I’ll be 39 this July. It seems impossible. When you’re 20, you just assume that you will always be 20. Never 30. And forget about 40.

It’s funny how you quickly change your mind once you actually get close to 40.

Amy Bellgardt

I had freckles once.

At 20, I was often in a fog. Every day brought a haze of identity confusion, dumb mistakes and misdirection. My focus was strictly on survival for my brother (who I had legal guardianship over at the time) and myself, with a little bit of rock-n-roll in between. That was all I could possibly handle or think about doing at that time.

When you are stuck in a survival mental state like that, you don’t often make the time (because there IS NOT TIME) to analyze your own goals, wishes or dreams. Honestly, you don’t even really even know who you are, other than a person who keeps moving forward, providing for loved ones and going through the motions. Doing the right thing, yes, but ultimately just going through the expected motions of responsibility and commitments.


I had a thing for hats. And green thrift store couches.

My true identity took years to discover, along with my life’s path, but I certainly don’t regret the time I spent hammering it out. I needed those years. I needed to struggle and struggle HARD.

What I learned during that timeline was that I didn’t want to struggle through life for the rest of my life, though I knew there would be bumps along the way. I didn’t want a perfectly seamless life, but if I had just one wish for my future, it would be that I could simply be free.

Free to choose my own lifestyle, free to love who I love, free to work for what I truly cared for, free to be a creative thinker and free from financial burdens.

“Free” was my identity. And it wasn’t easy to achieve. It was like stair stepping in slow motion. For years.


But I made it to the top.