This is me when I was 20. I was in college in Ohio, and I honestly I was not doing so well in life. I was struggling with depression and anxiety. I had absolutely no self confidence or idea of who I was as a person. People say that college is when you find yourself. Unfortunately for me that was not true. I spent most of my college time in my dorm room avoiding the world. I didn't know what was wrong me, I spent all my time thinking I was not good enough for anything, that I was already a failure and that things were hopeless. I tried to be whatever people wanted me to be but never really felt happy, safe or secure. My senior year of college, I finally realized that I had a problem. I tried talking to some of the people I considered friends. Most of them had a hard time believing me because I had done such a good job pretending to be this different person that was so happy, upbeat and optimistic. They just told me I was having a rough time but to focus on better things. To pray more, and read the Bible more. I tried the free school counseling that was available but unfortunately the young therapist was a little bit over her head. But that senior year was a step in the right direction because I acknowledged I had a problem and took some steps to take care of myself.
So I graduated college, and moved back to Maine. Started life as a grown up. Life didn't change drastically at first. I started a job as a case manager, started online graduate school and lived at home. Honestly, working full time and going to school part time really does not leave a lot of time for a social life. But one thing happened that didn't seem like a huge deal but turned out to be a life changing decision for me. I joined a gym. I had never been in shape, always having been the "chubby" girl and never really exercised on a regular basis. My job said that it would pay for a gym membership and I thought "why not". I was so clueless and out of place at first but I stuck with it. I knew I had to go three times a week in order to meet the criteria for the free membership. Then I started learning about healthy eating, and counting calories ( I know counting calories is so not popular right now, but it worked for me). It was a weird thing though at the gym , I learned that I did belong there. I used to tell myself other people were judging me, but then I realized 98% really did not care about me, just like I did not care about them. I learned that by accomplishing regular workouts was leaving me feel accomplished and confident. All the negative thoughts that I used to deal with every day plus the stress of daily life I could just channel into those work out. Those exercise endorphins are a real and powerful thing that I still rely on daily.
I finished graduate school and decided to buy my own place. So I bought my own condo.
Another thing I started doing was hiking. Which previously I probably would have compared to medievel torture. But hiking these 3,000 and 4,000 foot mountains made me so happy. I was always sure I was going to die on the way up, but standing on top of those mountains was such an amazing feeling. I also learned that just because I didn't always look like your standard hiker ( I wore pink, leapord print, and rejected the standard hikers garb) didn't mean I could not climb the mountain. When I would tell people that is what I liked to do on the weekends, they often looked at me very doubtfully. That this girl standing in front of them wearing polka dots, bows, stiletto heels and hot pink nails would do that. But guess what, just because people think you can't do it doesn't mean it is true. In fact, please tell me I can't do something because I will definitely do it then.
So now, I had my own place, and I was no longer in school having to spend all my free time studying. That was another game changer. I suddenly made a very focused effort to be friendly and social. It was amazing how fast I went from a small social life to always having plans. I made friends with the best group of women. They did not expect me to be a certain person and they simply liked me for me.
I suddenly was willing to try or do anything. I was very proud of the fact that I would try anything at least once. How would I know what I liked if I did not try it? Ziplining, indoor rock climbing, hockey games, Zumba, going to a nightclub, etc. Some of it I loved ( zumba) and some of it really wasn't my scene (nightclubs, big shocker). I made fun goals like reading 100 books in a year, or trying 12 new things in 2012. Then I decided to try online dating. I had tried it before but this time I decided to take it way less serious. Just go on and try to make some new friends. I figured the worst I had to lose was some really bad dates ( which I had!) but I would probably get some funny stories and make some friends. I remember specifically telling my friend, "It isn't like I am going to marry any of these guys, I am just in it for the free dinners".
I used to say that I would never live past a certain town in Maine, I would never live on a dirt road, I would never be a country girl and I would NEVER own chickens. Then I met my China Man.
After 8 months of dating my China Man, I said Yes. Looking back now, I was a little naive thinking uprooting my entire life, getting married, and settling into a new community would be so simple and easy. But I was in love, optimistic and ready for a new life challenge.
Some couples talk about transitioning into a married couple and how hard the first year is. I think most of our first year bumps came from mostly me trying to adjust and settle into a new area where I really had no friends. Lots of acquaintances but no one I could be "me". I lost a lot of confidence in that transition but I also learned so much. For example, you would be really impressed to know how much mud a Hondo Civic can drive through. I learned to give myself grace, and time to adjust. I learned every day that marrying the China Man was the right choice. (Except when he snores) In my wildest dreams, I could not have created someone more caring and protective as him. He helped me learn that sometimes you really don't have to figure everything out at once. We had a cute little life and we were happy. Then after awhile we decided the one thing we both felt we needed and were ready for in our life was kids.
As I have shared before, pregnancy was basically the worst 10 months of my life. Morning sickness is really an all natural form of torture. Being a Mom seemed like such an abstract concept for me. I didn't know what life would be like. It was weird to spend 10 months basically not able to picture what life would be like after a certain date. I felt confident I could keep the child alive, because I am not an idiot but what would it be like? You hear people talk about their heart exploding when they meet their child for the first time. I wanted to be that person since I certainty did not bond with him during pregnancy.
When my Little Man was first placed in my arms there really wasn't any fireworks or sunbursts. I was just so confused. He was screaming, blue and flailing around. All I wanted was for someone to tell me he was okay. I think I asked several times before the midwife finally reassured me he was the picture of a healthy baby boy. Even then I was still so in shock that I had really given birth. Then everyone else was so busy holding him at first, and I assumed they had been waiting to meet him for so long they should him. So my moment didn't come for a little while afterwards but I remember looking at him and finally understanding what it means to say your heart no longer lives inside your chest.
So there you have the past 10 years of my life. I would say in the past 10 years I grew up and found out who I was as a person. I have had to kind of reinvent who I am as I have taken on new roles as Wife and Mom. I still worry that people don't like me, but at the same time I have also learned how to stand up for myself. I still have sad days but I have experience and tools in my pocket to know how to deal with it. I will always be my worst critic and every day will is a deliberate choice to be happy.
I have been the girl in counseling, I have been the girl on multiple medicines, I have been the girl wishing she didn't exist, who used to not be able to get out of bed and thought she couldn't do anything. Now I am the person who now knows I am in no way weak and when I am not sleep deprived, I am a fun person to be with. I am strong because I took care of myself and fought for the person I knew I could be. I used to think it was a bad secret I needed to keep from people that this was something I struggle with because they might think I am weak or incompetent. Now I think, if that is what you think of me after reading this then in the words of all the cool kids "Bye Felicia".
A lot of women who give birth talk about their "Tiger stripes" the stretch marks left from carrying the baby for 9 months. There is a movement to be proud of those stripes because it shows what you did and are capable of. When I look back at my twenties it is filled with a lot of fear, sadness, anxiety and lonliness and those are the "Tiger Stripes." of my 20's. I fought them, and I won. So welcome 30 and I can honestly say I am 1000% happier in this picture than the first.