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She withstood years of intense abuse but has an incredible disposition

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I’ve known Anna Bourland for over 1/4 of her life, and yet, it wasn’t until this episode that I learned that she had endured extreme abuse as a young child. With an incredible sense of resilience and an amazing attitude, Anna has truly embodied what it means to overcome extreme adversity.

[0:00:16.590] – TAMAR:
Hey, everybody, I am super excited. I don’t know what number we’re at, 59, 60 of the podcast. I have a friend this time around. It’s not somebody I randomly met on a Facebook group or a Reddit chat these days. It’s my friend Anna and I’ve known Anna for over a decade now. I guess you can talk about how we met, but she was sharing a story on Facebook. I’m sorry not sorry that Facebook seems to give me rise for a lot of podcast ideas and guests, I guess with covid, and the fact that my, my my local community is is relatively boring. To be fair, I get to get to reach out beyond my geography. And Anna is on the other side of the country, so she’ll tell her she’ll talk about herself. But yeah, I thought she had something to share and I felt that this was the right avenue on the podcast to talk about her story. So, Anna Bourland, thank you so much for joining us.

[0:01:17.700] – Anna Bourland:
Oh, yeah. Thank you for having me, Tamar.

[0:01:19.710] – TAMAR:
Yeah. So where are you in the world? I know I mentioned a little bit, but you can give me a little more.

[0:01:26.040] – Anna Bourland:
Yeah, I am. I’m born and raised in Southern California and I’ve been in this area pretty much most of my life. And I live in Corona, California, in Riverside County. So it’s been interesting, even simply just having the name Corona. Everything I post on social media has a warning because they think I’m talking about covid. (just because I’m checking in because I’m at a restaurant). So it’s been kind of hilarious being from here these days.

[0:01:55.170] – TAMAR:
Yeah, their algorithm hasn’t figured that out, but it’s funny. It’s funny. I’m glad you mentioned that because I was going to say you’re from Corona, right? And that’s I never knew that [it warns you]. You should post that. You should post a screenshot of what you deal with every single day.

[0:02:06.510] – Anna Bourland:
Yeah, well, it’s funny because I moved to Corona about six, six or seven years ago and I’m actually from Anaheim. So I went from being Anna from Anaheim to being from Corona. Yeah.

[0:02:18.480] – TAMAR:
Anna from Anaheim, I like that, I like that. That’s awesome. Cool. So yeah. What do you—I know I met you through I guess I would say more of the industry than anything else so you could talk about that. Feel free to share where, how we met and what you do and where you come from. Like trajectory career wise if you have a little bit of a story in that regard. Absolutely great.

[0:02:44.940] – Anna Bourland:
Yeah. Tamar, we met in such a funny way, I guess, because we were both early adopters when it came to social media. So I know that we’ve been members of, I don’t know, failed social media platforms is really the right word. Just, you know, the candle didn’t keep burning, so we ran across each other and it turned out we were in the similar industries, women and tech specifically. You know, we’re SEO and marketing and all kinds and social media and all kinds of different things that were emerging.

[0:03:20.100] – Anna Bourland:
And we kept talking. And then I remember when you were getting ready to be a mom for the first time, I sent things, clothes and play things and all that stuff for for your first little one. And we bonded over that. And then next thing you know, we were up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Gosh. And that was my time. So you’re a night owl and working on bouncing ideas off each other for your book.

[0:03:49.860] – Anna Bourland:
So that was it was really neat to get to know you in that way. And then, of course, as each of our stories has evolved, we’ve made sure we’re there for those significant milestones cheering each other on. Of course, as far as my career goes, I honestly I ran into a guy I went to high school with outside an Outback Steakhouse. We were waiting for a table and he said, what do you do? And I said, well, I’m kind of dabbling with building websites.

[0:04:21.450] – Anna Bourland:
And that was back with Yahoo! Geocities and everything. And he goes, that’s funny. I work at a website company. I’m the accountant and I know they need people. And I think within a week I was working there.

[0:04:33.360] – TAMAR:
That’s awesome.

[0:04:33.740] – Anna Bourland:
And I started as a customer service representative, which also meant we were hand coding the HTML from the websites that we were building at a real estate Web site company. And because that was back in the old days, that was the everything was the Wild,Wild West.

[0:04:49.710] – Anna Bourland:
This was before Google was on the scene. You were getting into the Yahoo directory was free and then it was $2.99. And then all that stuff was evolving through all of that at a start up, and so I got to kind of where every hack at the company, which and I was there for 11 years, all the way from four to eight thousand square foot office space, all the way up to getting bought out by a giant company on the East Coast and working with them for a while with some pretty big name brands and doing marketing for them and search engine optimization and being the voice and the face of the company with all when forums were really big and doing all of that, and it just led to more conversations with you Tamar and with people like you. And yeah, it led me to this place. Then I dealt with some pretty significant health issues that they couldn’t figure out because eventually, spoiler alert, it turned out to be an autoimmune condition and those are really hard to diagnose. So I went through years of struggle and at that point I decided I was the director of two departments for search engine optimization and content.

