My 25th Year: a post-birthday post

This time last year, I was working in the digital department of a large local retailer, putting in sixty hour weeks working beneath an unqualified manager–and bully–who had “known the right person” to get his position. I was overworked, overwhelmed, filled with guilt about my inability to have time for my family, and unsure as to where my “family” stood: my son was now beginning to call my boyfriend his dad…leaving much to be desired. As a recent graduate, I was engulfed with worry that this was what I had worked hard for and it my new normal. I was devastated, to say the least. Those emotions are what consumed me during the days I celebrated the first #quartercenturyofkelsie.

I’m quick to assess a situation’s costs and benefits and make adjustments, regardless of how difficult they seem at first. My thirst for growth is never satiated, and the previous year was filled with big choices, mature revelations, humble understanding, and peaceful acceptance. Here’s some of what I learned in my twenty-fifth year:

1. I am enough.

I spent the first few years of my twenties trying to prove something. I had a child at nineteen. I was devastated by the stigma and felt I needed to be redeemed. My final year of college was guided by fear of achieving a job, and when my job was depleting my quality of life, I didn’t know how I could save myself while still upholding this Wonder Woman Mom image I had been fighting for.

In January of this year, I participated in a 40 day transformation the Houston yoga studio that I belong to. The program is a combination of daily yoga and meditation, mindful eating (and living), and hard-hitting concepts that everyone struggles with. Through this program and my inward contemplation, I began to understand how OKAY I already am, how my journey is just as it should be, the illusion of right vs. wrong, and applied these concepts to my perception of others. I highly recommend the program, which can be guided through Baron Baptist’s book, 40 Days to Personal Revolution.

2. Letting go is worth it.

This year I said goodbye to some people who had been friends to me for a very long time, and I also reconnected with someone whose friendship I had let go of years ago. Someone’s presence is either serving your journey or they are holding you back from it. Don’t let feeling like you owe someone keep you from the growth you need.

On a bigger scale, you have to be willing to let go in the same way of dreams that you had for you future, so that you can make room for new ones. When Mark proposed this past November, I was stoked to have the dream wedding I couldn’t have when I married my son’s father as a teenager and then have a marriage filled with love and respect as I had hoped. Then I reviewed the budget and had to prioritize.

We’re still getting married, but it won’t be a big affair. Yes, I had those dreams a child, but I dreamed of going to Harvard before I was a slacker and the various other ways I let my life go astray from that. The dreams I’m achieving because I didn’t get stuck in not achieving others is why my life is so fulfilled.

3. Working a 9-5 is SO last century.

My favorite thing about working from home for a Houston-based marketing firm and our partners, is that all of the people I’m meeting with have one thing in common: they value life as a whole.

There’s this big issue with work/home balance in our society, but the people in my circle are living the lives that they desire—travelling the world, having the time to enjoy their family, staying faithful in their religion, and being active in their hobbies, all while running a business. We work random hours, but we’re able to enjoy it, rather than spending half of the day mindlessly surfing the web and watching the clock.

4. I’m not that great of a parent.

.,..But I’m not that bad of one, either. When I was growing up, I was always upset my mom was at school or work instead of being around and spite toward my absentee father grew stronger and stronger. I had opinions about the parenting that was given to me, and was sure that when I became a mother, I would do everything better. When Tobias was in utero and infancy, I read all the books I could get my hands on, then I was cocky about the choices I made—sure that they were the “right” ones.

I yell, I say inappropriate things, I talk too much and lose my patience quickly. But I’m doing the best I can, and that’s okay. The boy is all right.

As am I. Twenty-six sure sounds old, but it came with a sense of peace and an invigorating sense of priorities. I’ll take that over a face without fine lines and wrinkles any day.

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Yesterday, Tobias turned 6.

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He woke up to laughter and balloons above his bed, dressed quickly, then worried as I cautioned him that we may be late for school, only for me to make a sudden left before our usual turn for the doughnut shop. With chocolate milk in hand, he closed his eyes, made a wish, and blew out his candles on a strawberry iced doughnut with sprinkles. This, all before the school day began. When I picked him up early, his classmates sang him the birthday song, along with “Cha! Cha! Cha!s” and smeared cupcake icing on their faces-much to his teacher’s dismay. We headed straight for the movies as he opened his present from me: a book and a game, both revolved around his self-professed future occupation, architecture. 

Despite traffic, we made it to the movie on time, threw on our 3D glasses and watched Rio 2. We were the only ones in the theater, and we took advantage of this by laughing obnoxiously, doing our version of Latin dancing to the songs, and me telling him in a non-hushed voice about how when he’s older, we’ll go to Rio de Janeiro and have all the fun. We made our way to Sky Zone when the movie ended, then to a pizza buffet for dinner. We ended our night later than usual, but still made time for a quick Skype conversation with Mark, his new book being read aloud, and for him to tell me about the buildings he’ll design “one day.”

Tobias’ birthday reminded me of how things have changed in his years here on earth. He came into this world the child of a marijuana-dealing-by-day, line-cook-by-night father, and a lost, teenage and broken mother. I remember that first night that I held him in my arms–my tired family had all run to IHOP for a celebratory meal–I assume his dad was with them, or somewhere off lighting a joint near hospital grounds. He left to do just that while I was in labor-the same thing he did in the middle of our wedding reception. It was all very typical.

I held Tobias in front of me, looking at his pale face with his top eyelids kissing their bottoms. An overwhelming sense of loneliness washed over me in that moment, and I realized that this is just as things were going to be going forward. Me and him, and I’d figure it out. Just the two of us. 

Fast forward six years. SIX WHOLE YEARS, a lot of moving into different places to live, one home, a handful of different jobs, two universities, one graduation, one career, a divorce, and an engagement. After all of that, I now feel like he has the stable, focused childhood that I always wanted for myself, and when it was too late, for my children. He’s in the advanced learning group at school, is confident in his abilities, participates in after school activities, and makes friends easily. He has a dad climbing the corporate ladder, a mom who is able to work from home, and an alternate life when he visits his father on weekends in the country with his maybe-soon-to-be-maybe-not stepmother, their tumultuous relationship, and a little brother. He never has to go without material possessions other than for learning’s sake, and, more importantly, he’s always surrounded with tons of love.

Despite that, I can’t help but feel like I haven’t figured things out like I thought I would that night. On the outside, I have an active lifestyle, a career, a home and friends and a happy family. But I’m still so lost. And I’m still, in all honesty, very lonely. I know it comes along with being a young mom and always feeling different from your peers–or rather, unsure of who your peers are anymore. It also comes with working from home: it’s just as much work to get out and be in the company of others when you’re not crammed into an office with people every day. This struggle with balance doesn’t seem to ever let up, and I’m learning it probably isn’t just me who feels this way. 

In this six years, I’ve realized that the whole “figure-it-out” thing is something that I was too young at the time to put into real perspective–similar to how I thought that my ex husband’s marijuana selling was a sign of entrepreneurship, and I somehow had decided he would have translatable skills in the long run. (Very naive. Very hopeful. Very 19.) I’ve found that “figuring it out”, when it comes to parenting, is a constant, deliberate set of actions-not a box you can check at the end of some period of time. And it’s okay, because mothers all over the world are struggling with up-and-down feelings of doubt, and they’re doing just fine too. The kids are alright–and so are their mothers. We’re kicking ourselves along the way, because we always feel like we could have been better. Next time, just ask the kids. They’ll tell you the truth: You’re the best mom in their whole world.

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all.