Photo By: Kimberly Brooke Photographic
I am a 31-year-old woman who is finally happy and comfortable in my own skin. I say that because I feel like most of my life I have struggled with identity. For several reasons, but most of them overlapping one another, only sending me farther and farther away from my true self.
I mention my age because on my 31st birthday, I decided that it was my year! I was going to realize and come to grips with my truth. However, it has taken me a lot of life to get me to this point…I am an average person who grew up in Houston, TX with my parents, my two sisters, and a fleet of animals, including 2 cats, a dog, and two horses.
I am the baby in my family so I thought that the world revolved around me, and I was always taken care of by everyone else. My parents were pastors at the church that I grew up in, so I basically grew up thinking that the church was my second home. That was my normal.
Everything was always rainbows and sunshine until the day I found out that my mom (who was also my best friend) was diagnosed with cancer two months after my 13th birthday. She had been diagnosed a few years before with breast cancer, and we THOUGHT it had “gone away.” When it “came back,” it had metastasized in the bone. This was a bigger deal for me this time around because both of my sisters were no longer at home — one was away at college and the other married with a baby on the way. This was world shattering for me. I was forced to grow up FAST.
I went from being a kid to going into my teenage years taking care of my sick mother and handling the household – cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. My parents always did their best to make sure I had the chance to do “normal” teenage things. But life was different. I had responsibilities that had to be handled. Things that needed to be taken care of. And I wanted to make sure that my mom was comfortable and had everything she needed when she needed it.
She fought hard for two years but eventually lost the fight. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I was 15 years old and suddenly lost not only my mom but also my best friend. During the time when most teenage girls are discovering who they are, depending on their mom to show them how to become a woman, I was trying to figure out how to cope with losing one of the most important people in my life. Thankfully I had many women who were able to step in during the important moments to see me through — you know who you are! But it wasn’t the same. I was lost.
I got through life okay though…I did all the things a young girl is supposed to do. I made it through high school and graduated. I moved to Austin and started college. I made new friends (some of which will always be in my life). And somewhere during those years, I met a guy. A guy who I tried to stay away from because he annoyed me (that’s a whole other story!). But somehow he tricked his way into my life and soon became my boyfriend. That boyfriend eventually became my husband. So needless to say, I’m glad he tricked me into our first date. We fell in love, hard and fast, and two years later we were married! Although I was absolutely elated, this is also when my second identity crisis started…
Becoming a wife is a big freaking deal! You are choosing someone to spend the rest of your life with. To live with, to make decisions with. It’s a big deal! And I’m a bit of a traditionalist in some ways, so the idea of being submissive and seeing your husband as the head of your household is extremely confusing. Today’s world AND the way I was raised taught me that I needed to be strong and independent, always being capable of taking care of myself. But the traditionalist in me says otherwise — back to that word submissive. How is that not confusing and won’t send you into an identity crisis? I mean I changed my last name for goodness sake!! Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband, and I am honored that he chose me to share his last name. I LOVE that he chose me to spend his life with! This dilemma had absolutely nothing to do with him or our relationship. But I found it really difficult to mix being this super independent person that I had always been, blending it with being a wife. Am I alone here?
So here I am, trying to figure out how to be married but not lose this super independent side of me, then BAM! Two days after our second wedding anniversary, I found out that our first baby was on the way. WHAT?! I haven’t even figured out how to be a wife yet. Now I have to figure out how to be a mom too?!
Now one thing I didn’t mention was that I had also just graduated from college, finished my internship, and gotten my first job out of college (it took me an unusually long time to finish my degree!). Everything I had worked so hard to accomplish was happening. I was starting my career and I was on my way! So you can imagine my surprise that when I was in the midst of the beginning of a career, I would now have to put it all on hold and deal with starting a family. I was shocked, and scared, and had no idea how I would do the mom thing without my mom. After all, isn’t that how most people do this thing called motherhood?
Once our first born, Jakob, slowly entered the world (I had a 32-hour delivery), my hubby and I decided it was best for me to stay home with our little guy. So that was it…I was now a stay-at-home mom. I became something that I NEVER imagined myself becoming. Once again, I was lost! Completely and utterly lost! I dealt with postpartum depression and didn’t even realize it. My poor husband did the best he could with me, but I was miserable. And why?! I had this beautiful, healthy baby boy who I loved more than anything else in the world. But yet I was so sad, all the time! It took me six months, and a lot of talking to other moms to figure out that I was dealing with postpartum depression. Once I came to this realization and started saying it out loud, it kind of went away. THEN, something else happened. I got pregnant again…
Here I am with a six-month-old baby, just coming out of postpartum, and realizing I had another baby on the way. How can I have a baby, when I was still taking care of the baby I just had? I wasn’t ready, but thought “Here we go again!” And with the birth of our second baby boy, Grayson, hubby and I decided we were content as a family of 4, and he scheduled a doctor’s appointment for himself.
And before I knew it, I was rolling into my 31st birthday. I was finally not pregnant or breastfeeding. The depression was gone. I got my body back (mostly). And then I made up my mind, THIS WAS GOING TO BE MY YEAR! I was done being this lost puppy wandering around and being a victim to all the things life was throwing at me. I was done looking at myself wishing I could look a certain way, or dress a certain way (not that these things really matter, but if you look good, you feel good, am I right?). I wanted to conquer. I wanted to be everything I WANTED to be. But mostly, I just wanted to embrace everything that was good in me, and eliminate all the things I didn’t like, the things that were negative and bringing me down. I became determined to be the best version of myself. This was my year!
Thirty-one has now become my lucky number. I am me…and I love that! I am not perfect. I fail every single day. And I know I will have to strive for the rest of my life to keep becoming the best version of myself. But I’m okay with all of that! It took me 31 years to realize that its okay to fail, and its okay not to be liked by everyone (although, I will still always try). I think the best thing I have figured out is that my boys get to grow up with a mom who not only loves herself but strives to be better every day. My hope is to inspire them to be the best version of themselves. But if nothing else, they will grow up with a mom who is sweet, loving, loyal, emotional (sometimes), God-fearing, tough, resilient, sensitive, relaxed, relentless, adventurous, food obsessed, a music lover, a fashion wannabe, and strong. I am me! And I’m pretty proud of that!