Growing up is difficult for any young person. To act mature, be self-reliant, have a good job and be emotionally  secure is the one prize we all want to win. Some people reach this goal before others and some never grasp the gold ring. Others are pushed into this position only to question the wisdom of their choices.

My  life’s journey has taken many detours along the road to maturity. When it appears I’m about to enter the highway to happiness a roadblock cautions, DEAD END.  Finally after forty-three years of paved and dirt roads, I think I’m on the right route.

Where did this bumpy ride lead? Back home, back to my roots and culture. Sitting on the front porch in my  wooden rocker and listening to the chirping of birds and tractors plowing the fields. Driving along shaded country roads and waving to strangers as you pass. Walking into family owned stores and hearing a gentle southern drawl as you’re welcomed in.  Home, where I couldn’t wait to escape twenty-six years past and marvel at my innocence back then.

Leaving home at seventeen, newly married and moving to Florida was a wild adventure for the wide-eyed Southern girl. The next fifteen years saw two sons enter my life, extensive travel and finally back to Florida and a divorce.

I decided to seek employment with career goals in mind and become a new woman. Finding a job took less effort than my transformation to the tanned beach bunny. I dated many plastic men, as I called them, not realizing I was seeing in them what I detested in myself. Dressing in cute clothes and making small talk was not the real me. Being Ms. Professional was not whom I wanted to be.

After four years of this charade I decided to be plain me. Wearing professional clothes and closing myself off from the world, I thought  would help make peace with my inner self. I functioned well at work, or so I thought, but was whispered to be a work-a-holic by my co-workers. I never socialized with anyone and the wall I built around me grew. Was I happy? No! Was I concerned what people thought of  me? Not really.

Being unhappy nor satisfied with this pantomime, I decided to alter my course. Maybe by being myself and dropping all pretense was what I needed for my life to be complete.   

Finding a happy median was the first step to my recovery. I knew  I was capable at work and did not have to impress my supervisors with twelve hour work days or  dress the part of Ms. Professional. My inner self was screaming to be heard  if I only took the time to listen.

Meeting Jim, my future husband, on a blind date was either fate or coincidence.  If we had met five years earlier, neither would have appreciated the values or ideals we saw in each other. To be able to speak your heart and not worry about the others reaction was uplifting. We were friends and soulmates and as the months passed, love emerged from this union.

To be able to be myself in action and speech was the beginning of my journey back home. Dressing in my jeans and tee shirt, hair in a ponytail was reclaiming my youth. Jim and I took trips to North Carolina and he fell in love with the land and people. It was only appropriate that we were married in 1991 in a charming mountain chapel with friends and family in attendance.

Working together we fulfilled our dream last year when we moved to a rural area in North Carolina. Everyday brings contentment to our lives as we view the wonderful scenery and the scent of wildflowers tickle our senses. Deer munch on leaves from the many varieties of trees in our yard and possums and raccoons visit daily. Owls hold nightly discussions from high above as they sit in the trees and search for small prey.  Roosters crow at first light to announce the dawn of another day. Eagles are sighted floating majestically through the clear blue skies. 

This is God’s country and my home. Where churches hold homecomings with “Dinner on the grounds”. Where every “fine” restaurant serves sweetened ice tea with lemon and you can order biscuits with gravy at the local diner. Home is where neighbors look after each other and are always there in sickness or bad weather. Home is the place you go to after work, knowing your loved ones will be waiting with a smile and a hug.

Jim and I cherish our life in North Carolina. We have the beauty of the land and our love and friendship. Our inner voices lead us to each other and this place on our journey through life. The trip was exhausting and filled with hazards but we reached our destination through love, laughter and spiritual guidance.

Never again will I have to question what will make me happy or who I am. I’m the little southern girl who grew up to be a proud southern woman.