[0:06:09.300] – Anna Bourland:
I was working for a company that was making mandatory overtime. And all I could offer my employees was like free pizza when they came in on a Saturday or Sunday. It was just, I thought there has to be a better way than the churn and burn agency life. So at the time I was married and I went home and I talked to my then husband and I said “there has to be a better way, I can’t do this anymore. My health is ridiculous. And I keep feeling like I’m going to pass out at work. And I don’t even believe in what I’m doing. I feel like we’re not serving the customers well.” And he said, “well, then just start your own business.” And I was like, yeah. And the next day I gave notice that my job and I sent an email to about 20 different people and I said that I was going to start working on my own, and this is what I want to do for people’s businessesm, and I said, “who’s in?” Within about 30 minutes, I had a full roster of clients and people who just emailed me back. I mean, when do we start? And that’s kind of how I got to where I am and the job I have now, I love it so much. And it was born from that business. They just started contracting all my hours about five years ago.

[0:07:30.570] – Anna Bourland:
And so now it’s like they have all my hours, all my heart and I have health benefits. So I absolutely love what I do. So that’s kind of my career journey and how we met and weaved in and out with each other throughout the whole thing.

[0:07:45.620] – TAMAR:
Yeah, yeah. It’s been interesting. I didn’t realize that your story started with the Geocities trajectory, but it doesn’t surprise me. And I mean, I’ve seen you sort of since you worked for a firm. You had your own firm. Yeah, I love that. Back in the day, I wasn’t on Geocities because AOL had its own website and not their, it wasn’t a website builder, but AOL allowed and I had a site there, and that was that was a fun experience, I will tell you that. But you know that you understand because everyone’s on Geocities. And I was like, oh, I have many website and I still do, you know, on the Internet Wayback Machine, you can still pull it off, which is kind of fun because it was like our teenage years. It’s how we grew into the internet.

[0:08:29.940] – Anna Bourland:
And it’s like our teenage years, all the trends are coming back. I remember when I was Geocities, it was like, look, when you opened my page, it’s playing a midi of Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. And there’s blue butterfly GIFs [hard g] flying everywhere. Right? It’s like, look, I coded that. And then it was like GIFs [hard g] there, ugh, that’s so old. That’s like Geocities, that’s old. And then all of a sudden we speak to each other in GIFs now.

[0:08:58.920] – TAMAR:
GIFs!!! [soft g] You’re killing me. GIFs, GIFs, GIFs.

[0:09:03.270] – Anna Bourland:
I can’t have the debate. It’s not. It’s not.

[0:09:08.610] – TAMAR:
It’s GIFs [soft g] it’s totally GIFs [soft g]. Sorry. Sorry. You can’t do that.

[0:09:13.110] – Anna Bourland:
Well I will challenge you a GIF to a girrafic designer. It’s a graphic designer.

[0:09:23.970] – TAMAR:
I will challenge you for a giraffe. I don’t know where I’m going with this.

[0:09:32.040] – Anna Bourland:
You are so funny. Yeah, but if you say you’re a graphic designer and a gif is a graphics, well, I just think it’s a GIF [hard g]. And I know the guy who created it says GIF [soft g] so props to him. I think Wil Wheaton and Chris Hardwick have this debate and they’re best friends, so it’s OK.

[0:09:51.530] – TAMAR:
No, I don’t know. I’m not OK with this. It’s not, for my mind, it doesn’t work so well. I can’t mentally process this.

[0:09:58.640] – Anna Bourland:
Yeah, but we agree that the blue butterfly, the shiny butterflies flying up from our Geocities and our MySpace pages, those are long gone.

[0:10:06.710] – TAMAR:
Yeah. Yeah. No, I never did animated stuff. I thought that the MySpace era, I only joined MySpace because everybody else was on it. But it wasn’t really my thing because, yeah, the fancy schmancy, that’s why Facebook never really wanted to move into that trajectory because [Anna: right] that was ugly, A.F..

[0:10:27.400] – Anna Bourland:
Exactly. Exactly. And I felt like I didn’t know any better. And then once I did, I was like, oh my gosh, this is like going in the file of the most embarrassing moments.

[0:10:38.750] – TAMAR:
I’m going to have pull up your Geocities after this just to see what your little butterflies look like.

[0:10:44.360] – Anna Bourland:
I don’t even think it’s because I think they took them all down. I don’t really know if it’s there.

[0:10:50.900] – TAMAR:
I think what happened is that the Wayback Machine decided that it’s too ugly to even go to the Wayback Machine. What do you think?

[0:10:59.780] – Anna Bourland:
We’ll have to ask about that. That is so funny. Well, that is actually how I learned code, though. It’s so funny. Like now there’s all these free programs and Girls Who Code and all this stuff. But then it was almost like you could feel like for white hat people like me, I was like, “oh, I feel kind of like a hacker because I made this do something it said I couldn’t do.” And that’s how I learned. If I’m being honest, that’s the the toe I dipped into the pool that got me into my entire career. Yeah.

[0:11:36.950] – TAMAR:
Yeah. Wow. That’s it’s true. It works. For me, I was online, I loved communicating with people online. I liked HTML ish. I hated it when it started. It was really nice to build everything on one HTML [file], but I think eventually as things migrated to the CSS world and try to get the updated W3 standards. All of a sudden, like this strong tag started being deprecated. And I was like, “ugh, this sucks,” so I stopped caring. Nowadays I’m using like WYSIWYG builders like Elementor, which is my new, I don’t want to say my obsession because it pisses me off in many ways, but even so, like I can’t troubleshoot my own sites anymore. I mean, I understand a little bit, but as the web grew, it became more sophisticated and a lot more challenging. And anybody listening: just don’t overthink this. Hire a web designer—

[0:12:32.120] – Anna Bourland:
Just go get a WordPress website and stop overthinking it.

