March 26, 2010

The Day I Saw Jo

Yesterday I bumped into an old school friend whom I’ll call Jo (because it’s not her name). I hadn’t seen Jo for around eight years, ever since she became angry at me after I mistakenly fed her baby daughter the first animal products she’d ever consumed, in the form of a benign looking Salada biscuit.

Jo always stood out from the mainstream. She was earthy, vegan, anti-organised religion, anti-cosmetics, pro-animal rights, and non-conformist. She was also angry, moody, and more than a little rebellious.

But oh, how times change.

When I bumped into Jo yesterday, she was in Westfield shopping centre, not the place I associated with an angry non-conformist. It turns out her daughter attends a private, Catholic girls’ school, her son is enrolled in a private boys’ school, and she was heading off to have a facial. Presumably with cosmetics.

Now, I am not criticising Jo in the slightest for altering her philosophical stands. I simply found it fascinating that she has changed so much over the years. Twenty years ago I would have pictured her living on a commune with her feral children wearing hemp gowns, eating fruit that had fallen from the tree, with dozens of rescued animals gathered around her hearth.

But then I got to thinking.... We all change, don’t we? If we looked back in time ten, twenty or thirty years, how far would each of us have moved from where we began?

As a teenager I was desperately insecure. I worried terribly about my appearance. I spent hours contemplating the meaning of life. I ached over boys who would never like me, instead of boosting my confidence by dating boys who did. I felt unsure of myself, uncomfortable in my own skin, and lacked any sense of who I was and what I could offer my friends, family and the world around me.

In my twenties I moved through studies, various jobs and relationships, projecting to the world an air of assurance and vivacity, but without the self-confidence to back it up.

At 30 I became a mother for the first time, and all felt right with the world for the first time. I knew how to care for my baby. It was easy and instinctive. I became the earth mother I’d always dreamed of being. I lost weight, I returned to study, I began writing, and I felt more confident and happy with myself than ever before in my life.

And then everything changed again. My second child was born. I couldn’t cope with two small children. Moreover, as my son grew, I realised that being an earth mother with an easy baby was one thing. Being an earth mother with a challenging toddler / pre-schooler / child was completely different. I lost my confidence, felt anxious, became, once again, the insecure teenager who didn’t believe in herself or her capabilities.

Now, at 40 (using ‘40’ in the sense of ‘very slightly older than 40, but who’s counting’) I believe I have finally come into my own. I’ve taken responsibilities for my mistakes and am trying to do better. I’ve also forgiven myself because I know I’m not perfect, and want only to make the best of my life that I can. I understand that I can’t control everything in my world, but try to make the best decisions I possibly can. And I take pride in my achievements, of all forms and sizes – my children, my writing, the chicken dish I made the other night after the first attempt failed.

Life is a journey. We are fluid as we move along its path. We change. We develop. We experience highs and lows. We fight ourselves and accept ourselves and push for change and change without meaning to.

I was stunned by the changes in Jo, not so much because of her embracing cosmetics and religious schools, but because she had lost her anger. She seemed happy, calm, and comfortable in her own skin. And though I haven’t quite got the calm thing down yet, I’m happy and comfortable too.

I’ve seen girls grow from lonely social outcasts to confident and attractive women. I’ve seen average students become spectacularly successful business people and lawyers. I’ve seen wild teenagers develop into wonderful mothers. And I’ve seen people recover from grief and loss to begin new lives.

For all of you who have achieved positive change in your lives, well done. Be proud. And for those still struggling, have hope. Life is long, and you cannot possibly imagine what changes are in store for you.

My 17 year old self would have been stunned to learn how she evolved. And, I imagine, so would Jo’s.

35 comments:

  1. Kerri, I think you just described many of us ‘very slightly older than 40, but who’s counting’ women. Thanks for your words :)

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  2. This is something I think a lot about as my move back to my hometown has brought me into contact with a lot of people I went to school with. Most have turned out to be great people - not something I could have necessarily imagined 25 years ago in the midst of teen angst. Time wears down our rough edges, allowing us to rub along together much more smoothly.

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  3. What a poignant and moving post... Thanks for sharing it.

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  4. Great post, Kerri. I'm just about to head into my 30s, and I look forward to this self-confidence that should be headed my way soon!

