I watched a beautiful friend blossom in a few short months, and this transformation is one that inspires me. We met at the first leadership class I took in July. I had just started a new job. I was still going stir crazy with way too much down time at work to make me happy. I’m still getting on my feet as a single mom and near 40-year-old starting on a new career. This young woman was a petite powerhouse. I mean, she looked solid and muscular. She was beautiful. And she was nervous about the company we were in. The class I took was a privilege. I'm fully aware of the gift I was afforded. At the time I was stll skeptical about the class. The way things fell into place put us in a room with actors, lawyers, doctors, business owners, nurses, news anchors . . . It was a mosh pit of success. I was an odd one out, but that is who I embrace on most days. She was lost.
We were standing outside of the room on the way in from a break and she told me she didn’t know if she belonged there, she was only a scientist. Seriously.
I remember thinking how amazing it was that she was a scientist. I dropped my geology major because it was too hard for me to do it well. Literature was easy for me. I was frustrated that with my education in Los Angeles, I couldn’t get a better job because of my lack of paid experience and she was feeling unimportant because she was a scientist. I got past my shock and told her that she was a badass. I gave her a minor glimpse of the amazing I saw in her. Fast forward to last night when I showed up for her graduation from the third leadership class, and she embodied all I saw in her when I first met her. She was no longer ashamed to be "just a scientist," but has already set things in motion for medical school. She is fierce and the transformation in her life is encouragement. Being able to see her grow the way she has in such a short time, and for me to be inspired by that is her feedback.
On my lunch today, I shared a Facebook live stream because I choose to get comfortable with speaking in front of a camera. I used to be such a ham and lately I'm more like chicken.
[facebook url="https://www.facebook.com/yessica.maher/videos/10209140257437327/" /]
I’m a mom that would have given every single breath, vision and dream for my family, at a radical personal cost because this is what I thought motherhood meant.
My parents always did what was necessary. They worked, they were present. To this day, I've never seen either of my parents drunk or high. They embody sacrifice and putting their children first. The last almost 16 years has taught me that being a sacrifice to my family doesn't serve any of us. I believe I would do what I can to be the mom and example I need to be for my kids, but that means learning to balance self care with caring for them so I can continue to care for them.
Just this weekend, my son wanted beef jerky. I had passed on that bag for myself just the week prior. It looked good, but I was being frugal and decided I didn’t need it. Kid2 asked and before he could finish his sentence I had already approved. I debated and denied myself, but offered it freely to my child. I’m not doing anyone any favors by showing my family I don’t matter. I’ve done it long enough. I have been getting a sitter to show up for me, so I could show up for friends lately, and soon I’ll be getting a sitter to show up for me, so I can show up for me. I'm working on fighting for every choice like I matter because I do.
I get to make space for my own joys and pleasures along what I do when my kids are with me and when they are away. I don’t need to be a martyr. I can make sure my kids have what they need and celebrate with friends because that’s the point of a sitter. I don’t need my time to become secondary to the idea that my time is only valuable in the context of a date night with their Dad. Grocery shopping or a Target run used to be my ideal space for “me time” because I had no idea there was more to life than being a mom and a wife. My enjoyment of my life is just as important as theirs is. It’s a valuable gift that they would see that I am not secondary or sacrificial to my family. I don't need to stay home with the kids and make space for someone else's dreams and hobbies. Happy wife, happy life takes on new meaning when I’m in charge of my own happiness.
I am in the process of a divorce from a marriage that has lasted 42% of my life.
I get to decide what being single means. I get to figure out what I like to do and go do it. This usually looks like hiking and museums with some really great food thrown in and watching live performances in Santa Monica. This looks like those incredible hugs from that really hot guy with washboard abs that managed to convince me my curves and softness are sexy and that I’m beautiful. Or it’s coffee with that one man who never skipped leg day from Uruguay that said my name in a way I can’t copy. He made me laugh and that was enough. It's late night texting that means I don't go to bed until 4 in the morning with the bald man with soft crinkles for laugh lines and a deep, penetrating voice that tickles unexposed fantasies, and that's okay because when I wake up at 6:30, he's still the one on my mind. It means spending the night out alone because dating myself never disappoints me.
I get to learn how to budget my finances. I get to prioritize purchases that I value. I can buy a game for my kids, or budget and plan for school pictures or jewelry if it sounds like something I would like. I don’t need permission or to worry about picking a fight. There is no more fighting or my passive aggression.
I get to decide how I want to raise my kids when we’re in my home. I get to let them test their boundaries without feeling like I’m coddling and overbearing because someone else thinks I need to be. I get to teach them to cook and test their independence in doing so when they're ready.
I’m starting a career from spending most of my adult life as a stay at home mom.
I love my job, but I get to take my time figuring out what my career should look like, and being picky about my next job. This morning that meant I turned an hour long interview into 8 minutes, because I knew they couldn’t offer the work environment I thrive in. I had no reason to waste another second of my time impressing them when they can't offer what I want. In dating, it's text messages that look like this:
"As beautiful as you are, it feels unfair to test out the fact that I know it won't work. We want different things and as much as I might enjoy your company in the short term, you aren't the one for me. I hope you find who you're looking for."
I get to figure out what brings value to my work and what solidifies my work ethic. I can say yes. I can say no. I'm in a position to ask for what I want and there's nothing forcing me to stay in the present aside from the fact that it's what I have been doing. I'm not happy with a portion of something, so I'm not happy with the whole and I don't need to sit and complain because I get to change things.
This means you get to reinvent myself.
If you find the people you surround yourself drain rather than energize you, it's time to create space for yourself. You don't have to apologize for taking care of yourself.
If you don't like how superficial your connections are, you get to reach out in vulnerability and accept support and encouragement with genuine connection.
If you don't like your job, look for a new one.
If you don't like what your bank account looks like, see where you can improve things. Is your bank offering cash back or an annual percentage yield? Are you pinching every penny? What are you prioritizing and is that serving you or costing you more?
If you don't like what you look like, change it. Get a haircut. Start exercising slowly enough that it isn't a struggle to increase what you started with. Change your diet.
You are in control of your life. If it doesn't look the way you want it to, the only one that can change it is you. You are your only road block and your only motivation and the idea that you keep doing the same things because it works is a fallacy because if you are unhappy, it's not working.
If you feel fear, doubt, or stress, you should know you created it. It's in your head, can't be measured or removed by anyone other than you, and it only hurts you when you allow it to manifest physically in your body.
Live the life you want by choosing better. Even if it's one small step in the right direction each day, it's better than sitting in pain, complaining that you aren't living epicly.