Before She Was Mama: A Lesson in Finding Your Stride

I thought I’d give you some background, some solidarity, and hopefully some encouragement today. I wasn’t always the sassy, fabulous, well-put-together mother-of-two I am today (well, those are all obvious, especially the last one). No one starts out that way, and some days (minutes), I still don’t feel that way. But some days (minutes), I do!

As a kid/teenager, I had a wonderful life. I went to a small, Christian school, had a phenomenal family, and attended a great church. God set me up for a bright future, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

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I wish I still had that dress! And I’d also take a cookie cake…

However, hormones, awkwardness, and self-doubt can fill a lot of nooks and crannies when you’re 8 (or 11 or 14—especially 14—or 17). When I was in middle school, I remember wishing I could see a picture of future adult-me. I wanted some assurance that I was going to turn out OK. I didn’t need to be gorgeous or thin, but I just wanted to look (feel) “normal” or “average.”

I always felt a little different than the other girls. I wasn’t quite as pretty or slim or put-together—or as fun and light-hearted. I wasn’t as fashionable (when did roll-on glitter stop being a thing?) or current with my music choices (wait. Everyone is listening to Xtina?). I was also more academic and more serious than my classmates, which, unfortunately, is not a boon when you’re 13. I also connected better with my friends’ parents than my actual friends in some ways. I never felt like I was on the same level as my peers. I always felt a little behind the curve in so many ways, but ahead of the curve in others. I just wanted to ride the curve!

When I was a high-school upperclass(wo)man, my mom joined Weight Watchers and found a lot of success (she continues to put in the work and still looks fabulous). I semi-followed the plan and slimmed down as well. Around this same time, I scored my first boyfriend (which I wanted so badly), discovered the hair straightener, and snazzied up the look (i.e. got my braces off). While I still didn’t feel quite as pretty or fun-loving as the other girls (there were 28 kids in my graduating class, so the idea of “popular” didn’t quite describe the cool kids), I felt like I was coming into my own.

And I was—but I hit another stumbling block when I moved to college.

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Skinny, 18-year-old me making friends at Busch Gardens.

I went to college in Alabama, which stole a lot of my heart, so I have almost nothing but love for the gorgeous state. However, Alabama is also known for it’s delicious (i.e. loaded with butter and sugar) culinary efforts. My mom used to joke that I found a school in the “real South” (as Florida is no where near the real South) so I could get my hands on real sweet tea. Fact. However, being nine hours from home, I didn’t have anyone making nutritious choices for me, and that all-you-can-eat buffet was chock full of finger-lickin’-good calories.Within the first semester, I couldn’t fit into my jeans.

I was back to feeling like the biggest girl in the room, which was sometimes true (I took inventory). I felt like I couldn’t get a grip on being the cool girl. I just wanted to be the most stylish, most brilliant, most attractive, funniest, most fun, most spiritual (it was a Baptist school), and most magnetic girl in the room. What is so wrong with that?

I always felt like I was too much and not enough. I felt I was too much personality and came on too strong, but not savvy enough or beautiful enough to back it up. Does that make any sense?

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The “Quad Squad,” as we named ourselves because we would hang out on our university’s quad instead of doing homework. In case you can’t tell, that’s me in the pink-tank-brown-shirt combo. We were a modest bunch. The redhead and the cute brunette in the other pink tank top got married a few years later. Presh.

While not the best years of my life, college definitely filled a void in my heart. God introduced me to the most wonderful group of friends (Quad Squad unite!). Suddenly, I wasn’t the smartest kid in the room, sometimes to my chagrin. I was becoming an adult and finding my own feet.

To date, the best years of my life are on-going. And I love that. As a 29-year-old, I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride. I’ve finally reached an age where I match my peers. I’m confident in myself and my place in life. While I don’t know what I’m doing at least 37% of the time as a mom (or is it 73%?), I feel more grounded and certain of myself as a woman, a wife, a friend, and a mom.

If I’d had the magical ability to see that future picture of myself, I like to think I’d be thrilled. I’m not always the slimmest or most beautiful or funniest or smartest woman in the room, but sometimes I am (and sometimes you are!)! And I married a man who thinks I am. Also, the funny thing is, when I look back on pictures of myself, I realize that I look like every other not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman girl. I fit right in, even though I felt like I did nothing but stand out.

It took almost 30 years to settle in! THIRTY! I’m sure this number varies widely across the population, but this is shocking to me. Why did 15-year-old me think she needed to have it all together?


Side note: I’m truly embarrassed by the lackadaisical approach my Millennial peers take to “adulting” (gross), and I’m annoyed by how slowly so many of them are taking to grow up and take responsibility for their lives and our culture. I don’t think we need to be middle-aged (i.e. “boring”) at 18, but we can strive toward maturity as best we can.


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My friend Amber communing with Olivia.

One of my best friends and former roomies visited from Alabama yesterday. We had a discussion about all of this, and we came to one conclusion. We wish that sweet middle- and high-school girls would give a survey. Ask older women if high school really was the best years of their lives and if they would return to those years. We guessed that the vast majority would give a RESOUNDING no. What does this tell us? That the best years are yet to come! Peaking in high school would be sad, as well as very dismal for your future.

Hopefully, I have many more years to grow into myself, grow in my faith, and grow as a woman of God. How exciting that I haven’t reached my full potential yet!

Since I strayed a good distance from my typical blog fare, here’s a quote from the best book to encourage you today:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.       – Ecclesiastes 3:11-14

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Especially you, faithful woman.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sharon Taylor says:

    Wow! Love, love, love this!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

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