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  5. You got me thinking about my 17 year old self. I think she couldn't have imagined how much she too would change. I'm in the middle of a HUGE transition in my life and I'm learning to chill out and go with it. A post like this is a brilliant reminder to embrace it. Thank you Kerri. x

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  6. Somewhere between 28 - 30 I worked out I was me and everyone else just had to get used to it...BUT I do continue to struggle...I do tend to emote and speak before putting my brain in to gear. I have Italian blood for goodness sake!
    My Anglo mother continues to *shoosh* me and it is only recently I have learned not to act like a rabid dog every time she does it. Every time I am *shooshed* it's like a negation of who I am. I went to Italy for the 1st time ast year and felt SO at home...SO many passionate LOUD talkers...it was such an affirmation of who I am.
    I have envisaged various things I wanted at different stages in my life and somehow they all happened...my latest life challenge is 3 years in and I am am visualising the hec out of a way out, but it's just not happening this time and it's a massive challenge to stay positive.
    I have 3 amazing, fabulous independent kids, but I STILL don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
    I envy so much those that do.

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  7. Well said, my dear!!

    As some wise person once wrote, "Life is what happens while you're busy planning something else!" It's truly amazing, the twists and turns we inevitably take, isn't it?

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  8. Kerri, this is a very thoughtful post.Your blog is usually written with the manic feel of a Goon Show script. It's nice to see another side of you. I trust however, that this is only temporary, and that you'll revert to your usual self, as soon as possible ?.........

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  9. It is interesting to look back at who we were, isn't it.

    But it always remains a part of who we are as well. There are times I feel like a totally different person to my younger years, but there are also times when all the baggage is brought to the forefront and I feel as insecure and paranoid as a lost fifteen year old...

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  10. you know what gets to me is I am virtually exactly the same exactly the same but with two kids...still pretty much the same.
    And I do not like it one bit.
    I want to grow and evolve and move on and stop being with the wrong people and liking the wrong ones and being alone.
    but i can't.
    Sigh.
    heres hopes for my 30's.
    (apologies for mini-rant)

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  11. Thank you to those who commented for your beautiful words and insights.
    Oh, and thank you, Fender. I think....

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  12. April, I'm sure yours will come ...

    Kerri, thanks for the reminder about stuff I needed to hear right now (although I'm fairly confident you had no idea of that and this post wasn't written specifically for me :D)

    Well said ... I like.

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  13. I love this post and I love seeing your 'other' side Kerri.

    I detoured far from where I was at 17. I was a bookish, nerdy kind of kid, not into socialising or boyfriends. I had one BFF and we were thought of as odd I think - (and also lesbians which was pretty full on back in the day :-)).

    We were going to escape our regional town and become famous actresses (although writing was a double ambition for both of us) as soon as we could. Somewhere along the way I lost my balls - but she kept on swimming all the way to the fabulous shallow end. She was the love of my life and I really struggled after that. Who did I want to be? How could I love anyone the way I loved her?

    I spent ten years looking for love in all the wrong places - as a friend of mine said just the other day. I was kind of lost. I met a soulmate and broke up with him and then met an arsehole. When I finally pulled myself out of that hideous situation I had one goal - I wanted to be a mum.

    I met hubby yada, yada, yada - my life was beyond blessed. Two babies and every day I thanked my lucky stars for all I had been given.

    I didn't think I'd ever want anything more. But when I lost my third child my life took a huge turn. There was a void I needed to fill and all my old writing ambitions came flooding to the fore. My baby's gift to me - although I would rather have her any day - was to awaken another love in me.

    Now, I couldn't be without my writing. I am still incredibly blessed and also incredibly angsty - but I've learned to love that about me. When you survive the worst you know you will survive anything. After turning 40 last year I plunged headlong into my mid-life crisis and I'm loving every minute of it.

    Someone much wiser than me once said something like "the unexamined life is not worth living." Yep - that works for me.:-)

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post (and for allowing me to rave on your blog.lol)

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  14. I was a teenage 'try hard,' always on the edges of the cool gang, trying to get in. Out of the blue, I saw one of those beautiful girls from the cool gang (you know, the one with the older boyfriend and who all the boys of your grade lust over) recently and let's just say, she had not aged very well - too much sun without protection, I would say. Me, I think I have aged okay, I am certainly more accepting of myself and my life choices now than I was 10 or even *gasp* 20 years ago. I wouldn't go back to 17 for quids!

