Bo, 37, New York, USA
If someone tried to tell me how much I would grow and mature from my 20s to my 30s, I wouldn’t have believed them…
Married at 23, a homeowner at 24 and a mother at 27, I thought I had life all figured out. Little did I know that a lifetime of “supposed to’s” and an identity built on caring way too much about what people thought about me would stop me dead in my tracks at 34, forcing me to basically start all over from scratch.
Now, a single mom of a 10-year-old girl, I’ve completely restructured my way of life to ensure that every move I make and every step I take is with pure intention, with purpose, and most importantly from the “inside out”. I’ve learned to re-prioritize what’s most important, starting first with figuring out how to truly love and respect myself, paying much less attention to what’s happening externally and much more attention to what’s happening inside of me.
What I do know is this: life and your baggage eventually catch up with you. If you don’t unpack your shit, your suitcase gets really heavy, and eventually you just keep carrying that stuff with you, place to place (or person to person), and no one really wants to help you carry it if you can’t carry it yourself.
If you don’t get to the root of your demons (and believe me, we’ve ALL got them), they manifest themselves in some negative way in your life. Maybe you become an addict, a recluse, a clepto, a hooker—whatever it is, if you don’t get to the bottom of it, it will eat you alive and keep you from being a whole person. And if you’re not a whole person, you can’t be a good partner for anyone else.
I learned the hard way. And I don’t know what eventually clicked inside of me to begin fixing my crap, but I’m so incredibly grateful that I did. Though certainly far from perfect, I know I’m the best example of a woman and a mother for my daughter, and I know that when external stuff starts to get the best of me, I’m stronger in my internal core, so I’m not as shakable as I used to be. And when I make decisions, they’re far less impulsive and unsure.
I’m divorced. I’m financially frazzled—a lot. I live in an apartment that costs more than a mortgage with hand-me-down furniture because I need a place suitable for my daughter—and I can’t buy a house because I have no way and means to take care of it. I’m busy as hell, and some days I can’t tell my ass from my elbow. And yet somehow, I feel more sure of myself than I have in a really long time. I surround myself with people and things that feed my soul, and I draw from them rather than let them define me. I no longer subscribe to guilt as my main motivator. And I constantly gut check to make sure that anything I’m doing is for all the right reasons—I just focus on one thing at a time.
It’s crazy—when you get caught up in comparing yourself to others, or basing yourself self-belief on what others think of you, you can get sucked in and convinced that you “should be this or should do that”. But that’s all just noise, really. In my mind, I think if you’re a good person who does the right thing for the right reasons, then how much money you have or whether you’re married or where you live doesn’t matter. None of that external stuff matters if you’re not comfortable in your own skin.
And I also firmly believe that the right people enter your life when you’re in the right place to receive them. If you’re not in a place of loving yourself, you just can’t possibly be ready to love someone else or know how to let them love you in a healthy way.
Someone asked my daughter the other day, “What do you love most about your mom?” Her answers put everything into perfect perspective: She said, “She always does the right thing, no matter what. She’s not afraid to be herself. And she always makes me feel loved and understood.”
Not only did her words make me realize I’m doing just fine, but I’m also 50-percent responsible for this amazing and insightful little girl.
If that’s all I’ve got to show for myself at the age of 37, I’ll take it.