I wrote and re-wrote and deleted completely and wrote again a message to you to try and convey what I feel about your latest blog, the one where you wondered if you should finish your college degree so your daughters won’t have to tell people you were “just a mom” when they get older. The one where you wondered if there was “something more” out there for you, or if it is “enough” to live the life you already have.
I keep trying and failing to convey what I want to say. Its too precious, too sore, to touchy of an area of life to write about clearly for me. But at the gist of every message I keep trying to write is this:
What does your gut say? What does your heart want?
Do you know?
If you don’t, keep looking, and don’t stop till you find it.
You will find it.
When I was engaged at 21, I went wedding dress shopping at a big box wedding dress store with my mom and sister. I actually hated it, it felt so staged and fake-y and sales-y. But after trying on three dresses I told the woman I was pretty sure I wanted to try on the first one again. We put it on and I walked out of the dressing room and she told me to wait while she grabbed a veil and a fake bouquet. Then she had me close my eyes and then turn around to face the mirror with all the trappings of a “real” bride. Seeing myself as a bride, even as corny as the manufactured situation was, tears filled my eyes and when I looked over at my mom and sister (two women with major BS detectors), they were crying too.
“Is this the one?” The woman asked.
“I mean … I think so … I think so?” I stated it as a question.
“Okay,” she started in on something I’m sure she was taught in sales, but something that would stay with me for the rest of my life. “What if,” she began, “What if I told you that you couldn’t have this dress? That it was no longer for sale and there was no way we could get it for you?”
I paused and let myself feel all those feelings as she continued: “Now, what if I told you that you that this was the dress you had to get? That we made the choice for you and this was the one we chose?”
I stared at myself, all gauzy underneath a silky sheer veil. I felt my heart drop when she said I couldn’t have this dress. I felt relief when she said they had chosen it for me. “This is the one.” I nodded at myself in the mirror. That was the dress I would become a wife in.
I have found throughout my life when I am stuck with a decision to make, that silly wedding dress floats back into my brain. But I think it applies to you. Try on your different life options and see how they feel. See which one makes you look in the mirror and tear up with the “this is it” feeling. The wedding dress test, for me, gave me insight to my gut feelings. Sort of like flipping a coin when you can’t decide between two places to eat. If you secretly, subconsciously had a preference, the result of the coin toss will resound loud and clear in your gut. “Oh, Italian.” And then you suddenly know without a doubt what you really wanted was sushi.
I have to warn you though, somebody is going to see you in that dress that you chose and think that is the ugliest f-ing dress they have ever seen. Some people might talk about how they would NEVER pick a dress like that.
It doesn’t matter. You are the one wearing that damn dress. You’re the one who will remember how it felt on your skin, who will have the pictures of it strewn about your home for the rest of your life.
The people you want around you in life are the ones who don’t care what dress you pick. They just want you to feel beautiful in your dress. The people you want in your life are the ones who will tear up when they see you in it because they know you love it and you chose it. Not the people who say, “well, I’d lose a few pounds before getting in that dress.” Or the people who snidely say “Oh! That’s not the dress I thought you would pick ….” Their comment hanging in the air while they look at you with slight disgust.
Do you see where I am going with this?
The answer is not “you are doing the right thing by being a SAHM/not finishing your degree”. The answer is not “you are doing the wrong thing by being a SAHM/not finishing your degree.”
What is at the bottom of that message, the one that is nagging you to be “something more”? Think hard and deep on this one, and don’t stop till you get to the truth nugget at the bottom of your heart.
My truth nugget said “stay home” when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. It didn’t tell me how to do it, or for how long, and it didn’t tell me I would always feel this way. My truth nugget didn’t care that I had a mortgage and a graduate degree and that the idea of staying home made me feel a little suffocate-y and panic-y. My nugget told me that despite my fears and doubts, this was the thing – the next right step. My nugget didn’t say it would be easy or that I would love more days than not, it didn’t say anything except – this is the next right thing FOR YOU.
I don’t have any idea what my nugget will say in 6 months or two years or a decade from now. But this is what it said when I was only weeks into my pregnancy, this is what it said despite years of me declaring I would never want to be a SAHM. I declared it with such disgust that it was probably painfully obvious to anyone but me that that was exactly what I would be. Because, life. Because, karma. Because, humility.
When I hear women defending their choices, women who almost violently want to prove to you that their way is the “best” way, I hear a woman begging for validation. Please, please tell me I am doing it right. But nobody can tell you that except yourself. You are the only person you have to tell you “right choice.” Because you are the only one who knows.
If you are one of the insanely blessed people who gets both the crazy privilege and burden of making a choice like this, count yourself lucky. And recognize that you have the obligation to do the thing, the thing you already know you need to do, whether that is to settle in to this life that you love so much as is, or to reach for whatever is calling you to “something more”.
Choose the thing that makes you light up and come alive. Don’t choose the thing that seems easiest or most socially acceptable, choose the thing that will help you sleep well at night. Don’t choose the thing that looks the best on paper but hangs over your head or tugs at your heart or makes your stomach feel all icky. Don’t choose the thing that you think everyone else thinks you should choose if it isn’t the thing that makes you feel peace.
And don’t think that choosing means your problems will disappear. There will still be problems. There will still be hard parts and icky parts and “why the hell did I choose this?” parts. But the problems that come of a choice your heart and gut made are the right kind. They will bring you closer to where you are meant to be.
As you know, I chose that wedding dress and my marriage didn’t survive past a year. That’s the brutal/beautiful thing about life. It lets you fall on your face and choose again. At 26 I found myself trying on wedding dresses again, this time in a sort of dumpy little hole in the wall store. No salesperson was covering me in veils and handing me fake flowers. I didn’t need it this time.
Not a single, solitary soul can tell you the answer to these questions except yourself. Look in that mirror, peel back that gauzy veil, and own your beautiful, beautiful self in that wedding dress that you chose.