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Five Lessons from North Carolina

PersonalCynthia Viola8 Comments
Nobody who ever accomplished anything big or new or worth raising a celebratory fist in the air did it from their comfort zone. They risked ridicule and failure and sometimes even death.
— Jen Sincero
Blue Ridge Mountains

Wow. It would seem that today is my last official day in this great state. It has been quite the journey. Raised in Boone, College in Banner Elk, and the past 10 years living and learning in Raleigh with a great deal of impressionable time spent in Charlotte. 

Childhood planted in me deep roots of loving people well and working hard while my time in Raleigh and Charlotte made me more knowledgeable, aware, free and untamable. I'm grateful for the powerhouse women, men and transgendered folks who have helped form my perception of the world, and grateful for the series of mistakes, triumphs, blunders and outright failures that shaped my grit, persistence and courage. 

1: In the words of the Genie from Aladdin, "Just beeeee yourself"

I would have to say my greatest life lesson in these 33 years has been first: to be myself and NEVER apologize for being such. We are all unique individuals who often start off with big dreams and huge hearts ready to take on the world and give everything we are to her. Though, somehow it's easy to lose track of that in the busyness and people-pleasing and we can lose our way. I lost and found myself multiple times over the years between college, marriage, art, forgiveness and discovering my other family as an adult. I'm sure I will continue to do so in the years to come as A.J. and I  learn to love our new St. Augustine home and family. 

Learning to fully embrace my inner ENFP and all of the beauty and complications that come with it has made a huge difference.  Apparently freedom is the most important thing in the world to me. I don’t like being confined by stereotypes or holidays or gender roles or even one job. I usually rail against anything I am "supposed to" or "expected to" do, but when you know who you are, then you know who you don't have to be. 

An ENFP is: the body of a woman, soul of a child, mind of the free and heart of the wild
— Ashley Lemaine

2: Kindness wins every time

To this day I still get notes and comments from people that I knew only once or for a season in high school who say that my kindness helped them through a tough time. In most cases I don't even remember what they're talking about. This has to come from my father. Always a servant, never asking for anything, always going above and beyond to make sure people are taken care of. He provided the best possible example.

There's no need to get heated at someone who cuts you off in traffic, it'll only ruin your day, not theirs. Allowing someone to go first in the grocery line will only hold you back by 1-2 minutes but it will drastically improve the rest of their day. Holding open doors, putting karts back in the parking lot, picking up trash that isn't yours, and just offering a smile to a stranger are all acts that have a ripple effect. Occasionally people at A.J.'s coffee bar would pre-purchase coffee for the next person, and it never ended there; five to ten customers later people would still be buying for the next person. Kindness always ripples, use it well and often. 

3: Adaptability is the best stress-relief

I have never met a group of people more chaotic than my new Charlotte family. There is literally no point whatsoever in having a plan for your day if it involves them, because it will absolutely change at least 17 times, and always at the last second. I've always been naturally adaptable (that's the P in ENFP), but never so much as I am now. They have taught me that as long as we are together and no one is getting hurt, the other details are irrelevant. Stressing out over a change in dinner plans will only ruin your night, it's much easier to just go with it and enjoy the ride. 

4: Love every single person you meet

This began with growing up an only child, alone and lonely, desperate for friends or neighbors or even adults to keep me company. In school I was always drawn to outcasts, and in the years I directed and organized community service projects for a church, I met an endless supply of folks who were without a home, refugees unable to speak english, children who couldn't read, mothers who didn't know what to do with unwanted children, convicted pedophiles who couldn't get a job, and my best friend: a man wrongly convicted of a crime (I believe due to his sexual orientation) with an unspeakable life sentence. 

The stories of heartbreak and love, failure and triumph, racism and violence followed by heart change and forgiveness have opened me up to an understanding that we are all the same. We are all messy and beautiful. All capable of inconceivable hate AND fierce love simultaneously. At different times we all make mistakes, say things we regret, take the easy way out, look the other way and judge someone based on their appearance. Just because we're not doing those things right now, doesn't mean that we haven't before or won't tomorrow and it definitely doesn't mean we have a right to judge someone else's story. 

5: The LGBTQ community has become my greatest passion and ally.

I must apologize here first. For over 20 years I allowed the village of well intended teachers, family, books, friends, co-workers and preachers to form my beliefs completely about this community without question. I've always been one to easily believe anything I hear until an opposing viewpoint is introduced. I didn't hear an opposing viewpoint about this beautiful community from someone I respect until a few years into Raleigh. This is quite possibly the greatest community of individuals I have ever known. Brave, kind, patient, forgiving, resilient...everything I want to be and more.

I am humiliated when I look back at the feelings I had toward this community early on, the things I would say "on God's behalf" regarding their eternity. To go through life without questioning anything you are taught is a very dangerous road, and it's a mistake I don't intend to make again. With grace and patience they have loved me anyway and I couldn't be more grateful for my own heart change.  

It is in honor of all these beautiful human beings, especially Christopher, who have reshaped me in the past few years that I am happy to announce, I will be giving away one free couple or family session to the LGBTQ community every month in 2018. This can also include $500 off of any wedding package. I know $6,000 is not much in the grand scheme of things, but I want the world to begin seeing this community for who they really are: fiercely loving, loyal, generous and compassionate. You can find the details and technicalities of the giveaways at the bottom of the post. 

Raleigh, North Carolina

I have written and rewritten this blog wondering who I am going to offend and how it’s going to affect different relationships... then I realized that goes against lesson number one: just be yourself and don’t apologize. Thank you North Carolina friends and family for shaping me into who I am today. Thank you for enduring my growing pains and for loving me as I am. You will be my home forever. 

“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
— Ernest Hemingway

Giveaway Details:

One free couple or family session per month in 2018 for the LGBTQia+ Community. This can include $500 off of a wedding. 

To enter, tag your partner on this blog or on my original Facebook/Instagram/Twitter Post. (not a shared version, because I might not see it) 

I will draw the first 3 couples/families Jan 1st, and again quarterly throughout the year.

You will need to be able to come to St. Augustine, FL or Raleigh, NC at the same time I am.

Good luck!