It was difficult to leave what had been my home, my office, and my sanctuary for the past weeks.
I had relaxed a lot and worked a lot too. I had met some interesting people, and I had really enjoyed some great company…my own. For my 36th birthday, I got no “birthday gifts” which was something that I was used to. However, I was so thankful for the gift I had given myself. And beyond grateful for the birthday gift Diann Morgan had given me without realizing it was my birthday (the timeshare that she couldn’t use).
I live alone now, but extended traveling and staying by myself was new. Doing so gave me a greater love and appreciation for my own company and showed me that I can and should explore more new things and new places even if I go alone.
As my journey to Pigeon Forge on my birthday, I used my trip home as an opportunity to visit people in my life.
So I hit the road. Again.
I didn’t want to check out, but I was excited about finding Sevierville and doing my interview with Pastor Wood that was set up by the friendly lady I met at the pool and would air on Sirius XM. It was a beautiful drive in the mountains and an even more beautiful scene on the farm where the studio was located. So was a school, cabins for boys and girls from challenging home situations, a church, and much more. It was so nice and so refreshing to see the great work being done there. And the interview was good too. I felt great doing it.
Then I made the drive to Chattanooga where I saw my childhood friend, Destiny, and her beautiful family. We laughed and reflected on how much has happened in our lives since our high school days. As I looked at her (and her husband) with their small children, I thought about how much I had wished to be a mature and wise parent with a partner to help. But…S.O. What!…that wasn’t the life I’d be given. I was and am extremely happy for her, but now I’m a road warrior and on a mission.
I stayed up into the morning catching up with my fellow Gemini and cousin, Pam. Pam is one of the most beautiful and strong women I know, and we never have enough time to talk. I’m glad that two days later we reconnected to check out my friend and signer, William Davenport, to celebrate our birthdays.
I left Pam’s house early the next morning to head downtown for a National Speakers Association meeting in downtown Nashville.
After getting in some good speaker training, I went to visit my friend and “daughter” since college. In 1998 Derichia was an incoming freshman at Frosh Camp for the University of Memphis, and I was a camp counselor. Counselors were moms and dads and froshes were brothers and sisters.
She lost her real mom not long after camp, and I’ve been her “mom” ever since. Today, she is married and has two beautiful children. It was great seeing her family.
I then headed to East Nashville where I spent the next two days with my cousin and twin (according to a lot of people), Shanell. Shanell is my special cousin who was my only friend in Nashville each summer when I came to visit my dad. She and I have been super close no matter how infrequently we see each other or talk ever since.
When Shanelle was at work, I took her son with me, and we headed to Clarksville where we visited Austin Peay University and family.
We visited my baby brother who is a graduate student at Austin Peay University. He is one of those guys who is so smart that you probably aren’t even smart enough to understand him. I love him and am proud of him out on his own now.
The next Clarksville stop was to my cousins who each have their unique challenges and that I am trying to help.
I hope I’m teaching them some things, and they are teaching me a lot too.
I spent my last two nights in Nashville with my aunt Patricia (remember her from my book?) and her husband Kent. I got a picture with her on my way up but forgot to get one on my way home. She is absolutely the best, sweetest, kindest, and most understanding, and the non-judgemental person I know.
I, and the rest of her nieces and nephews, am SO blessed that she’s MY auntie! She drugs me to the gym with her and impressed and motivated me to get it together!
I left Pat’s house and headed to Franklin where I got to see college friends and their families.
First stop was my line sister, Tamara.
I hadn’t seen Tam in years, and she is definitely still one of the sweetest people I know. She’s a teacher and mom to 5th graders so we even talked about my new S.O. What! curriculum. She saw it and loved it! More to come on that. (Her husband, Rodney, was hard at work as a basketball coach at TSU).
Around the corner from Tam live the Caesars and the Daniels. Two couples who were all my friends and fellow leaders on campus at the University of Memphis. The dads were away at work, but the moms, Darci and Ashley, were home with their beautiful children.
It was nice catching up with them on Ashley’s deck that backed up to Darci’s house. The kids all played on the play equipment in the background of this picture.
Sweet sweet family life. Like Destiny, I wondered what my life would have been like with a big family and a husband like I always wanted. And again, I said, “S.O. What!”. They have their own challenges. My journey is my journey.
And it’s actually pretty cool. So I hugged my sweet friends and headed to the next city.
In Jackson, I stopped and saw my friend (and ex-boyfriend) from my book, Eric, and his family as they set up for a great athletics program they have for youth.
And at my grandmother’s house, I saw the lady who gave me a birthday…my mom. I didn’t get another picture with Grandma, but I did get one on my journey to the mountains.
I had planned to go to Bolivar that night but I was tired from driving so I took an earned break spending the night with my grandmother. I got up early the next morning and headed to my final city before going home.
In Bolivar, I went to see Susanne, the volunteer coordinator I talked about in my book who was so supportive of me when I was pregnant…and who still is today. Then I had lunch with my mom and her friend and co-worker, Robert Mae. Robert Mae was one of my sweet supervisors when I was a teenage volunteer at my mom’s job…just before I got pregnant.
2 weeks, 12 cities, and over 1200 miles.
As I finally began to make the drive back home to Memphis, I reflected on the past two weeks and the wonderful journey it had been. I had not thought much about the dates the whole time but then realized that this was June 5th. Two years to the date that I spent my last day at FedEx.
I had begun my birthday trip on May 22nd, and that was the date I had planned to leave FedEx two years ago to create a new memory for my birthday. However, they asked me to stay two more weeks- June 5th. So this year by sheer coincidence, I headed to Gatlinburg on May 22nd and made it home on June 5th.
My life. My journey. Two weeks. Two years.
In my next blog, I’ll share the adventure my two years of self-employment have been! Let’s just say that nothing has exactly gone as expected…
I’m Summer Owens, and my passion is helping youth and young adults realize success no matter what obstacles they face. As an international resilience and leadership keynote speaker, author, S.O. What! Success Coach, and creator of the S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills, and Character Education curriculum, I empower people to say, “So what!” to even their greatest challenges. provide a framework to help people see past their challenges and focus on solutions using the S.O. What! Success System (Overcome Obstacles + Eliminate Excuses + Calculate Choices = S.O. What! Success). Through keynotes, workshops, books, online courses, and workbooks, I use life’s challenges and my own story of resilience as a rape survivor and teen mom success story to help others confidently pursue their dreams.
Looking for an inspiring college motivational speaker? A high school literacy curriculum? A middle school life skills workbook? A great example for teen mothers? A women’s empowerment or single mother’s conference speaker? I’m your girl and will help any audience say, “S.O. What!”.