In the last year and a half, I’ve hit almost every single life milestone: I graduated from college, I moved in with a boyfriend; I got my first out-of-school job; I quit said job; I got engaged; I had a baby; and not so long ago, I got married. Wooh. As someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy transitions and often struggles with change, let’s just say 23 was a whirlwind. But as challenging as this past year was in many ways, it was also the year that changed me the most, and a year of tremendous growth. So here’s a few thoughts as I say goodbye to 23, and hello to being one year older.
1. Let go of expectations. This is not where I imagined myself at 24, and sometimes I find the stories I told myself (of where I’d be, and what I wanted) difficult to let go of. Some days I don’t feel fulfilled and I feel utterly lost. But when I step back and let go of how things “should” be, I realize that everything is just as it it’s supposed to be — and way better than any story I created for myself.
2. Being a mother is the hardest job I’ve ever had, and probably ever will have. But it’s by far the greatest. I honestly didn’t know being a mother was this tough. I really have to remind myself sometimes that this rough patch of sleepless nights or grouchy days, like everything, is just a phase, And I’ll miss these days when they’re gone. But even among the toughest days, I didn’t know that I could ever feel so much love toward another human being. This sweet baby of mine challenges me to be a better person every day, and to always focus on what’s important.
3. I may be a mother, but I still need five minutes alone. I’m learning this the hard way and I still haven’t figured out how to balance it all, but I know that as much as I love being a mama, I also need some of that sweet and oh so needed alone time. And it won’t happen unless I am proactive about it. Reminder to self: even that five minutes, alone, in a quite room is better than nothing, so take it (though I should really get to that yoga class I’ve been talking about…).
4. When in doubt, just breath. Don’t ever underestimate the power of stopping, taking three deep breaths, and starting over.
5. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve always returned to this quote because it’s one that resonates with me. It’s never been more true than now, as a mother. I still struggle with remembering to not compare my story to others, but I’m working on it.
6. Action comes first, motivation follows. I’m typically one of those people that thinks I should feel motivated to do something, and when I finally do, then I’ll run/clean the house/make time for myself/etc. But I’m realizing how true it is that once I just get moving and do something, I’ll feel motivated and end up getting more done. So, go! Do! — even if you don’t feel like it.
7. I can learn a lot from this little being. When I really sit and watch my son, I realize how much I can learn from him when I turn off the mindless chatter (and my phone) and just be with him. I just love his curiosity and enthusiasm. He’s the greatest reminder to approach every day with a beginner’s mind.
8. I’m a good mom. I’ve been having a hard time with this lately and feeling like I’m failing at everything. But when I remind myself that I have a healthy, happy, and loved child, I have to admit that we must be doing something right. I will never be a perfect parent, but that’s not what makes a good mom.
9. Cut yourself some slack. I’m going to have bad days, I will say things I regret, and I will never feel like I have it all together. And that’s okay.
10. Let go of regrets. I spend too much time and energy regretting the past and thinking about how I should of done this, or shouldn’t have done that. Stop rehashing the past, and focus on learning from it. And then move forward.
11. Just try something. Rather than thinking of how I might fail, or how I’m not good at anything, or how I don’t know what I want to do, just try something. If I don’t like it, I’ll try something else. I won’t ever figure out what I want to do for a career or what hobbies I really enjoy unless I spend time doing different jobs and various activities. And eventually, I’ll find something that fits.
12. Baby kisses are the greatest. Seriously. There’s nothing better than a big baby kiss right on the lips. It can turn my whole day around — even when he’s being extra cranky.
13. Ask for help. Stop being a martyr. And stop assuming people know what you need and when you need it. Ask for help.
14. Take a break from social media. Sometimes I see moms on Facebook and Instagram who seem to be doing it all while never having a bad day (or a bad hair day, for that matter). And that’s when I realize that I’m being sucked into comparing myself to that unrealistic (and untrue) standard that social media often presents. Sometimes it’s healthy, and needed, to just take a break and cut myself off from all forms of social media for at least a few days.
15. Speak up, and stop questioning myself. I haven’t gotten this down at all. I’m not typically a quiet person (my husband will attest), but I tend to get quiet and lose any and all confidence in a group. I don’t really know what the answer is, but I’m working on this.
16. I’ll never have it all figured out. So stop waiting for that day to come.
17. Sometimes, I just need to make a decision. I’m working on being less indecisive. It’s a major issue for me.
18. Don’t negate the positive. Every day is going to have good and bad components, and every day I have the choice of where I’ll focus my attention. I have a tendency to focus solely on the negative and life can start to look pretty terrible when I do. So I’m working on remembering that there’s always a positive, too — and if I choose to focus on that instead, I’ll be a happier person.
19. Get out of the house. Days can get long trying to entertain an 8 month old baby. But often what we both need is simply to get out of the house. Or sometimes, to just get out of town for a few days. I often appreciate our home and our city much more when I’ve had time to miss it.
20. Marriage is hard work. And it’s even harder with a baby in there. I’m learning to communicate more, walk away less, and always say I’m sorry. It’s not about being right or wrong, and it’s not about being perfect. Because at the end of the day, we’re always on the same team.
21. Exercise is a game changer. I never thought it would take having a baby to make me really love exercise, but I’ve come to need it. Even a quick mile on the treadmill can completely change my mood, and therefore, the entire day.
22. Love more, judge less. I’m trying to be less critical of myself and others. So when I find myself being judgmental, I’m working on replacing it with a loving thought instead.
23. Be open to mystery. I don’t particularly like the unknown, but mystery isn’t something I have to be uncomfortable with. Learning to not only live with the reality of it, but to be content in it is important for growth.
24. When all else fails, eat a big piece of dark chocolate. No explanation needed.