My pendulum has swung from poverty to plenty. From fear to joy. From self-doubt to self- love. At eight, I lived in fear, running, hiding, and wondering what the next day was going to bring. At sixty-eight, I live in gratitude, hiking, writing, and have countless choices for the next day.

Writing my book, allowed me to appreciate how many lives I’ve lived. I’ve been a beloved child that had everything she wanted to living in a broken-down trailer in Jackson Mississippi, hungry and afraid. I’ve been a poor immigrant that no one wanted to be friends with and a doctor that was adored by thousands of patients.

Isn’t life ironic? Just when you’re going in one direction, life abruptly makes a right turn and you are going in another. What’s important is the journey and how you traverse it, no matter what path you find yourself on.

Navigating this winding road called life, can be tricky. I’ve found a way to get to my final destination but it required, compassion, love, and a large dose of determination. I’m not saying the ride wasn’t difficult, but it didn’t have to make you feel like an accident ready to happen either.

First, determine what you want your final destination to look like; money, marriage, higher education, children, to be president. It was important for me to believe from the depth of my soul, that my destination was my mother…..I wasn’t going to settle for anything less; period! So, at eight years old, I prayed, dreamt, visualized, broadcasted, and persevered toward my goal; I was victorious in the end; love conquered all.

At twelve, my second life began. I had to determine what I wanted once again; I wanted to be somebody! Somebody people wanted to be friends with, somebody that wasn’t looked down on, somebody that could hold her head up high and feel good about herself. This second life was a little more complicated. I was poor, lived in a ghetto, and had little opportunities. The one thing I did have, was the love and support of my mother; it’s all I needed. She said, “From the neck down you are worth minimum wage Veronica, but from the neck up, the sky is the limit.” She told me to remember my ancestry. I was a warrior from a line of warriors.

My mother’s higher education was what pulled her and her four young children out of poverty in 1963. Being a woman, and an immigrant made her road harder than if she wasn’t a woman of color. Her road was full of hidden pot holes, but she never gave up till she reached her objective. Like my mother, I wasn’t going to give up. After driving myself up the steepest hills, I reached my destination at twenty-eight years old; I was now Dr. Veronica Slaughter.

In 1982, my dream was to finally afford beautiful things; car, house, clothes, jewelry. Well, this third life was full of wrong turns, dead ends, getting lost, and accidents. I survived all of it, but I was left with emotional wounds. Achieving all those material things didn’t free me from my past and insecurities. I thought having diamonds, couture clothes, a shiny new Mercedes, and a fat bank account was all anyone could ask for. I’d lunch with friends in Beverly Hills, worked out at Jane Fonda’s studio, and mingled with the rich and famous; these were dreams come true. As gratifying as this life was, I forgot about what was really important; I had lost the connection to my family. They loved me but I made no time for them till it was almost too late.

At sixty, I was lost internally; spiritually. This brings me to my life today and possibly my last life. I asked myself, “Where do I want my final destination to end?” Being the warrior, my mother taught me to be, I ventured outside my comfort zone to find what was missing in my life. On the outside, I had it all but on the inside, I was alone, lost, and depressed. Where do I start?

The first thing I did was to spend more time with my beloved mother. She is the reason I have what I do. She saved me and my siblings from a life of despair and hopelessness. I lost sight of that love and drifted from the stability my family provided me. My tunneled vision was making it! Being a success!  Boy was I wrong.

I came to the revelation, that I didn’t need diamonds to prove my value, clothes to impress strangers, money to show my worth, or ridiculously expensive beauty salon trips to reveal I was beautiful. I was valuable, beautiful, and worthy without any of it. My new destination was joy and happiness; not the kind you can touch but the kind that fills you up on the inside. I wanted to be filled with gratitude, and found it on the beautiful island of Maui.

I found happiness raising farm animals, driving a truck, and wearing faded jeans with flip-flops. My days are filled with writing, hiking, tending animals, doing yoga, and baking. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.  My brothers, Vance and Vincent, my sister Valorie, and my beautiful mother Lily are all buried on this hollowed land I call home. I wake up every morning and smile as I look out my kitchen window and see my family. We are growing old together. I wouldn’t have written my book, memorializing our life, if I hadn’t gotten off the fast-moving freeway that I was on. Exiting was the best decision I could have made. I’ve not only found true happiness, I’ve found myself.

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