Hindsight is 20/20


Photography by David and Drew Photography

Sometimes we can only begin to understand the full tapestry of our lives through the lens of hindsight. Looking back reveals that each event – the good, the bad, and the in-between – is a single thread woven into a larger design. The trick, then, is to reflect on the past with grace, recognizing how our life circumstances played a role in making us who we are today. Here, six local women write a letter to their past selves, sharing words of wisdom that only time can bring.

Inza Hagins-Dyer

Inza Hagins-Dyer

Dear 5-Year-Old Inza,

Kindness is not weakness. At the age of 5, on the tense, segregated streets of Montgomery, Alabama, you learned a few things. You could not go into most places because you were something called “colored.” Being colored was not good, or some people thought. You kept looking at your arm and wondering what was so wrong with the brown skin. Then something startling happened. On a crowded sidewalk you found yourself staring into the eyes of a man – a white man. It was not the color of his skin, but the look of intense sadness in his eyes that shocked you. He was on the ground because his legs were missing, and he was selling pencils out of tin cup. The grownups guided you away because of some disturbance on the street, but you had a screaming fit to go back and buy one of those pencils. You were given all the reasons that it was wrong for a girl like you to care about a man like him. The streets had become dangerous (riots broke out later), but you went back and bought a handful of pencils. The man’s smile broke your heart. That day, some said you were too soft-hearted for your own good, but they were wrong. There is no such thing as caring too much for others, especially when they are hurting. Be kind when the world tells you to be the opposite. It is the strongest thing
a person can do.

Your Future Self

barby reeves

Barby Reeves

Dear 16-Year-Old Barby,

As columnist Lewis Grizzard once said, to be born in the South is to be “Southern by the grace of God.” Right now you do not know that, but as you get older, you will understand this truth with absolute certainty! It will color your biography in ways that will leave a defining mark on your life.

We Southern women have in our DNA what our grandmothers called “grit,” which is an old-fashioned word that means someone has courage, resolve, and tenacity.

Having grit means that during the times when life does not come in well-ordered circumstances, you will persevere. Having grit means you will wisely surround yourself with people who can speak into your life with both truth and love. Having grit means that who you appear to be and the reality of who you really are as a person are exactly the same. And, from the first to the last, having grit means that when you are my age, you will look backwards with the hope of seeing the purpose for your life – moments past but not forgotten – and see where God has been there all along.

Your Future Self

Alison Lebovitz

Dear 10-Year-Old Alison,

I just wanted to let you know how much I think about you these days. Even though you were never perfect (far from it!), I wouldn’t change a thing about you or your choices because they made you into the woman you are today. 

With that said, the curly hair you embraced with tempered enthusiasm as a teenager is now miraculously straight thanks to modern technology. And your baby sister, Amanda, who drove you crazy? Well, atonement has included co-hosting a weekly podcast with her for nearly seven years and counting. 

When I look at this photo of you, I think about the many years you spent at the Birmingham Jewish Day School as one of the few girls or even the only girl in your class. Extracurricular activities were a social lifeline, so much so that once, in fifth or sixth grade, you tracked down a girl on your softball team named Sally Carl by calling every single Carl in the white pages until you happened to reach her grandparents. You invited her to spend the night on a Friday, knowing it meant eating Shabbat dinner with your family and grandparents. For a lot of pre-teens this would have been a mortifying deal-breaker, but you were so proud of your family and your Jewish faith then and continue to be today. And for that, I am most grateful.

P.S. Your children will no doubt Google the term “white pages.”

Your Future Self

Becky Hansard

Dear 9-Year-Old Becky,

I know this last year after losing your brother, David, has been sad, scary, and even confusing. But trust me, things are going to get better. Make sure you keep hopping on that Silverdale Baptist Church bus as it swings by your house. Your growing relationship with God is what is going to carry you through the ups and downs of the rest of your life. Those friends you are making at church? They are priceless. In fact, they will become lifelong friends who will stick by you through thick and thin. And you know what else? All those hours spent pretending that you are a teacher – those dreams will come true. Because believe it or not, someday that church that you love will start a school. And one day, little ole you will celebrate 25 years of serving as the head of that school!

So Becky, keep learning and growing in your Christian faith, keep loving that tight-knit family of yours, keep in touch with those golden friends, and keep “playing teacher.” God has a unique purpose for your life, and one day you will see it all come full circle.

Your Future Self

erin may

Erin May

Photo by Lindsey Lowe

Dear 26-Year-Old Erin,

Get ready. You have a very unique life ahead of you. Monotony will not be part of it!

You know you are a problem solver, and you find joy in contributing to a whole. You will lean into this all your life because you love to make life easier for others. This will be part of your gift of service, but keep this in check. You need to learn to make yourself a priority too. 

You and your husband will build fantastic businesses together, and work A LOT, but take time to celebrate the successes and be thankful. Spend more time with your family. Not just holidays or doing things that need to be done around the house. Normal, everyday time – this is what you need to remember.

Please find a wonderful doctor who you like enough to be open and ask questions. You will have a battle with breast cancer, and it might have been caught earlier, so please take care of yourself and make your health a priority all the time.

Through every phase of your life, your husband will be a rock, your complement, and your best friend through thick and thin. Yes, Brian who you just started dating, marry him, he’s the one God planned for you. He will make you better and the same for him. 

Your Future Self

christie sell

Christie Sell

Dear 32-Year-Old Christie,

Please know that while there have been many times it seems like we should have made different decisions, I believe any different choices would change how life has evolved. I would change nothing if it meant changing the children, family, friends and career that we have. Nonetheless, I impart to you some advice I’ve learned from our good and bad experiences that will help our future:

First, you can save money, but not time, so save your money and spend your time wisely focusing on relationships and experiences. Second, do not worry about what other people think. It is none of your business and they are not thinking about you when they go to bed at night. Third, use sunscreen everyday! That habit will save us time and money trying to undo all the sun damage. Fourth, start yoga now – for your mind and body! Quit running so many miles and spend that time with your children. That will also save your feet so that you will be able to run those miles when you have more time than you wish once they have left the nest. And finally, remember to just be, to breathe, and to leave nothing kind or loving unsaid.

Your Future Self

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