I’m standing in front of my bathroom mirror in the same spot I do every day. My coffee is warm, in the same large white mugs I use every morning. I’m even wearing a t-shirt I stole from my dad when I was in high school that has “Wickliffe Relays” written across the front.
I am a creature of habit. Change isn’t my thing.
But today is different. Today, I’m technically one year older. Yesterday, I could tell people a slightly smaller number when they asked “How old are you?” In fact, days leading up to my birthday, I try to find myself in situations where people will ask my age so I can tell them. That way, they’ll walk through the next year thinking I’m younger. This is called girl math.
This isn’t a significant milestone birthday. There’s no chance of a surprise party at the end of my day or the hint of a mid-life crisis meltdown anywhere on the horizon. But something is different this year …..
You see, last year, (probably on the same day, in the same t-shirt and drinking from the same mug) something started to stir inside of me.
I’ve never seen the movie Alien, but I’ve seen Spaceballs. You know that scene in the diner where the alien pops out of someone’s stomach and starts singing “Hello my baby”? It was kind of like that.
There were parts of me, the real me, that wanted to leap out of some deep dark corner of my soul. That is the most dramatic way I can describe it.
It wasn’t like a New Years Resolution, when life changes are decided with the mind and written down with pen and paper (then forgotten about a month later).
This overwhelming desire to be the me-est me I’ve ever been was coming from a deeper place. And a nagging voice kept asking me the same question over and over.
If not now, when?
There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. – Sophia Loren
Maybe it’s because I had spent the last few years either pregnant or taking care of a newborn. But it was time to shift focus and scratch that itch.
I started with tennis lessons, which were great. Bucket list item: check.
But then came autumn.
“Don’t you ever feel the need to create something?” I asked my husband. He was sitting on the couch with his laptop open reading legal documents.
Not only was he distracted, but his left brained mind has never operated the same way.
A few weeks before this conversation, it was Halloween. My 3 year old wanted to be Dorothy, but none of the costumes online seemed appropriate (and I mean they looked like “baby hookers go to Oz”) I dusted off an old sewing machine from high school and did my best.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was adorable.
So, when I asked my distracted husband for a sewing machine for Christmas, he looked at me like I asked him to repeal 30 years of feminism.
“Why don’t you take up coding as a hobby?” he asked. “That could make money.”
“Because if sewing doesn’t work out, I’m going to churn butter instead,” I told him. I don’t know if he realized I was kidding.
While you’re sitting there thinking “Nerd”, let me tell you – it was strangely empowering and I was addicted to creating things I wanted.
I went from toddler dresses, to pillows. And from there, I found discarded furniture online that I repainted and re-upholstered.
Need a table? Pottery Barn only has 3 options for finishes. But not in my world. Ohhhh no. I found unfinished furniture online and I mixed stains until I created a navy blue. It took a week of assembling, staining and finishing. Now when friends walk in, not a single one says, “I have the same set only in teak!”
With every creation, I discovered a few things about myself.
Obviously, I did not go to trade school for any of these ventures.
Mistakes were inevitable and abundant. But mistakes were the only way to learn how to do it right the next time.
Not only that, but I learned we are sometimes the only ones who see the imperfections. My daughter’s dress, for example, has a few seams that aren’t straight and a hem that’s coming undone. Despite that, I let her wear it to school.
“You made that??” one of the teachers asked me after my daughter outed me.
“You can’t tell?” I asked.
Nope. Maybe because sewing is becoming a lost art and she assumed I ordered it from the baby hooker costume website for $5. Nonetheless, she didn’t notice the imperfections.
Besides, the imperfections made it mine. They told the story.
I can do anything
I was like a one woman HGTV channel. I used tools I’ve never used before. I found discount websites to buy hardware, fabric and furniture. I found videos online that showed me how to do everything.
Now, when something needs done or decorated, I look at it with a different perspective.
“How hard do you think it would be to re-tile the sunroom?” I asked my husband.
He shot me a look that said “you’ve gone too far.”
But there’s always next year.
I am creating “me.”
By finding ways to create exactly what I want, I only worried about what I thought and liked.
I stopped seeking out feedback from friends about whether or not they liked something. And those who were overly critical took a huge step back in my life.
I took more risks in style and searched less for trends and fads.
And since I was the one putting in the elbow grease, I did it on the cheap. If in a few years I don’t like it anymore, I can toss it out without the guilt of a hefty price tag.
Creating gave me a better sense of self, a deeper work ethic and confidence in what I can accomplish.
So, as I stand in front of the mirror, one year older, in the same t-shirt I’ve worn since high school, I’m not the same person I was last year. This was a year of growth and self love. And maybe by next year, there will be a grey hair or deep wrinkle. Or maybe, freshly churned butter. I’ll keep you posted.