Monday, May 19, 2014

Looking back

As we approach the graduation season for many from both high school and college, I always like to take a look back. The years have seemed to pass more rapidly lately, so doing so occasionally makes me feel a little old. Nonetheless, graduation is always exciting for those taking on new chapters in their lives, and I congratulate all who are making these life changes. 

Just kidding, high school grads....congrats, but seriously, it just gets harder from here!

As I looked back this year, it struck me just how much had changed in such a (relatively speaking) short period of time. It made me realize that, after the days of high school hallways, textbooks, and backpacks, there was still a world of knowledge I had to uncover on my own, without all of the help of others guiding the way. Of course, that's the way life teaches lessons a lot of the time, and I know without a doubt that there was a part of me that was too stubborn to have listened had someone spoke these little bits of wisdom to me at a young age. Even so, life has taken many changes, and it got me to thinking about the lessons I've learned and the ways in which my outlook, my goals, and my plans have changed.

I think the hardest lesson for me (the competitive perfectionist) to learn was that I wasn't always going to be the best, and that life doesn't always take a straight path. From the time I was young, I always set sky-high goals and placed a great deal of pressure on myself. I have a pretty good memory of these days, but luckily for me, I'm also a word/memory hoarder, and I have a ton of journals from this time in my life. As I reflected a bit on who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do at that stage in my life, I decided to pull one off of the shelf and read through it.  

There, tucked in the pages of teenage angst, sports stories, really bad poetry, and teenage drama, I found a gem. In an entry dated March 20th of my senior year in high school, I found a list I had made of things I wanted to accomplish/experience. I laughed as I read some of them, and shook my head at others. Some of them, though, are things that still stir something deep within me, as they were goals I had long held and have since achieved. There were twenty to-do's on the list. Of the twenty, I've done thirteen of them. Three of them are things I would never again consider as something I would want to do, knowing the things I know now (and knowing that life is really thrilling enough without seeking some of the crazier thrills), there are two things I'd still consider doing, and two that are very much still goals I hold that have just not quite been met yet. 

The fact of the matter is that this long road to achieving some of those things would not have been acceptable to the idealistic 18-year-old I once was. On top of that, I've made some pretty big mistakes that I think would have shocked the naive little girl I was back then. I've traveled a bit of an unconventional path, I've changed goals, I've lost touch with people I once thought I'd always be friends with, and I've grown up. That's the most important thing. Life is not stagnant, and if anything, going through memory lane reminds me that as life changes, we must change, too. Sometimes, that means that the things we want and strive for also transform. Sometimes, it means that we're going to take the wrong path, make mistakes, fail, and fall on our faces. But, it's all a part of life, a part that we take for granted a lot. 

Some things the fact that, thank goodness, these glasses are no longer in style (or maybe they never were, but I digress...)

We tend to take for granted those hard times--not in their power or intensity, but definitely in their importance in shaping who we are. Those times when we're uncertain, down and out, feeling like a failure, or completely missing the boat are the times in which personal growth is at our fingertips. They're the opportunities to better ourselves, to learn what really matters, and to move forward. These are the important times, and that is the biggest thing that memory lane has taught me in life. 

Unpredictably good, unpredictably bad, or unpredictably's a journey.

I think this is important to note, because all too often, I hear people say that they think they've let down the younger version of themselves. Overall, I think that 18-year-old me would shake her head in disbelief at some of the stories I've accumulated, but I also don't think I've let down that little dreamer girl. While I think it's important to remember who we were and where we came from, I think it's also important for us to offer ourselves a little understanding. Even if we took a different path than we thought we were going to, it's okay. Life changes. Priorities change. Dreams change. We change. Aside from all that, I've recently viewed the bucket list of a seemingly bright 18-year-old, and I'm still shaking my head at some of the things I listed as life goals. Sure, the rooftop kiss I had listed on that bucket list was incredible, and yes, graduating from college was an important step in my life. But, honestly, do I really need to jump out of an airplane? No...and I'm not sure what part of me ever thought that was an experience I needed to have to be successful or fulfilled in life. 

And, unlike our 18-year-old selves, it's probably never again acceptable to just randomly sport a tiara.

