[dropcap]I[/dropcap] have an elderly friend who lives at The Hearth House, in Marianna, Florida. She’s ninety-seven years old, and she’s adopted me as her surrogate grandson. I go visit her from time to time. But not as often as either of us would like.

“You know,” she said once. “It takes twenty years to figure out who you really are.”

“Twenty?” I said. “I wasn’t even eating solid foods at twenty.”

“It’s true,” she said. “When I was twenty, snap, I just knew.”

“That easy?”

“Yep,” she said. “But it does’t end there. Then, it took me another eighteen years to learn how to actually go for it.”

“When you were thirty-eight?”


Thirty-eight sounded reasonable.

“There’s more,” she explained. “It took twelve more years to work up the courage. See honey, knowing HOW to be yourself isn’t enough. You have to be brave enough to do it.”

I counted on my fingers. “So, you were fifty?”


Ready or not fifty, here I come.

“I’m not done,” she added. “It took me another twenty years not to give a damn what anyone else thought.”

“Thought about what?”

“About being myself. It’s one thing to be yourself. It’s another not to care what folks think about it. Few will understand.”

I counted again. “So, you were seventy?”

She winked. “Ah, there’s more. It took me fifteen more years to quit blaming people for not understanding.”

I did more mental math. “Age eighty-five?”

She nodded.

“So,” I said. “Eighty-five is when you finally found yourself?”

“Lord no,” she said. “I don’t even remember what the hell we’re talking about.”

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