I woke up this morning thinking about the last two conversations I’ve had with my mom and was compelled to write about them.
It started when she was asking about my daughter and how she was doing on her trip. My daughter, Shelby, graduated from college in 2015 with a degree in International Studies. After several trips within the US while in high school, she developed the travel bug and wanted to see more of the world.
She started by a semester abroad in Costa Rica and once she graduated she wanted to take a year to travel the world. Quickly realizing she needed money to do this, she has now developed a little system. She works and lives at home for a few months until she can save up enough to take a trip here or there. She has gone to South Africa for 3 months, another trip to Costa Rica and is most currently in Thailand for almost a month.
She would like to eventually land in Charleston, SC and has mentioned going ahead and finding a steady full-time job and moving down there. I told her I am all for that, but it could mean that her wanderlust dreams would have to be put on hold once adulthood slapped her in the face with rent, bills and reality. When she looked at her priorities she chose more travel for the time being.
My first conversation with my mother involved her asking how Shelby was doing in Thailand. I pulled up her travel companion’s Facebook page and excitedly showed mom some pictures of their trip that she had posted.
Shelby and her friend travelling with her are 24-year-old girls. In those pictures were some videos of the scenery, pictures of the 2 of them and a few selfies of her in front of gorgeous islands, temples, etc. It wasn’t excessive. My mom’s comment was “Wow, she really likes herself”.
Why is that something to be ashamed of? She’s a beautiful girl, in a beautiful place. She isn’t snapping selfies every 10 minutes. I do agree our society can be a little too narcissistic at times, but a few pictures of yourself in a beautiful place shouldn’t be a bad thing.
My next conversation with mom a few days later included her asking again about Shelby and then asking if she was going to settle down and get a job and be a “normal human being” after this trip.
That’s when it hit me. I didn’t argue with my mom. She is over 70 years old and although she has all her wits about her, she is set in her ways and arguing would not change her opinion because I’ve tried this approach. But I can’t even begin to explain the level of frustration that these comments and others like them build in me.
My parents are baby boomers and found each other in college. After graduating, they got married, had kids and lived happily ever after. I recall one summer while I was in college wanting to move to Charleston to work and they went crazy. This wasn’t normal, it wasn’t in the way they wanted me to do things. I also wanted to finish college and move to New York to work in TV. Without knowing, and with loving intentions, my parents were pushing me to follow their same path. Long story short, I tried it and three kids later ended it all in a divorce.
Now at 47, like so many people my age, am finding myself struggling to find myself.
What I wanted to say so badly to my mom so badly is that I am incredibly happy that the path you chose made YOU happy. I’m thrilled! Lots of Shelby’s friends have chosen a similar path as well and I’m delighted for them if that’s what makes them happy. But shouldn’t people always do what makes THEM happy? Why is settling down and working for the rest of your life “normal”?
Shelby is 24 years old. I am beyond proud of her and I’m so excited for her with every single adventure she has. She is a hard worker, and she is confident and independent. She is discovering the world and in the process and most importantly, discovering herself.
In the last two years through lots of thought, meditation and a few thousand dollars in counselling, I’ve learned more about myself than ever before.
What have I learned?
- I learned that it’s ok to like yourself.
- It’s ok to think you’re pretty.
- It’s ok to know that you are worthy.
- I’ve learned that the people who are the happiest in this life have chosen their OWN path. Not a path that they think they have to follow, but one that they choose based on their hopes and dreams.
- The only person that knows what’s best for you is YOU!
- And most importantly, your happiness doesn’t exist in someone else. It’s in you!
So my wish for all three of my kids and for every human is don’t be a “Normal human being”. BE ABNORMAL! Don’t follow someone else’s idea of what you have to do in this life. Follow your own dreams and don’t let others shame you for doing so. Get to know yourself and what makes you tick. Work out your past so that you are able to move beyond it. Like yourself because you are fucking AMAZING! And always always live YOUR BEST LIFE!