Essentially, we can all get caught up in the 'good old days,' and I think that sometimes that's therapeutic. But, we cannot afford to discredit our journeys, the ones that took us far from those 'good old days,' shaped us, taught us, hurt us, grew us, and made us. We are not who we were when we threw those caps in the air, and personally, I'm quite grateful for that. It's been on crazy ride, and I can't wait to see what the next seven years have to bring.

Thankfully, though, memory lane also holds gems like this one, and also thankfully, some things don't change--like the friends who remain an important (and still silly) part of your life!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mother's Day

In just a few days, we will all celebrate one of my favorite days of the year—Mother’s Day. For me, this has always been a special occasion, perhaps because my mother is, hands down, the most incredible person I’ve ever met, and I love nothing more than to have an excuse to recognize all that she has done for me and my family.

As I have been searching for the “perfect gift” or perfect way to say “I love you,” I seem to have come up short this year. Every year, I attempt to do something unique to let her know how important she is to me. Some years, this means I write something for her—ranging from super silly poetry when I was 5 to equally silly and sappy poetry just a couple of years ago—or I find a way to tell her she’s incredible, like making a playlist full of songs that reminded me of her last year.

This year, though, I have racked my brain for days, and cannot come up with anything. Then, it dawned on me. This year, I’ve grown up a lot. I’ve changed in many ways, and maybe, I’m still trying to figure out what it is I want to say this year. You see, in the past year, my parents have changed the way they look at me. Sure, in many ways, I am—and will always be—their little girl, their little spitfire middle child with a sassy, smart mouth. But, over the course of the past couple of years, I have blossomed into an adult—both in actuality and in their eyes. This has, in some ways, changed our relationship. Of course, it’s still one of love, support, guidance from them, and everything it has always been, but it’s also grown deeper, and maybe even more special (although I never thought that could be possible).

That means that, this year, I really thought about what Mother’s Day means to me as an adult. It’s no longer the holiday of painted hand prints made into flowers (okay, that was really like three years ago, so stop judging), handmade cards, or anything like that. She’s more than the one who makes my grilled cheese sandwiches and kisses away scraped knees—although those were no less important at the time. For me, it’s about something deeper this year. Maybe, that’s because it’s been a year of great change—a year of hard times, sticking together, and growing as a family. But, it’s also been an eye opening year that has showed me the depth of what it means to be a family. That’s why, this year, it’s important for me to look at why we celebrate this day.

In all my thinking, I’ve come up with the fact that we celebrate because mothers (at least the good ones) are truly selfless beings. My mom is the first to go without if needed, the last to be served, the first to step up and ask the hard questions, the first to offer an encouraging word, the first to offer a hug or a shoulder to cry on, the one who will always let me be silly and even join in, and truly the strongest person I’ve ever met. She was my first teacher, my rock in the hard times, my closest friend, my dearest supporter, and my truest ally. In times of trouble, she has always unwaveringly been the one I can turn to. In times of joy, she’s my first phone call. When I have a joke to share, I know she’ll laugh at it. When there is a victory or personal accomplishment to celebrate, she’ll cheer the loudest, smile the biggest. Similarly, when discipline was needed, she would offer it quickly. Yet, she would never hesitate to follow it up with grace and advice on how to do better next time.

She was, and remains, the best example I’ve ever been given of unconditional love, grace, humor, strength, stubborn determination, quiet resilience, and faith. I have seen her tested, and I have seen her stand her ground. I’ve watched her go through trials greater than I could have ever imagined, and I’ve seen in her a level of perseverance unmatched by any.

In light of this—and after 25 wonderful years as her daughter—this year, I am more proud than ever to have her as a mother, to have her in my corner. I’ve had some tell me that I remind them of her, and this is, by far, the greatest compliment they could give me. I am proud to be her daughter, to see some of her strength and humor reflected in my own eyes, to see the great impact she has made on me, my siblings, and all of the children who have experienced her influence.

That’s what this Mother’s Day means to me, and I have a feeling it will only grow with importance as the years pass by. While I'm still searching for the perfect gift, for now, this might have to suffice. I love you, Mom--always have, always will!