don't trade authenticity for approval

don't trade authenticity for approval

I wanted to give you a deeper understanding of how I came to do the work of making these talismans and, more importantly, how I came to know that you are infinitely braver and stronger than you know. If you haven’t yet, and would like to, read from the beginning of my story, starting with Makers Gonna Make.

should vs. desire

Before I found my way to the authentic, evolving, gurlboss that I am now, I, unfortunately, went willingly down the path of “should”. Ohh, that lonely, weird road of “should''... it is so desirable when you are more focused on pleasing others than yourself. Only a very few know who they are and what they want in their 20s. It's a time of frontal lobe development and experimentation. We don’t know at that age what a career will feel like or what a certain town that we’ve always loved reading about will feel like. We gotta get out there and try it! It would be best if during our 20s we were expected to fail and switch courses several times. If that is the expectation, there would be less pressure to rush to adulthood and make lifelong choices! 

But instead we watch those around us. We fixate on a person who seems to know what she’s doing and we follow her lead instead of our own. 

Confidence is intoxicating… I get it! But she doesn’t know what she's doing either, she is watching someone else or following a movie plot. Please, if you can, avoid the road of “should'' and others that mimic it with all your strength! It will not serve as any kind of shortcut, I promise you. 

a fairytale life

Back to my story. In my 20s, I found enjoyment in making other people happy and proud. I switched off, as SO many of us women do, my own voice that was telling me I didn’t like or want to do some of the things that I was doing. I assumed that voice was wrong. Instead, I went along with the outer voices telling me how to be accepted, attractive and happy. Attractive and accepted overshadows any personal need or feeling. I have known women along the way that didn’t buy into this line of shit and I really admired that in them, but I went with attractive and accepted. It was easier and got (at the time) better results. 

Looking through the lens of my childhood, it seemed that life went like this: you meet a boy, get married, have two kids and live happily ever after without even arguing! My parents never fought in front of my sister and I until we were out of college. NEVER. We truly assumed that they agreed on everything! I’m sure some of this was due to being so entangled in our own dramatic and important adolescent lives that we didn’t pay much attention to if they were arguing or not. They actively avoided raising voices or having differing opinions in front of us. This was very well-meaning, and now that I am an adult (and a divorced woman at that) I can’t imagine the effort and tongue biting this took! The effect was that it made marriage and child-rearing look easy and fun.

losing for love

At the age of 22, I met a boy. Our relationship was perfectly on-time for a fairytale life (feel free to snicker). We dated while I was in graduate school, which I quickly gave up to be more available to him. We got married and began to move all over the country for his medical training; Texas, Indiana, New Orleans, Tennessee and, finally, North Carolina. 

Something I want to point out is that I had chosen to give my life to love. This sounds like an immature fantasy now when I look back, but the immature part was the concept that I somehow HAD to give up my ambition, dreams and creative work to be in love and in a happy marriage. 

My husband’s career was something that others looked up to; people congratulated me for “landing a doctor,” acting as if I should want to sit back and enjoy the ride. But it wasn’t a ride, it was a lonely road that I walked and stumbled down. I moved our houses alone, I nursed and cared for our babies alone and I attended weddings and gatherings alone. Having two babies and a partner that worked over 100 hours a week was a real challenge for me. I suffered from postpartum depression with my first child but felt too ashamed to say anything. Any complaint or concern I had was dwarfed compared to my ultimate task: be strong for your husband.

losing my voice

He was working all hours, I had to be strong, compliant and manage everything else. He wasn’t to be burdened with my struggles. I tried to focus on the future for comfort, because when he was done training it was going to be magical, so “they” said. This was the painful part, then there would be a wonderful part. Then it would look like my parent’s marriage and be easy.

Somewhere in that blur of packing, unpacking, stuffing down my needs to support him, navigating new towns and giving birth twice; I gave up my voice. At the time I didn’t notice the slow progression, but I lost myself. 

I stopped creating. I was living life like I thought it should be lived. Each day I was the wife, mother and daughter I was SUPPOSED to be. But internally I was falling short. I thought I would be a fun mom, with crafts and cookies and scavenger hunts. But I was the “barely-keeping-up-with meals, spills and laundry” mom. I was the “i-don’t-know-how-to-make-cars-have-voices-and-talk-to-one-another” mom. Disappointed in myself, I let my self-respect and worth fade away. 

I looked at mothers in the park, so fulfilled being a mama, calling every sneeze their greatest joy. I wasn’t that mother... not even close. This is tough, y’all, because we have no model for that mom that is interested in what her kids are doing, but also interested in herself! We are starting to see more of that now, thank goodness, but I didn’t have a model of that. If there was a mother on TV that didn’t think the sun shone out of their child's ass, they were a villain or a whore. In the dark of night, I admitted I needed more than these roles I was playing. 

my story continues

I'm going to keep sharing my story with you. If you'd like to start from the beginning, read Makers Gonna Make (or hit Jenni's Story in the tag list on the right side of the main blog page) and come visit the blog to hear more of my story in the coming weeks.

be brave
be adventurous
be authentic


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