[0:12:35.420] – TAMAR:
Yeah, and Elementor is built on WordPress. [Anna: it’s all going to be okay]. Yeah, you will be OK. But, you know, for me, I’m like right now I’m trying to make a little—I’m moving from WP Bakery, which is another WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) builder to Elementor. I’m a perfectionist. I want things to be as perfect as they used to be, so I will say that it really does anger me to no end when I can’t get the same functionality. So there’s that.

[0:13:06.440] – Anna Bourland:
But yeah, if somebody uses it the way it’s not meant to be used, I’m cleaning up a website right now that used WP Bakery and I had never used it before. I just haven’t. It’s going to take me like probably eighty more hours than I originally quoted or expected because everything got built in the theme in the plugin, so like if I just change themes, it’s going to erase everything.

[0:13:36.950] – TAMAR:
Yeah. That’s the challenge that I have because I’m trying to migrate that over. WP Bakery as not so glorified as a script and a builder that it is because it does make the website slow. I think it’s easier to use, even though it’s not as pretty, it’s easier to use than Elementor which is annoying because everyone’s like “you gotta move to Elementor! You gotta move to Elementor!” And I’m drinking the Kool-Aid right now.

[0:14:01.250] – Anna Bourland:
Oh my gosh, that’s so funny. I had a client that was using Elementor, but I got to tell you, I think the key is you have to be the one who installs it on a fresh site, because what’s happened is there’s all kinds of inherited legacy issues and somebody copied code from here and there. And there’s all these weird IDs in the middle of like just a picture, like a before and after picture, and it’s it’s just ridiculous. So, yeah, that is one of the mountains I am trying to climb right now.

[0:14:35.150] – TAMAR:
Yeah. Yeah. I wish you the best on that. I know it isn’t so it’s not as easy as it seems and I’m still trying to figure out like I’m like “oh I feel so good about Elementor” one day and then five seconds later I’m like, “wait a minute, that’s one issue. Then I have to solve 30 more.” I hit burnout two weeks ago and I couldn’t work for about two weeks because some of the stuff was just so frustrating that I needed to take a break. I started back yesterday and then and all of a sudden things started not working, and I was like this sucks again.

[0:15:12.860] – Anna Bourland:
I’ve totally been there. And people think when they say, oh, I got this drag and drop editor, there’s like a part of my soul that just sinks because I’m like, you know, I really could have fixed this if the code was just in a notepad document and I could just hand code the HTML that’s going to go in the page. Yeah, but it’s like now it’s so much more complicated because you dragged and dropped and you did it pasted from all these weird places. You did all these different things. And it’s just like all these weird nested tables and things like that. So it’s it’s really sort of like a needle in a haystack work. It’s hard to explain that to a client because they just slapped it all together. And you’re like, well, now I’m having the reverse engineer this so that that content can be in your new design.

[0:16:05.650] – TAMAR:
Right. Right. Yeah.

[0:16:07.280] – Anna Bourland:
It’s it’s a journey. It’s definitely a journey, and I really appreciate that more people are talking about that drag and drop is not as drag and drop [TAMAR: it’s harder to do] because it’s not as scalable for change.

[0:16:19.580] – TAMAR:
Yeah, it’s funny because the Internet was a lot easier in the 90s than it is now. And that’s what I think.

[0:16:26.960] – Anna Bourland:
I agree. But go back to listening to our grunge with our flannels and flying by the seat of our pants because this new thing just got released. I remember when Yahoo! was in alphabetical order, so we’ve come a long way, I guess.

[0:16:44.770] – TAMAR:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We could reminisce for a really long time, though.

[0:16:49.280] – Anna Bourland:
I know.

[0:16:50.570] – TAMAR:
But hopefully we have listeners who like web design and understand our challenges, but we can talk about other challenges, I guess. Let’s talk about. Yeah. So I mean, you touched upon a few things. I think you probably won’t elaborate on those things. Your story, the Anna the Anna adversity story, I guess I would start with. Tell me a little bit about that. I know it gets started. There were things that I’ve learned about you recently that I didn’t know, so there’s that. And then I guess there’s something else. I don’t know. I’ll let you do it, I’m not volunteering anything for you.

[0:17:27.590] – Anna Bourland:
Oh, for sure. OK, so I know we touched on all this tech and web design and stuff like that. And, you know, Web dev, understand that that is the cool part of, I won’t call it the end of my story, I’m in the middle of my story, of course, in my life, but that is the very cool victory and functioning healthy citizens sort of result of all the stuff that I went through since I was a little kid.

[0:18:00.560] – Anna Bourland:
And so when people find out that I’m not kind of going nuts or on the street or anything like that, they’re kind of amazed and I don’t even think of it that way. I only realized that from the outside looking in, because that’s what people have said to me.

[0:18:21.080] – Anna Bourland:
But I was raised by my mom. I never knew my dad, and there is a funny story about how I met him once on accident when I was working at Sears. But that’s we can get to that later. But I didn’t know my dad and my mom was the emerging bipolar, meaning she was in the time when they called it manic depressive. They were just coming out with lithium and she was the tester group. She was actually in a clinical trial for it. And it really affected my childhood. There was a small part of my childhood that there’s like bits and pieces that I feel like shine through.

[0:19:09.530] – Anna Bourland:
But I remember being homeless at six, sleeping in somebody’s garage on a mattress with cockroaches all around me; my mom having me live with my aunt and uncle and said they were going to adopt me. And then all of a sudden she was convinced that they were there was a conspiracy and they were trying to steal me so she’d come in the middle of the night just to take me to be homeless somewhere. So there was there was all of that going on. And in the middle of it, there were stepdads and boyfriends and all these sorts of things.

