Identity

Have you ever had an epiphany?

Perhaps you have but didn’t even realize that’s what it was.  

It goes something like this: 

You’ve been haunted by a sinking feeling, somewhere in the background.  It’s a whisper; not enough to take action, but there it is. 

Later, the whispers increase in volume and intensity- in other words, more evidence pointing to your initial feeling. 

And finally, the epiphany- the moment you connect the dots and recognize the intended message. 

Some epiphanies are wonderful- “So, this is love!”, “I’m ready/not ready to have a baby and I’m ok with that!”, etc. 

And some are downright terrifying- “I want a divorce.”, “I need to change my career entirely.”, etc. 

Recently, I had an epiphany and it all had to do with self-esteem or rather, my lack-thereof.  

Experiencing an epiphany feels much like floating above your entire life and witnessing it from space.  

Suddenly, everything is so clear.  

Why hadn’t I realized it all along?

I measure my self-worth largely by the way I perceive others feel about me. 

There it is.  

My Epiphany. 

The one I didn’t want to have but needed to have in order to take back control of my life. 

To stop valuing myself based on my perceived self-worth to others and instead (gasp!) . . . 

Be ME!  Free and wholly me!  Unapologetically!  Unabashedly!  Take me or leave me but still, here I will be.  

Epiphany: Scary

My Identity: Free.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Snail Mail

In the age of virtual learning and online shopping it seems, already, so archaic.  

Is that what also makes it so special?

Or is it just me?

The Written Word. 

The feel of paper. 

The emotion in handwriting. 

I received a letter today, just for letter’s sake. 

No holiday or event to celebrate. 

Just a letter for letter’s sake.  

And upon reading it, I felt like I had taken the freshest breath of air in a long time.

Normalcy.

Writing, just to write!

Touching base, just to check in. 

We’re busy people and letters are effort. 

But boy are they appreciated for that very reason. 

Snail Mail. 

Gone, but not forgotten. 

Momma

She said, 

“Lauren, you have to protect yourself from you.”

And Lawd, I didn’t want to know what she meant, but of course I knew. 

She’s my mother, after all. 

Why is she almost, always right?

But she was and she is.

I just didn’t want to know it. 

But now I do. 

What powerful words. 

“Protect yourself from you.”

Amen Momma. 

Verite Sans Peur

I entered an all-girls’ boarding school my sophomore year of high school. 

My initial requirements to agree to attend were that it be co-ed without uniforms and yet I fell in love at-first-sight with an all-girls boarding school that required uniforms. 

It changed my life. 

Aside from my second grade year, I had attended private school throughout elementary and middle-school.  

And then I entered my freshman year in public school.  

Easy to predict, girl from small school gets swallowed by the wrong crowd- my grades, self-worth and confidence bottomed out.  I went from an honors student to failing ninth grade English- the subject that would later become my college major and career. 

I followed the popular crowd and resorted to stealing as a method of proving my bravery, a habit that eventually caught up with me at a local 7-11 convenience store. I used my privilege to avoid harsh punishments until I found haven at St. Timothy’s School. 

The first day, I entered the “school store”, where you purchased your school supplies on the honor system- simply writing in a notebook on the cashier’s counter what you had taken.  

As a thief, the system was abhorrent to me- how could they be so naive?  But as I observed all that I could take without payment, I also envisioned a life I could lead with honesty.  

I walked out of the store and started up the stairs, accidentally holding the pen I had used to write down my supplies.  I stopped and wondered:  it was an innocent enough mistake.  Anyone could take a pen by accident.  But then I realized why I was truly there- to change my life.  

So I turned around and handed the pen to the “store lady” named “Dee” who looked me directly in the eyes and responded without hesitation, as if it had always been intended to be said to me, “Thank you, that is so honest of you.” 

I was never the same. 

That compliment of honorability would become the path I chose from thereon.  

Verite Sans Peur. 

Our school’s motto.  

Truth Without Fear. 

A motto I continue to live by in all aspects of my life, even when it is inconvenient.  

So simple, and yet, so powerful.  

If only we could all live our truths without fear. 

Verite Sans Peur. 

Presidential

Perhaps it is because I’m older. 

Perhaps it is because I have four daughters. 

Perhaps it is because we’ve been living through a pandemic. 

Perhaps it is because I’ve been homeschooling this year. 

But today, I felt like I took my first breath in a long time.  

I’ve rewatched Amanda Gorman’s poem more times than I can count, nearly memorizing every verse. 

And each time I am refilled with a sense of hope I hadn’t even realized I’d lost until it was refilled. 

The term “Presidential” regained the meaning I’d always acquainted it with: goodness, leadership, honorability.  

A new era for my daughters that I can be proud to raise them within.  

Yes, it feels good to breathe again. 

Camille Vaughan

To the Ends of the Earth

To the Ends of the Earth

I will go, for my child. 

We are tired and worn.  

But here’s the deal:

You either give up or you fight. 

Right?

You either accept status quo or you keep searching. 

And in the face of agony, we will continue searching until we find her relief. 

I texted my friends the other night and exclaimed, “I will call Kanye West!  I will call Brad Pitt!”

Not that they can do anything specifically for Elizabeth but that they are considered inaccessible.  

Not for me. 

We are tired and worn. 

But to the ends of the Earth I will go for my child. 

To the ends of the Earth. 

Better Together

Oh, hey you. 

You now working upstairs in our house with four children. 

You who I fell madly in love with 13 years ago. 

You who is walking right. with. me. Along our journey. 

It ain’t always pretty.  

And lately, with our youngest, it’s been downright ugly. 

But there you are. 

And here I am. 

And we love just the same. 

I knew that day we took our vows. 

Baby, we are better together. 

I spent a childhood, dreaming of a fairytale. 

And I never settled. 

And you know, what?  

Neither did you. 

Alone, we are great. 

But baby, we are always better together. 

Grace

You are asleep.

But I am awake.

Utilizing the only alone time I have in a 24 hour day to research alternatives and specialists that might be able to help my child.

This is LIFE UNSEEN!

We are all juggling something unseen.

Not all must be shared but sometimes it’s easy to believe all is well, when in reality, it is a-n-y-t-h-I-n-g but.

This is not a cry for attention but a cry for grace.

Grace to all you meet for you CANNOT know what they are battling.

We must give love to heal one another.

And if spreading this message is Elizabeth’s purpose in life, then, Lord, here we are.

Cinderella Shoes

My first year of teaching, he entered my fourth grade classroom on a first grade reading level and yet, by far, the biggest and oldest child in the class. 

His physical presence dominated but his smile and warmth melted anyone’s heart. 

Through services, he received free breakfast and lunch and it bothered him. 

I took to him like kindle to a fire and he, to me. 

There was a trust and bond that endured. 

So when this child who had nothing presented me with clear slippers three sizes too small for Christmas, I accepted them with gratitude. 

A child who saw me as his real-life Cinderella. 

A reminder that we are much more to others than we may ever realize.

If only we can continue to give with our hearts.

A gift I will always treasure. And never forget.