This week’s blog and podcast topic is near and dear to me as a woman who did not graduate from under grad until I was 32, did not get married until I was 40 years old, and was not able to have children by the time I tried to have them. My timeline has always been a little off from the norms, so I always felt like a late bloomer who was just a little bit different than everyone else. There was a time in my life where this caused me a great deal of stress and I even questioned if there was something fundamentally wrong with me because of the way my life was playing out. I have come to understand since then, that the very thing that made me doubt myself in the past, is what makes me unique and special. Not only do we not have to conform to society’s expectations of us, we can actually celebrate that we are different!
Let’s start with my college days. Suffice it to say, I was not a cheerleader or in a sorority when I went to college. I did not live in the dorms and meet all kinds of people who would end up being life-long friends. I did not go to my roommates’ home for weekend visits or experience campus life. I did not get supported financially by my parents while trying to get an education and adjusting to the façade of independence. Nope, my path was a little different than the average college student.
I left home as a traveling Pixy photographer at the age of 19 and spent the year on the road. I received a letter each week telling me what town to go to next to set up my Beatty Imperial 90 camera in the local JC Penney store. After I finished that, I decided to move to Denver, CO. and got into the restaurant business. Loved that business because I was 21 years old, I met a ton of people, I could make cash quickly, and there was lots of flexibility in my schedule. The downside was working every weekend, working many late nights, working many early mornings, and not getting paid when I was sick. It only took a few years for me to realize I wanted more but it took a few more to actually enroll in college. So by the time I started my college experience at 27yo, I moved back in with my parents (mortifying!) I worked full time, went to school full time, and I busted my ass getting A’s so I could keep my scholarship. I eventually moved away from home to transfer schools to get into an occupational therapy program. That made it a little bit tougher because I had to pay rent again, support myself financially, and manage the challenges of a rigorous major.
When I look back on my college days, I don’t remember fun times, happy memories and budding romances. I remember financial stressors, ER visits due to gastroenteritis every final, and major anxiety most of the time. I used to feel like I missed out on this wonderful experience that younger students got to have who are supported financially by their parents, but I don’t feel that way anymore. In fact, I cherish every single challenge and I am proud of the courage I had to cultivate to keep moving forward. I developed resilience, tenacity, and determination because I did not feel I had a choice. I did not have a safety net so it required me to push myself in a way that I might not have had to if I was not on my own. Not finishing college or not getting a job in my major was not even an option. This determination to stay on task has served me well in my life and is definitely helping me in my quest to be a successful life coach and entrepreneur. So yeah, my memories are a little different when I look back on my college days.
Okay, time to talk marriage now. First, I just have to say do you have any idea of what it is like to be single, in your 30s, and not in a serious relationship in this society?) It can be an excruciatingly painful time. I literally had people coming up to me to ask me what was wrong with me and why was I not in relationship? They would actually look baffled and try to problem solve with me how to find a man as if I was not whole on my own. The old tic-toc, biological clock thing did not help either! This really messed with my head and made me question my value and self-worth as a woman and a human being. About that time, I started to develop the delusion that God just wanted me to be alone and that I was not meant to have a life like most people.
Of course, these thoughts just perpetuated being single and led to many years of feeling lonely and inadequate. I wanted to meet somebody but when you think you are meant to be alone, that does not create the actions needed to be successful dating. What actually changed my thinking was when I decided to get really healthy, lose some weight, and I abstained from drinking for an entire year. That was when I realized how much drinking can stunt our emotional growth because it prevents us from having to deal with uncomfortable emotions that need to be processed. By the end of that year, I no longer questioned my value and I understood that the reason I was alone was simply because of the choices I had made. Not long after, of course, I met my husband. Why? Because thoughts create feelings, those trigger actions, and get us our result. I no longer thought I was meant to be alone, and I believe in myself, so I conducted myself differently. I thought my problem was that I could not find “the one.” I thought if I could just find a man to validate me and prove that I am attractive and worthy, I would feel so much better. I thought that I needed my circumstance to change so that I could feel good about myself. The ironic thing though is that I had to change the way I was thinking first and once I did that, I no longer needed the man to validate myself.
So, after marriage, comes children…or does it? Not for everybody. By the time I married, I learned that I was already in menopause in my late thirties, and it was too late for me. We tried an egg donor, but I was only half in because it all felt surreal and a little too weird for me. This was pretty devastating for me at the time because I loved my husband and wanted to have children with him. If I am totally honest though, I was also quite nervous about being a stepmom and thought I would feel better if I had my own children in our blended family. Don’t get me wrong, I was never that woman who knew she was going to have children and who desperately wanted to be a mom. I just was not wired that way. But I did feel like I was missing out big time by not getting to have the experience of being a mother and giving birth. In fact, for years my eyes would tear up whenever anybody else got pregnant and I would feel incredibly sad and somewhat envious of women who were able to have children.
It really wasn’t until recently, that I have developed a whole different take on this. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that I was not supposed to have children. I know this now because I did not have them. That is the reality and anything else would be a delusion. I also believe that I am a coach who is going to help many women who are in a great deal of pain because they did not conform to society’s expectations of them, to stop suffering and learn how to love themselves exactly as they are. What kind of woman would I be if I rejected that as not being a good enough purpose in my life? No, not everybody is meant to have children. I like to think that having children is ordinary, and I was meant for something extraordinary
Here is the thing though, why do we all have to live the same life? Why do we all have to have the teen college days, the budding romance in our twenties and the children in our thirties?. Why can’t we all just find our own path and live our lives the way we choose without all of the compare and despair? Oh yeah, we can! believe we can do that if we manage our minds and choose thoughts about ourselves on purpose. We don’t need to all achieve the same milestones and have the same experiences. We get to decide who we want to be and do not have to worry about what anybody else thinks of us. I am not going to lie, I wish I would have learned this about twenty years ago but better late than never. I guess it is consistent with my theme of being a late bloomer! Join me in Episode #18 of The Brain BS Podcast to discuss this further.