Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why you don't have to have it all together at 27...or possibly ever.

I'm not going to lie, back when I used to daydream through my high school Algebra class, this is not where I pictured my life at the ripe old age of 27 (hint of sarcasm, though I do feel kinda old lately). That's not to say I don't love my life as it is. I've been blessed with a loving, hard-working husband, a beautiful baby boy, and an awesome new job where I can work from home, allowing me time for my writing and to raise my son. I'm also fortunate enough to have an amazing circle of friends and family that are fun-loving, funny, and supportive. Honestly, life is good. However, at times I feel like I am putting together a puzzle starting with random pieces from the middle, instead of starting with the solid corner pieces...

I've recently been accepted into graduate school, where I plan to begin working towards a Master's of Arts in English this autumn. I hope to go on to earn my PhD in Creative Writing or Literature and teach at a university level...or to teach at a university level if I can wing it with just the MA. I also hold all of these lofty, highfalutin fantasies of becoming a published author. In other areas of life, I dream of owning a house somewhere out west (near a city but not a big city; not in the suburbs, but not totally in the boonies either- not that I'm picky or anything ;)) and adding to our little family. Of course, I have no way of knowing if any or all of these dreams will become a reality, but I have faith that everything will work out the way it's supposed to go.

I think the part that makes me feel not-quite-so put together is the fact that I tend to do big "life events" out of order. I'm not sure where this supposedly correct outline of life first established itself, but it's been hard-pressed in my mind as the "right" way to do things, and I find myself cloaked in guilt whenever I do these things out of order. For instance, I always imagined that I would finish all of my education and really establish myself before I got married. Our wedding took place two months before my college graduation while I was student teaching and had approximately $50 in my savings account after my share of the wedding expenses. (My husband was starting his apprenticeship, so we were basically in the same boat.) I thought I'd be reasonably successful in my career by age 30, as opposed to returning to school just before my 28th birthday. I also assumed that I'd own a house before having any children. Well, that didn't happen either. I have to admit that when I occasionally see people engaging in these life events in what I'd always convinced myself was the "correct" order, I get a wee bit jealous. I think to myself, These are the really successful people. They have it all together. But then I hear stories of this issue or that, and I realize that nobody truly has everything figured out; it doesn't matter if they finished school first, scored a successful, high-paying career, got married, bought their dream house, and then settled in with two kids and a dog. Even if they've achieved these events in optimal order, they still have to deal with the daily stresses and issues of life; they don't get a free pass for doing things supposedly "correctly". Relationships, money, careers, family, etc. all bring happiness and heartache, but the beauty is in the eye of the beholder in every aspect of our lives. Though life may be unlike what we expect from time to time, the chaos can make it extra special, too. For instance, people can be happy living in a 400 square foot apartment, working 30 hours a week on top of an unpaid 40+ hour/week student teaching gig. (Trust me, I've been there.) Life events occur out of order. Stranger things have happened.

I can and am happy even while worrying about the future, even on the days when the going gets tough. I'm a firm believer that, when you put your faith in God, you can be happy in any and all situations, even the ones that make some people roll their eyes and squirm uncomfortably. And, no, you don't have to do life "in order" or have it "all together". Certainly not at 27. Maybe not ever.

Friday, January 9, 2015

5 Reasons Why Being a New Mom is Awesome (and Weird)

1. When you're pregnant, you engage in this bizarre experience where you are basically not one but two people. I guess you're not actually the second person, but you have to watch what you eat, drink, and do for the body you're sharing with mini-you. I thought that this double-person feeling would be over once my son was born, but we are still basically attached at the hip. Want to get lunch with me? The little dude is coming along. How about a spontaneous walk? Well, I have to get the little man bundled up, find the stroller, and..yeah, it might take a while. I'm guessing this kangaroo-type feeling will be around for at least the first year, if not a little longer...

2. Oh, so much love. During the hormone-ridden first days postpartum, I was looking at our newborn and burst into tears. My husband hurried over, saying, "What's wrong? Is he okay?" My response: "I just love him so much!" This was followed promptly by more tears. Though I am not quite as crazy as I was in the immediate days following the birth of our son, I still understand that intense mother bear feeling. It's difficult to put into words how much love you will actually feel for your child; it doesn't seem physically or emotionally possible until you've experienced it for yourself. It also makes you crazy-sauce. For example, you have the feeling that if someone dares to threaten your kid, you will literally gouge their eyes out. Literally. And I'm a fairly peaceful person. I can now relate to Liam Neeson's character in the movie Taken. I would break laws and kick all of those terrorists' asses running on nothing but caffeine and adrenaline; I wouldn't even need fancy weapons. I'm serious. Mothers are crazy (fathers, too, apparently). Don't threaten our kids. It's not worth your life.

3. Your old life dies, in a way, but you have a new beginning. In the days after the little man's birth, I was chalk full of emotions. A part of me felt that, now that I was a mom, the fun was officially over. No more parties, no more dates or nights out, no more freedom; my life was now cloaked in responsibility. After a few weeks, however, I realized that you can still do the things you love; life is just different. My husband and I can still go on dates; we just either need to take the little guy along or have a friend or family member babysit. We still spend time with friends and family; visiting others means an extra hand or two with the little guy, giving us an awesome, much-needed break. I can still get coffee, write, go shopping, and do other fun things with the baby; it just means investing more time into getting ready and being willing to cut plans short if he gets fussy. Sure things like attending Packer games, taking exotic trips and going clubbing aren't in our immediate future, but were they ever really common occurrences for us? Not really.

4. Every little thing the baby does is a minor miracle. It's an incredible feeling to watch your child grow and learn. You feel a strange sense of accomplishment, knowing that you created a person who is, well, basically doing the stuff that people are supposed to do... I have nil to zip carpentry skills, but I have the impression that it's the feeling of accomplishment one might get after building a house or something similarly impressive. Our guy is nearly 5 months old, so it's not like he does much yet, but it was awesome to see his first roll, the first time he reached for his feet, his first talking-like noises. I'm sure the more impressive milestones (crawling, walking, potty-training, first day of school, etc.) will be even more amazing!

5. Learning something new. I love learning things as I'm a teacher, an academic, and a natural-born student. Being a parent teaches you so much; for example, I've already learned patience, how to put a baby to sleep, patience, how to change a diaper in seconds basically anywhere, how to cure diaper rash, patience, determination (have you ever watched a 4-month-old spend 40 minutes trying to reach his toes?), nursing, patience, baby milestones, teething, etc. Oh, and have I mentioned patience? Each day makes me wonder what else I will learn about my son or from my son. His innocent little eyes see the whole world as fresh, exciting, and full of potential, and I hope that I can greet the world every day with the same amount of wonder and delight.