Once upon a time… you trusted in happily ever after. Swords slew dragons. Magic saved the day. True love’s kiss healed evil.
We tell our children fairytales, but when was the last time you told yourself one—and believed it?
At the beginning of the pandemic and at the height of the lockdown, I filled the evening hours researching fairytales for my next novel. Original fairytales are dark and twisted. Yet somehow these cautionary tales where you can dance to your death in hot iron shoes/have your eyes pecked out by birds/be poisoned by an apple morphed over the years into sweet promises that dreams really do come true. Yup. We hijacked those fables and slapped on a “happily ever after.”
But what is happily ever after? Being a news anchor and reporter by day, I did what any good journalist would do. I asked.
I decided to start a live Instagram series called find your fairytale. I invite authors, artists, entrepreneurs, athletes, chefs, influencers, therapists, and more to tell me their fairytale. What are the dragons of doubt they had to slay along the way? Are they living their happily ever after? Is there such a thing?
After almost a year of interviews, the parallel advice is clear. Whether from a courageous female war correspondent, lacrosse world champ, Black activist breaking down racial tension or TikTok star, there are common themes about how to find your fairytale.
Block out the noise.
My first interview was with a young adult author who had just gone viral over a passionate explanation of race relations in America. Kimberly Latrice Jones told a story from when she was a development assistant on “Being Bobby Brown” and blew in all excited to tell Whitney Houston to read a glowing article. Whitney told Jones, “No baby, I don’t read any of it. If I believe the good, then I also have to believe the bad, and I don’t want to believe anything that’s exterior to me.”
The advice stuck with Jones. Ever since, she has said that to find your fairytale, “the power is within you, and you cannot allow things, good or bad, exterior to you, to tell you who you are and what you’re capable of.”
Don’t fear failure.
Singer and comedian Sheena Melwani said the same. “Be yourself. I wasted so many years trying to be what I thought people wanted to see from me, just hiding certain sides of me.”
She sings online. Her husband interrupts and heckles her and comedy ensues. She has millions of followers she never saw coming. “You have to find your own version of what your ‘happy’ fairytale is.”
You cannot compare your happy to someone else’s or to a definition you used to hold. Because guess what? A fairytale can change. And that’s okay.
Just ask Maggie Rodriguez. The former anchor of CBS’s Morning Show stepped away from her network television career to be with her kids. Rodriguez says that to find your fairytale, embrace the different seasons of your life. “I don’t believe in regret at all. It’s such a wasted emotion. What about right now? Just either live in the moment or be actively working towards a goal.” Now that her kids are older, she’s back on TV in Tampa. And the fairytale plot changes, again.
To find your fairytale you have to know when it’s time for that change. Tampa entrepreneur Melanie Griffin shifted from law to founding Spread Your Sunshine motivational stationary. She pointed out that when you’re bored, you start dropping balls. But when you’re chasing your passion, even when it’s hard, you’re focused and committed. Listen to those feelings.
We are parents. We have to chase time like it’s a toddler who ate too much candy zigzagging just out of reach in a crowded room. Every person I interviewed had to claw back time from the day. Author and father Jeff Zentner told me he wrote his books on his phone, on his commute on the bus, with his thumbs. It takes commitment and being ready to use every moment at any given moment.
Find your community.
I did this all virtually, never expecting to find such an amazing group of teachers, mentors and now, friends. I de-cluttered with local minimalist couple Lauren Davenport and Daniel Fernandez. I cooked with Master Chef Jeff Philbin. I learned how to paint watercolors with local artist and mom Katie White.
I found my community—and my fairytale. I live happily ever after every day when I find kindred spirits interested in exploring ways to better connect and live our best lives.
My co-author on my next novel, fellow Tampa mom Dominique Richardson, summed it up perfectly on a text the other day. “For some it’s activism, some it’s finding beauty and joy and sharing it. For others, it’s going out on a limb and putting your art out there and being surprised by the response. It’s leaning into the things you care about and finding ways to help others with the same passions you have.”
Nurture your dream like it’s your child. Tell yourself a fairytale… about yourself.