Life's a journey, you have to keep moving forward

At 18 or 19 years old, I thought I knew what I wanted to do in life. I came out of high school thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I was going to head off to Baton Rouge and attend LSU for undergrad and then head to LSU Law, so I could work in a position where I would be able to help other people. 

To help other help people....

But I didn't get into law school. In fact I was rejected from every single school I applied to. I even took an LSAT class where people didn't understand why I was there...I got all the homework right all.....the.....TIME! How could I not pass that test!? It's a test....not a guy holding a gun to your head! 

Talk about a blow to your confidence and drive in life.

It's called choking. Yup....that's about what I did. Each time I walked into the test setting, I told myself "this is the test that determines the rest of your life." Ouch...looking back, that seems like a lot of pressure on a 20something year-old. 

So, I sulked for a bit and then took the GRE and headed to grad LSU of course :) 

I started in Political Science with the idea of staying on track to go back to the law school thing, but eventually a good friend helped me realize I don't need a law degree to help people. I began working with student athletes while at the same time working in government. I was a part of two very different programs but they both allowed me to feel like I was helping people....I was making a difference! 

Turns out my friend was right. I don't need a law degree to help people and make a difference in small and big ways. I pursued a Master of Liberal Arts with concentrations in Political Science, Counseling, and Higher Education (talk about a well rounded education!). I loved every second of it!

After an absolutely awesome SEVEN years at LSU, I finally stopped (because I couldn't afford being a professional student) and in the Spring of 2005 I accepted an internship with a smaller Texas school working in their athletic department. At that time, I was making....wait for it....$1,000 a month! (Yes, we all start at the bottom people. We all have to learn certain skills and knowledge that we are not taught in school.) I left home for the first time and had my own apartment and took advantage of activities on campus and saw a bright future. 

But then August of 2005 rolls around and everything in my world shifted a bit. Yes, Katrina happened and for many people from New Orleans Katrina became a milestone in our lives. Things happened pre-Katrina or post-Katrina (this thinking may be shifting a bit as we get older, but it's still there).  

August you know where you were? I know exactly where I was at that time. I was helping move my mom from the West Bank to the Northshore. We were packing and not even paying attention until it was quite clear that Katrina was indeed coming. At that point what were we going to do? Leave her new house and all her belongings sitting....waiting for a huge storm to wage war? We stayed. We stayed and we were okay. I still hear the random voices of people calling in to WWL and telling Garland Robinette where they were and that the water was rising. I can still see the images toys and clothes left on the high-rise by the Dome. I remember the destruction I saw all along the entire gulf coast as I drove from my mom's house in Covington to my apartment in Texas and then to my sister in Pensacola. And every time I go to the Convention Center my heart still hurts. Yeah, Katrina was a doozy and did a number on all of us. 

I moved home immediately (Rita just happened to follow my mom and I to Texas so we kind of had to return to south Louisiana) and took a job working as an executive assistant. I floated between jobs for a bit until I got an offer from an old friend for a great opportunity in DC. 

DC was supposed to be a three year plan to gain experience and knowledge. I was moving to DC! How cool is that? I planned to bring all that knowledge and experience home to New Orleans and make a difference here. But it turns out leaving home for a place so far away from my family was truly one of the hardest things I've ever done in life and I hit bottom for a bit in DC. Talk about depression! AND in DC they don't give hugs and it's cold so there was no combatting it....

Eventually I got back up on my feet and learned to LOVE our Nation's capital. Working for the DoD I did some pretty neat things and learned so much about myself! I lived right up the street from the Capital and Supreme Court...who is not going to love that! But I still wanted to go home eventually and turns out getting a job at home wasn't so easy. DC turned into 6 years and a husband. 

At that point I took what I could get and hated it! I was working on contracts and budgets...that was interaction with the outside world at all. I took a long, hard look at myself, and thought about all of my previous positions and what I liked or did not like about each them. 

  • I'm a people person;
  • I love helping other people; 
  • I love making things happen;
  • I love happy people and good times; 
  • I like communications;
  • I like being creative;
  • I like managing and executing projects;
  • I like planning....

I finally began to see a light....

I brainstormed and dreamed and asked myself "what would I do if I could not fail?" I slowly whittled my thoughts down from communications and public relations to project management and then finally to wedding planning and coordination. And I thought about how important a person's wedding day truly is and how much money we spend on it....and It's Your Time Events was born. 

It's definitely not easy being a business owner and trying to make a living. In fact, it's hard as heck! When I first opened the biz, I had a full-time job then at one point I was able to do the business full-time, and then eventually went back to a full-time job with benefits and that could pay ALL of the bills (not just some of them). Talk about trying times! Am I a failure because my business hasn't been steady? Heck no! I'll get there eventually! 

Life's a journey people. We're all going to do some form of falling down or choking on tests and getting depressed, but what is important is getting back up! We all have to make that decision for ourselves. Without going into details, I've been through some pretty tough situations and experiences. Things nobody thinks they will ever experience. And then you do experience them and you wonder if you'll make it back up...if you'll ever see hope again. I had to actively make that decision of whether to get up or stay down. I chose to get up. I might not be "30 flirty and thriving" (in fact I struggle quite a bit), but I am happy and I did choose hope over all the things that hadn't gone quite right in life. It's up to you to make your choice. What will you do? 

30something....things I'd tell my teenage self...

