I'm a little thing: petite, soft-spoken, and kind-hearted. But I'm tougher than I look. Beneath my lofty standards for myself, my perfectionist nature where I exceed every goal without troubling another soul, lies a very hard, stubborn core. I know who I am. I always have. And sometimes, when I wish I could be somebody else, someone braver or more social or more forgiving or less likely to be taken advantage of when I'm in an overly generous mood, being who I am feels like a liability. I'm stuck, you see. And this inability to morph into someone shinier and more impressive than who I am, who I've always been, this flaw of mine? It turns out it's actually my greatest strength. That has been my real journey these past few years. Learning that who I am, right now, flaws and all, is enough.
It started with being alone. I hadn't been single since I was sixteen years old. I'm not afraid of being alone. I like my own company. It just happened that way. As one relationship ended, a new one bloomed, over and over, my whole adult life. But not after my divorce. For the first time in decades, I was alone. I spent a year scrambling to care for two young kids and trying to remember who I was without a partner in life. Then I spent a year in a relationship where at some point I lost myself again. Then I spent another year alone, remembering all over again. It wasn't a fun time. But it served a purpose. Because after the house of your hopes and dreams blows down, you have to rebuild it. And if you build it alone, you get to design it to suit you above all others. I had never done that before. Built my life around me. It was hard and scary and involved a lot of sleepless nights worrying about the future that I couldn't see anymore. And it was amazing and promising and full of infinite possibilities as well. Who would I choose to be, if I could choose to be anyone, without anyone else's input? I'd choose me. Just as I am.
So I did. I let my kids in on a little secret: that I wasn't perfect, that I didn't have all the answers, that I was making it up as I went along. And a very cool thing happened. My oldest, a perfectionist herself, relaxed her ridiculously high standards, just a little. My youngest, even a shade more stubborn than her mother, stopped digging in quite so deep and hard whenever she was challenged. And we laughed, and we cuddled, and we told each other stories, and we made messes and cleaned them up, and we hurt each other's feelings and apologized and forgave one another. And we dreamed up limitless futures of endless possibilities together.
And I wrote. I wrote every thought in my head down, because without a partner to tell it all to, I had no choice. I wrote a book-length journal about the failure of my marriage, as I tried to figure out what had gone wrong. I wrote stories about heartbreak. Novel attempts about loss. I wrote blog posts about single-motherhood. I put it all on paper, because that's also who I am, who I've always been. A writer, in secret, afraid to own the title. Worried that I wasn't worthy of it somehow.
But in my new house, built just for me, I let those worries go. It wasn't about anyone else, my writing. It was me putting my heart into words. And as soon as I stopped writing to please anyone but myself, I finally had it. A book worthy of an agent, a book deal, a new career.
I'm still learning, still faltering, still making mistakes as I stumble along. And still dreaming of bigger, better futures. I'm still building my house, filling it with myself, owning who I am.
And I can see now how many of us are doing the same thing. Struggling with the idea that we need to be bolder or more successful or funnier, sharper or more sophisticated to get the approval we so desire from those around us. So as this new year rolls out before us, I wanted to share with you what I've learned, and what I personally think of you. That right now, the person you are today, you are already enough. The next step isn't chasing some better version of yourself. It's owning who you already are. Loving that person. Giving him or her a house, or a room, or any safe place, to simply be. You are enough.