[0:19:44.960] – Anna Bourland:
And I, of course, as the only child, the the little girl I was, of course, I guess tossed around a victim of that, sort of, circumstance. I was the statistic, really. I was always physically abused by my mother. I would get hit with all kinds of things, and I’m not talking about the like, I know everybody kind of,, not everybody, but I know it wasn’t abuse, like, if somebody got a spanking or somebody like I don’t really come from that school of thought. But this was true abuse and it was just forever. And so there was the physical abuse, there was the verbal abuse. And then I she married a man who took it upon himself to give me eight years old, some sort of sex talk. And that turned into me being abused, sexually abused by him. And then when I told my mom, because “the more you know,” commercials and everything that tell you, “tell someone! Tell the teacher, tell your parents, tell whoever.” I did all that.

[0:21:06.170] – Anna Bourland:
And it all got swept under the rug. So here I was, an eight year old and my mom entrenched in what she felt was some sort of biblical direction said that her husband, the Bible, says her husband comes first. So she was telling me that he was allowed to abuse me. So that continued. And then there was more they were taking pictures of me while I was in the shower and selling them for rent money. And things like that, and there were a couple of times that I was actually sold to friends of his for the weekend and things like that when I was very young.

[0:21:50.430] – Anna Bourland:
I remember one of the times when I was,, I want to call it a basement, but I know it was in Southern California, and I’m really pretty sure it was just like a weird, odd room because I don’t think there was truly a basement in Fullerton, California. But but I was there for three days and I was just I was handcuffed. [TAMAR: Wow.] for three days and I remember that. And I had a friend who actually lived in the neighborhood. I have bits where I can really—because I had a very good memory. I wouldn’t quite call it eidetic memory, but close. And so there’s bits and pieces of where it’s like, “oh, I’ve been over here before. This is where this thing happened,” because, of course, I’m in the same area that I grew up around. So it’s really interesting. And when I say it out loud, I go, “whoa, how am I not super messed up?”

[0:22:44.010] – Anna Bourland:
And so here’s kind of the answer to that, because that’s what a lot of people ask. The truth is, I was privileged to have some really cool people around me who said, well, let me just take you to church, and we had gone, my mom and everything, there was always church involved, that sort of thing, just go to youth group. But as I was getting older, you know, junior high, high school, I could go to youth group. And that was fun. You know, you played air hockey and you had tacos beforehand or whatever. It was hanging out. It didn’t have to be about religion. Right? And then you’d have your Bible study and talk, but here was the thing: there were young adults who were around me who started hearing what was going on, and they started signaling me, hey, that’s not normal. And for a super long time, I didn’t realize how abnormal everything that was going on was until I started kind of talking about it. And apparently I had been in some sort of survival mode. And so through this, I met a woman named Nancy. And Nancy pulled me aside, and I believe I was about 15 years old and she said, I want you to listen to me carefully.

[0:24:05.720] – Anna Bourland:
And she had been through terrible abuse through her family as a child. So she pulled me aside and she said this. It seems like because we filed police reports, we did all the stuff, everything fell through the cracks. I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, CPS stopped calling. Everybody trying to get me foster care, adopted all these things, and it just all fell through the cracks, so she pulled me aside, and she goes, “It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to legally get you out of anything right now. So here’s what you need to do: You need to prepare for when you turn 18 and you can get out. So she said you need to learn to type really fast, OK? And then she said you need to as soon as you turn 18, just sign up with a temp agency so you can get a job job so you can get out. And then that’s the other thing: you need to get out and have your own apartment. You need to do that.” And then the last thing she told me is “as soon as you are 18, you need to sign up to get counseling” because back then you needed parental consent to do everything. So I think now if one of my kids needed to go talk to somebody, they could just do it. And they didn’t. They don’t need my consent, which is fantastic.

[0:25:19.960] – Anna Bourland:
Back then, they can have this control on me. I didn’t even have access to a phone. When I was home, there was no phone on the hook. It was in their locked bedroom. So I wasn’t allowed to call 911 or anything. So she told me these things and I don’t know what it is, but it just stuck to me. It was like, this is my directive, this is my manifesto.

[0:25:48.270] – Anna Bourland:
This is what I need to do. And I was kicked out at 17. My mom came to me on a Tuesday and said, I don’t want to be a mom anymore. You need to be out by Saturday.

[0:26:00.210] – TAMAR:

[0:26:00.630] – Anna Bourland:
So it threw some of the things into chaos for me because I had to scramble instead of having all my plans in a row. But I had learned to type really fast. I knew that I could sign up with this very specific temp agency that was going to help me get a job. And I had already been working at retail saving up some money. So I was kind of on my way. Then at that point, I knew I could sign up for counseling. So this is what I think really made a difference. So many people go through hell and back and again and again and help is misleading. I, because of Nancy and her sticking that in my brain and me being ready for it, I, I started counseling right away when I turned 18 and I dealt with so much. I went for years. I think I went from 18 to about 23 to this one specific counselor who helped me with feelings of guilt about my mother and all, because I wasn’t talking to my mom because it was unhealthy.

