Has Life Turned Out the Way You Visualized?

Valerie Anne Burns
6 min readAug 9, 2023


Modeling in Atlanta

As my birthday approaches the end of next month, I’m reflecting on how different life is from what I visualized at the age of 19. At that time, I was in a fashion/design college in Atlanta. On the side, I did some modeling for photographers and Ann Taylor boutique. But the semester in Europe (where I felt so alive) for 2 1/2 months and an additional trip to NYC were the exciting and most educational part of that time. It led me to know exactly what I would visualize my life to be — I’d live in NYC to enjoy an extraordinary and creative life with my own family and I, or we, would travel to Europe yearly, particularly to Italy. Over the decades, all the spiritual practices I was exposed to guided a person to simply visualizfrom the most positive place to manifest what you desired… and poof! Back then, in my last year as a teenager sitting on that wall in Sorrento (as shown in photo), I was convinced with no doubt in my mind that I’d live the exciting, loving, cultural, and global life I envisioned. It didn’t exactly turn out that way. The vision was most important to me because of the deep need to create my own very separate life since my family of origin was one of dysfunction causing a genesis of anxiety and sadness. I had to grow up fast, and show strength for my dad as a three-year old after the loss of my mother. As a result, I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders but found a pursuit of beauty and adventures in the world a soothing balm. I was not homesick away from home, I felt especially at home in Europe. All these years later, I feel the same way.

Sorrento, Italy at the age of 19

Where do you feel most at home or is there a place you dream about as a new home? 🦋

While I’m a long way from 19-years-old and life took me in directions that were a far cry from my naïve but heartfelt intentions, I continue to strive for new escapades I enjoy. That said, I sometimes struggle with what haunts me when I lay my head down for much-needed rest. Loss, abandonment, and hurt seem to stay with me as if an old, familiar and tattered coat to wear. It’s deep though, and I think everyone experiences what it feels like to see dreams slipping away. I also think, depending on one’s nature, some cope and accept things better than others but that might have something to do with a strong foundation to handle what’s thrown at you in life. There are many sensitive people walking on this fragile planet who stay silent for fear of being accused of being negative or complaining even if they are legitimately ill. Compassion and empathy are admirable qualities because we all go through heart-wrenching challenges. This month’s blog and what I reveal here is somewhat inspired by the monologue America Riviera’s character (Gloria) in “Barbie”. She speaks about all the high expectations there are on a woman and how often women don’t truly express how they feel because of those expectations.

The month of July had its ups and downs. I went through a week of severe fatigue where I couldn’t get out of bed with less than 11-hours of sleep. I had intense, scary nightmares causing me to wake up in a cold sweat. Personal challenges and hurts combined with a month-long struggle stressor of tech issues involving initial hopeful repair by Geek Squad to my laptop that inevitably led to a final crash. I had to purchase a new laptop when $ is tight to only go through another two weeks of Geek Squad trying to get past a block to install Outlook. It’s a long boring story that pushed me into living at Best Buy for multiple hours and 8 round trips. Can anyone relate? I found myself in an exhaustion-nervous breakdown from too much pressure. Simple support and understanding from a friend helped me pull out of it.

One of the things I can’t quite let go of is not ever having my own child and that is also a protracted and involved story. When I took on the volunteer compeer position with an 18-year-old violinist fellow from the music academy summer program, and connected on such a sweet level with her, it brought up the buried pain of missing out on being a mother to my own child. Della wrote the sweetest thank you note to express how much I inspired her in confidence and to cherish every moment before her. Of course, it’s taken a lifetime of experience to impart wisdom. My connection with Della is special and it will be a pleasure to see where life takes her.

ResQCats, Santa Barbara

Although I wasn’t on the receiving end of much nurturing and support as a kid growing up, nothing makes me happier or more fulfilled than to be affectionate and nurturing whether as a mentor, to a friend, or an animal. My tender heart developed as a toddler, and I believe that I inherited this gift from my mother.

Where all the years have gone, I cannot say and it most definitely takes my breath away. I still have dreams I hope to see manifest. Life experiences and the school of hard knocks certainly had the potential of defeating my spirit and passion altogether but then I would only be a shell of myself. I have been through so many reinventions, I’m not able

to recall them all. I’ve made mistakes and yes, I have a few regrets that I find seep into my consciousness. I’ve mostly been on my own since childhood and did not make a wise choice when I married but I relied on my strength and independence to move forward. I’m a breast cancer survivor, a twice cancer survivor in fact. I reinvented myself again as a writer and workshop presenter that led me to Italy twice and the Dominican Republic. Determination and perseverance helped me create broader horizons.

That’s the thing about life, we can always depend on change. We can reinvent ourselves and create new explorations. And there are always opportunities for epiphanies and ah ha moments. If you go through a tough time (as we all do), seek a compassionate friend who will listen with an open heart and empathy. What desires, dreams, and adventures do you see for yourself?

Be well and enjoy your last month of August.

Keep on swimming through life,

Valerie Anne



Valerie Anne Burns

Author of Caution: Mermaid Crossing, Voyages of a Motherless Daughter”; Blogger; Breast Cancer Survivor; Hollywood Survivor; Workshop Leader; & Beauty Seeker.