I was raised by my grandparents in a small village north of Trinidad and Tobago called Grande Riviere. My grandmother, the matriarch of our family, was and still is a nurturer and caretaker. She is the biological mother of nine children and then raised nephews and many grandchildren, including me. My early life was happy. We were not rich by any means, but I always felt rich. It appeared we had everything we needed on the land surrounding our home and the land my grandfather cultivated. In my imagination, our land was similar to the Garden of Eden because there were so many varieties of fruits and herbs.
When I was 11 years old, I left my grandmother’s home to go live with my parents in the city of Port-of-Spain. At 16, my entire immediate family, mom, dad, and siblings, migrated to the United States. Like most immigrants, we arrived with the clothes we were wearing, what we had in our suitcases, and hearts filled with dreams.
At eighteen years old I got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter at nineteen. I encountered many struggles in my personal life and my attempt at a professional life. Some people even said teenage motherhood would ruin my life. My focus, however, was to be the best mother I could be. With hard work, sometimes isolation, and commitment, I took on several jobs and graduated with a B.S in biological science and M.S.Ed in teaching and learning. I then made the difficult decision to postpone medical school for a career in health and science education because I needed to earn money immediately.
Life in the classroom was fulfilling and frustrating, and somewhere around 38 years of age, a feeling of loss and emptiness began to creep into my heart. I felt alone. I felt deprived, not of love, but of purpose. That isolation I created for myself during my educational endeavors had somehow trickled into my everyday existence.
“What’s this emptiness?”, I would ask myself. The answer came in a whisper to me — “This is just a phase. It will go away.” But there was also an opposing voice that would say, “seek out your purpose, you’ll find it.” I eventually chose to listen to what I considered the opposing voice; and slowly, it began to dawn on me that I was living a legacy of self-sacrifice.
Growing up, the narrative was that being a great mother meant giving your children and the people who depended on you all they needed to succeed in life, and they, in turn, would take care of your needs. And that worked, back then. Without realizing it, that narrative had impacted the way I viewed my life and motherhood. I had to remind myself that I was living in a very different time, which required a different narrative. My female ancestors and their peers worked with what they had, which was very little. I knew it was time to change the story I’d been telling myself. I couldn’t blame my husband and children. It was not their fault. They were simply taking what I was willingly giving, all of me.
That realization and awareness was the catalyst to acceptance and action. I began to practice intentional self-care, a word I first heard on Oprah when she was interviewing a guest named Cheryl Richardson in 1992. Cheryl was talking about self-care and said that women should put themselves first on their to-do list. The audience gasped and some booed. They were mortified that this woman was suggesting putting self-first. I remember loving the idea and marinating on it for a bit — approximately an hour or so. But that was it. The thought wouldn’t cross my mind for a long time after that.
After self-care was put in action, the desire became addictive. Caring for one area in my life and seeing the results led to the realization that there were so many other areas that needed care. I ultimately started exploring and dabbling in the skills I loved while growing up. When I was six years old, my grandmother taught me how to extract coconut oil on the stovetop. She also made sure I learned a lot of skills, including sewing, crocheting, making stuffed animals, floor rugs, and more.
While exploring old skills, I gravitated to essential oils, perhaps because they promote wellness. I delved into oil extraction and learned everything I could about the properties. This opened up a doorway to beauty products. I remember during my research and came across Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter. I was in awe. Seeing her rise made me realize that creating meaningful and impactful products was entirely possible for someone like me. She became my second friend in my head. The work to create something meaningful began in my kitchen where I formulated my first three products — a body scrub, lotion, and wash. I set a deadline to launch. One year from the day I started experimenting, I launched my first company.
Self-care allowed me to re-discover my passion and my purpose, and I was not about to turn back. I knew that it would take a lot more work to fan the flames I had created. So at the age of 40, I resigned from my job and took a self-care sabbatical. The reward has been continued personal growth and development, which I acquired via a community that consisted of friends, family, teachers, healers, and gurus. I learned to listen, to love myself, fully. I softened my edges and altered my ego. In the process, I became a certified health and wellness coach via the school of Integrative Nutrition and also obtained a certification in detoxification from the School of Naturopathic medicine in the UK.
While attending the school of Integrative Nutrition, I was inspired by their circle of life diagram, which led me to create my own “Six Pillars of Self-Care” (Purpose, Sustenance, Recreation, Finance, Restorative Practice, Relationships). Since self-care was the word that resonated with what I needed, I used the pillars to help me identify the areas in my life that needed care. I would later introduce the pillars to the women I taught and coached. It was important for me to share with these women what I learned about self-care and how it impacted and continues to impact my life. Self-care is emotional, enlightening, uplifting, soulful, spiritual, divine, and transformational.
I also developed the following self-care creed:
Self-care is the vehicle that can take you to your unique happiness. It can take you from woman undone to on top of this wonderful world. It can take you from fed up to freedom, from unhealthy to healthy, from broken to bringing in the big bucks, from fearful to fearless, from confusion to clarity, from passionless to purposeful, from unhappy to blissful, from staycationer to global vacationer, from giving up to giving back. The possibilities are endless. It is, in essence, the lack of self-care that prohibits us from living the lives we truly want.
I fully understand now that my life is bigger than the examples of my childhood and the fact that I was a teen mother. In fact, I truly believe I was chosen to carry that specific child for a specific reason. Without her, certain events in the world would not have unfolded. Ultimately, I realized that what some were calling my midlife crisis was, in fact, a midlife transition – a transition from caring for everyone else and leaving myself undone to caring for myself, and in turn supporting others with love, goodness, and grace.
We only need to align ourselves with what we truly believe in our hearts is right, work hard, and consistently, and let God and the universe guide us to our destiny.
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