If I could go back in time and talk to this girl, I would have so much to tell her.
This girl was in the middle of a divorce. She was lost, and afraid to be alone. She wasn’t sure how she was capable of tackling this world alone. She did not know if she could be a parent by herself, but she was willing to try. She had a lot of uncertainty, but she knew above all else, that she was going to be fine. She wasn’t sure what fine looked like, but she was eager to see.
I would assure her that every decision that she is making is the right one. Even when they are hard, you should trust yourself more. Trusting other people may be hard, and will take time, but trusting yourself is vital. Restarting your life plan is okay, because it is better than following your original plans and being unhappy. It is never too late to start over. It is scary, but that is what this life has prepared you for. Take charge and find your place in this world.
Work? It will always be there. I would encourage her to find what makes her happy and give it all that she can when it comes to effort. Somedays you may have less to give, but give it all you can, when you can. At the same time, remember, your kids are only young once. Find something that allows you to take your kids to Disney World before they outgrow the magic, and also allows you to never miss a school event. But it is equally important to find something that fulfills you, so if that is a more demanding job with less flexibility, that is okay too. And if you find yourself burnt-out, or unable to find joy in what you do, take the leap. I would tell her about friends that are miserable in their jobs and remind her that 71% of your weekdays will require you to go to this job, so find your fit, and don’t worry what others think about it.
I would remind her to breathe more and worry less. Your children are going to test you most days. They will cry for things that will frustrate you. They will fight with you, with each other, and with other kids. They will eventually stop taking naps. The one time you doze off on the couch during football Sunday, your youngest will find the pancake mix on the counter that you forgot to put away that morning, and he will make flour angels on the floor. You might laugh, you might cry, but just breathe. You might worry that you are doing everything wrong. You are doing the best that you can, so just live with them, laugh with them, and hug them even when you are frustrated with them. Oh, and don’t read parenting blogs. Those people are winging it just like you are, so focus on building your life, not comparing it to others.
I would tell her that her friend circle should be cut in half. At least. All those friends that you have are great to know, but you do not need to invest your time in every relationship. Some of them will fade on their own, others will burn their own bridge, and some you will have to carefully remove from your life. But you will shrink that down over the next couple years. When you do, invest in those relationships. Travel to see those that move away, and get baby sitters for nights out with your friends. Your tribe is important, so choose it carefully. You will need them more than you realize. Someday you will be so busy that your best relationships may be over text message, but you will need the laughs. And when you do get together, you will be thankful those relationships still exist.
I would tell her not to rush herself. Dating? Not important right now. Every time you feel sad for not being invited to a “couples’ event,” it is okay. The people who encourage you to date do not know what you have really been through. They did not experience the heartbreak you endured. They did not plan a life with someone, only to watch it crumble right in front of their eyes. They can only watch you recover and assume that you need someone else. That is the last thing you need. What you need right now is freedom, support, and people to care about you. Those people mean well, they want you to be happy. They just do not understand what will make you happy.
I would encourage her to hold on the idea of dating until she is ready. It will take some 4 years of personal growth before you will be ready for the right person. You do not need to force relationships for the sake of having a relationship. You will be happier alone than with the wrong person. And when the right person comes along, you will understand why it was important to be alone all that time. When you meet your person, you might think that you wish you had met them earlier, but the truth is, you weren’t ready. It would not have worked out earlier. You were not who you needed to be yet, and he wasn’t either. Instead, be thankful for the present, and maximize the time you have now.
She wouldn’t be able to understand this, because she has not lived the next few years yet, but at the end, she will be thankful for that time. It seems impossible that that girl was me. I do not know when the fear turned to confidence, the tears turned to smiles and the shattered world turned to opportunities, but I am thankful for all aspects of the last few years of this journey. I know that this girl will be fine, and maybe I wouldn’t give her any of that advice. Maybe it is best that she learns it all on her own through trial and error, as that is where my strength has come from.
Next week is the five-year anniversary of when my life plans derailed, and the first time I heard my husband say the word divorce in regard to our relationship. What I can tell you now is that with the exception of the first several months, this has been the best five years of my life, and the plans I have now far surpass what I was looking forward to back then. So, buckle up, Andrea circa 2014. It’s going to be wild, but it’s going to be worth it.
Cheers to new beginnings.
❤ MS Andrea Jackson