The other day a mass email went out to my work team looking for someone who can inspire people. Selfishly I wanted to offer myself as the guest speaker. I feel inspired and all things positively -ing.
How society measures success only captures a small percentage of the inspiring people that walk amongst us. Teaching our children success lives in a certain size home, drives a particular car and earns a sizable income sets them up for a lifetime of assuming they've failed. And I’m not buying the hype.
Now before you start saying things like "Jessica you don’t own a home, you work and never vacation, you gained 40 pounds, and you suffer from adult acne" I need to stop you. Too often we create false notions of success comparing ourselves to one another. I agree with you on the list, but I don't agree is makes me less than anyone else or lacking in the success department. I feel really blessed to be in the skin I'm in. Research and data pegged me as living a far less fulfilled life. And I’ll be damned if I let some schmuck with tons of research decide my life for me. I’m not going to end up on the wrong side of statitics.
This overweight, short-haired maven has achieved quite a bit despite the circumstances.
Here’s just a few.
Did you know I‘m the first person in my family to graduate college? Let alone with a full ride scholarship?
I don't sneeze at that accomplishment. I worked hard for my education; I was raised to believe the only way to escape the trap of poverty was through an education. And my siblings? They excel in their chosen professions. Each sought opportunities to cultivate their careers. I absolutely aspire to follow in their footsteps by never giving up, rising to the occasion, and taking advantage of all the lessons life offers me.
Yet here I am...with an education...living paycheck to paycheck. So do my current wages negate my college degree? Not at all. It means I've chosen a grossly underpaid profession because I value the nature of the work more than the annual salary. I get to help people everyday--- I can't imagine doing anything different. (Unless I became a cop...that'd be cool). I know so many amazing and highly educated individuals in the same boat as myself. Where your bank account lands at the end of the month doesn’t make you less than those with full accounts. It means you have an excellent opportunity to keep learning about money management and how you choose to participate in the “rat race.” I don’t want to keep up with the Jones’s—-I want to live on a farm and grow a garden.
Here’s another nugget. Did you know I raised my son essentially alone for the first 5 years?
I sure did. I weathered the terrible twos, the torturous threes, sleepless nights, and a delicate first year while working multiple jobs all while embroiled in a deeply stressful court battle. I did that!! And I'll pat myself on the back for surviving my version of a living hell. I learned how to make things work while stuck between a rock and hard place. I wholly changed when I became a mom. But something deeper transformed in me as a single parent. I developed resiliency words can’t capture. It’s pretty liberating to say “I am going to be ok.”
You might think this next one is a stupid item to list. I don’t care.
I bought a couch, computer and a TV with my own money! When I lived off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I never imagined I'd own new furniture again. After saving and budgeting like a boss I purchased a chocolate brown couch with washable covers and soft cushions from a chain store. A chain store!!!! I can stretch my legs, snuggle with my little, and see the screen from across the room without thinking about the owners before me. And it's mine. No one is going to ask me for half of what I own--- this is a serious deal when you give up so many things you shared with someone else.
I proved I can work hard doing something I love.
I found enjoyable work to supplement my income. Don’t get me wrong working multiple jobs absolutely sucks. But let me tell you... not paying a bill or loan sends me into a panic. I do not mind working hard now so I can relax later. I get to teach without grading papers and I know every weekend I’m making a difference. It feels damn good knowing others benefit from my knowledge and experiences. And while it means I’m gone on Saturdays it means when my kiddo needs something I can provide it. I tell my child all this work is for now and not forever. I miss out on quality time with him and I know it. But that leads me to my next point of interest...
I‘m raising an amazing little boy.
The Bear reads, solves math equations, and shares his feelings. He cares about being on time, learning to tie his shoes, and keeping connected with loved ones. He rubs my back when it hurts and helps pack his lunch. I’m constantly amazed by my resilient and compassionate child. Sure... he makes me crazy on occasion but he’s truly an incredible soul. I read a quote once to the effect of “I’m trying really hard not to raise an asshole.” I might be biased, but I don’t think he’s an ass.
My last marker of success... I dream of a future.
When someone tackles trauma or lives in a poverty mindset it’s terribly difficult to think about tomorrow. I remember living day by day praying I could just hold on for a tomorrow.
My thinking shifted. Once I started achieving small goals, taking note of the blessings in my life, and developing a stronger purpose I felt immensely different. I started a free playgroup with my church, I help other women and I blog. I mapped out the vision of what success meant for me and keep progressing that direction.
I bought chickens to play farmer in my backyard, I learned about hygge, and I grieved the life I thought I’d have. And all this change helped me feel a better tomorrow might be on the way. I am paying back loans and investing in the quality of life I’m living.
So why am I bragging about being so joyously average? Because friends. It’s ok to be proud of your journey. It’s ok to recognize your strengths and share them. It’s doesn't make you selfish to take stock in how far you’ve come. No. Don’t let anyone tell you that shine isn’t bright enough because your car is outdated and your home is small. You aren’t less for being an unmarried mom. Don’t let people look at your accomplishments so superficially. You are a damn Warrior! Getting this far is a badge of honor.
I‘ve come so far in the last 6 years and I refuse to not celebrate. Some women I meet ask me “When does it get easier? Do I have to find a man or live with my parents to survive this?” Girl...you don’t need another husband to clean up the mess your last one made. You need the confidence to know that although life drastically changed it’s opening doors for you to find new parts of yourself. Be ok leaning into discomfort and letting shit go. Be ok giving up parts of your former lifestyle. The new one will have so much substance... I promise.
There‘s no secret timeline for when the ache lessens. But I promise it will feel better. Stay confident, build a support system, and cherish the moments when you push through. Make a plan for what you want your life to be. Stop obsessing on the old stuff and just look at what you’ve got. Be reasonable and set every future goal to get to a place that helps you feel healthy, valued, and grateful.
Thank you for celebrating with me. I want to hear your triumphs! Like and comment below to tell us about your small victories— we wanna hear!