If you're 30 something (like me) you're not quite Generation X and you're definitely not a millennial or a what are you? Who knows? And that's just about how it feels at 30 something sometimes. Who are we and what the heck are we doing? 

Nobody says or tells you to live at home if you can during college so you can save money and pay for school. I went to LSU. It was the only school I even considered going to...I didn't even apply anywhere else. I wanted to be there and do everything I possibly could. So I did. Coming out of college I had $60,000 in student loan debt. Yup....I said SIXTY THOUSAND DOLLARS (and that's with me working part time jobs throughout all 7 years). I've been paying on it for about 10 years....and hadn't made a dent on it until I moved in with my mom (yes, at 30something, I'm living with my mom). Regarding student loans, nobody says take out as little as possible so you're not strapped with huge amounts of debt when you get out. They just don't say it....or maybe they did and we didn't listen or maybe they didn't then but they are now. Who knows....just listen when you can. 

When we're in school nobody says, you really should prepare for your future (and I am talking LONG term here), but looking back, I'm thinking they should have told us about that. Think about how that student loan debt is going to affect you once you get out (it's basically a mortgage payment for YEARS)....think about what kind of jobs you can get with that Master of Liberal Arts degree.... or General Studies bachelors. No, I'm pretty sure they didn't say those things when I was in school....they said enjoy it! Go out! Have fun! Take advantage of everything they have to offer! College only happens once (but they didn't tell you that you'd be paying for it for a long time to come and your choices then can very much affect you throughout the rest of your life). Nobody says those things...or maybe they did...and we didn't listen. It's been so long I honestly don't remember.  

Nobody really says "it's okay to NOT know what you are going to do with the rest of your life." They don't really say take it slow and get some experience in different areas so you have an idea of what you actually could see yourself doing for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. Nobody tells you (or maybe they did and we didn't listen), it might be better to start at a Community College instead of the four year college costing you tons of money and time only to not have any idea of what you're going to major in (because who really knows what they want to do FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE at the age of 18 or 23?). We may think we know, but we don't. It's taken me years to even come close to figuring out the jobs I can tolerate and those I can't and those I love. Nobody really tells you those things....or maybe they did and we didn't listen. 

Then we get out of school and we think we'll get our dream job because we were raised to think "having a degree means I can get a good job." But that's not exactly how it works. Nobody really prepares you for how HARD it will be to get a job and in the field you want. Instead most of the time, there is this HUGE stop sign with the question: DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE? And on top of experience, employers want specific skills and knowledge that aren't necessarily taught in college (yes, they are paying attention to your personality and Googling you). Where do we learn how to have customer service or be organized in an office setting? Maybe LSU offered "Office Etiquette 101", but I'm thinking it wasn't a priority because nobody said THIS IS IMPORTANT). They don't teach those things in school....that kind of knowledge comes through experience and jobs. Nobody says while you're actually in school you should be doing this or that so you can at least try to learn those desired skills, or maybe they did and we didn't listen. I came out of grad school making $1,000 a think that's going to pay off a $60,000 student loan debt? 

Now you have a job and you're buying a home and getting married. Married? Really? That is definitely one subject they don't give you the details's HARD. You love this person and yet at times you may actually want to punch the living crap out of them. What happens to them, happens to that fair? Not sure, but it happens. You feel their pain and vice verse. Sometimes it just plain stinks. You're buying a house and cars and setting up family and building more debt (you know, on top of your student loans because those aren't paid off yet). Student loans, house mortgages, car loans, business loans, they all add up. We weren't even married 2 years and we were in debt up to our eyeballs. But it's marriage and you have your best friend and you're going through it together. Nobody tells you the other side of their marriage...and there is another side to it :) It's just not something everyone talks about....

It's amazing how fast that time goes by....and how much we change and learn and grow throughout all of it. Growing up is hard and if we're not careful we can make it harder than it has to be.We did....and now we're working our way to a better day.

Lessons I learned along the way that I will definitely share with my hypothetical children and PRAY they will listen better than I did: 

  1. Listen. Don't listen to respond but really listen...and if after hearing what the other person has to say you still feel the same way, by all means proceed with your plans :) 
  2. You know those pesky things your parents used to bug you about (responsibility, jobs, saving, etc.)? Yeah, they may actually know something so take the time to listen occasionally. 
  3. Slow down. You will never have another moment like the one you are living at this very moment. 
  4. Get a job even if it's part time. It teaches time management and so many other non-teachable skills that are necessary in the business world today (like customer service and a work ethic).
  5. Pay for as much of college as you can and take out as little as you can. It's okay if you don't go to that private school your parents went to. It's okay to start at a CC and see what subjects you actually like before spending the big money on a four year degree you hate. 
  6. SAVE! Always think about your future. Even if it's $50 a month until you can afford more, SAVE!! Paying with cash is so much better than living in debt all the time.
  7. (AGAIN) SLOW DOWN. You do not have to get married, buy a house, buy cars, and have kids all at the same time. Plan a little helps significantly!
  8. Marry your best friend. Yes, the college quarterback or cheerleader is hot and fun and stuff, but is he/she your best friend? Can you tell him/her anything? Are they going to be there for you no matter what....are they going to see past your defects and love you anyway? If you have any doubt to any of these questions....SLOW DOWN and figure it out. 
  9. Don't be afraid to take chances. Life is short and if you don't like something, you should definitely do something about it. 

What are some life lessons you would tell your younger self?