On ambition, nostalgia, and regret…

The problem with having high ambitions is that falling a little short sometimes feels an awful lot like failure – even when you know you’re on the right path, even when you know it takes so many steps to climb a mountain.

I recently had the chance to reconnect with a group of bloggers I first “met” ten – twelve? – years ago, and while catching up has been wonderful, I’ve noticed that nostalgia can carry whispers of regret, too. Especially when you see people climbing higher, going farther, moving faster than you are.

There are so many things I thought I was going to accomplish by my fortieth birthday – things I’m still working on. (I’ve done plenty of other things I never dreamed I would, too, but the misses still sting.) I was feeling kind of rough and wobbly about it all, wondering if I’ve wasted the past decade or so, and then I spent time with my kids. Conversational time, where we laughed and talked and shared.

I’ve been a mom for seventeen years. During that time I’ve written grants, school policy handbooks, stories, poems, articles, essays, advocacy papers, and a book. I’ve homeschooled. I’ve raised dogs, sold dogs, adopted and tamed mustangs, ridden mustangs, gotten brave, lost my confidence, and started finding courage again. I went to my first (and so far only) horse show and came home with an armful of ribbons (even though I’m not at all competitive). I’ve crop scouted, learned to drive tractors, and started an environmental stewardship program on our farm. I’ve been a freelance editor, a volunteer, and a secretary.

But, really? I’ve mostly just been a mom. I put all my effort into being the best mom I knew how to be, even when it meant setting my own ambitions and goals aside for a while. Motherhood – parenthood – is hard and heartbreaking and hopeful. There are no promotions for motherhood – no awards, certificates, raises, paid vacation, buckles, ribbons, or trophies – but, man, the rewards and benefits are priceless.

Talking to my kids – my brilliant, creative, hilarious, independent teenagers – makes me more proud than anything else I could have been doing with the past seventeen years. And while watching them grow up brings its own bittersweet nostalgia, I am so looking forward to seeing where the future takes them – and me.

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