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  15. Love this post :) Being a "slightly older than 40"yo woman I've seen many things as you have :) My 17yo self would be pleased to know that I'm happy & comfortable with me but possibly surprised that I'm still doing the mothering gig. She'd have thought I'd be finished that by now and on to the empty nest one :)

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  16. I love it when you rock your serious side, Ms Sackville! And I can hardly comprehend the changes I've gone through - though since I never thought I'd get married (10 yrs married) and certainly never imagined I'd have kids (yet I now have 2) I think I've changed in some pretty dramatic ways.

    And, Jayne, your comment brought tears to my eyes - you are such a beautiful woman! I'm so glad that your angel helped you rediscover a passion. xoxo

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  17. Great post Kerri. This issue resonates with me so much these days. I remember when my father took early retirement, I was at the height of a running a music business, I wondered how the hell he got through his boring days. He used to be the CEO of a shipping company. I was thirty, gung-ho and driven.

    Twenty years later I'm pretending I have taken early retirement. I still work, I'll always work music as long as someone wants my services, but the driven factor is gone, and after answering the phone from 7am till 10pm, seven days a week, I'm glad to leave it off the hook most days.

    I now know what my old man did with his retired time. He smelt the roses. He went shopping with his wife, he wrote letters to his kids. There is a time to be a child, an angry uni student, a driven entrepreneur, a parent, and an old grump. That I've ticked the last box is a relief.

    I love this quote, though it is from an unexpected source, Muhammad Ali.

    "The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. "

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  18. Thanks, Kerry, for this wonderful post! could not be more with you there ;) Ever tried Tony Robbins' firewalk? It helped me to consolidate myself and to rid myself from the very cause of my inner most problems with self-confidence and accepting myself. I see that you've gone a long long way with that (I don't think your friend Jo has ever had THIS problem really) but still, check it out :) All the best and once again thank you for your sharing. Katja

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  19. Fabulous post Kerri- and I've loved the comments too. At just a touch over 40 I think I'm finally learning to live in my skin too- to accept all of me, not just the bits I like to show to the public. Also to recognise that the tough times, the parts of my life I would have wished away- the years of infertility, the major marriage crisis a decade ago, the disappointments and rejections with my writing, the once close friends I've fallen out of touch with or moved on from- have actually made me who I am now. At the end of it all, we are the sum of our scars, and I like who I am. Thanks for a great post.

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  20. My mum had three kids by the age of 25 and raised us by herself while working as a nurse. We moved house constantly for one reason and another. Although I was bright I suffered terrible anxiety which culminated, during my final year of high school (the year I turned 17),in virus after virus, appendicitis, glandular fever which morphed into chronic fatigue syndrome. My journal writing was my escape. At 17 I honestly thought I was doomed to live a short life, I didn't think I would make it to 30, and I never imagined I would have children or a partner. Partly because I couldn't imagine being capable of attracting a partner of the calibre I would be prepared to have children with, and partly because of a fairly irrational belief that my body was a dud.
    Fast forward more than a few years.. I am married to the love of my life and have two beautiful children. What's more, I have financial security. Every time I drive my car without wondering whether and when it will break down, every time I close my front door knowing I own this house, this home that gives me the most settled feeling I've ever had, I am grateful. At least once a week my eyes well up with tears of joy at the unexpected level contentment I have achieved. The person I am now would be unregocnisable to my 17 year old self. I would give her a hug and tell her, truly, everything will be ok. The story of how I bridged that gap is really the thing I am proudest of in my life. Thanks for reminding me Kerri.

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  21. At 17 I was a complete and utter mess. I think it was close to the lowest point in my life.

    How glad I am that it is over.

    I loved this post Kerri and I cried at every comment (even Fender's)

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  22. Um, that Sh above was me. So quick to get rid of my past I forgot to add the arpest Pencil xx

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  23. At 17 & 25 & 30 & 35 .... I had no idea who I was. I think I am getting the hang of me a bit now @ 44.

    I do wish I had known some of the amazing, clever and loving women that I know now.

    I am proud that I now have the ability and desire to let people know they are having a positive impact on my life, and how appreciated it is.

    Even the ones I haven't actually met!

    I would tell my 17 year old self that she is beautiful and wise and to trust her instincts!

    Carol x

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  24. Thanks for the encouraging post Kerri. I've been feeling lately just how much I am not belonging anywhere, I don't have a 'group' as such that I spend time with and have been feeling pretty alone. So I will struggle on and try to keep in mind your advice, 30 is fast approaching in a couple of years and although I am dreading reaching that milestone with nothing really to 'show' for my life hopefully like you things will start to look up for me when I reach it.