[0:27:14.460] – Anna Bourland:
But then other members of the family were like, everybody’s been abused. We just get over it and move on. That’s your mom. These sorts of things, these old tropes that we have to sweep under the rug and love somebody because they share DNA with us. And that’s just a total lie. And so I remember her really helping me visually. There was a whiteboard in her counseling room and she would say, OK, I need you to repeat this: it is OK to not feel guilty about not talking to my mom. So, like, I had this mantra that I repeated so that I wouldn’t have this baggage, OK? And then and it kind of felt like I was playing like a role playing game. And these were like little side quests to make me stronger. And then she said, well, and of course, at the time, you know, my faith, and my faith is still very important to me, it’s just taken on a bit of a different outlook. But at the time, my faith was very important to me in the Bible was very important. And I want to say it’s still is like I said, it’s just taken on a different kind of face for me. But she asked me what what tool, what what tool do I have in my you know, in my tool box? That seems like it would help me. And I said, well, there’s this first in the Bible that says to take every thought into captivity and that the context of that is so that you have control of your mind and your mind is in a good place and in a healthy place.

[0:28:50.490] – Anna Bourland:
I thought, gosh, what a great mental health foundation regardless of from atheist, agnostic, what a good practice to take every thought into captivity and decide if that is something that’s worthy of your energy and your time. And so she said, I like that. So what we did is we diagrammed on her whiteboard where my thoughts were going sideways because at that point I had been diagnosed with PTSD and OCD from trauma, so less straightening carpet fringe in the middle of the night and more like intrusive thoughts and things of that nature, my brain being like one big, worse case scenario, Choose Your Own Adventure book. We diagrammed those thoughts out, and she goes, OK, “here’s where” and we would circle. “Here’s where the thought went from kind of like a normal trajectory to being in that OCD territory.” And so I have this visual representation of how to just stop and change that.

[0:30:01.270] – Anna Bourland:
And I’m going to tell you right now, that’s how I’m here today. And I’ve been I’ve been to other counseling, you know, like it’s kind of like going to the doctor in some ways. Like sometimes it’s good to have it for a long time. Sometimes you go when you need it. I’ve obviously gone through some other hard things as an adult. I’ve been divorced, had all kinds of stuff go on through that hurt me, that created new trauma. But the cool thing is, is that all the new trauma is not attached to the old trauma. That’s huge. It’s so huge that it’s not, okay, I’m forty one years old and I’m also dealing with unpacking my childhood and unpacking abuse and unpacking divorce and any feelings of betrayal in there and things like that. I’m not unpacking it all together. Consequently, it’s actually what makes me not be in this place where I’m dragging through the mud of feelings about having my divorce. Right.

[0:31:02.560] – Anna Bourland:
And so actually, on Sundays, it’s Family Day and my ex-husband and the kids and I, we go to dinner, we go to lunch, we watch a movie together at my house or what we can. We communicate. We’re friends. And I really credit that ability going all the way back to doing the work so early. So many people don’t get that opportunity or they don’t realize they need it because we’re taught to shut up. And I’m going to tell you right now my story, like I watched the the Gabriel Fernandez story on Netflix. I don’t know. And while he’s a kid who is kind of a famous case and they did a documentary about it, and yes, I am one of those people who likes to watch all the true crime and stuff documentaries on all the streaming services, but Netflix has really been the star of those lately. It’s so crazy how much of this story is like mine being handcuffed to things being set in ice baths for hours as a punishment, one of the punishments I got was having to eat these really insanely hot peppers and I had to chew them until they were mush and then swallow them. And shocker, shocker. I have acid reflux problems from that. Wow. I have I have what’s called GERD, a gastro esophageal disorder. It’s like a reflux disorder that’s like pretty bad. And that is from when I was abused as a kid, I was punished any time I blinked wrong or I said something wrong. According to somebody, I got the all these crazy over-the-top punishments. I mean, one time I was I had to sit outside in the rain overnight because I wasn’t allowed in the house, you know, different things like that. I came home one time to the locks being changed and had to find somewhere to stay.

[0:33:02.530] – Anna Bourland:
I started paying for all my own supplies, toilet paper, shampoo, everything by the age of eight or nine. So these were things that I had to have kind of that that drive and that that hustle, if you will, to get through all of that. And so. You know what? There are things that that echo from that time, right?

[0:33:30.230] – Anna Bourland:
But it’s not an ongoing trauma. And so I was able to really work on that and make something of myself and promise. And this is the one of the biggest things. And even though I’m divorced, my ex-husband and I have this very clear understanding because obviously I met him at 17. He’s the one who helped me move out of my mom’s house when I got kicked out.

[0:33:58.540] – TAMAR:

[0:33:59.120] – Anna Bourland:
So we got married very young at twenty one and we were married for 17 years, and we still have this agreement. It’s just like we our kids do not have to go through what I went through. I don’t want that to touch them. They’re aware of it. They’re aware of that history because I’m very real with my kids and they’re amazing little humans. My daughter turns 13 tomorrow. Yeah, yeah. And my son will be 16 in June. They’re just I will use the word literally here, literally incredible.

[0:34:33.440] – Anna Bourland:
So I think my kids are literally incredible. They’re just, when I say they’re little grown ups, I don’t mean because they grew up too fast. I just mean, I don’t know, there’s just an old soul element in some way to each of them. And so they really comprehend what I went through and thus they comprehend how hard I work so that they do not have to go through anything similar. Yeah, there’s definitely it’s like I never want my children to experience homelessness, I never want them to experience any kind of abuse. I’ve been through, we talked about as from a parent perspective, but I also had other things happen to me. And so, you know, there are things that we impart to, like I’ve been part of to my daughter that it’s very important that she understands that just because she’s confident and she knows what she wants, it doesn’t mean somebody is not going to try and force their will on her. So she has to speak up if something is uncomfortable, and that it’s OK.

