Top Nav

bathtub in the yurt

How I found my heart through radical change and transformation

Or, the story of why I cut my hair, changed my name and moved clear across the country.

If you’re uncomfortable where you are, move.

I’ve spewed those genuine words of wisdom at clients and colleagues and friends for years. Always with a lump in my throat. Always with a guilt chaser. Because I was horribly, unbelievably, undeniably uncomfortable where I was, and I hadn’t moved.

Until now.

What follows is a hyper-condensed story of radical change and transformation. Things have been quiet here for the last two months because we move…in a most epic way.

Over the last 8 weeks, we drove 6500 miles with two four-year olds and all of our belongings in tow. We left South Central Alaska in early October and arrived at our new home in East Tennessee just in time for Thanksgiving. (After detouring here and there to visit family in Washington, Texas and Alabama).

This is all part of a huge transformation we’ve been wanting for…ever.  The road trip was cathartic. The truck & camper became a chrysalis for us as we change from one kind of family into a totally different kind of family.

We’ve moved from a place of dreaming to a place of doing. We left our waiting place behind and emerged in our beautiful new living space. Angst has been replaced with ease. Anxiety has been washed away by calm.

A self-determined life is its own reward.

Of course, we know this move won’t cure all our ills. But it’s already given us a more stable, more connected and more joyful foundation to stand on while we take on life’s inevitable challenges.

We’ve left the Waiting Place

This move has ended almost 11 years in the waiting place for me. Eleven years. For six of those years, I had good company there after my husband also fell in love with this part of the world and joined me there. I’ve lived all over the world, but I’ve always felt a heart-connection to this corner of it. This is my heart’s home. I brought my husband here on our honeymoon, and he too fell in love with it instantly and completely. Maybe it’s the magic of the Smoky Mountains. Or maybe it’s because he loves me so deeply that he feels my heart when he breathes in the Smoky Mountain air. Either way, his heart moved here too. Which led to six years together in the waiting place. Always hoping. Always wishing. Always planning. Always yearning.

Now my heart is home.

I feel myself emerging from the chrysalis of eight weeks on the road. Every day we would get closer and closer to our heart. To our dream. Physically, tangibly closer. Every day. Throughout that journey, I started to feel a need for a more external representation of this transition. I chopped off almost all of my hair. Which was awesome and wonderful, but it wasn’t the permanent transformation I was yearning for.

Radical change begets radical change

As we drove and drove and drove all the way across this amazing country of ours, I kept thinking about my name.  Which is weird ‘cuz, seriously, how often do we actually contemplate our names?

But the name was bugging me

After my first marriage ended so spectacularly, I reclaimed my maiden name as a solemn promise to never again lose myself to a relationship. I wore my name like a badge of independence as a single-working-student mom.  So much so that when I (wholly unexpectedly) met and married the most wonderful man on Planet Earth, I kept my name. It meant everything to me. It was my identity. That precious thing I almost lost. More and more, as time went on, I started using his name too, with a hyphen. Not so much as a sense of identity. More so as a differentiator from the bajillion other Laura White’s in the world…many of which seem to have interesting, Google-loving histories as kleptos, pyros and embezzlers. And so I adopted the hyphen. It fit quite nicely.

Until it didn’t.

As we drove in our cross-country cocoon, I outgrew the hyphenated name. It started to feel all wrong. I am now absolutely, unabashedly confident that I will always be me in this relationship. In fact, my husband wouldn’t like it at all if I stopped being me. All of me. Rough edges and all. (Did I mention he’s the most wonderful man on the planet?) And so I’m dropping my maiden name and hyphen. But there’s more. Just as a cute, fuzzy little caterpillar emerges as a beautiful butterfly – I’m making another change in how I spell my much beloved first and middle names. This might seem like a tiny, insignificant, not-really-worth-the-hassle kinda change from the outside looking in. But to me, it is exactly the thing I need to make this epic, decade-long journey feel real and complete.

It’s a new beginning.

Laura Lee White, who you know as Laura White-Ritchie,  has emerged from this journey as Larah Leigh Ritchie.I have to say that I am so incredibly lucky to have all of you here to share this with.  To relate to my journey-each in your own way.  To share my joy. I have so much gratitude it makes my heart want to burst.

What does all of this mean for BrainyFeet?

Whoa! Hold onto your socks folks! The year 2011 has been my epic year of transformation.  The year 2012 will be yours.

I’d love to hear from you!

I don’t usually just write posts about me without somehow relating it to you. I’d love to hear about the transformations you’ve made (this year or otherwise) and how they’ve helped shape you and the world you want to create for yourself!