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  25. This is truly a wonderful post, Kerri.

    x

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  26. Little Girl From East St KildaMarch 28, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    Beautiful Post Kerri. I have tears running down my face.

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  27. Wonderfully said Kerrie - and Gig, I love your comment too.

    When I was a teenager I wanted to travel the world, go to NIDA, be a brilliant actor, learn about everything!

    I went to uni, met the love of my life, did a few short course at NIDA, and waved goodbye to my backpacking friend.

    Now, also a bit North of 40, I am still looking forward to traveling the world (when the kids grow up), teaching Drama to kids, doing a spot of community theatre and still hungry for knowledge.

    My 17 year old self might have thought I had "sold out" and turned all "boring and suburban", but I am very happy and I still have the "essence" of me - without the teenage angst and uni student anger.

    I hope the 17 year old me would like the me I am now.

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  28. Lovely post, Kerri.

    I've found with age I've become more confident. I'm finding "me". I'm chasing things I want to do, and I'm more willing to give something a go and just do things that make me happy.

    I'm doing my dream "job" as a Mum, and whilst it's challenging, it's so much fun.

    Life is good. I've come a long way too from the insecure teenager I was. And I'm so happy about that.

    Jodie
    x

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  29. I really enjoyed this. Especially the part about bumping into your old friend at Westfeilds. I have recently moved back to the suburbs after a long, and ongoing, conversation with a radically different world to the one I grew up in, so I am constantly spinning out at how much time I am spending at the local shopping centre lately! Being back in the burbs and the malls sorta feels like coming full circle, but then kinda ricocheting off into a whole new tail spin!

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  30. At 17 & 25 & 30 & 35 .... I had no idea who I was. I think I am getting the hang of me a bit now @ 44.

    I do wish I had known some of the amazing, clever and loving women that I know now.

    I am proud that I now have the ability and desire to let people know they are having a positive impact on my life, and how appreciated it is.

    Even the ones I haven't actually met!

    I would tell my 17 year old self that she is beautiful and wise and to trust her instincts!

    Carol x

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  31. At 17 I was a complete and utter mess. I think it was close to the lowest point in my life.

    How glad I am that it is over.

    I loved this post Kerri and I cried at every comment (even Fender's)

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  32. I love this post and I love seeing your 'other' side Kerri.

    I detoured far from where I was at 17. I was a bookish, nerdy kind of kid, not into socialising or boyfriends. I had one BFF and we were thought of as odd I think - (and also lesbians which was pretty full on back in the day :-)).

    We were going to escape our regional town and become famous actresses (although writing was a double ambition for both of us) as soon as we could. Somewhere along the way I lost my balls - but she kept on swimming all the way to the fabulous shallow end. She was the love of my life and I really struggled after that. Who did I want to be? How could I love anyone the way I loved her?

    I spent ten years looking for love in all the wrong places - as a friend of mine said just the other day. I was kind of lost. I met a soulmate and broke up with him and then met an arsehole. When I finally pulled myself out of that hideous situation I had one goal - I wanted to be a mum.

    I met hubby yada, yada, yada - my life was beyond blessed. Two babies and every day I thanked my lucky stars for all I had been given.

    I didn't think I'd ever want anything more. But when I lost my third child my life took a huge turn. There was a void I needed to fill and all my old writing ambitions came flooding to the fore. My baby's gift to me - although I would rather have her any day - was to awaken another love in me.

    Now, I couldn't be without my writing. I am still incredibly blessed and also incredibly angsty - but I've learned to love that about me. When you survive the worst you know you will survive anything. After turning 40 last year I plunged headlong into my mid-life crisis and I'm loving every minute of it.

    Someone much wiser than me once said something like "the unexamined life is not worth living." Yep - that works for me.:-)

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post (and for allowing me to rave on your blog.lol)

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  33. Thanks, Kerry, for this wonderful post! could not be more with you there ;) Ever tried Tony Robbins' firewalk? It helped me to consolidate myself and to rid myself from the very cause of my inner most problems with self-confidence and accepting myself. I see that you've gone a long long way with that (I don't think your friend Jo has ever had THIS problem really) but still, check it out :) All the best and once again thank you for your sharing. Katja

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  34. What a poignant and moving post... Thanks for sharing it.

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  35. Kerri, I think you just described many of us ‘very slightly older than 40, but who’s counting’ women. Thanks for your words :)

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