I’m turning the big 3-0 this year, but I’m not freaking out. Sure, I feel a little intimidated that I can’t use “naiveity” as an excuse anymore, but mostly, I’m ready to get out of my 20s. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it. I’m ready to be a 30- something with confidence. I am done feeling sad and guilty. I have life experience. I might actually be able to give advice with purpose. I’ve been scorned and have survived. I’ve had some of the highest ups (my wedding, the birth of my daughter) and soul- crushing lows (death, depression). I’m going to be true to myself and not worry what other people think. I recently purchased this quote on a piece of art: “If it makes your heart smile, it’s the right decision.” This is my new mantra.
Even though it’s still 2 months and 24 days away, I’ve kicked off the anticipation of my 30th year by chopping off all my hair. My husband said (jokingly) that I look like Suze Orman. It got me thinking, maybe I DO need to be more like ‘ole Suze! She certainly doesn’t mind dispensing advice although it is hard to hear, but true. She is obviously confident, otherwise there is no way she’d walk out in public, on national television no less, with those flashy blazers she sports. I’ve realized, there are two ways of living – you can either stop fighting and succumb to the pressures around you, or you can push through the mud until you get to the other side. Believe me, I know how HARD it can be to fight. I’ve had numerous pity parties (reservation of 1) over the course of my life and have cried myself to sleep too many times to count. I know what it’s like to wake up only to dread seeing the sunlight because it means it’s time to face the harsh world once again, even if that means staying in your post-partum maternity yoga pants all day (and even if you’re well past the point of needing them). I know what it’s like to be so confused with the direction life has taken you thus far and not having any clue what would make you happy. You know what I also know? I know that it’s not living feeling that way. Your memories shouldn’t be a fog and you need to find someway to see the beauty of what’s around you. You know what makes my heart smile? My husband. My daughter. My ability to create.
I learned at a young age that life can be really &*%@ing unfair. When I was 11, my younger brother was diagnosed with Leukemia. I can tell you everything about the exact moment when I found out he had cancer. For the next 2.5 years, my memory seemed to have blocked out just about everything that happened. I couldn’t tell you who my teachers were, why my friends got into petty fights, or who was “going out” with who. Here’s a memory I do have: Being happy, coming from a good day at school only to walk into my house to hear my brother screaming. He had canker sores all in his mouth and refused to take his meds because of the pain. My parents were pleading with him, arguing with one another. The pit in my stomach returned and I could have kicked myself for being so stupid and enjoying my day when there was chaos at home and feeling guilty that I had fun when I should have been thinking about what I could do to help my brother. I remember being teased because my “friends” couldn’t just stop over. They couldn’t even have a remote sign of sickness, for fear my brother might get it. They had to take off their shoes, wash their hands, and basically douse themselves in bleach before we could hang out. When I think of those years, it’s like remembering a really bad, really long storm that hovered above our house. My brother was 7 when he died in 1996. I was only 13. I remember my mom, even after losing a child, made a decision to pick herself up off the ground (even when it seemed impossible) and make a happy life. I look at her approach to life, after losing her only son, and don’t know if I could do the same. But you have to – you have no choice. You have to pick yourself up and move forward. Do I still cry after 16 years because I miss my brother? Yup, I sure do. I’m sad for me and I’m sad for my mom and I’m sad my daughter will never know her uncle. I’ve made my choice – I will not live in the fog and I will make my life worth living.
