Headstrong. Obstinate. Wild. Like the heroines of my favorite novels. Reflecting on the woman I continue to become,

I would liken myself to Jo March of Louisa Mae Alcott’s ​Little Women​. I am the gull, “fond of the storm and wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone.”

I have not always understood or accepted my nature, but as each year passes, and another premature gray hair sprouts (even in my lovely eyebrows–the frame for the artwork that is my face), I become more comfortable with my character.

I was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana–a city firmly rooted in its Cajun and Creole cultural heritage. I am the middle child of three girls produced by the thirteen-year union between my mother and father. I also have a bonus sister from my father’s second marriage. I grew up surrounded by a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who were like family. We love, laugh, and argue passionately. We live our lives with a ​laissez-faire​ attitude. In other words, we let people do as they choose, as long as those choices are not harmful.

In everything we do, we “la​issez les bon temps roller”,​ or let the good times roll.

Despite, or because of, my upbringing amongst a closely-knit family, upon graduation from high school I chose to attend college in a place as far removed from Louisiana as possible. I moved to New York City, living in Manhattan and studying at Columbia University. With grand dreams of becoming an award-winning costume designer, especially for period films, I majored in Drama and Theatre Arts. I spent semesters navigating through challenging coursework (reference the Columbia College Core Curriculum), indulging in worldly theatrical experiences as both artist and spectator, and making poor choices with a band of renegade women with whom I am lucky to still be friends. I moonlighted as a nanny from the Upper West Side to Long Island on nights and weekends. I escaped to Cooperstown, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Upstate New York during the summer while interning at Glimmerglass Opera.

Those four years were among my most formative, and I look back upon them with awe and fondness.

Wanting to be closer to family, and not wanting to live the life of a starving artist in a ridiculously overpriced apartment the size of a shoebox, I moved to Austin, Texas, where everything is bigger…and weird. In an effort to reinvent myself, I worked as a teaching artist for arts-based organizations focused on youth development, as well as a commercial and freelance makeup artist. After a couple of years coasting along, I enrolled as a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Texas, where I earned a theatre all-level teaching certification.

I traveled to London, England, to complete a work-study at the Lyric-Hammersmith, had a whirlwind love affair, and came home with a permanent souvenir–my firstborn son, Damian Nicholas.

I accepted my first classroom teaching position three months after his birth in 2008 and spent the next several years learning way more than I taught.

Today, I am the mother of two. Harper Daniel completed our unconventional family in 2015.

While still parenting as a single, working mother, I managed to earn a Masters in Education through the Lamar University graduate distance learning program. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I will be starting their Principal Certification program this Spring.

This life that I lead is not built for the faint of heart. It is equal parts joyful and distressing. There are good times, often occurring simultaneously with the bad. Instead of drifting amidst the tide of the ebb and flow, I battle the rough seas no matter how difficult and somehow prevail. Still headstrong. Still obstinate.

Maybe a little less wild. Like Jo March, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

And, as I learn, I look forward to sharing my life lessons with the Austin Moms community.

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Dana Thompson, M.Ed. has been a fine arts educator in Greater Austin Area secondary public schools for over a decade. After years spent working in theatrical wardrobe and commercial makeup artistry, she found her calling in the classroom guiding young people to become innovative, well-rounded thinkers prepared for a future in the global economy. Never-married, Dana had an unconventional journey into motherhood. Although the births of her two sons flipped, turned her life upside down, she is proud to include the title of “boy mom” to her many accolades. When she is not surrounded by her children, at school or at home, Dana enjoys getting into good trouble with the diverse women who complete her tribe.

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