In the past few weeks, a number of people have asked for my advice or insight into pretty large life matters…which is…interesting…especially considering the fact that I ran this morning and have not yet showered (even though it is 11pm) and I can not tell you for the life of me where my keys are right now. I also spent all day Tuesday thinking it was Wednesday. No, like, for real. I emailed someone asking why they had missed a deadline and they said, “I thought I needed to get it to you by Wednesday?!?!” and I said, “Ah shit…It’s only Tuesday. I really thought it was Wednesday.” Additionally, my almost 3-year-old had pink eye and I actually started to get choked up while trying to put eye drops in her eyes because it is that difficult. And I need to do it 4 times a day. And I don’t want to. At all.
I want to really put this out there…I have NOTHING figured out. Nothing. And while, I find requests for my insight, flattering and fascinating, I put a huge whopping disclaimer at the end, which is – I KNOW NOTHING – SO PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
However, I think the reason I appear to be so happy is because I am finally fine with that. I mean, I know something…I know…how to change a diaper, how to distract a toddler when they get a shot, how to be a friend, how to be launch a website, how to tell a story, how to ask a question to get the real answer, how to crash a piece, how to parallel park on a New York City street…but those “why am I here, what am I doing with my life” questions…well I have no stinkin’ idea.
The reason I am so content with my life about 80% of the time (which is about 60% more often than I was before I had Ellie) is because I have had the gift of…perspective.
A friend just left my apartment and she was asking my advice on her career, and she disclosed honestly that she felt like she lost momentum after she met her husband, even though she knows she is still working hard and doing the best she can at her job. And I explained that a few months ago, I started wondering what was wrong with me…I have a job I love…where I am given positive feedback and feel proud of every piece of content I put out, yet, I just don’t get that buzz from the success and achievement that I used to. And then it occurred to me…that before I had my daughter, my job was about 99% of my identity. So any success or failure took up almost all of the space in my mind and my heart.
But after having my daughter, my job was only half of my identity. The other half was as Mom. So when I get a huge pat on the back at work, it is only a part of my day…and my life. I don’t feel it as strongly because it isn’t my everything anymore.
*Note: This is an oversimplification of my identity pre and post Ellie.
This isn’t to be confused with not being dedicated or driven…in fact, I am more dedicated to my job now because I need it to support a tiny human that relies on me. It just isn’t the only thing that I hold my self accountable for, and most importantly, not the only thing I get joy (and despair) from.
And in that parenting, that role as Mom, I learn that there is so much I don’t know. So much I am totally clueless about, so many scenarios that I couldn’t possibly dream up, and so many I weathered fairly successfully without having any prior experience as to how to do so. The more I field the curve balls, the more confident I am that I will be able to. Or the more hope I have that I will be able to. So I become kind of okay with not having a clue.
But I think the main reason I am pretty much, sort of, totally, fine with where I am at in my life is because I stopped chasing unicorns.
Someone who happens to be pregnant and single and about to deliver soon, reached out to me the other day. I receive about 4 or 5 emails a month from people at varying stages of single motherhood and pregnancy. But I don’t ever recall being contacted by someone that is so close to her due date. And as I responded to her, I could actually re-feel all of the emotions she was going through. And it hurt. A lot. The empathy I felt was very intense.
So I responded to her email honestly:
So happy that you reached out! And congrats…I know where you very likely are mentally and physically right now – and my heart is with you. I remember when I was standing in your shoes, I frequently burst into tears randomly (sure it had nothing to do with the hormones) because I was so sad about saying goodbye to the life I had imagined, for myself and my daughter. I didn’t realize it at the time, but managing an unplanned pregnancy – especially on your own – is really a grieving process. I had to let go of the life I had drawn up in my mind, in order to begin to enjoy the one that was unfolding in front of me.
I can tell you very honestly that I am tired on occasion, and I do get sort of lonely because after Ellie goes down at night, I really wish I had someone sitting next to me to rehash the day with…BUT I can also tell you I am about 20 times happier now than I was before…she shifted my priorities, and pushed me to really focus on becoming the person I wanted to be, not the one I thought I should be.
You will figure it all out, with the help of your friends and family…because that’s what Mom’s do…they figure stuff out…but I know how you are probably feeling right now and I will tell you, it will get better. All of it. Maybe not instantly, but it does…please stay in touch if you like.
And then the other night I was talking to a long time friend about whether or not they should get married and have kids with the person they have been living with and dating for a while. We chatted about what was holding them back, what was propelling them forward, and why they wouldn’t just make the leap. And my friend disclosed that this just wasn’t how they imagined it to be.
I asked them if there was another relationship that was how they had imagined it to be. One that was as perfect in their mind as it was in reality? And they said, “No.”
And I said (more boldly than I probably should, given my relationship history), “Then stopping chasing the dream of what you thought it would be, and realize how lucky you are to have what you have, and how much you love the person in front of you…I thought I was going to marry my college boyfriend – even though we both really annoyed each other and were totally not compatible and he said to me that he couldn’t be with someone that put their career so far in front of everything else (that stung…a lot)…because I thought that is what I was supposed to do. I stayed in a job I really wasn’t into, because I was successful at it, and because it was what I had dreamt up for myself…some fantasy of what a kick ass successful woman in New York City did, but I hadn’t been happy for a while…and then I got pregnant and I had to throw out the unfulfilling dreams I had, and fall in love with reality because most all of the superficial shit fell away…and it is a thousand times better than I thought it would. Life rarely goes as planned, and I thank god for that every day.”
And my friend wisely said, “Yes. At a certain point, it’s time to stop chasing unicorns.”
And as crazy as it sounds, I think the key to success is letting go of the crazy dreams…the ones you imagined based on nothing founded in reality, and also allowing yourself to revise the dream and the plan along the way, based on love and life and reality…and also knowing when its time to lean into the ones that we are fortunate to experience. It’s hard. I know. I throw tantrums in my head quite often. It is a recalibration of mindset every day…but it is so worth it.