I’m planning my 40th birthday celebration. It’s not until December, but I like to plan. Because I’ve started so early, I find myself reflecting on the last 20 years. It’s strange for me, because I don’t feel like that many years have passed. It feels like I did a whole lot of stuff in just a few years.
For most of the people I know, they become morose and depressed as they reflect on the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s of their lives. When I think about my last 20 years, I smile, laugh out loud, shed a tear, and wonder – “How did I do that?”
I didn’t leave college with a plan. I just did what was expected after you leave business school – I went to work for a major company in their management development program. All of my peers did the same thing, and many of them are now Directors, VPs and top executives at companies around the world. But I knew early on, it just wasn’t for me. I hate pantyhose – always have. I love to wear heels, but not the kind that are appropriate for Corporate America. I like to wear suits, but my taste is a bit more colorful, shape-showing and sometimes Bohemian. Not exactly the right fit for a Fortune 500 company. So I left the rat race – against the advice of my peers, friends and mother – and started teaching aerobics and personal training in a gym. I was happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.
I didn’t have a plan for a relationship or it’s future. I just did what felt right. I continued dating my college sweetheart after graduation and between multiple long distance moves, because no one was better than he was and is. When he asked me to marry him, I was shocked because - unlike most of my college friends - I wasn’t trying to hook a man, I was partying and enjoying life. So... we got married. I was happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.
When we found out I was pregnant, we – and my entire family – were completely surprised. My family was concerned because I loved to travel and get lost and end up in weird places and explore and come home whenever I felt like it. I loved to party and sleep and get up whenever I wanted to and… just be free to be me. But sure enough, along came my first son, and I fell in love immediately. And he simply traveled with me and got lost with me and explored the world with my husband and me. Having a child stifles some people. For me, it made exploring and learning even more fascinating because I experienced the wonders of life through my baby’s eyes. And I didn’t stop partying - I just got a babysitter and kept on dancing with wild abandon to drummers and house music and hip hop. I was happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.
I decided to take advantage of an ad I saw in a fitness magazine for aerobic instructors to teach while traveling. So, I taught Yoga and dance and water aerobics at resorts in Jamaica for many years. I got free vacations, made wonderful friends that I still talk to and visit in Jamaica, and I feel like I have another home to go back to. I explored Jamaica with my husband and my son, and had one of the best girlfriends' parties ever there. I was REAL happy and having LOTS of fun and that’s what life is about.
One year, I thought I could make a fitness video just like Donna Richardson. So I did. In fact, I made six of them that sell internationally. And I made a television show that aired for two years. And I hosted the fitness segment on the weekend news for over a year. And I started presenting on the fitness conference circuit. So what if I was pregnant with my second child and raising a 3-year old toddler. I did it all anyway. Why not? I was happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.
Who decides to pack up their entire life – spouse, children, tv career, local fame – and move to another state and start all over again? Me. And it was the best move of my life. I spent a year getting my children settled in a new house, in new schools, and personally making new friends. Then I thought about what I hadn’t done in life and still wanted to do. I wanted to open my own fitness studio. So I did. The classes are packed, we’re hosting private exotic dance parties almost every week, I get to do Yoga every day, and I’m positively changing peoples’ lives every day. I am happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.
Who thought a woman that likes to dance barefoot, water ski in a thong bikini, and knows more hip hop history than most men raised in the 80s could be a community leader? Not many people. But sure enough, I’m the president of the a local business organization, a regular fixture at the county’s Chamber of Commerce, a former representative for the school board, and very involved in local economic development. I am happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.
Was it all good times and easy street and fun? No. There were - and still are - challenges, struggles, mistakes and painful endings. But those things make life interesting and colorful. They also make the good times feel so much better. They create character, empathy and understanding. They keep hypocrisy at bay. Most importantly, they offer wisdom that can only come from personal experience.
So here I am. 8 months shy of 40. I’ve done more with my life in the last 19 years than most people do in a lifetime. I have absolutely no regrets about any of my decisions in life. I’ve experienced life as a single person and a married person, a mother of a newborn and a mother of a son as tall as I am, an employee and a business owner, a face in the crowd and a leader in the community, a shy wall-flower and a party animal, a student and a teacher, a magazine reader and the cover model on a magazine, an avid reader and a popular writer. I don’t have limits. I don’t allow people to tell me what I cannot do. More importantly, I don’t allow me to tell me what I cannot do. I live every day like a new opportunity to create an adventure without restrictions. I am happy and having fun and that’s what life is about.