Love What You Have - While You Have It.

Love What You Have - While You Have It. 

by Mary Kathryn Cunningham Levy, Former Development Director

Another beautiful sunset at my family's home on Arnica Bay in Josephine. 

Another beautiful sunset at my family's home on Arnica Bay in Josephine. 

Moving. It's not fun. I have moved a few times -- Alabama, Wyoming, California, Florida, back to Alabama and now to the great state of North Carolina. All of these places have brought new adventures, new friends, and different experiences and lessons. The biggest lesson I have learned, though, is to love what you have while you have it. In every place I have lived, people have asked what I miss most about Sweet Home Alabama. Honestly, there are lots of things I could say...my family, Mardi Gras, the coat-free weather, bushwackers (seriously...will someone send me one?), but one thing takes the cake: the natural resources surrounding my hometown.

Growing up in the other L.A. meant summers at the beach with my family and friends, a Friday o' fun kayaking with my colleagues, or ordering the fresh (and they mean fresh) catch from some of the best restaurants on the Gulf Coast. Don't get me wrong - I have loved living in other places, but nothing feels as good as sitting on the dock of the bay with the people you love most (hi mom and dad!). I certainly took it for granted when I had it and miss it every single day now that I’m away again.

My husband's job brought us to North Carolina and it's a great place to be. We are three hours from the mountains and two and a half from the beach. We are blessed with great jobs to get us through the week and a number of outdoor options for the weekends. Even with all the great amenities we have in North Carolina, there is still something missing for me: the gulf, bays, and rivers that helped shape who I am today.

Before and After: My cousins and I in middle school (left) and at my wedding (right) in October 2015, sitting in the same exact spots. 

Before and After: My cousins and I in middle school (left) and at my wedding (right) in October 2015, sitting in the same exact spots. 

Who knew that waterways could bring so much joy? The ability to jump in the bay to cool off on a hot Summer day, cruise through a Delta tour on an airboat or hop in the car for a short drive to the most beautiful beaches in the country is just life when you live in Coastal Alabama. Moving away, I am realizing that I took those luxuries for granted. Big time. Now, the idea of driving two and a half hours to a beach that doesn't have sugar sand seems like a lot of work to me. I know - life is tough, right?

Moving around has made me so aware of the fact that I grew up in a special place. A place surrounded by some of the most beautiful and unique resources on our planet. A place that makes so many people happy, whether they realize it right now or not. Sometimes you don't know how much you love what you have until it's not within your reach. Moving away from the coast has made me realize that I miss the place that helped make me the person I am today, and I want to protect it now, more than ever.

Love what you have while you have it because when it's gone, your heart longs for it so much more.