January 2021 – Katie Brown

Oh, So Very Grateful

Last January, my husband and I took what we know now was our last trip for a long time. We went with one of our favorite couples for a long weekend in the Keys, one of our favorite places. I had been traveling in North Carolina on business the week prior, so I flew solo from New Bern to Key West to meet my group. On the flight down, I decided that I was going to do something I’d wanted to do for years.  This was it. This was the time.

I was going to get a tattoo, y’all.  

I’d wanted one since my dad passed away, unexpectedly, about eight years ago. During this time of intense grief, I kept joking that I needed a figurative tattoo to remind me to be grateful, because there didn’t seem to be room in my heart for gratitude. But, I didn’t want to make a rash decision in the midst of so much emotional turmoil, and so I never got one.  

But within two hours of getting off that plane in Key West, I found myself proudly sitting in a tattoo parlor on Duval Street, talking to the owner about savings plans for kids college funds (Hi, I’m Katie, and I’m an oversharer…) while getting the word “grateful” tattooed on my right wrist. And then my friends and I celebrated afterwards in classic Key West fashion. Which means I don’t remember how we celebrated, but I woke up in my hotel room the next day with this glorious tattoo.  

Hardly a month later, COVID came into our worlds and turned everything upside down. I work in education and I own an education software company that is dependent on students physically being in a classroom. My husband is the executive director of a local theater. Both of our careers were hit particularly hard.  

And everywhere I went, I had this stupid tattoo on my wrist reminding me to be “grateful.” Which seemed like a colossal joke. Our company, our family, was hanging on by a thread. We could barely leave our homes. Our jobs were continually in jeopardy or were changing so fast that it was hard to keep up while maintaining any kind of calm or normalcy.  

It was the least grateful time in my life and I couldn’t help thinking that it would have been much more appropriate to get a tattoo that said “trainwreck” or “WTF” instead. 

Winter came and went and spring showed her pretty face, too. But it wasn’t really until the summer months that I felt like my family started to get a good handle on this new lifestyle. I think we played more Rummikub and Sequence than I ever had in my life, but sitting around our kitchen table with my husband and my kids almost every night for board games became one of my favorite things.  

Bike rides in the late afternoon. Family dog walks. Lazy Sundays with puzzles. School in our pajamas. Zoom calls for work with dress shirts on top and basketball shorts on the bottom. Home repairs. Late night movies because what was a bedtime? Little by little, as the world fell apart around us, I found myself rubbing my “gratitude” tattoo and offering up small prayers of thanks for sweet mercies and blessings like these. 

One of the greatest blessings for me in 2020 was Crave. Seeing a community of young entrepreneurs persevere, grow, and find new ways to thrive during this year of mayhem was inspiring to me. I found myself sitting in our advisory council meetings, tapping my unlikely tattoo with my fingers, and offering up prayers of praise and appreciation for this group of people who had the faith and heart to continue blooming like wildflowers coming up in sidewalk cracks.  

As 2021 has come in like a proverbial and political wrecking ball, I have strangely found myself grounded and centered amid the chaos, and I can’t help but think it has something to do with walking through the fires of 2020 and seeing the human spirit glowing brightly in my family, my community, and my Crave peers. Turns out, I made it through 2020 inspired, fulfilled, stronger, maybe a little wiser, and, oh, so very grateful.  

Katie Brown
Professional Development Chair