My hair is up. My nails are painted. My New Year’s Eve dress is hanging on the back of my bedroom door. I love this day every year because it’s the one night I get to dress up and paint the town…or at least the St Jude fundraiser at Ray’s. If someone had told me 15 years ago that I would one day love wearing dresses and sparkly shoes and jewelry, I would’ve laughed out loud. Somehow I transitioned from a dress-hating tomboy, to a (mostly) feminine woman who loves fashion and designer handbags. Time has a way of changing us, whether we like it or not. It’s a good thing that it tends to happen slowly, because I’m certain that if I went to sleep 16 and woke up 32 I wouldn’t recognize myself at all.
This year, in fact, has managed to surpass most. There was, of course, one major hiccup in the year. 2017 was the year the tornado took away my family home and uprooted countless lives in my hometown. Fortunately my grandparents’ lives were spared and they were able to settle back down into a new home that was identical to the one that they lost. My family, and friends of my family, and our entire small town community, displayed an incredible sense of solidarity and perseverance during all of it.
I left my first home behind by choice, and moved myself and my boys into a new home in a new town. It was a huge decision at the time, indescribably daunting because of the vast unknown that I was facing in taking that step forward. But sometimes things are worth the risk, and our move to Cape Girardeau has proven to be a risk that was right to take. All three of us are as content and happy as we’ve ever been here, and there really isn’t anything more that I could ask for than that.
That wasn’t the only big decision I made this year. Due to a course scheduling problem at SEMO, I made the decision to leave SEMO and my business degree altogether, and applied at UMass Amherst to transfer my credits and change my major to Journalism. I think the biggest change I can identify in myself looking back, is security in who I am and knowing what I want. When I was young, trying to figure out what to do after high school, what career path to choose, where to go, what to do with my life…there were too many possibilities and the constant mulling left me directionless.
I’d wanted to write since I was old enough to read. But when the time came to pick a school and a major, suddenly I talked myself out of it. But newspapers are closing down. Print is dying. I can’t be a writer, I’ll never have a job and I’ll be broke my entire life! I ended up drifting, not knowing what I wanted. And then I found myself pregnant and suddenly there were no possibilities. Everything was off the table and my future was decided for me. I was going to be a mom, and that was it. From that moment, on June 1st 2004, when the plus sign appeared on the little white stick, my life was not my own anymore.
13 years later, I know that my life is my own and that it was only my own misguided thinking that ever let me believe that it wasn’t. My children weren’t the deciding factor, they were just a factor. They helped ground me, and the focus and structure that has come along with being a parent has led me here, to this computer in my son’s bedroom in my house in Cape Girardeau, MO where I’m writing to you from. It has led me to being stable, self-sufficient, content, and free. It took nearly half of my life and more plot twists than Somerset Maugham, but I finally figured out that I should just be quiet, be still, and listen to my intuition. It is always right, and trying to ignore it has only ever led me astray.
Anyway, that is all just my long-winded way of saying that I’ve landed in a place where I feel focused and I want for very little. I’ve been able to unwind, settle down, and dig into doing the things that I love. Sometimes that is writing. Sometimes it’s reading (I’ve discovered this year that I really love memoirs). Sometimes it’s binge-watching Gilmore Girls on repeat. Sometimes it’s painting and creating and refurbishing furniture. And sometimes it’s traveling and taking my kids to experience something new. I’ve done all of those things this year.
One thing that I never thought I would do this year, or ever again, is date. I’m happy now, and I don’t like to rock the boat. So I’ve pulled myself out of the dating world and settled happily into life on my own. But I also have learned to let life come as it may, and sometimes unexpected things happen. Like one day I bump into someone and we exchange a couple of insignificant and somewhat formal texts, which turn into minor chit-chat for a few days, and then a few weeks, and from minor chit-chat into real conversations. And then the next thing I know I’m having a casual dinner with a man on the day before New Year’s Eve. Of all of the things I could’ve predicted happening this year, that definitely wasn’t on the list!
And now the time is 4:00, which means it’s time to do my makeup and slip into a pretty blue dress to dance and eat and drink the night away with the greatest group of friends. I wish all of you a Happy New Year, and may 2018 be good to you all!