Years ago, when my son was young, I spent all of my time trying to be perfect. I wanted to be the perfect mother: involved in school, giving all of my time to my son when I wasn’t working, and staying focused in his life. I strove to be the perfect wife: keeping the house clean, cooking meals every night, keeping our finances in order. On top of that, I needed to be the perfect employee: never calling in sick, working overtime and doing my job as flawlessly as possible.
As I strove to fulfill these roles, I had to make a sacrifice. I had a dream. I wanted to be a writer. But that dream was stuffed into a closet because I had no time for it.
The demands I put on myself were impossible to accomplish. I would compare myself to other mothers at my son’s school who were always available for school trips and volunteering in the classroom. I beat myself up every time I wasn’t able to attend a school function. At home, if we had to eat out because I didn’t have time to cook dinner, I felt like I wasn’t measuring up. Imagine if I got behind in housework. I was definitely not succeeding then. At work, if I had to say I was unavailable for overtime, I was letting down my co-workers. In the end, there was no time to follow my dreams.
I’m not sure when the realization came. Looking back, it seems as if I was hit over the head with it. I now try to refer to it as waking up from a long sleep. I awoke to the fact that someone else was always going to appear to be doing something better than I am. None of them were living in my life, but I compared myself to them anyway. Of course, I always found myself wanting. Why was I doing this? Why compare myself to others at all? The day I woke up, I realized I was already perfect. I was perfect at being me. Life is not about comparing yourself to someone else. There is no one else living your life. It is only you who has the exact set of circumstances and challenges to face. I gave myself permission to do the best job I could and celebrate my own accomplishments, regardless if it looked like someone was doing it better.
Giving myself permission to stop trying to keep up with everyone else set me free. I wasn’t happy trying to fulfill my roles because I wasn’t playing the role of me. Suddenly, life was full of possibilities again. Like a child, I looked around in wonder at the world around me and let myself dream about the future. My entire focus changed. I still wanted to be a good mom, but I let go of the pressure to be super mom. Same with being a wife and employee. Giving my best was enough. It had to be because I needed to be true to who I was. A person with dreams.
I unsealed the closet I’d buried my dreams in, dusted them off and started writing. I researched the publishing world I wanted so much to be a part of. It was an exciting and frightening time. It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy. Balancing the life you live with the life you dream about is hard work. But, at the end of the day, I did my best.
Today, I have two full-time jobs. One I receive a regular check for, the other is the dream I’m chasing. I love them both. I really do. I wish there was more time in the day for all of the things I love. My family, friends, work, writing, dog, garden, house. Every day, I try and balance these things but I’ve learned to keep the dream in the forefront, never allowing myself to put it away in the closet again. To accomplish this, I set goals and give myself deadlines for accomplishing them. But the most important thing is celebrating. I celebrate the success I have at my day job. I celebrate every day of happiness I’m given. I celebrate every little step that gets me closer to my dreams.
I celebrate being me.