[0:35:42.400] – Anna Bourland:
And that’s what we were taught, is we were still in that sweep it under the rug. I mean, and we’re still just emerging as a society, barely. I mean, it’s still so fearful to take something and not sweep it under the rug these days.

[0:35:55.960] – TAMAR:

[0:35:56.380] – Anna Bourland:
So I, I don’t want, as much as it is up to me. I really want to avoid my children having a childhood they have to recover from.

[0:36:06.390] – TAMAR:
Right. Yeah. Well, I mean, you seem pretty resilient. You’re able, I know you for so many, for so long, and I didn’t know this until you started hearing it recently. And that’s why I had you come here. So, I mean, kudos to you. And I have to say, there’s one thing when you talked about how you like your church, someone in your church helped you kind of pull through this as somebody who like and this is a weird observation, but I think I might have even raised this in a past podcast. There is I think something about the structure of a religious community that lends itself to really helping people overcome a lot and or rather helps them. I see this from Facebook and I do genealogy and I notice that a lot of my distant cousins who don’t have any sort of religious identity anymore, they are definitely they definitely struggle a lot more than those who do. It’s a weird dynamic. And I think that there’s something about having that community and having a community. A religious community, I’m able to observe it in a different way, but if I think you can observe if you have a community as well to some degree. But I think there there is definitely a lot more. You have a group of friends. That’s one thing. Everybody has friends. But there’s something about that that is different than what anybody else has dealt with, has had. And I think that really helps. And I’m not like, I don’t want to say I’m like a religious advocate here, and I’m not trying to convince people to become religious in any way.

[0:37:43.570] – Anna Bourland:
But you’re a “community” advocate.

[0:37:45.490] – TAMAR:
Yeah, I’m an advocate of community.

[0:37:47.650] – Anna Bourland:
Yeah. The advocacy of community is so important. For awhile I was I was at a church that was like, you know, you don’t have to, you can be involved without you can be an atheist. Come be involved. We’re trimming trees on Saturday and we’re going to hang out and we’re going to have lunch.

[0:38:05.830] – TAMAR:

[0:38:06.160] – Anna Bourland:
Like, don’t be alone right now.

[0:38:09.280] – TAMAR:
But you have to be part of that. [Anna: There’s an element of that.]

[0:38:12.220] – TAMAR:
There’s an element of that. There’s also the element of the fact that I think the reason why community, like I’m an advocate, if you will, and I do say, you know, religious community is because at least for me, when it comes to Judaism for myself, but I think it would also translate to Christianity or elsewhere, is the fact that there is that component to the fact that usually you stay in that community.

[0:38:36.460] – TAMAR:
You’re not, it’s not a community that you leave and come and go as you please. Whereas I advocate for other communities like the running community, the fitness community. But that’s not a community that I feel like, right now, those are those are limited only to Facebook groups anyway, so they wouldn’t notice if I’m gone. I’m not a big part of that. [Anna: Right.] But in the community where you’re seen face to face your absence is recognized, it’s noticed, there’s something about that that’s more important, it’s more solidified.

[0:39:05.320] – Anna Bourland:
There is an element of faith community that that lends itself to that when it’s done well. I think what we’ve seen so much of is it being not done well and being broadcast like across the masses, like look at all this done poorly, community, religious community, activity, I guess you could say, or like the bad actors, etc. So it can be really difficult, people. But overall, as far as community and feeling like there’s something bigger than you, whether it’s religious or whether it’s something that it’s just like this is my hugest passion, etc., but that that bonds you in such a way that, like you said, you you can’t get away with disappearing and I mean that in the in the unhealthy way of disappearing, if you’re spiraling down into depression or if you’re feeling like everything’s falling apart or you have a kid who you feel like, oh, my gosh, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I feel like they’re losing them or whatever feelings people might be going through. That kind of community is ,when it’s functioning right, that’s the community that is not going to let everything fall apart.

[0:40:32.730] – TAMAR:
Right. Right.

[0:40:33.650] – Anna Bourland:
And sometimes I have found that that community is like two people for me. And sometimes it’s been like two hundred, right? I think that that’s like the natural cycle of of life and how we function. I’ve seen that happen with my kids too, how they had all these friends and then it sort of transitioned into this other thing. And now, like my son is talking about how he has so much depth with his group of friends now, and they stay up on discord until 4:00 in the morning on the weekend, watching movies and talking about all the craziness of the school stuff that’s going on and everything. And it’s like, thank goodness they have that. You know, I don’t care if you’re on the phone till 4:00 in the morning if it means that you’re going to make it. Just do that, and the fact that I have kids that are supporting the mental health of themselves and others and that they understand what self-care is and that they don’t, when they look in the mirror, they think they’re fabulous instead of flawed. I mean, this is a miracle.

[0:41:47.050] – Anna Bourland:
We grew—I don’t know about you, but I grew up with the self-esteem was something I had to fight for.

[0:41:53.629] – TAMAR:
I understand, I know. My mother gave me a self-esteem book. I remember that very, very, very acutely.

