretend to be what everyone else needs. I have to be what I need. It's not selfish. Actually, it makes me even more capable of love and giving. Who knew?
|Me with Ginny Gallagher|
But it also means I can no longer be pushed around. I am not desperate. Sure, I have moments of doubt, but it's not because I think I'm on the wrong path. I just need to stay the course and not let fear make me slide back into my dark, conforming hole.
During the open mic at the end of UtopYA, I got up to speak. I've never done such a thing. Never. Not in front of so many people. I thanked them for introducing me to me. I meant it. I'm so excited about the future. Oh, and the extra benefit... I am now going to be the kind of mother I always wanted to be. My girls are seeing me be brave (my oldest daughter was at UtopYA, and when I finished speaking, she hugged me and told me how proud she was).
No matter how much I've fostered their independence and preached about being true to themselves, they need to see me do it. Now they can.
UtopYA is not just a book conference. It's an experience. It's a place to belong and grow. When I'm there, it feels like my heart is beating outside my chance. Not just out of excitement, but out of love.
Thanks so much to everyone who has given me the confidence to let Tia out. There are too many to mention, but I've included pictures of some of them here. I am going to be featuring some of the awesome people I met this year in my upcoming interview series. More information to follow.
Oh, and on Wednesday, I will finally post proof of my bravery and love of this conference... the Fractured Five doing our lip sync.
May you find your tribe. I'm so blessed to have found mine.