At the young age of 22, I became a mama for the first time. I did not feel too young then, but as I look back, I realize how much growing I still had to do. When our baby girl was about three months old, we moved closer to my home town, and I became a mostly stay at home mom while I worked on my master’s degree.
Despite moving closer to home, and having family readily available, I discovered that staying at home meant that I was isolated and lonely. I tried different mothering groups and never really found my home–some made me feel too mainstream (and not religious enough), others made me feel too young, and still others felt too hard to break into as an outsider.
Fast forward five years, and another baby later, and I began to really search for my purpose. In school, I had always felt pretty successful and good at the things that I was doing. And, I had plans! However, staying at home and raising my kids–while something that I will never regret–made me wonder what happened to ME. That confident, smart, and happy young woman. Instead, I felt tired, irrelevant, and depressed.
That summer, I made the big and hard decision to take another career path and head back to school to earn my post-baccalaureate teaching certification. This decision, too, was hard for me. It felt, in some ways, like a failure, because I had so much education already that I wasn’t using!
However, heading back to college–and, at the same time, beginning to work at a local school–turned out to be one of the best things for me. Suddenly, I found myself in classes with other non-traditional students who were a lot like me! Within weeks, I found myself in a group with four other parents, who could totally relate to the trials of working and going to school with a family. At work, I also found myself in a very welcoming community of people who just seemed…normal. It was so refreshing!
When I began my counseling journey, one of my focuses was on my sense of loneliness and lack of purpose. However, this weekend I had one of the best discoveries I have had in a while:
On Friday night, I met up with a friend for dinner and, when she asked me how I have been, I found myself totally pouring out my heart and soul to her. And, you know what? She listened, she empathized…and then she shared that she, too, has had many struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. This is something that we probably would not have really ever talked about until one of us decided to break the silence…and we both left feeling better and feeling validated! Moreover, we both left with a sense of love and compassion for each other.
The next day, I met a newer friend for breakfast–I call her my “anxiety buddy”, because we found ourselves becoming fast friends as we talked and bonded over our mutual need to see the same counselor. 🙂 She is always there for me, and me for her, lifting each other up and giving each other the hugs we need to make it through the day. Later that afternoon, I packed up the kids and headed to a different friend’s farm, and we all played in the sun and enjoyed the beautiful weather…which, for once, I could enjoy and relish in.
That night, my family and I went to a barbecue at my friend J’s house. I met her through school, and she, along with the other non-traditional students that met the first day in Music for the Elementary teacher 2 years ago, all joined together for dinner. We all have our own stories, and have all been jumping through certain hurdles of our own. At this dinner, as we sat on the deck together and enjoyed the sunshine, we shared our hearts and had moments of sadness..but we also had many more moments where we laughed..so hard.
In this moment, I realized something: I am not alone. I am not isolated. I do have friends. In fact, I will even say, I think I have met my “tribe.” This group of people–from work to school–who like me FOR ME. Unfiltered. No strings attached. Just imperfect me.
I sat back, took a deep breath, and felt, for the first time in a while…hope. Hope, blossoming in my chest. I can get through this growing process–and I can do it with the help and support of my husband and my friends. They see me. They hear me.
And that…feels amazing.