Sometimes I have no idea how I ended up here and who that woman in the mirror is.
Today I gave a brief interview for a documentary about autism. Me. The girl who hyperventilated and ran out of my speech class in college (yes, there is a video recording of that somewhere...I should really destroy that sometime.) And it wasn't my first interview, in the past few months I've done three.
How weird is that?
Tonight I had dinner with an old friend who I haven't seen in years. During that time, we couldn't help but talk about a few things from the past, a few fun memories shared. But mostly we talked about now, the people we have become and the ways we've changed. I don't think College MamaSab would recognize me.
I got married young. Like, I was technically still a teenager young. I wanted the dream- the husband, kids, white picket fence. Unlike most people my age, the thought of travel and adventure terrified me. I'm scared of flying, hate driving, and was content to stay home snuggled up to a good book and cuppa tea.
Well, things didn't turn out exactly as I thought they would. Marriage? Turned out to be more beautiful, more difficult, and more amazing a journey than I anticipated. The six kids I wanted (Yes, six. I was insane.) got pared down to three. And parenting these three turned out to be more miraculous, more heartbreaking, more inspiring, more stressful, and more life-changing than I could have ever imagined. Don't even get me started on the house.
In the back of my mind, one of those things I always thought, was that one day when the kids were grown and gone, then maybe I would be ready for adventure. I mean, I started young, so I would be a young empty-nester. My parents, for example, really began traveling (and discovered a love for travel) in their fifties. I guess I thought that would be me some day.
How presumptuous. It never occurred to me that I may have kids that would not follow the norm, that I may have children who would need me, in so many ways, beyond that magical age of 18. It never occurred to me that my life could end before those days, that I may not have all the time in the world.
If there is one thing my life has taught me, it's that we have no promises.
Now, I'm not deathly ill. And no, I don't regret a thing. Not the marrying at 19, not the kids, not a single thing. Because if I had something different, if I hadn't had them, I would have never been brave enough or motivated enough on my own to do a darn thing.
See, the kids have taught me. They've taught me to enjoy my life more. I find myself wanting to try new things, things that scare me to death. They make me brave enough to step in front of a camera, in the hope of making even a small difference in the way the world views autism. And since there is no promise of empty-nest adventures, why wait? I may not get to travel the world anytime soon, but I can try new foods from interesting places, meet new people, have new experiences. I want those things now.
I used to be so afraid of new and different. I was afraid of trying because I was afraid of failing. Now I'm a woman who has her own business, has been involved in advocacy for autism insurance reform (me, calling Senators? HA!), and lives for moments out and about with friends. I am sometimes surprised at how much The Husband can still love me, considering that he married such a different woman! Thank God he does (at least, I'm pretty sure....he tells me so all the time. Lucky girl, I am.)
That woman in the mirror seems a lot like me (I still have a fabulous sense of humor, love a good book, and am awkward as the day is long) but a version that I never dreamed of. My kids- yes, their autism especially- have made me a much braver person. The only promises I really need are that God and my husband will stay at my side. The rest is all a mystery that will unfold as it may.
I look forward to years of discovery and adventure and doing things that scare me. Even having a few spectacular failures. I look forward to growing and changing. That woman in the mirror is a bit fabulous...I think I like her.