[0:42:00.160] – Anna Bourland:
Yeah. And it was this thing. And it’s just like now I’m sitting here with a 13 year old daughter who loves herself. I sat back a couple of months ago and I thought, OK, that’s not just a big deal because she has a momma who had to fight for that. It came from hardship. But that’s a big deal. And it’s not just a big deal because, OK, I must have something to do with it because I raised her right. But, within herself, she found who she is, loves herself and doesn’t have all these hangups about herself, and it’s just like, oh my God, that is a miracle, you know? And then to see my son have confidence as well and confidence that is married to empathy. So without the toxic masculinity of it all, that is just like how did this happen? And that’s why I say, like, they’re amazing. And so that kind of goes into the self-care bit of it is that when I became a mom, I said, OK, my identity, I’ve seen what happens to moms who their whole identity is kids, and I don’t think it helps the kids either. And so I made sure, because I do art, I paint, I sing, I actually dance, I learn to tap dance and jazz dance and actually did performances and stuff like that in the last few years. And it’s you know, I had my art displayed in a gallery.

[0:43:32.000] – Anna Bourland:
I did all these things and some of that was all year I was getting divorced. I just went for it, and my kids have even told me that that’s helped them because I wanted to show them that they can do all kinds of things regardless of their gender or if they’re a parent or whatever, that they can still genuinely be themselves, and that taught them how to be themselves. They actually know who they are at a younger age than I knew who I was. They see that example and then they model that for other people. I tell them like we’re each a ripple in a pond, you know? I’m just trying to help your ripple continue from this and that. We’re passing on good things. So yes, we’re going to take the 15 minutes in the evening to do a face mask or we’re going to say, yes, we have all this work to do, but we’re going to stop and we’re going to watch a comedy movie because we all need a little levity. Then we’re going to go back to all the crazy stuff that we have on our plate.

[0:44:44.950] – Anna Bourland:
I really appreciate that they have absorbed that because that’s my I want to say that’s kind of my biggest goal other than obviously I want to enjoy my life and be healthy and happy and things like that. But passing that on to them instead of all the other junk that I could be passing on to them is is incredible. Yeah, it it is my pure joy that the chains got broken in my generation through me, and that that is not something I’m passing on to them and somehow it has been passed on to them that my daughter just said, “oh, my gosh, I look fabulous today.” This is great. It’s like. Yes, and it’s not with an arrogance, it’s just confidence and I run into that and I’ll tell you where her generation is going to be much better. But I’m still here as a 41 year old who’s single and has been trying to well, I’m not really trying to date anymore. I’m open to it, but I’m not actively working on anything dating-wise. But as I have, I have met guys who said they don’t want to see me again because they expected me to be less confident. I’m overweight, I’m a bigger girl, and they just expect me to be less confident. And you know what? That is the ultimate compliment right there.

[0:46:19.730] – Anna Bourland:
Honestly, it’s like, OK, you can’t handle my confidence or that I’ve been successful at something, etc., and then then I am super happy to be single and stay that way, I don’t need to worry about it. That was someone else, and that’s yet another thing I can model for those kiddos. You don’t have to chase after what everybody you know what that societal norm, that social norm, you don’t have to chase after it. You can be amazingly content and happy and I am. And that makes me so openhearted to whatever may come instead of bringing if I were to have this amazing romance or whatever. I’m not bringing all this baggage with me. I’m bringing a smile and an open mind through it.

[0:47:12.020] – TAMAR:
So talk about that. Let’s because I know you have to go soon, tell me a little bit about what you’re what you’re doing for that happiness self-care side of things.

[0:47:23.060] – Anna Bourland:

[0:47:24.140] – TAMAR:
But keep it keep it brief because I got some more questions for you before it’s too late.

[0:47:29.360] – Anna Bourland:
I’ll keep it brief. Well, I mentioned that I do art and singing and dancing and the singing is very important to me. I’ve been doing that since I was probably three or four years old. And I, I do karaoke before everything was shut down from covid. I have, there’s an eighties club near my house and we would meet every Wednesday night and do karaoke there, and they had a great experience. I hope they will come back soon. But that group we created Zoom karaoke group. So I created a Zoom karaoke group that’s been meeting now, tomorrow is our one year anniversary of meeting every week on Zoome to do karaoke to sing. So I do that.

[0:48:09.980] – Anna Bourland:
And then also I have like some skin issues, like I get dry skin, I get eczema and so it like really hard for self-care because it’s like everything smells pretty and I can’t use any of that because it makes me break out. And I found this amazing company that makes stuff that smells super pretty and doesn’t destroy my skin. And so I loved it so much after using it for a couple of years now I sell it to and because why not? Because I get a discount on my own stuff. And through that I make sure, you know, I have a routine. I make sure to take care of myself. I make sure that I spend lots of time with my kids laughing and joking around and stuff like that, so like all of that is involved with with self-care.

[0:49:01.700] – Anna Bourland:
I love my dogs, I have two dogs and they make us all happy and they’re great companions, too. So all of those sorts of things come into making sure I’m OK. I mean, and that’s gosh, I’ve worked from home for eight years. So when the shutdown all came, it was like extra super isolation, like on steroids for like now I’m super isolated.

[0:49:27.980] – Anna Bourland:
I already was pretty isolated. So that’s why I would make sure I go to karaoke and do stuff. But now, you know, it’s been super important. You have to be. I have to be very mindful of it.

[0:49:38.690] – TAMAR:
Yeah. You know, yeah, so for me, I talked about [how] singing has really given me a voice. It made me feel like I can start talking again. And that was something that I didn’t do for around—we’ve known each other for a very long time. I’m sure you noticed, but you probably didn’t notice notice because we’ve kind of been talking. I just never felt comfortable talking out loud for a while. Social media. I was very quiet. I stopped blogging. I really stopped posting on social media. I have to stop posting to Twitter. Yes. We met on Plurk of all sites. I know. And I like. Why not?

