By Brenda Grays, I Start Wondering Columnist
I am not the girl that grew older; I am the woman that’s been waiting for me! The past is the past – you can’t go forward if you are looking back! If there is anything that I know for sure, it’s that shifts occur all around us every day.
My unique life experiences have given me the insight into how to look past the hardship and realize that life is an experience, and each day is an opportunity for self-reflection and growth. Life for me is rarely stagnant and in order to survive – and thrive – I had to be able to weather all of the changes that came my way.
Changes Came Early
Being a mother at the age of 15, I had not a clue of what to do, but I knew I was in love with a beautiful baby girl. And I had a supportive mother who supported me with her love and guidance.
I lost my mother when I was 25 years old and my daughter was 10. I felt vulnerable for some time not knowing how I was going to go on without her. I quickly learned that my mother had provided me with skill and knowledge to trust in God and that He was our provider. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and kept moving forward.
Let me explain: I quickly learned that I had full responsibility for this 10-year-old precious little girl. My motto was to continue to teach her the basics (love, respect, and God). I loved on her; when it was time for honey, baby suga, she got it-- but also let her know that she had to help me help us make it through.
She had friends in school with both moms and dads, which was great, but all that we had was each other! As a matter of fact, we are best friends to this day!
It wasn’t always peaches and cream. She was able to participate in a lot of activities in school (even if it meant I had to rob from Peter to pay Paul), but by the grace of God and a Guardian Angel, we made it.
As a young adult, I learned to embrace life’s changes, no matter how painful they may seem. I learned not to give up but to act with responsibility, which required being honest about showing up, doing the work, seeing hard times through to the next phase, learning from the periods of struggle, and deepening my connections with family, loved ones and the community.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were moments of self-doubt, of being scared. I had to learn not to react to a bad situation. Instead, I trusted and aligned with internal guidance, which Oprah Winfrey described as learning from Eckhart Tolle: “…merge with that situation and the solution will arrive from the challenge.”
I learned to live in the present and continue to charge my battery – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I became proactive in finding new opportunities to keep becoming who I am meant to be!
Fast Forward to Today
I know that I matter.
I have reinvented myself through being focused, determined and hopeful. I have been inspired by being my true self.
Looking inside myself, knowing what makes me happy and what I truly enjoy doing (instead of what someone else wants or thinks that I should be doing) allows me to love myself at the end of the day.
I am with me all day so if I don’t love myself, then I am in trouble. I am learning to say no in order to avoid being drained so much that I can’t fill my own cup. I love reaching back and giving and helping others, but I also have to keep my cup full from an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual aspect; otherwise, I am no good to anyone.
So what I have learned in this new chapter marking 66 years of life? Here are my aha moments:
Trust God to decide on the new chapter in my life!
Don’t live on past victories, God is continuing to strengthen me in new levels and allowing me to take steps that I never dreamt I would have.
I don’t have all the answers so I acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses as well as courage.
I need to be real with myself.
I want to maintain a weekly focus and come up with a plan to move through what am I struggling with.
I am learning to be my biggest fan.
I encourage you to step out and find out. Know who you are and take time to consider and value what makes up the essence of who you are. Think about what kinds of things you would-- or wouldn’t like to do--in your life and act accordingly. Exploring your options helps more than you know.
Philanthropist Benard M. Maruch said it well: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.”