Another lifetime ago, I diligently created all my own greeting cards. I would painstakingly search for the perfect paper and adornments in an effort to create a flawless birthday card. On a whim, I created a few cards that could be used for any occasion. I had found a piece of scrapbook paper covered with one-liners. The paper struck a chord in me that I was unable to identify. All I knew is that I wanted to purchase it because I figured that eventually it would come in handy.
While I was able to use a majority of the cards that were created using that one piece of scrapbook paper, there was still one remaining that I was hesitant to give. “I am here to live out loud!” it screams. What does it mean to live out loud? What does such a life look like? This card seemed to both a challenge and a mystery.
You know the quizzes in magazines that purport to be able to tell you all about your personality? “Are you a wanderer? Take this quiz and we’ll tell you! ““Are you ready to save the world? Take this quiz and we’ll show you how!” While each time I took a quiz I would hope to be on one end of the spectrum, I knew that I would fall squarely in the middle. The topic of the quiz never mattered; I was never part of one extreme or the other. I was always safely in the middle.
Eventually, the middle didn’t feel safe at all. It really ends up feeling quite stifling. I wasn’t looking to be the crazy girlfriend or the person most likely to be on a reality show about hoarders. I was, however, looking to no longer hold myself back. Those magazine quiz results were the manifestation of a life unlived. A life squarely in the middle, toeing a line drawn by someone else, yet followed as if it was a religion: unquestioning, blindly drifting along.
Typically when someone goes through a drastic life change, it is usually preceded by something traumatic. Car crashes, hiking accidents, drowning incidents, terminal illness scares – these are the catalyst for a change of course. For me, it wasn’t a close encounter with death; quite the opposite, actually. For me, it was the birth of another life. The birth of my daughter, all 8 pounds 1 ounce of her, was the catalyst for change.
You spend your formative years under the purview of your parents. They guide you, instill values, show you how to fend for yourself, and then eventually encourage you to leave their nest and create a life of your own. Your 20’s are a time to find that life. To live beyond the rules you grew up with, and instead create rules of your own. It is the ultimate opportunity to fully embrace your existence.
Conversely, your 20’s can also be a time to crawl further into yourself. At least, that is what was for me. I did make my own rules and made my own mistakes. I built a career; started, and ended, a marriage; and dove back into the maze of my subconscious. To say that I am a chronic over-thinker seems too light-handed. To say that I spent too much time ruminating, worrying, and full of anxiety is nothing short of an understatement.
I entered my 30’s dragging my control issues behind me. I may worry, and I may be full of anxiety, but if I can just control a little bit more around me, things will be fine… To look back now, I can’t help but laugh. I tried to control everything, and at the same time did nothing. My career had a life of its own, and to some degree my trajectory was organic and expected. I remarried for the second, and hopefully last, time. I was staring in the mirror, not knowing exactly who was looking back at me.
A few years of consistent therapy with a doctor that I will never let go of, helped me see the path I had created, and assisted me in creating a new one. Mindfulness entered my life, and for the first time in a long time I worried less and was anxious even less so. My actions were increasingly intentional. Drifting was no longer an automatic response to life. Instead, my actions had purpose; my intentions were clear.
Prior to my daughter’s conception, I didn’t think I’d ever be a mother. I liked children, but I never felt the pang of wanting my own. I enjoyed my niece and nephews, and loved them like only a favorite aunt could. It wasn’t until I heard a story about a woman I know that upon turning 40 knew she was no longer going to be able to start a family. She may remarry, but having children was no longer an option for her. She would now have to let that dream go. I had such a physical gut reaction to hearing her final decree that I knew something had changed. My intuition told me that perhaps I wasn’t completely done with the idea of having a child.
Now my daughter is here, and she brings more love and light to my life than I could have ever imagined. There are days where I am convinced her smile and laugh could cure the most terrible of illnesses. I find myself doing anything I can to make her smile, regardless of where we are. I no longer care what people think when they see me out and about. I don’t care if they think I am being silly by making animal noises while at the grocery store, or if I am talking to my daughter as if I completely understand what she is telling me with her limited vocabulary.
I finally understand what living out loud means, at least for me. It is the life I have now, where my days and nights are full of family and love; where adventure waits and memories are ready to be made. I have been given the opportunity to see the world through a fresh pair of eyes and a child’s perspective.
I still have that card, and while I suspect the moment may not come to use it, it brings a smile to my face when I come across it. It reminds me that I have been given the opportunity live out loud.