[0:50:08.240] – Anna Bourland:
Hey, I was really there too. You know, because, remember, social media was like, “oh, we got mentioned by so-and-so” or “ooh, these people!” I have celebrities having me edit their wiki pages or whatever. And now I’m like “eh,” I know how to do social media like the business for a client, but for myself, I don’t need to be recognized anymore.

[0:50:24.310] – TAMAR:
Yeah, yeah. I feel like I have to a little more so and I do it more. But I’m like there’s different outlets that I have to do it. I don’t use Facebook too much unless I’m like really like a big announcement. Right. I will announce probably that I’ll vaccinate and that’s like the only thing I planned on my, docket as well. But I post about my brand all the time now and I wouldn’t have felt comfortable. And Twitter, I stopped using Twitter for so long and people were, people are trying to get my Twitter account. People try to get my Instagram account, but now I’m just like, yeah, that’s that’s just the nature of the beast and I’m OK with it. Yeah. And I think it really came from the ability and the desire to sing. It’s a weird dynamic. But it felt [right] and it’s funny because and I’ve shared this in the past, but when toward the end when I was starting to get better from and I was seeing my therapist, my psychiatrist, I showed him, I said to him, I sent him to one of my recordings and we played it out loud and one of the sessions and we were singing Confrontation by Les Miserables, the Les Mis show, and we have different parts and we’re sitting at the same time. And he listens to this guy and he was a proper voice [singsong]. I’m just like me singing my ahhhh. I sing like a kid, whatever, I was a soloist in high school, in elementary school, but he listens to the opera guy and he’s like, that guy has a good voice. I’m like, what about me? His response was like, he has a good voice. You, not so much. And I was so offended by that. But then I’m like, you know what? It’s not going to stop me from being able to be who I am because I’m finally starting to do it. But I will say that it still left the mark. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that. But it’s fine because at least it hasn’t stopped me and my daughter is starting to do it. I’m just feeling more confident to be able to keep doing it. It’s very therapeutic to do it. I don’t do it for any reason. But the fact that it feels good to sing a harmony with somebody else, that’s it.

[0:52:17.530] – Anna Bourland:
Yes. And that’s what’s important. I think as a society, we have all this access to all these crazy things, like everybody’s on YouTube and they’re covering this big star. And the star saw it and they you know, and then now they have a recording contract here where America’s Got Talent and The Voice and American Idol, all these things. I mean, back in the day, we had Star Search and it was on like once a month.

[0:52:44.710] – TAMAR:
I know, right?

[0:52:45.010] – Anna Bourland:
It was chill, you know? And that’s how we got Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears and all. But now it’s just like everybody is so much more talented. I had somebody reach out to me from America’s Got Talent, “you should audition this” or whatever. And I mean, I kind of started the process at one point and then covid happened, and it was it was kind of crazy. But it’s just I remember having this feeling as confident as I am. It’s just like I don’t feel like I’m not good. I just feel like, well, they’re like this whole other level. And I think as a society, we we might be discouraging our people who just do this for fun or whatever, because we’re all trying to be the next such and such, or the viral video and everything. I thought I was a little immune to that. But then at that moment I was like, I guess I’m not. I guess. [TAMAR: That’s the problem. That’s the problem.] It kind of made me feel like, why should I do this? I’m not that level. And it’s like, no, forget it, we need to do that. You know, if you want to paint and you suck at it, who cares? Nobody. There’s no canvas police. Go buy more canvases and make those suck, too, because you’re enjoying yourself, you know?

[0:54:00.310] – TAMAR:
Exactly. But it’s funny because I enjoyed myself and I was like, I’m good because when I was little, I was always reinforced by my teacher, Mrs. Tuchinsky. I loved her and I still love her. And I haven’t spoken to her in 30 something years, but her daughter just friended me on Facebook within the last six months or so. So I should reach out to her just to speak to her, her mother. But like, she helped me so much in getting that confidence, and then I felt like I wasn’t afraid. But then when shrink was like, “well,” you know, you’re not supposed to do that! You’re supposed to make me feel better! He shrunk my brain a little more. But it’s fine. Yeah, yeah, I don’t know if we should go into that. I’m going to lead with a last final question, if it’s fair, how do people find you? How do people learn and get in touch with you.

[0:54:47.350] – Anna Bourland:
Oh, great. Well, Instagram is probably the quickest way because then, if there’s Facebook and there’s private messaging on Instagram and all the other stuff so the easiest way is to get me on Instagram. And I’m @annainthestudio.

[0:55:01.750] – TAMAR:
OK, perfect. I’m going to ask another question. And you have literally, you’re going to give me a ten second answer, OK? If you can give an earlier version of Anna some piece of advice, what would you tell her? It’ll take 10 seconds to think about, and I’m fine.

[0:55:20.330] – Anna Bourland:
Tell somebody besides your family what is going on.

[0:55:25.160] – TAMAR:
Yeah. OK.

[0:55:28.970] – Anna Bourland:
If social media existed back then—

[0:55:30.950] – TAMAR:
You would have been tweeting

[0:55:32.290] – Anna Bourland:
I might have been rescued. I was almost a statistic, basically I lived.

[0:55:38.130] – TAMAR:
Yeah, wow. That’s powerful. All right, cool. Thank you so very much for this, and it’s been a lot of fun and I hope you enjoyed it.

[0:55:49.280] – Anna Bourland:
I enjoyed it so much. Thank you. Thank you so very much. Tamar.

[0:55:53.060] – TAMAR:
Yeah. Yeah. Cool, cool. All right.

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