This is me as a little girl in the 1970s. I believe I was playing in my nanas living room in Fort Lauderdale at the time. It has been many moons since this photo was taken (LOL) and tomorrow is my birthday. As I approach (gasp!) 40, I have been doing some thinking about where I am now, and the things I wish I had known when I was younger.
My childhood was…nontraditional, I guess you could say. I was mostly raised by my grandparents, who are the two most incredible people I have ever known. Growing up, there was a lot of instability in my life…and it made it hard for me to trust people as I got older. I wish I could tell my younger self that not all people are the same..and that letting go of past hurts is really the only way to give yourself a better life in the future.
I spent a lot of time worrying when I was little..about all kinds of stuff. Unfortunately, that is a hard habit to break and I still struggle with it as an adult. The thing is though, worrying really doesn’t get you anywhere. When you are in a situation that is outside of your control, excessive amounts of time spent worrying and obsessing over it will not change the outcome. So I would tell myself to worry less and try to enjoy the moment more.
One thing I loved about living with my grandparents is that we took a road trip to somewhere every summer. My grandparents did not like to fly, so we loaded up the car and drove (literally) all over the country. I’ve driven from Florida to California and back, through the northern states, and into the midwest. Those are some of the most treasured memories I have of my childhood. As an adult, I find I often let “busyness” get in the way of doing some of the same things with my kids. It’s always “we’ll do that next year”. Well, you know what? None of us is guaranteed next year, and that fact becomes more painstakingly obvious the older I get. I would tell my younger self to stop putting off those things you want to do with your family because you are waiting for the right time. Do them now!!
When I graduated college, I wish I could say I was strong and confident, but that just isn’t true. I was an insecure mess of a girl who was so worried about being what everyone thought I should be that I drove myself crazy. I would do what other people expected of me, and I almost always ended up unhappy. The thing is, most of the people I was trying to please, were not nearly as concerned about my feelings as they were their own. Being older now I have come to realize that what others think is not as important as you being true to yourself, bringing honor to the Lord, and taking care of your family. I would tell my younger self to be less worried about what others think, and to choose more carefully who it is you are trying to please. Also, there is nothing wrong with withdrawing from a relationship that does not influence you for good. Sometimes you can love people dearly, but the relationship with them can be toxic, and that’s not a good situation for anyone.
One of the biggest things I would tell myself as a twenty something year old mom is that yes, children are the greatest gift ever. When you have kids, there is nothing on earth that you will do that is more important than raising them. At first, I worked when my kids were born, because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. But in my heart, all I wanted was to be with them. When I finally gave in to what God had placed on my heart, and left my classroom for home, it was almost like a euphoric feeling. No, it isn’t easy being with my kids 24/7..yes, sometimes I want to pull my hair out. But at the end of the day, nothing is more satisfying than spending time with them. And, as I get older, so do they. I realize now how quickly childhood passes. I know it doesn’t seem like it when you are stuck in what feels like never-ending toddlerhood, but there will be days when you miss it. I would tell my younger self to stress out less, and enjoy just being there with them more. Kids don’t need a perfect mom with a spotless house and gourmet meals on the table…they just need a mom who loves them and is there with them.
As a younger mom, I was also pretty isolated. My husband is gone for 24 to 48 hours at a time for work, and I am often alone. Now, I am the kind of person who is okay with being by herself. I can read a book, play on the computer, do stuff around the house etc. etc. Really, I could pretty much be a hermit if I let myself. The thing is, we were created to interact with other people, and I remember being lonely a lot. The problem is, I still have a hard time getting close to others..you could say I’m one of those “slow to warm up” types I guess. The good thing is, as my kids have grown up, they have started friendships with other kids that has led me to have friendships with their moms. I have a core group of about five ladies that I am very close too. We are all busy moms, so we don’t “hang out” all the time. But we do talk and text, and occasionally schedule a moms night. My best friend and I talk every day. We both have boys that are the same age, and they have known each other forever and they are best friends too, as are our husbands, so it makes it really easy to hang out for dinner and stuff. My friends are important to me for so many reasons. As a mom, sometimes you just need to talk to another mom about stuff. Me and my friends come alongside each other for laughter and tears. We encourage each other, we pray for each other, and we are there for each other. I think my life 10 to 20 years ago would have been less difficult if I had allowed myself to make a few friends, so I would go back and tell myself to do so.
Thinking about it now, there is no way I would want to go back to my twenties. I am so much happier with my life and who I am now. But as we get older, obviously, we learn some things about what is truly important and what is not. My life has not always been easy, but God has blessed me in so many ways. And you know what? It is often my trials that have taught me the most. So I guess the final thing I would tell my younger self is to just hold on. Even when you are in the middle of a storm, God is there and He is working. Even though you cannot imagine how the situation you are in could ever possibly be used for good, it CAN. I have seen it so many times in my own life, and I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for some of the stuff I have been through. So today, I am thankful for this life I have, and very very glad for all the lessons I have learned.