The Secrets of a Good Southern Girl

Guest post by Laura Scholz.

I was always a good Southern girl. I grew up going to church every Sunday. I was high school valedictorian and graduated from college magna cum laude (and yes, I’m still bitter about that B+ that kept me from graduating summa). I didn’t drink until I was 20. I married the first guy I slept with. I joined the Junior League. I had a cute bungalow in a hipster neighborhood and a 1+ karat diamond ring. I had a corner office overlooking Peachtree Street and near six figure salary. I was on the track to 2.5 kids and a Volvo station wagon.

But I was also keeping a very big secret: I was hopelessly, miserably unhappy.

The wheels started coming off in July 2007, when the big fancy job with the company that RECRUITED me, that had hired ME to start its corporate communications practice, decided it didn’t need me anymore.

I’d been laid off before, but never from a job I loved. From THE job–or so I thought.

I was devastated and deflated. I’d put all of my energy and faith in this one job. And it was gone.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that devastating experience was the beginning of my journey in living my truth.

The career part was easy, or so I thought at the time. I wasn’t going to work for anyone else. Ever. I wasn’t quite sure WHAT I’d do—maybe some writing, maybe some PR or project management—but, whatever it was, I vowed to never feel that powerless again.

But the universe has a sense of humor.

Once you start living your truth in one aspect of your life, it becomes impossible to hide from it in others.

My marriage was on shaky ground before it had even started. Because getting married is what people do when they’ve been dating for over five years, have purchased a home together, share pets and have no real reason to break up. It’s expected. You don’t think past the party or the day. You just stay on the merry go-round, dizzy and disoriented, but too scared to jump off.

I walked down the aisle in my $4,000 designer gown fairly certain that what I really needed to do was kick off my high heels and run as fast and as far away as my feet would carry me. But that’s not what good girls did. Especially good girls with parental and societal expectations and burdens and weddings with price tags equivalent to starter homes in the small town where you grew up.

And so, I got married, took a honeymoon I couldn’t afford and settled into a life of complete and utter artifice. I worked, I played with my dogs, I ran, I saw friends. And I slept. And avoided. And denied. And withdrew.

Then I took the second step on my journey toward truth.

A good friend of mine had been diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 25. I was shocked. I felt helpless. I wanted to DO something. So I signed up to run a half marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. And I ran. A lot. And I made new friends, ones outside of my husband’s circle. And I realized just how paranoid and controlling he was and how guarded and meek I’d become as a result. Because he wanted me to feel helpless and scared. So I would stay and still need him.

But the thing about long distance running is that it exposes truth. There’s no pretense. You are stripped bare. It’s just you, the open road and all of your ugliest, deepest thoughts and fears. It exposes all that is raw and ugly and real. You’re simultaneously running to and from the truth.

And the truth was, I was unhappy and was married to someone who didn’t get my truth.

My dreams were squashed with pleas to “get a job,” and my desperate need to grow into an adult was stymied by someone who couldn’t see beyond my 24 year old needy self.

And I was tired of being stuck at 24. Of living a lie. Of living into other peoples’ expectations. Of not even having the space or voice or energy to figure out my truth.

So, I left. It was as messy and complicated and debilitating as it was neat and easy and freeing. And I set out to live a life that reflected my authenticity and my truth.

What is my truth?

I find the Junior League kind of pretentious. I’m not sure if I want or can even have children. I hate gardening and will never own a house with a yard again. In fact, I’d live in a studio with a mattress on the floor if it meant being with my amazingly supportive husband and our sweet dog and cat. I have issues with the diamond industry, and my great-grandmother’s yellow topaz ring makes the perfect wedding band. Though I could make more money working with big corporations, my passion is working with small, creative sector entrepreneurs. I’ll never wear a suit again. I’m a night owl and always will be. An extra ten pounds looks good on me.

And the search for my truth will never end.

About Laura Scholz: Recovering publicist Laura Scholz is a writer, connector and entrepreneurial advocate whose passion is helping creative sector entrepreneurs discover their unique voice and become their own best advocates.

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