2017 owned me; it was the absolute hardest year of my life. Ironically or not so ironically, I turn 40 in six months so maybe it has been the moment to prepare me for the rest of my life. They often say the best is yet to come.

It was the year that I lost my closest and best friend, my father. It was the year that I learned to explore my feelings. It was a year that was most confusing to me and I probably confused a lot of people.

I also saw the most professional success both internally at the American Heart Association and externally across the world (literally the world) in 2017.

It was a year where I was challenged to overcome some obstacles of things I never knew were problems or knew quite how to tackle them.

At any rate, 2017 owned me and I bet until December 31st still does.

I’ve spent a lot of time alone, quite honestly isolating myself from friends, family and community organizations so I could return in the most resilient way and with great intention. I sought to know and understand every part of me.

It’s Going to be Monumental

I head into 2018 with such clarity and focus that I’m certain I’m unstoppable from here.

There’s a sense of renewal that I want to share with each of you.

I’m stating out loud my core values and my noble purpose. I have always made decisions in my life tied to my noble purpose but didn’t quite know to express it. I’m going to spend my time, invest my money and use my talent to further movements (not things, movements) that create a new path for women and minorities. So many people and organizations have allowed me to create “something”, be the “first” or made “a way” for me that I feel a larger sense of obligation to do the same for others. I also realize it fills my tank and inspires me to do better each day.

This means that I must step away from some things that I love and some places that are familiar to me. Just as a foundation wouldn’t replicate projects or invest to duplicate systems, I know there are competing resources in life. I am called to go in places where there isn’t replication or duplication. That doesn’t mean that I’m quitting everything (I see your raised eyebrows) or that I’m not going to be the serial volunteer that I’ve always been. This means that I will hold myself accountable for ensuring that everything I do is in alignment with my life’s goals and I don’t deplete my personal energy to fulfill needs that could be opportunities for others to serve. There are many community organizations that are bountiful with talent and resources; they will not be places where my heart will lead me at this time.

It’s About Me This Time

Just as I have invested so much in community organizations, I’m going to use 2018 to invest in MYSELF. I’m going to choose to spend my limited free time with my family and closest friends to deepen the relationships we have because I now know we’re on the clock and not around forever. I haven’t been present for some time. When a leader spreads themselves among many, they often don’t touch those they love the most. That includes myself, Terri. I’m going to spend time just reading a book….or on classwork. I’m heading back to school to study Social Impact at the University of Pennsylvania. And I can’t wait! Seriously, I can’t wait. I have an insatiable appetite for learning and applying that data to the environments around me while inspiring others to be catalysts of change.

I also want to take this week Thanksgiving to show my most sincere gratitude for everyone that has helped me during this journey. I’ve reconnected with my LSU friends, especially those in Student Government. They helped me to understand what it is like to advocate for something. My time at LSU was the first time I was a part of policy and environmental change. I didn’t know it then, but it shaped my life! My most trusted friends in Columbia, SC dared me to dream and challenged me to own those big thoughts. I still benefit every day from those lessons and call on them for motivation quite often. When I returned to Lafayette, it welcomed me when it didn’t welcome most. I got opportunities to sit at tables I wasn’t prepared to sit at, to solve problems that serve as inspiration for me today. And my time at the AHA has been second to none. I’ve grown up, quite frankly. I’ve learned to not just sit on an idea but to make it happen. I’ve learned that there’s always a way. I’ve also learned that you can only be a part of change if you tell those around you that you see a way.

I now find myself in a space where I want to share these lessons with others and help them in an easy way to understand their voice, power, and ability to create change.

As we transition from 2017 to 2018, I see possibilities, I see growth, and I’m ready. I hope you come with me on this wild ride I call life. I want you to be there as I celebrate all things diverse and inclusive, as I applaud advocacy and community building. Most importantly, it’s a party (my 40th one actually), and in 2018 I don’t plan to cry but to make a lot of ways for others. Will you join me? Will you support me? Will you choose to lead? Follow my journey by liking my Facebook page and Instagram account. I’ll need you every step of the way.  #GetYourShineOn #Voice #Leadership #Power #Ability #Change