Getting Your Priorities Straight

Dear Soph-
One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain: Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

Take a minute and let that marinate.

Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

I found this quote when I was about 23. Living on my own, done with college, working my first job in marketing. I loved living on my own. I loved my apartment. I was (and still am) a very independent person and was thrilled to be in the real world. I was dating someone at the time who didn’t put me first. I was the option. And I was doing everything in my power to make him the priority. And you know what? It got old. I started resenting the way I was being treated. But I held on for a little while, thinking…hoping…that he would change. That one day he would realize how awesome I was and start making more of an effort. Start doing things that I wanted to do. Start wanting to really get to know me. But it didn’t happen. And I put forth all the effort. And went out of my way to make him happy. And it was never really reciprocated.

So I decided one day that I would rather be alone than be an option. If I was going to go out of my way to make anyone happy, why shouldn’t it be me?

This is so true for any relationship you have in life. Friendships and romantic relationships. Don’t allow yourself to be the option. And if you do find yourself as the option, I pray you find the strength and the confidence to make a positive change and walk away. You’re better off by yourself, finding ways to make you happy. Exploring the world around you and discovering what makes you tick. What you’re passionate about. What makes your life worth living. Because when you do find that someone, then you’ll know exactly what you want from them. And why waste the energy on someone who can’t find the energy for you?

So please remember that you are quite a catch. Anyone would be privileged to call you a friend or girlfriend or wife. Don’t waste your time or your tears on anyone who does not see that or who doesn’t fall down in prayer, thanking their lucky stars that you chose them.

Because I thank God every night that He chose me to be your mom.

Love, Mom

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A is for Attitude

Dear Soph-
There are two things hanging in my cubicle at work that have followed me since I left college.

One is a picture of a beach in Hawaii overlooking the ocean that I tore out of Oprah’s O Magazine. I thought it would help me remain calm during stressful times on the job. Jury’s still out on its effectiveness. The other is a quote I printed out by Charles R. Swindoll. This tattered piece of paper has followed me as I changed jobs and changed cubicles because it is such a great reminder:

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Kid, I can’t stress this enough. The mind is a profoundly powerful tool and attitude is really everything.

This is true for any phase in your life.

You cannot control if someone is mean to you at school; you cannot control if someone doesn’t like you; you cannot control whether or not you make a sports team or a play; you cannot control whether or not you get accepted to a certain college or you get hired for a certain job. There are no guarantees in life. The one thing you have complete control over is your attitude. How you choose to react to situations in your life is all on you.

It’s a lesson that I’m still learning and one that I definitely do not have perfected each and every day. Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that you walk around with a smile plastered on your face looking for ways to spin every negative to a positive. You are entitled to bad days and a bad attitude now and again. You’re human. No one is immune to negative thoughts lurking here and there.

But as a general rule, own your attitude. And realize the power of your mind and the critical role that your thoughts play in your outlook on life and your day-to-day disposition. It’s not always easy, but I truly believe that by simply changing the way you think, you can change the way you feel.

Love, Mom

The Art of Fitting In

Dear Soph-
This may come as a shock to you, but your mom was never part of the “in” crowd.

(I’ll pause so you can pick up your chair, which you no doubt knocked over in utter shock and disbelief)

It’s true, kid, I couldn’t be classified as “popular.” And while I can’t exactly say that as a young girl in junior high and high school the thought didn’t cross my mind that being popular had its merits, I never went out of my way to try and be the “it” girl. I gave it a shot, I suppose. I was a cheerleader in junior high and on the pom squad in high school. So I was always somewhat associated with those who ranked higher on the popularity scale. And while I genuinely enjoyed being a cheerleader, I never became real friends with many of my fellow teammates. I was too socially awkward. It felt like a lot of pressure to me. I often found myself trying hard to put on a persona…someone I thought these girls would like or be able to relate to. But, to be perfectly honest, I found that changing myself to try and meld into their world was simply exhausting. And not worth the trouble.

I’ll paint you a picture that sums up your adolescent mom:

There I was in eighth grade. Out of the blue, Pam (a member of the elite) called and asked if I want to go shopping with her, Julie and Rachel. WHAT?! Pam wanted ME to go shopping with HER? At first I thought she was playing a prank on me, but then I thought…Hallelujah! What on Earth will I wear? All was going well on the car ride to the mall, until Rachel noticed that she, Pam and Julie were all wearing the same shoes. Some sort of brown, leather, lace-up ankle boots. Everyone in the car then looked at my shoes to see if I was continuing the trend, only to be disappointed to see my white Keds sneakers. They laughed at me. “Keds? Who wears Keds anymore?” they asked incredulously. Pam turned up her nose as if I had tracked dog poop throughout her mom’s car.

I didn’t quite know what to say…so I said nothing. I was embarrassed. Their scrutiny and judgment made me uncomfortable. I had already failed at fitting in and we hadn’t even gotten to the mall yet. But in that moment, instead of thinking I needed to run home and beg my mom to buy me those leather lace-up ankle boots so as to save me from future humiliation, I thought “well this will be the last time I go shopping with these bitches.”

Ultimately I found acceptance by the most amazing, intelligent, supportive, funny and loving group of guys and girls. I remember high school fondly because of those friends. And while we may not have been the “it” crowd, I think we had more fun.

So here’s what I learned and what I want to pass along to you. Don’t try so hard. You will fit in where you are easily accepted and where you can be yourself. You will fit in with people who are like-minded…who find joy in the same things…whose friendship is effortless. You should not have to jump through hoops or do anyone’s bidding or try to impress anyone into liking you. You are awesome. Period. And if someone doesn’t realize that, then it’s 100% their loss.

