“Make good choices today,” my mom said as we hung up the phone this morning. Really? I’m a woman in my thirties, and my mother is reminding me to “make good choices”? I actually laughed out loud. But as soon as I hung up, her words seeped into my subconsciousness, where I’m sure they will remain throughout the day, marinating.
What did she mean, exactly? Remember to recycle, turn the lights off when you leave a room, go the speed limit, and eat my vegetables? Probably not. I mean, those are obviously important, but I doubt that’s what she had in mind. The more likely scenario is this: she was letting me know she loves me, wants what’s best for me, and (as moms do) that she worries about me- despite my being an adult, despite us being 211 miles apart, despite the fact that aside from a couple of situations we don’t need to get into, I have, in fact, made good choices for myself throughout the majority of my young life.
After I posted on Facebook a snapshot from my desk yesterday with the tagline “I love my job. That is all,” my mom told me there’s no greater satisfaction for a mother than to see her kids doing what they love, which my brother and I are (at long last) both doing with our lives. And I have her to thank for that. She was the one who told me, even as a small child, that I could do anything, and that I could be whoever I wanted to be. She never swayed me one direction or another but made sure I was exposed to a myriad of experiences as I was growing into my own person, to see what would stick. Just for fun one day, I rattled off to my son the list of things my mom had signed me up for as a kid, and without taking a breath I think I came up with 18 different groups/activities/experiences, which included a colorful kaleidoscope of different arenas. Everything from the more conventional “little girl” activities such as ballet, 4H, and Girl Scouts, to summer archaeology camp (I’m not kidding- two years in a row), volleyball and archery (I was terrible at both), acting, painting, creative writing, drawing, violin and piano lessons, soccer, gymnastics, science camp, YMCA day camp, swimming, diving, and tennis (finally, something stuck!). Ridiculous, right? But I’m eternally grateful that she exposed me to so many different types of activities and people, so I could decide for myself what felt like home to me… so I could “make good choices,” listening to what resonated with the person I would eventually become as an adult. It also showed me that she believed in my ability to actually do anything. By nudging me toward all those experiences, she was saying, “Look, Annie…see what’s out there? The world has so much to offer you. Go explore it.”
Those childhood experiences gave me the confidence to believe I could do whatever I dreamt up for myself as an adult. My mom was the person who told me, “You can’t NOT do this,” back in 2005 when I was presented with the opportunity to go into business for myself, even though it was scary, and even though I had no idea how to run a business. She believed in my ability to do whatever I put my mind to, and she supported me in so many ways through that groundbreaking decision to take my professional life in a direction I never saw coming; after the hard-earned college degree in political science that I wasn’t doing anything with; after the year spent poring over law books at UD; after the 18 months I spent as a caseworker and the subsequent semesters I spent pursuing early childhood education. I swear I must have switched gears on average once a year for the first five years after college. And all roads eventually led to this place where I feel at home in my work, and in my life- and I feel lucky every single day.
So today, and most days, I will continue to heed the advice of the most influential, amazing woman in my life. Was it just an offhand comment she made when we hung up today? Maybe. But it reminded me of her belief in me, her influence in my life, and how blessed and thankful I have been to have her as my mom. I can only hope to pass that influence along to my own child as he grows into his own unique, perfectly imperfect person. With that, go be who you want to be, “make good choices today”, and above all, remember those who have believed in you along the way.
*I took this photo a couple of years ago at a coffee shop I visited with my mom, close to Mother’s Day… I thought it was perfect for this post.