No Regrets! Lisa’s Letter to Her 20 Year Old Self

29 Apr

Photo of Lisa in May issue of Brava MagazineFeatured in Brava Magazine for Women, Madison, WI, May 2011 Issue

Lisa Peyton-Caire

It’s hard to pin a single title on Lisa Peyton-Caire. A writer, educator, mother, vocalist and women’s health advocate, many of 39-year-old Peyton-Caire’s passions began to form when she moved to Madison as a bright-eyed undergraduate. After earning a master’s degree in education, she returned to her east coast roots, working in education and launching an online magazine for African-American women. Now, Peyton-Caire is circling back to Madison, this time to join husband Kaleem, who was named CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison last year. Along with her many achievements, Peyton-Caire is bringing to our community a wisdom earned from her personal journey along the way.


Dearest Lisa,

I can’t believe how time has flown since I last saw you.

Right now you are a junior and an academic star in the sociology department— young, bright, beautiful and so very full of promise, dreams, plans to be the answer for your family and your community and to right all the wrongs in the world.

You are on your way to Japan for a semester of study (or so you think), newly married to a striking young man, your belly swelling with a baby as you sit in lecture halls taking professors to task, challenging your peers and crafting theories to conquer social inequalities. You are on fire in every way, confident as ever that the future will work out just the way you planned. You don’t yet understand just how heavy a load you are preparing to carry on those slim, honey-hued shoulders. But you will learn in time, Lisa Marie, just how strong those slim shoulders are, and I am writing to tell you to never forget your strength or zest for life. You will need these things for the tremendous journey ahead.

Lisa smiling in chair at Brava shootYou and your husband will bring forth five beautiful children over the span of 14 years. Yes I said five! I know this must sound like a page from someone else’s biography—but it is indeed your story. Your plans to study in far-away places will wait. But be patient; the time will come. Until then, you’ll be busy learning, creating and contributing in other ways. Over many peaks and valleys, you will manage to accomplish amazing things.

The road ahead of you will take you many places; not always the places you expect. And through it all, you will learn that life is not perfect, children are not perfect, the people you love are not perfect and you are not perfect. But trust me when I say you will realize that in the imperfection comes a perfect understanding of what it is to be human, to be flawed, to accept others, and to find a way to love anyway.

You don’t know this yet, and I bear great pain in telling you, but your mother will pass away. She will leave too soon, and you will have the auspicious honor to walk those final miles with her. They will be precious and painful, difficult and beautiful. Remember her words, her loving eyes, and the determined grip of her weakening hand on your slight shoulder when she whispers into your ear for the last time. She is telling all you need to know to move forward, to get unstuck, to let go and just be. Because Lisa Marie, life is not always fair, but it is yours to live as fully and as joyfully as you can.

So go forward into the unknown, my Dearest, looking backward only to take of its wisdom, but never of its pain. And remember to always cherish each day, for time moves swiftly and life is to be lived with all of the passion you can muster. Cast your doubts aside my dear, and wait no longer for that perfect day to come along. It is already here, Lisa Marie, it is already here.

Yours Truly,



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