Never forget to follow your wander!

Image credits: The little butterfly is from Ber’Zophus. The rest of the photos are mine.

, , , , , , ,

21 Responses to How I found my heart through radical change and transformation

  1. Yolanda December 5, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Thanks for sharing the story of your transformation. Looks like an epic start to a new epic journey!

    • Larah December 5, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

      Thank you, Yolanda. Now, I can’t wait to share the next chapter!

  2. Rhiannon December 5, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I LOVE YOU!!!


    • Larah December 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm #


  3. Pamela Slim December 5, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    What a beautiful journey!

    As Tye Pennington always says at the end of Extreme Home Makeover, “Welcome Home, Richie Family, Welcome Home!”

    • Larah December 5, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

      Oooh Pam, anytime you can combine warm wishes with visuals of Tye standing outside my house you win. 🙂

      Thank you so much for following our little saga. Your well wishes are palpable…even from 1000s of miles away.

  4. Pamela Slim December 5, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Except he would spell it right “Ritchie” 😉

    • Larah December 5, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

      Holy cow, he’s an Adonis. Does it really matter if he spells it right? Or even says it right? 😉

  5. Desiree Adaway December 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    As someone who just went through a similar journey, I salute you and your brave heart. What an epic journey that led you home, but more importantly led you to your true self.

    • Larah December 5, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

      Thank you Desiree, my beautiful and insightful fellow traveler! I love the term, “brave heart.” When it comes to strong, brave hearted women, I know I’m standing in good company.

  6. jami scholl December 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Larah Leigh, I cannot imagine your name being anything different than what it is now. (My transformation? I’d share but it is still incomplete, and it doesn’t feel right to type it onto the screen right now.) It makes my heart warm to hear the flow of happiness and love cascade like fog down the ravines of the Smokey’s, past the rhododendrons, to pool at the feet of contentment. I hear how happy this move has made you, and feel it through your words!

    • Larah December 5, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

      That is such a wonderful thing to hear, Jami! The name does feel right. I thought the transition might feel strange at first but that hasn’t happened. Not even a moment of awkwardness. It’s been completely natural from the start…which is nothing short of magical.

      I know your transformation is insane and in-progress. I’ve been loving every moment of watching you step out with such ferocity and fearlessness.

      Your kind words are so beautiful! Thank you again, so much.

  7. Heather Lopez December 6, 2011 at 2:53 am #

    Hi Larah,

    My symbol is the butterfly and I am actually doing all of my branding around this concept, so I loved reading your story. Perhaps, I’d love to share this post in the future. Congrats on taking such a huge leap of faith. Good luck with everything!

    -Heather Lopez

  8. Sherri-Lee December 6, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    Lovely trip thanks for sharing. This has been a year of transformation for me too… it’s not complete yet and 2012 will be a big part of the completion. I feel like I am standing in front of the biggest, most delicious cookie in the world waiting to take the first bite… Thanks for inspiring me to take that bite with gusto!

    It looks like you passed through my neck of the woods… sorry I didn’t know I would have loved to have met you!

    Sherri-Lee in Vancouver Canada

  9. Courtney Ramirez December 6, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    So happy to see a successful conclusion to your journey! And the beginning of a new one as a new family in a new place!! I’ve been thinking of you and am so happy to see this update. Enjoy your gorgeous new corner of the world.

  10. Julie McAllister December 6, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    No wonder I didn’t hear back from you when you were in Austin! You were very busy transforming!! What a beautiful post! I have transformed so many times in the past few years that I don’t think I could write about just one. But I think another one is coming and that is that I am finally going to make the jump from public school to homeschooling and that is HUGE for this mama!!

    I’m so glad you finally made it to Tennessee. When I come see my mom now, I can make plans to get together with you too. 🙂

  11. Lana December 14, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    I’m looking forward to a transformation like that. I hope it will be in 2012. Home is always where my heart wants to be–and that’s the mountains of North Carolina. Thanks for sharing your journey. You gave me hope that even if it doesn’t happen right away, it will happen.

  12. Diane Newman Faut December 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Great post!

  13. BrainyFeet | Larah Leigh Ritchie December 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Aw, thank you Diane. That means so much. <3

  14. Diane Newman Faut December 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    I like the personal journey! I’m going to have a hard time typing your name the new way… not used to Larah – you are in for a life of misspellings! 😉

  15. BrainyFeet | Larah Leigh Ritchie December 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    LOL, that’s alright. I totally understand. 🙂

Leave a Reply