I want to tell you a story about a little girl who, most of her life, thought she was supposed to grow up to be this generation's version of her mother.
First let me explain who my mother is. She's probably the most amazing woman anyone will ever know. Probably.
She was born 1974, so she pretty much grew up in the 80s. She met my father at fifteen years old and graduated from University of North Carolina with a double major in elementary education and psychology. She's now working towards her masters. After college she had me and then three more children after that (we call ourselves "the four originals"). Around when I was nine or ten, she divorced and remarried my stepdad and had one of my many little brothers. She's taught and tutored kids of many ages, as well as homeschooled all five of her own children. She's also danced her entire life and has owned her own studio and run her own dance competition and convention. Growing up with a mother as impressive and intelligent as her, who also had a strong will and magic intuition, it was hard to not want to be just like her.
When I was a child, and still sometimes now, I was always riding an emotion roller coaster. It doesn't have to do with my environment or upbringing, but much more my personality. Passion runs through my veins, so when I feel something, I feel it tenfold. Though this is a trait I admire, like in a happy situation, it is also a trait I dread. When I'm upset, I'm not just upset. I'm upset like the world is ending. It's a trait I've had to come to terms with.
My point is I always had a woman in my corner who knew what I was feeling and what to say to me when I was down or angry or didn't know how to express my feelings in calming ways. My mother was my saving grace. I'm not sure how I would've turned out to be without her.
My mother and I also think so much alike. She has always told me that everything she is thinking, I say out loud. She's still trying to teach me to bite my tongue (I try my hardest). Because my mother and I have always clicked so well and she always knew what I was thinking and she always understood what I was feeling, a part of me deep down in the back of my heart told me that I was meant to be her. My mind created an image of an older version of me who graduated from UNC and found the love of my life at fifteen and had four kids by the age of thirty. But the older I got, the harder it was to live up to that expectation.
By sixteen, I was beating myself up about how I hadn't met the love of my life yet. In my mind, it was like I was getting old and my time was wasting away. Again, I was sixteen. I could barely drive. Once it was time to think about colleges, there was only one I had ever wanted to go to. UNC. I knew I wasn't going to major in elementary education or psychology, but in english. Still, UNC was my ideal college choice. While attending a local community college through ages sixteen and seventeen, I applied for UNC and UNC Charlotte. I hadn't gotten into either.
It seemed as if the image of this older version of me was slowly shattering away. It was, at first, a saddening realization that I wasn't going to be my mother. Through my later teenage years, drama happened with boys and friends and I wasn't making the decisions I knew my mom had made at my age. When I was eighteen, I was talking to all the wrong boys for all the wrong reasons. When my mom was eighteen, she was planning her wedding. By then, the image had completely evaporated. I wasn't going to be this generation's version of my mother.
It was not until around my mid-eighteenth year did I feel relief. The pressure of wanting so bad to be just like my mother had uplifted. I didn't feel the need to follow in her exact footsteps. Even if I tried, I couldn't fill her shoes. But also, she couldn't fill mine. I should've realized. I wear a size bigger.
It was a strange realization. When all your life you're told you look just like your mother or dance just like your mother or sound just like your mother, you start to think that's what you're supposed to be. One day I looked at us side-by-side in a bathroom mirror and I told her we really didn't look that much alike. And she agreed.
Now I must explain. My mother never contributed to creating these expectations for me. She never wanted me to be exactly like her or follow in her footsteps. She actually told me recently how different we truly are (in a positive way). After talking about it, we both agreed my youngest sister was much more like our mother than anyone.
I still want to be like my mother. I want to be as strong and smart and independent as she is. But I no longer feel like I have to be like my mother. It's no longer my life goal. I want to be like me. And I've always wanted to be like me, but somehow I thought being like me was also being my mother and it wasn't. Today, I'm attending UNC Charlotte (I reapplied and got accepted), I am single and in no rush to find "the one" (I'm learning to let life take me wherever), and I'm being myself everyday of my life.
So dears, the moral of the story is admire the people in your life and set yourself a goal inspired by them, but know who you are and know you don't have to be the spitting image of anyone.