You are perfect just the way you are. You are worthy just the way you are.

And no matter who your friends are, popular or not, I will take every opportunity to embarrass the hell out of you when you are with them.

Love, Mom

Life is More Fun When You’re Easily Amused

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Dear Soph-
I read a saying once “small minds are easily amused.” Or maybe it was “little things please little minds.” Either way…it’s pure BS.

To me, being easily amused as an adult is the greatest. I’m not talking fart jokes and boogers…I’m talking about finding joy and excitement and interest in the little things around you. As a kid, you have this nailed down. Everything is new to you, so everything is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. Right now, at 5 months, I have you laughing hysterically by hiding behind a blanket and shouting “Peek-a-boo” as I pull the blanket down with a flourish. We did that for, like, 15 minutes straight yesterday. And every “Peek-a-boo!” elicited the same belly laugh from you. I tell ya, kid, you are quite awesome.

But as you grow up, everyday things begin to lose their shine. When you’re caught in the daily grind that is “being a grown up” it often takes bigger and better things to get a smile out of you. Obviously, as you mature, things like a game of “Peek-a-boo” aren’t meant to be as amusing anymore. But when you’re no longer able to find joy in the little things, then – in my humble opinion – that’s when life starts to get dull.

I’ll give you an example. Shortly after I started my second job out of college, a colleague and I were sent to Atlanta for a proposal writing conference. I’d never been on a business trip before. I had a hotel room all to myself…and it had two rooms! A living room area and a whole separate bedroom! I didn’t know they even made hotel rooms like that. And it had a king-sized bed! And a jetted tub in the bathroom! If you can’t already tell by my use of exclamation points, my mind was officially blown. My colleague could not stop laughing at me. Our conversation on the way to dinner went something like this:

Me: Jessica! Do you have a living room too?!
Jessica: Yes, I do.
Me: Two rooms! With a door to the bedroom and everything!
Jessica: (laughing)
Me: And did you SEE the jetted tub in the bathroom?!
Jessica: (more laughing) Yes, I saw it.
Me: And a king-sized bed! Did you SEE all those pillows?
Jessica: (even more laughing) I’ve never met someone so excited over a hotel room before.

To this day she still laughs about how jazzed I was over some simple hotel accommodations. And maybe I was a bit overzealous…I mean, we were at a DoubleTree in Atlanta, not the Ritz Carlton in Hawaii. But to me it was THE COOLEST THING EVER. There I was, at the ripe old age of 25, on a business trip! Staying in a hotel room, all by myself! With a corporate credit card! I mean, if that’s not grown up then I don’t know what is. And I took a moment to let myself be excited about it and to express that excitement. Even at the risk of having my new colleague think I was a bit “off.”

Some may call me naïve…or maybe I’m just not “worldly” enough. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what people think because I’m too busy being excited about the free margarita I just got checking in at the Hyatt in Scottsdale. Free booze! (#WINNING – but only when you’re 21)

And that’s what I want for you. Even after you’ve grown and finished school and moved out on your own. When you have deadlines and bills to pay and chores to get done. Try to hold onto a small piece of that excitement over “Peek-a-boo.” Reflect on how cool something is no matter how big or how small. Take note of when you are happy, even if it’s for a silly reason…but take note, and allow yourself to be excited.

I promise, kid, it will make life more interesting and a hell of a lot more fun.

Love, Mom

The First Letter

Dear Soph-

Well, here you are. My baby girl. You’re, like, a real person. With real hands and feet and teeny tiny fingernails and astonishingly long eyelashes. And I created you. I created a perfect little person. It just blows my mind how awesome you are.

It’s strange because you’ve been on this Earth for five months and it somehow feels surreal and yet totally comfortable at the same time. You are my daughter. Even saying “my daughter” takes some getting used to. Like when you progress in a relationship and have to get used to saying “my fiancé” or “my husband.” I’m surprised at how much I like the sound of it…my daughter.

I have to admit, I never thought I would have children. I hope you don’t think bad of me for saying that, but I just was never a “kid person” growing up. I didn’t babysit, I didn’t ooo and aaah over babies on the street. I really never felt any maternal urges at all. I actually found it annoying when little kids would simply do what little kids do and just stare at me. Drove me nuts. Looking back it was probably a lot like an animal smelling fear. Those little ankle biters would take one look at me and somehow just know I wasn’t a fan.

Look at me, digressing already. I have a habit of that, kid, so my apologies in advance.

I read a lot when I was pregnant with you. I read book after book, and blog post after blog post, about how moms had never experienced a love so deep as they have with their children. I heard it from strangers, I heard it from friends, I heard it from family. It is a love like you’ve never known. And while it was impossible to actually comprehend this feeling or truly believe this love would overtake me upon your arrival, I figured if every single mother said the same thing, then it must be true.

And you know what, kid? They were all right. I love you so much it hurts. It is an overwhelming love. A love that I am, quite frankly, surprised by. But it’s real…and it’s here to stay. And you are, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever done and will ever do in my life. We’re still getting to know each other, but I can say that with complete and total certainty.

Which is why I decided to start writing. There is so much I want to remember to say to you as you grow up. Basic things that every girl should know; amazing advice I got from my own mom and dad; important lessons I want to teach you; truths and other reminders that I pray you will discover earlier in life than I have. I want to remember it all. And I want to use it to build a solid foundation for your amazing life…as you make your way in this great big world and become the remarkable woman I know you will be.

I will always be here for you.

Love, Mom

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