While separating from an abusive marriage, selling and buying a home, raising two young children, quarantining with said children during a worldwide pandemic, getting divorced (or not yet getting divorced), and obliterating invasive weeds in my new backyard, I’ve learned a valuable life lesson: I can’t control much around me, but I can continue to control myself.

Since I could remember, there’s always been an element of control around me.

In childhood, my parents would try to control my grades, my friends, my emotions, and my actions. As I grew up, they could no longer control my actions, but they could control things like where I attended university if I had a vehicle, and where I worked.

I’d go on vacation with $300 dollars in my pocket and meet celebrities, attend hard-to-get-into parties, and be treated like a star.

As I learned to come into my own, my growth took the appearance of rebellion. I was free enough to make some of my own choices, so I chose to go big. Two months after I turned 21, I took my first trip to Las Vegas and fell in love with the freedom and the out-of-control essence of it all. I felt invisible there but at the same time desired. Young, thin, and beautiful women are valuable in Sin City. They are given free money, free VIP access, and plenty of free upgrades. I’d go on vacation with $300 dollars in my pocket and meet celebrities, attend hard-to-get-into parties, and be treated like a star. So, I returned eight more times in a matter of three years. There was an illusion of being in control; however, it was just that, just a mirage in the desert.

Then I turned 24 and felt as if something major was missing. I always dreamed of having children and a family – it was the future I’d always planned. But flying around the country and becoming a regular at nightclubs and bars wasn’t exactly nurturing that dream. So, I stopped. I made a vow to myself that I would manifest the life I wanted. I would become a person that someone would be proud to call their mom.

I still lived with my parents, but I had a great job and started using my money towards fixing up my parent’s home and buying things I could bring with me when I left. I was preparing for my future. I only needed my partner. The one who was on the same page. The one who would unconditionally love me. The one who could be my rock. The one who would be proud to call me his wife.

It’s no wonder I jumped feet first into the first person who expressed those desires. It’s no wonder I fell for the love-bombing. It’s no wonder I thought I was falling into a deep love. The patterns of control mixed with love began to reveal themselves, but it felt natural. It was something I was used to. It felt comfortable. But what I knew as comfort wasn’t healthy. And it wouldn’t provide the future of my dreams.

The beauty of my story is that it isn’t over.

When I was 34, I took another step back. I realized having children alone wasn’t creating the family I’d always imagined. And it was up to me to create the future I wanted. The future that made me feel safe, loved, and secure. The future that allowed my children to be free from control, isolation, and fear. I can’t control the world around me. I can’t control the people around me. But I can control myself. And I can learn from my mistakes. I can try again.

My story isn’t over. And if you’re reading this, either is yours. There is more life for us to live. Let’s live it proudly! Let’s live it unapologetically.

I know what I want. I know what I need. It’s time to go and get that.


JoAnna Baanana
JoAnna Baanana
Mother, Marketer, Writer, and Reader. I’m a mother of two wonderful little humans. I’m also an avid reader, an insatiable learner, and a self-acknowledged survivor. I’m grateful to work at O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) because I’ve learned the self-soothing and restorative craft of writing. I used to resist calling myself a writer because I have a finance degree. I naively thought I needed an English degree to effectively express myself in writing. But now, writer is a title I proudly wear, and writing is something I’ll practice for the rest of my life.

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  1. I can relate I went after what I wanted hard and I accomplished what I thought I wanted. Now that I am retired I find I have more than enough and in truth need much less than I thought.

    One day my hands reached across the front porch to hold my wife’s hand, pet my dogs and watch our grandchildren playing in our yard, hearing the joy of their laughter. This is the time we waited for, the time we prepared for them and for us to cherish.

  2. “And I can learn from my mistakes. I can try again.”

    I interviewed the authors of THE ART OF POSSIBILITY recently, Ben and Roz Zander, and they talk a lot about how we might want to look at our mistakes. They punctuate their outlook on life’s “mistakes” with an uplifting phrase of which I was reminded when I read your thought: “How fascinating!”

    Well done, Joanna.

    • Thank you Jeff. I used to be embarrassed or ashamed of my mistakes. I want to hide them from those around me. But now, I realize it’s in the mistakes that most lessons are learned. Whether is a small one – too much water on my Gerber Daisy (RIP) or a large one – loving someone more than I love myself, I will learn from it if I accept it. If I hide it and try to ignore it, I can’t learn. And what else is there for a life’s purpose but learning and growing!

    • Thank you Darlene! Until I wrote this piece I had no idea there was a significance to the number 4 in my ages of discovery. I can’t wait to see who I am at 44!!

  3. Joanna, you overcame so much in your life which shows you have a great deal of strength. The word control is used in many ways. In business, I was always told to control my clients, control my presentations, and so forth. Control can be such a bad word in terms of what it could represent. Yet it is such a necessary thing in many situations. We have to live our lives in a way that makes us happy and keeps us productive whatever that means. Take care, Joanna.

    • Bingo! It’s all about being who we want to be. Life is about looking in the mirror and saying, “you know what, I love that guy/girl.” Our marks on the world are not meant to be the same. They couldn’t be. We all have different experiences and different sets of knowledge.

      Control’s definition is “the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.” Control can be good or bad. I control my bladder everyday, and that is a good thing!

      Thank you for the compliment as well.