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  • Writer's pictureElaine Marie Carnegie

The Human Story

by Johnnie Bernhard

Please welcome Johnnie Bernhard to the Writers Journey Blog this week. This feature article moved me. It is an elegant rendition of what it means to be a human being, a woman, in an inelegant time of human history! Bravo Johnnie!

I’m an author, a storyteller. I’m motivated by the human story and what connects all of us, regardless of geography, race, and religion. And that is the need to love and be loved. The beautiful words written by the French author George Sands appear simplistic as a sentence. But, the ability to love is perhaps the most difficult journey for the human race. Its universal theme is structured within the family, self-discovery, and acceptance.

Our first introduction to love is within the family unit. It is also where we learn to trust. If we don’t receive these essential elements to our well being as children, we will spend a lifetime trying to fill that void. The sad truth is the easiest ways to fill the void are also the most harmful to us.

Learning to love is the only way to fill the emptiness within.

Like all women, I am known by many names: daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend, colleague. There is a divine mystery to each of these relationships. The role of the relationship may change due to many reasons, but its core, its very meaning never does. Our little sister will remain the little sister despite being fifty. The maternal need to protect our daughter doesn’t diminish when we become eighty. We are bound in a timeless relationship of mother and child.

We should never underestimate the responsibility we have to each other, as women. To be a mentor, a parental figure, a friend. The beauty of comradery, shared experience among women, is one of life’s greatest joys. It is what sustains us through the disappointments in life. It is a treasured sisterhood.

I am entering a new role as a woman. While I accept the fact I am aging, I also recognize society often views older women as invisible women. Women are not readily seen in the public eye or the workforce, as significant, attractive, or even, vital, simply because they are older. Old. What a terrible conation in America.

At fifty-eight, I’ve learned women become smarter, sexier, more confident as they age, simply because we are comfortable in our skin. We know who we are, we’ve learned how to forgive, and we’ve learned how to love.

Discover who you are, not in comparison to others, especially other women. But you. Do the hard work, the dark night of the soul, the self-examination of consciousness. It begins with forgiving yourself and others. It is the ability to say I am responsible for my actions. I am not responsible for things beyond my control. I am an adult.

It’s the hero’s journey Joseph Campbell introduced us to. Because it’s never about the destination, but the journey we take to discover who we are.

The acceptance of who we are lends itself to the acceptance of others. This is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of the human journey in our relationship with people outside of our immediate friends and family. People who are often direct images of ourselves and our beliefs. That’s easy work, accepting others just like us. But let’s look at the real work worth doing, in our roles as women mentoring and parenting others.

We shouldn’t judge others based on our preconceived mores or prejudices. Within the past decade, a harmful trend has become a reality within our culture – making others feel less significant who don’t agree with our view of the world. It has become a part of our daily vocabulary. Name calling. Finger pointing. Bullying. Sometimes, it results in murder. Yes, murdering someone because he has a different point of view.

We do not need to abandon our own beliefs in listening to the views of other people. I invite you to remember the time when varied POVs were considered part of the adult conversation, the ebb and flow, give and take of ideas, delivered with respect for both parties. It was once called a common courtesy to do so. Common, as defined as applicable to all people, appropriate at all times, AND the norm to do so.

We cannot fight fire with fire. The entire world will become an ash pile. History has shown us this over and over.

While I represent who I am as a woman, I invite you, too to speak, your voice is as important as mine. Your story is as poignant. This country was founded on the beauty of many voices speaking for a common good. That common good is based on human dignity. And that, is the respect and recognition of others, despite their beliefs being different from ours.

I am often asked during these turbulent times what are my responsibilities to others as a woman and a writer.

My responsibility is to strip away each layer of color, prejudice, and arrogance until I am at the core of what it means to be human.

And that is - to love and be loved.


BIO: Johnnie Bernhard, Author and Speaker

A former teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard is passionate about reading and writing. Her work(s) have appeared in the following publications: Houston Style Magazine, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, The Texas Review, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America essays.

A Good Girl (2017, Texas Review Press) was shortlisted in the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition, the 2017 Kindle Book Award for Literary Fiction, and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Fiction of the Year Award. It was a nominee for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and placed in the permanent collection of the Texas State Library and Archive Commission, Texas Center for the Book.

Johnnie’s second novel, How We Came to Be (2018, Texas

Review Press) was named a “Must Read” by Southern Writers Magazine and selected for the 2019 Deep SouthMagazine recommended reading list. It is the recipient of the Summerlee Book Prize, HM by the Center for History and Culture at Lamar University.

Her third novel, Sisters of the Undertow (2020, Texas Review Press) was chosen for

discussion at the 2020 national AWP Conference, the Pat Conroy Literary Center of South Carolina, the Southern Book Festival/Humanities Tennessee, and Words and Music Literary Feast of New Orleans. It was an official selection for the 2020 international Pulpwood Queens Book Club. Named “Best of the University Presses, 100 Books” by the Association of University Presses, Sisters of the Undertow was placed in the Texas Center for the Book, State Library Collection and received First Place in the Press Women of Texas Communications Contest.

Her fourth novel, Hannah & Ariela is set for publication by TCU and Texas A&M University Presses on August 1, 2022.

Johnnie was chosen as a selected speaker in the 2020 TEDx Fearless Women Series. She also supports young writers in public schools through the Letters About Literature program with the Texas Center for the Book and with the Write for Mississippi program. In 2021, she was named a teaching artist with Gemini Ink Writing Arts Center of San Antonio and the national TAP Summer Institute 2021. Johnnie enjoys teaching workshops for writing communities across the country.

CONTACT: Johnnie Bernhard, author:

For orders, Texas A&M University Press: 800-826-8911

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Jim Bates
Jim Bates

Written from the heart and very thought provoking; I loved reading this Johnnie. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. Hopefully, reading and integrating your insights into my life will help me become a more understanding and compassionate man. Thanks again!



I loved this essay and, as an 'older' woman, found it honest and encouraging. A wonderful outlook and a fantastic read.



You have an admirable attitude about life and living. And, a most impressive list of literary accomplishments! All the best going forward. 🙂


Priscilla Bettis
Priscilla Bettis

I love Bernhard's outlook on growing older as a woman. Sometimes we are invisible to others, but that doesn't mean we don't know how to love and be loved.

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