Just before the Christmas holiday we were able to sit down and talk with Jasmine Bowles, a thirty something mother of three darling girls, making her way in the world, one daring move at a time. It was our privilege to listen to her story as she shared her way of doing life on her terms, making sure that she doesn’t get caught up in the rhythm of survival but pushes herself to thrive, if for no other reason than for the three pair of adoring eyes fixed upon her each day. Please read on if you’d like to laugh, be encouraged, be inspired and get this Tuesday morning started off right!
OK, so to get started, tell us your name and a little about yourself.
My name is Jasmine L. Bowles. I’m 36 and I live in Durham, NC.
I’m very excited about living here. I’ve been trying to get here for nearly 10 years, or for at least as long as my sister has been here. I’m from Maryland. I was born in Delaware and I was raised all over the north— NY, DC, MD, Delaware. My mom was born and raised in Delaware so that was the place you could always go if you were in between something. When we lived there, we were in the lower part of Delaware where the cornfields and beaches were, so instead of going to the pool in the summertime, we would always go to the beach. I can remember when we were in New York, my sister was one, and my mom, sister and I would get up early and ride with my mom to the train station because she worked for the FBI at the time. We were in Deer Park, Long Island. Currently, I work for Frontline Solutions and I am a student. For Frontline I am on the project management support team. I am going back to school for Business Administration and Management. I first entered college in 1996/1998. However I started working at 14 and got a taste of regular money at the pay rate of someone with a degree, so, later, with family circumstances as they were I decided to put college on the back burner and then, vowed never to go back. But Durham has been so freeing that I am going back in February. Once I graduate I may start my own business.
Did you say your mom worked for the FBI?
She laughs, Yes! It seems so weird and funny. I’m not sure what she did there, but yes, she worked for the FBI.
What does a typical day in your life look like (your routine for the day)?
Wooooo Lord! I get up between 6:30 and 7:00 am which is actually late. I take a minute to get myself together, to pray, get a jumpstart for the day. This takes about ten minutes, then I get my girls up and start drop off; one gets on the bus, the other two get dropped off at school, and then I head to work, which is an outlet for me because it’s adult time. After a few hours I head out again to pick them up. I try to get all of my appointments done while the kids are at school. After everyone is home, we come in, talk, dinner, bath and bed, so I can have my sanity again. And that does not change.
Is there anything, anyone or any part of your day that dictates how you look, i.e. how you wear your hair, your style of dress, make-up or fresh face, etc?
I feel like I do. I am very adamant about not being a frumpy mom. I say that because I know that as moms you don’t worry about how you look, you worry about how your kids look and you are the only one who looks like you’ve been caught by a ball of fire. I always go “fresh face” unless I have an event. Otherwise I choose something that makes me feel good but is very comfortable, so I’m not necessarily walking around in stilettos all the time but I do have several pair. I also enjoy going to the salon to get my hair done because those kinds of things are very therapeutic, the conversations, coming out looking good, and feeling good. Oh and it’s good for my girls too, because since I’ve done that, they expect for me to look a certain way or they will call me out in a heartbeat!
Yes! I know what you mean. I sometimes find myself caught up in making sure I get things done, making sure I take care of my girls and my husband and I leave me as the last thing. There were many days that I looked like the fire ball victim. Ha!
We share a laugh here because she is not condemning or judging me. She is encouraging me, all of us, to see the value and joy of self care and count it as much a priority as we do taking care of others.
It’s so funny though because when I was married my husband could have a bad day and not look like it but when we have a bad day it looks like we have been through it!
How would you define beauty?
I think beauty is kind of tied to your self worth. Through the years, I’ve come to think it’s tied to how you see yourself. So you see people with things in place on the outside; makeup, clothes, and all the pretty looks on the outside, but on the inside she could be very ugly. But when someone has accepted herself on the inside there is a wall that comes down and it’s just very beautiful.
You spoke earlier about the freedom you’ve found in your new home, Durham, NC and, in listening to you speak, I see beauty in this freedom. This change seems to be exposing a very beautiful side of you.
Being in North Carolina, for me, has been a freeing moment, where I finally get to feel and discover things, how I feel, or what I think about things, all the noise has been drowned out the longer I stay. It’s all been so freeing. Maryland is where I spent most of my life. Even if I moved, I moved somewhere else north. It was a safe place. There were great things happening there but it wasn’t the place that, I believe, God would have me stay. When I had an opportunity to come here, I fought it but then when it was really time, everything fell into place and I let go and everything was freeing. Also I wanted to be closer to my sister. And, for me, there is no struggle here. There is no race here.
So what would you say to women who want to move locations: How did you come to the place where you decided, “I’m going, but I’m not running away from anything.”?
