White girl with brown hair wearing sunglasses walking across a NYC street

Why I left Alabama, and what I’ve learned since I did

Feb 25, 2023

The me you know today had a very different mindset from 16-year-old Delia. At my high school, most everyone either went to Alabama or Auburn, and I followed this path. The 16-year-old version of me thought I would meet a husband in college, get married & start having children. My dream & goal was to become a mom, and that was it.

As I was preparing for our March Mini Mag issue, I read Mary Lawless Lee’s book which is a gift my mother (& co-founder!) gave me for Christmas (thanks, mom!). It was fascinating to read because it was almost as if I was reading the version of my life that could have been, but was not. It would have been so safe & easy to follow the well-defined path: go to college, get married, have children & raise them which unlike me is exactly what Mary did (& so many others!) even though she knew in her heart that it wasn’t right even before she got married.

Have you ever heard the song by Garth Brooks, Unanswered Prayers? As I was reading about her marriage at 22 & knowing it wasn’t right that later led to a painful divorce, I was overwhelming grateful that my life didn’t turn out as I would’ve planned in high school. In fact, there were much bigger & very different plans in store for me, plans that I could not have imagined or dreamed of. Everything happens for a reason, and sometimes if you’re on a path you’re not supposed to be on, something forces you out of it despite you not wanting it to or how comfortable you are with your current life.

Alabama ended up being too small for me. Although, growing up, I never felt the tug to get away (clearly since I went to college only 45 minutes away from where I grew up). I thrive in an environment such as NYC that is filled with culture, diversity, education and driven people who work in a variety of fields. I am an insatiable and life-long learner as well as incredibly curious. I would question EVERYTHING growing up. I would ask things like, “Why is the sky blue?,” “Why are pigs pink?,” “Why are pigs pigs?”. It was necessary for me to get out of the safe community in which I grew up to become the woman I was made to be.

When I transferred from The University of Alabama to The College of William and Mary, I was surrounded by ambitious women for the first time in my life. These impressive women had multiple majors & serious career ambitions, and I knew I needed to get busy figuring out what I was going to do. I am grateful that I was able to move to Virginia and later New York City to pursue a career in the fashion industry.

This magical journey of self-discovery and creating a life in the big city has taught me so much. It has allowed me to figure out who I am/strive to be (*always a work in process as well as losing & rediscovering yourself!) as well as how I want to impact the world. Learning who you are & establishing a close relationship with yourself that is filled with love is a crucial step before you can learn to love others (friends, family, romantic partners, colleagues, etc.).

Have you taken time to evaluate your life? Are you happy with where you are today? Are you with the right romantic partner? Do you love yourself? Are you happy? Do you live in a city you can’t get enough of? Are you fulfilled by your job? Do you have supportive and life-giving friends? Do you make time for things that fill you up? Are you on the right path? If not, it is NEVER too late or too challenging to make a change. It may be a long process or hard to do, but it will be worth it in the end.

Here are some things I’ve learned since leaving Alabama:

  • Independence & knowing who you are is a crucial step before getting into a romantic relationship
  • I’ve started educating myself (and have a LONG way to go) on finance and accounting
  • I’ve discovered the type of person (i.e. romantic relationship) I want to be with (which is very different from what I thought I wanted in high school)
  • The grass isn’t always greener
  • You are exactly where you should be and you need to trust the process
  • Try to spend as little time as possible (if at all) with people who try to make you feel small or dim your light
  • How to start, run & grow a business
  • I have completely changed my perspective on careers & motherhood. Most importantly, whatever is right for YOU is right for you and your family. Try not to pay attention to what society/culture tells you
  • I am working to unlearn & rethink the definition of feminine vs. masculine
  • To not accept things as they are
  • Trust your instincts & listen to where your inner voice is leading you
  • Life is a magical journey filled with winds & twists. Try to view challenges as opportunities to grow
  • That I can support & take care of myself
  • I can have an impact & create change
  • That I can do anything I set my mind to
  • That I am not in control, but there is a plan for me that I need to be open to & on the lookout for

Delia Folk




  1. Cathy Browne says:

    I can totally relate. I grew up in Alabama too! I graduated from Auburn, moved to Atlanta and flew for Delta for 25 years to see the world. Live in Dallas now, and love it but have to admit this summer while sitting in a boat at Lake Martin in Alabama, I really appreciated the beauty, tranquility and slower pace of life for a few days in Sweet Home Alabama!

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