Age: Born the year Elvis died. 1977. This year I turned 40.
Occupation: Author, writer, business owner
What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
I always have been interested in the details – the why, the how, the back story. I would just observe. I loved to problem-solve and organize too. Sometimes it was by way of default or circumstance. At other times, it may have been the Virgo in me or something to do with being raised by a Marine. Whatever the source of these traits, they led me to both my writing and my business development.
What are some different jobs you’ve had in your life?
At 14, I tagged clothes in the back of a dry cleaners in the sweltering summer heat. By my mid-twenties, I had worked as the world’s worst dog washer, a fairly decent waitress, an accounting clerk in a law firm, in non-profit development, and eventually as principal psychiatric social worker in an inpatient lockdown unit. In my thirties, I managed and grew successful businesses, authored a children’s book, and began writing for various publications. I continue to write and own my own company that is primarily women-centered. I feel truly grateful to be surrounded by phenomenal individuals who show grit and honesty on a daily basis.
Through all of this, I learned work in a service industry is just a simple study in the complexities of human behavior. My clinical training is never wasted.
And I collected a handful of other take-aways: You sometimes find incompetent, undeserving people in high up places and some of the most humble and tenacious of folks in the lower ranks. Pay attention to who people are, not who they say they are.
Second, do not dare underestimate perseverance. Perseverance has a momentum onto itself when practiced daily. It becomes that flat airport escalator in the daily walk of life. Third, what you do daily and consistently matters. Fourth, leadership through service is true leadership.
And lastly, you need others. We all do. We need those that support us. We require those that teach us what we don’t want to be or be around. Life conspicuously seems to place us in opportune circumstances that are also trying, difficult, and telling. Life slides us into these moments in the same way it places the soft rushing water against the hard rocks they shape. These are opportunities to take away the lesson, to learn it even if it takes three or nine or nineteen tries, and to know when to keep walking forward.
What do you work toward in your spare time?
Being a decent mom. I am both very conscious and fearful of missing the best parts of my children’s childhood. I don’t want them to grow up too fast. I pinch myself that I am their mom. I work towards doing more simple things with them, paying attention, being there if they need me, and not losing it when they spill three things in nine minutes.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Both. I burn the candle at both ends, and I say this NOT in a busy-badge-of-honor way. For me, the quiet of these wee hours, with four children fast asleep, is an opportune time to be productive in the calm.
What are you most proud of?
The obvious reply is ‘my daughters’, and I am earnestly proud of them, but they are the fruit of a force much more deeply rooted.
I am proud of the women who came before me – mothers, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, and their mothers. Their lives were complicated and imperfect. They made no excuses. They worked hard. They anchored their lives in faith, spoke their minds, lived their truth, and took the helm to navigate their own storms. They steered away from popular opinion and the judgment of others and lived a life they were proud of. Even in their own raging storms, they stopped to save others from drowning. That is pretty remarkable.
Their footprint on this earth are beacons, even long after many of them have left this earth – they are stars in the darkness of my own night sky. My confidence and my drive is rooted in the truth of who came before me. I am equally indebted to them and my children to live a life worthy of their sacrifices made over many lifetimes.
What are you known for?
I laugh often. I adore rescue dogs. I binge drink coffee. I binge watch Curb Your Enthusiasm. I hope folks think I am principled even when it’s not the easiest choice, courageous even when truly terrified, and that I often choose kindness (not to be confused with being nice).
What inspires you?
The people who roll up their sleeves and work with and for me to put food on their tables and provide for their families inspire me to make the right, best decisions.
Souls who still find dark humor in life despite adversity inspire me.
Folks who wake up and fight their demons, through sobriety, through self-care, through sacrifice and perseverance, and in a hundred other brave ways, inspire me each day.
Late night conversations with my sister that cut through the garbage and into what matters strengthen me to refocus on what is important.
A Voltaire quote inspires me too. He wrote, “Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” The idea that life is supposed to be fair or easy or a certain way trips so many people up. Some fall so hard on that idea, they can’t get back up. For me, Voltaire’s words reaffirm that in a sometimes difficult, painful and messy life, we must create music that sounds something like joy or hope.
Tell me something about you that most people don’t know?
As a timid teenager, I became enamored with a college freshman. Beyond handsome, he had intense charisma and an illuminating passion for life and for God. Unashamed of being decent and good, he celebrated it. It was unfamiliar to me and magnetically intriguing. We dated that Spring. Summer started. The unthinkable happened. He was struck and killed in the night by a police car rushing to a domestic violence call.
The impact of his death and the blunt force of grief ripped me apart. Beyond that harrowing impact of his death, the rippling effect of his life impacted the very trajectory of my own. It still does. I enrolled at the university he attended. I even waitressed at the restaurant he worked at. I copied his career path. I followed down his pathways of work, service, and spirituality like a lone, lost teenager chasing a ghost.
At forty, I am acutely conscious that I am twenty-one years older than the 19 year-old young man I looked up to. Through the loss of his precious life, I began to understand the value and potential of my own. I think often about the connectedness of all our lives. Time is fleeting and what we do with it, for better or worse, bleeds into the lives of others. I remain ever conscious of the unconscious effects we have on the lives of those we meet even for a brief time.
Why did you apply to be an O Mag Insider?
Oprah was a constant in my youth, and she was having a rare conversation nationally and globally. It was a conversation that shifted away from surface living and elevated above the mundane. Her work connected me deeper to the writings of Maya Angelou, Eckhart Tolle, Carolyne Myss, Gary Zukav, and Mark Nepo.
The O Brand is consistent with my interests, daily practices, and values. In 2014, on Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour, I had the good fortune of meeting Oprah. In meeting many celebrities and political figures over the years, I recall often being let down by the live person versus the persona. In my short encounter with Oprah, she was kind and focused. There was an absence of pretense or affect. It was another really good reason to love all that she is about.
How do you live your best life?
My best life is lived simply: being of service, paying attention to the details, practicing gratitude even when it feels like an eighty pound weight, and living in the now. Unraveling today untangles tomorrow.
For me, the formula was to subtract rather than add.
My life had been full. By all common standards it was comfortable: the job, the home, husband, and kids but it wasn’t my best life. It was someone else’s best life.
Surrounded by a lot of extras that made life supposedly easier – restaurants, sitters, parties, martinis, and vacations, there were nothing wrong with these things but at the core something was absent. I realized I never really wanted easy. I wanted simple.
I was drowning in surface living. Pausing to think about what I really wanted for this one precious life for myself and my family was the most important step I could have taken. This pause was the deep breath in the panic. It was my step off the tilt-o-whirl.
I now have simple. I still work hard. There are still days that punch you in the gut, but I eat dinner with my children, attend church together each Sunday, and walk on the beach as a family. I find my life is whole rather than full. Living experientially grounds me in a new way each week. Being connected to others who share common values, regardless of age, culture, or class, has been well with my soul. It is the essence of life, and I couldn’t go back.
The nuances between easy and simple and between full and whole proved to be worlds of difference.
What are you reading now?
Most of what I read these days at bedtime has pop-ups and illustrations. I am reading Marching to Zion by Mary Glickman. It is a story set in Tennessee in the 1920s and looks at love, race, betrayal, and redemption.
What’s a day in the life of Ann Brasco like?
My days are a mix of hard work, a deluge of phone calls and emails, buckets of coffee, happy chaos, unexpected hurdles, uncontrolled laughter, and great love.
From working in my pajamas in front of my computer screen to strategizing with inspired people and having the freedom to tend to my family amidst the hard work, I am congruent with my calling. I am so fortunate that I have what I wished and worked for – I live a life I could not have even dreamed up on my own.
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