I am known to be very strong, very hard, but I have cried more in NC than I ever did in the north! But here is what I would say, self evaluate and assess the common denominator in all situations. When I did this, I discovered that it was me. So I had to figure out why I wanted to leave because 9 times out of 10, to get the change you need you don’t have to go anywhere. I have had to process things by the example of my mom, family members, environment, school setting, but what is the real reason why I want to leave? So I had to self evaluate and assess because if you just take a step back you can get a better view of the whole picture. But a lot of times we don’t want to do that. I wouldn’t be where I am if I had brought all that stuff with me. Before, I was on “the plan.” I am 36, have three kids with my ex-husband, I was searching for the career I wanted, you know, the plan. But now I am here where I am finally saying, this is what I want to do, and get confirmation from God and then, it’s go time. People say you’ve gotta go to school, if you don’t find a husband between that time, you keep going to school, then you find a husband and have kids but then nobody says what happens after that! Then you become this frumpy old lady who looks caught on fire and nobody wants that.
At this, we both crack up laughing!
I have one best friend since 7th grade and we have been able to walk through this stuff and see this stuff together. Women can be very complicated. There are things that can be miscommunicated all the time. So you have to make sure that you take a step, even if its a quick step, take a step back to think through how things happened and why they happened, what was your part and how do you move forward now.
Would you say that there is any relationship between beauty and power?
Yes! I would because knowing yourself and feeling beautiful is very empowering. And it may not necessarily be status–social or job- but if you’re in control of what’s happening, that is very powerful. When you interact with people, they can see that in you. They say, “she is so dynamic” or “it was a quick conversation but there is so much behind her eyes.” I think that it gets misconstrued but if it is handled the right way, they can come hand in hand. I really feel like right now, I am a Christian, go hard or go home, all day, but I feel like God has given me the power to control my life, under His guidance of course, but He is giving me free will to make good choices with my life and for the first time I feel very powerful. For the first time I can make decisions and that feels very empowering to me.
And does that make you feel beautiful?
Yes. definitely. And so does my lipgloss. But it gets to the point where I don’t care what other people think. I just am finally able to settle down and accept myself.
Do you think you’re beautiful?
Yes, and I really want for my girls to understand that they are as well and not materialistically. I know what that is to be looking for it in other things and people and not be able to see it in yourself. That’s really important to me with my girls. I try to tell them they are beautiful and why and it can’t be materialistic. For example, I tell them, you are beautiful because you are compassionate toward your sisters. I noticed the other day that Ahmadie asked me if I thought she was beautiful and why. So I told her and I asked her if I told her that enough and she said yes but I could tell that she needed to hear it more. I have to touch them and let them know from a woman to a little girl. I have written notes to myself and reminders in my phone to tell them and do it often each day because I can get caught up in my schedule and things going on that I miss my opportunity to tell them.
What makes you beautiful?
I think that I am beautiful because I know what I want and I know who I am. I am very simple and I think that simplicity is beauty.
Do you think your beauty empowers you? How?
It has created a confidence in me that has changed who I let in my life. It’s my life, and when I step back and look at myself, take time to assess, it builds my confidence and gives me power to accept what I want and reject what I don’t.
Has your beauty ever been challenged? If so, how did you overcome those challenges?
Oh definitely. Everyone in my family looks very different. We are all the different colors of the crayon box. As a kid I was always that skinny, hairy, light skinned little girl. I mean I was odd; my feet were big, I was tall, I was just odd. But I had an uncle who would tell me all the time that I was beautiful. He would give detail, like your eyebrows, or your feet are getting big but in the long run that is going to be a beautiful feature. So I would have to close my eyes and accept the truth about how I looked but know that that didn’t make me ugly. Even now that I am gaining weight more than before I want to join a gym and women look at me and think why, and that can be very vicious. All the things that were crazy to me when I was younger, now I just think that being able to identify what those things are, well they are MINE, this is what God gave so I’m gonna love it! You don’t have to, but I do. It took a long time to feel that way but now that I do, I love it.
What would say to your younger self to encourage her to embrace herself most fully and walk confidently in the world?
I would tell her: you don’t need anyone else to tell you how beautiful, powerful or strong you are. If I could have paired up with Christ then, I wouldn’t have needed so many other outside reinforcements to help me know it so that when others would say that I was beautiful, it would feel like confirmation and not new information because I would be sure of who God made me to be. I didn’t know any of that.
What advice would you give to moms?
We can’t take care of anybody else if we don’t take care of ourselves. If I don’t do these things for myself then what am I showing my children? They can’t see me paying the bills, they can’t see me paying the mortgage because they are kids and they don’t understand that. So I have to figure it out and know that everything is going to be okay. It’s not going to blow up if we don’t have dinner on the table at 6 or if we have to choose this job that has us at work all the time and someone else has to help us take care of our kids. Hey, everything is still going to be okay! We have to realize that so that things don’t feel so crazy all the time. I wish I had known all this time that everything is going to be okay and I’m not perfect and even that is okay. The hard decisions that we have to make for our well being, for our family, they don’t have to be an explosion in your mind! Everything is ok. You have to figure out what decisions you have to make, make them and remember that it is okay to ask for help.
Well said, Ms. Bowles. Well said.