Letters to myself: a journey of self-exploration

Waiting for the perfect moment is often a waste of time

Some would even call it another form of procrastination because, well, it is. One of the most painful self-reflections I’ve imposed is realizing all the things I didn’t do because the time just wasn’t right.

There were jobs I didn’t go after because I felt I wasn’t ready. Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, but looking back, I understand it was just an excuse. In my twenties, there were men I wouldn’t speak to because I didn’t feel ready for any kind of relationship, as if every man would immediately fall into one with me. When I first started writing, I didn’t allow others to read what I’d written because I wasn’t ready for their critiques. Keeping talents to yourself is no talent at all.

So what was it all about? I was scared. I was afraid of rejection, of getting hurt, of finding out I was no good. Rather than expose myself, I claimed it was never the right time. There was a perfect moment, and THIS wasn’t it. I was only going to put myself out there when I was certain of success. And guess what? That moment never came.

Losing out on jobs, relationships and careers because of fear is a crime, punishable by days, weeks, months and years that you can never get back.

In Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! he speaks of “The Waiting Place”. It’s obvious the characters on those pages are wasting time, waiting “around for a Yes or No”, or “their hair to grow”, or for “wind to fly a kite”, or “a pot to boil, or a Better Break.” Seuss makes it clear that the reader won’t be that person. The reader will rise above and move forward, embracing the unknown, taking chances, trying things because there’s no other way to live.

The first time I read the book, I cried. It was obvious to me I wasn’t living the best life I could live because I’d been waiting so long for the perfect moment that never came. Through self-exploration, some therapy and plenty of joy and pain, I’ve managed to overcome this issue, to a degree. I remind myself that life goes on whether we take part or not. No matter the excuse, the moment is here… and then it’s gone. Whether it’s perfect is not the issue. Whether I seize it or waste it is.

– Althea

Letters to myself: Have you ever wanted to start all over again?

I have and it’s not a good feeling. I’m not talking about baking the cake again because I forgot the eggs. I’m referring to feelings of regret. I wish I had done this and not that. Can we start over? The answer is almost always “no”.

When I was in high school, I thought acting, singing and dancing were fun. I was pretty good at all of them, and so pursued this area as a career. Problem was, a lot of other people were doing the same, and they were far more talented and disciplined than I. Rather than stepping up my game, I wandered and allowed my efforts to be half-baked. For years, I waited tables, went to the occasional audition and wasted a lot of time. When I finally switched focus and began working in a field for which I was more well suited, I wasted time mourning the loss of those years. Again and again, I yearned for the chance to start over. Couldn’t I just go back, to after high school, choose a college where I could study journalism, and become the next Christiane Amanpour or Arianna Huffington? If I could start over, everything would be perfect.

I can’t start over and it’s only recently that I’m forcing myself to accept this and move on, to not make the same mistake over and over of wasting present moments – moments of opportunity – on regret. I’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano. “I wish I’d started lessons ten years ago”, I’ve thought. Now, I try and tell myself that if I begin now, in ten years I’ll be able to sit down at the Christmas party and wow the guests. Those ten years will come to pass anyway (God willing), whether I’m practicing my scales or not.

The bottom line is we can’t start all over again, much as we’d often like to. I wish I’d realized it sooner.

– Althea

Letters to myself: How milestones force us to take stock

Birthdays. The New Year. An anniversary. The end of summer. Groundhog Day. (Okay, maybe not Groundhog Day.) Has a year really gone by so quickly? Has ten?

In November every year, I celebrate turning the page. It’s my birthday and I never ignore it. It’s impossible for me not to consider what happened the previous 365 days, judge where I am in my life currently, and create some goals for next year. I have to examine whether or not I’ve worked hard to accomplish anything and explore my growth as a person. Some people prefer to open a present or two. I’d rather take stock. Like meditation, it’s an opportunity to stop, think and adjust.

When I was younger, mostly in my 20s, I tell people I pissed a lot of years away. I can’t get them back and I have yet to make peace with that. Until I do, I’ve made a promise to myself to not let birthdays go by without expressing gratitude for another year and looking in the mirror. What did I do well? Where is there room for change?

January 1st is also a day where many impose memories on the year past and create resolutions for the coming year. It can be unrealistic, but I partake anyway. My view of the world, while I’m watching the Rose Parade, is just that – global. The media offers their end of the year “best” lists of books, movies, television, sports. News outlets will often do a retrospective on what happened politically, environmentally and socially, and recap those who died. More than anything, it seems individuals feel hope on New Year’s Day, determined to write a happy and successfully story for themselves going forward. There’s nothing wrong with hope.

Anniversaries can be particularly profound. Every year on March 6, I stop and think of my father on the anniversary of his death. I’m sad but in the hustle and bustle of life, it seems okay to pause and allow that. Most of us now reflect on September 11th about where we were on that day in 2001 and how it changed our lives. Taking stock collectively, even for such a tragic event, feels right.

While some might consider milestones in strictly business terms, I think of them as opportunities to consider my life on life’s terms. It isn’t always easy, but it’s simple.

– Althea

The insecurities of a stay-at-home mom

We even have our own acronym: SAHM, though it hasn’t taken off as fast as WASP, YUPPIE, DINK, or NIMBY.  Still, it’s a distinction.  I wish it made me proud.

Before I had children, I enjoyed working in an office.  I liked the camaraderie, the challenge of solving problems, the routine, the paycheck.  It gave me purpose that was quantifiable.  This is what I do.  This is what I’ve done.

Circumstances with work and my husband’s job made it more practical for me to stay home when our first daughter was born.  After falling madly in love with her, I couldn’t imagine anything else.  Motherhood was all consuming and I didn’t want anyone but me to care for her.  She was a light I didn’t expect.  Shortly after she was born, I started working from home, which suited me just fine.

I continued working from home after my second daughter was born, but when I became pregnant with my third, it was just too much.  We couldn’t afford a nanny and decided to scrape by without my income.  I was now officially a stay-at-home mom.

I recall being at a music class with my children when one of the other mothers kissed her son and told him she’d see him later.  “Mommy has to go off to work.”  There was no drama.  He was apparently comfortable with this arrangement, fond of the nanny who took him from his mother, who to me appeared happier and more confident than I.  Was she?  Or was I just viewing her through my own insecure eyes?  And why was I insecure?  Because I thought at the end of her day, she could point to something specific and say look what I’ve accomplished.  At the end of my day, I had a diaper Genie that needed to be emptied.

I’ve realized over the years, especially as my children have gotten older, that it’s my responsibility to find peace in the choices I’ve made.  There are mothers who work and those who stay home.  I’ve compared my children to theirs to prove I’m made the wiser decision and always come up short.  There will always be children better and worse than mine.  The more I judge the parents, the more I will be judged, and then no one wins.  It’s then I realize motherhood was never a contest to begin with.

– Althea