A couple of years ago, I gave birth to the love of my life, Miss A. Of course, like any new parents, my husband and I had some rough patches during our on-the-job training in the first couple of weeks.. like maybe we shouldn’t turn on all of the lights when she wakes up every two hours and maybe we both don’t need to get up and maybe crying because my toast fell on the floor really isn’t the end of the world. I knew I was meant to be a mother, but I was definitely not prepared for post-partum depression. I was oh-so-tired, and sad, and overwhelmed, and I couldn’t relate to my child-less friends, and my husband was annoying, and I loved Miss A so much, but this was so much more work than I ever thought, like SO MUCH MORE WORK, and on and on and on… The best part of my first post-partum appointment (aside from getting an anti-depressant) was my Doctor reminding me to use a “back-up” birth control (like that was even an issue) and saying, “If you think you’re depressed now, just wait until you find out you’re pregnant again.. then you’ll REALLY want to jump off a cliff.” Yes, there were a bajillion hormones raging through my veins, but I sat on the table laughing hysterically while tears were still dripping down my face! Here I was again, years after my brother died, but I learned to muddle through this stage of my life too.. it was hard – it still is hard – except, now I’m just chasing a toddler who throws temper tantrums and I actually think I want to go through it all again. What can I say, she makes my heart smile.
Going through all of this crazy post-partum stuff was even more crazy because I was unemployed. Sometimes (depending on who I was talking to), I made my life sound more amazing than it actually was. “I’m a stay-at-home mommy!” In fact, to most people I made it sound more amazing. I still am so thankful that it allowed me to spend the first year of my first baby’s life at home, taking care of her and watching her grow right before my very eyes, but I wish that’s all I got to do. Some days were amazing and we would play and I would take 50 pictures of her staring at a ball because it was “SO CUTE!” Most days were much less amazing and I was freaking out because we had no money and I didn’t even have a prospect of a job lined up. I actually fulfilled a long-term substitute teaching position during my last trimester of pregnancy. The school was hiring for the same exact position I was teaching, but I didn’t get hired because I didn’t have enough “experience.” They were right – I didn’t have enough experience kissing rear ends, which was apparently on the invisible section of the job application. I went on another interview that summer and out of 3 final candidates and 2 positions, I was the one they decided against. So, what did I do? I wore my maternity yoga pants everyday. I rarely put makeup on. I ate crappy foods. I watched even more crappy television. I gained the “baby” weight that I lost when I was breast-feeding, so now it didn’t even have a cute name – it was just fat. Somehow, we got through it. My husband listened to me cry and we panicked together. I didn’t think I would though – eating ramen noodles for dinner sucks. ass. bigtime. Being an adult eating them out of necessity doesn’t have the same cute, nostalgic appeal as it did in college. We didn’t get to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary because I was working some sucky minimum wage job and half of my income went to daycare. I’m not too proud to say I’ve worked at Target, and although I could spend a month’s salary there, there is no joy to be had as an employee. My trainer was 19. My manager was 21. I was 27 with a Bachelor’s degree and half- way through my Masters. You do what you have to do.. to get to a point that makes your heart smile.
A constant throughout my 20s has been my crafts. I sew and make cute things out of fabric. There were times when I barely had enough money to pay for the art show fee, let alone supplies, but the money I made and the people who complimented me as an crafter and artist were amazing. I’ve sold my things all over the country online, in local shops, and I got licensed through a local univeristy to sell magnets. When I was feeling sad or depressed and didn’t want to even get dressed for the day, I would turn to my sewing machine & make something awesome. I watched Project Runway like it was my job and I hope to make my own clothes someday. Sewing and creating absolutely one- thousand times over makes my heart sing at the top of it’s little pink lungs! I’ve made cute headbands for my daughter. I’ve sewn curtains for our home (when I couldn’t afford fancy-schmancy ones in the store). I’ve made money at craft shows that made my mortgage payment, and then some. I buy one yard of fabric and make some beautiful. It makes my heart smile to share my craft with someone else.
So, where do we go from here? I got a job. My co-workers appreciate me. My husband loves me. My daughter still wants to be around me and thinks I’m fabulous (maybe a slight embellishment). We eat organic foods and healthy dinners. I have only a few close friends, but I love them like family. Do I have bad days? Oh yes. Am I sad? Sometimes. Am I ready to be a 30-something whose heart sings everyday? Absolutely.
What makes your HEART smile?