I read a blog post yesterday that got me to deep thinking. It was a years-old post that I randomly stumbled upon, and after reading it, I found myself digging a little more deeply into myself than I typically would for my own little blog.
This woman compiled a list of things that made her proud. Seemingly innocent enough. It struck me as odd, though, that her tone was so condescending. She was proud to have had a few of her babies before she got “old” … in her mid-twenties. She was happy that she was married right after high school and had babies immediately because that was how God intended women to behave. She was proud of never having drank or seen R-rated movies, which is nice, but the overall delivery made me think that drinking or seeing an R-rated movie was something for which I should be ashamed. And maybe it could have been innocent enough, but it just seemed so self-righteous that it turned me off.
I am proud of my many mistakes and my vast missteps. I have punished myself for so, so long for the poor choices of my past, and it’s only been recently that I’ve let go of that guilt. I’ve come to the understanding that even bad decisions take you to great places. I truly believe that these sad moments have shaped me more profoundly than any of my good decisions.
I am proud of moments that I was not necessarily proud of at the time. I have learned how to grow out of guilt and accept the past for what it is. These moments have molded me into someone who makes better choices.
I am proud of not getting married when I could have. I’m proud that I somehow found the courage to break off an engagement that I knew wasn’t right for me. Living in a region that tends to value women by the jewelry on their hands (and the time by which they receive it), it was a terrifying decision to make. Loving someone with everything you have, but knowing deep-down in the pit of your stomach and the bottom of your heart that it isn’t meant to be is one of the more heart-breaking situations I’ve ever been in. Taking that ring off my finger was never the easiest decision, but it was the right decision, and it opened up a side of me that would have never been seen otherwise.
I am proud of being out late in bars, in both the over-served and the stone-sober capacities. Over-served because I realized how much more in-control I needed to be in my life, and stone-sober so I can remember why in-control is so much better than the alternative.
I am proud of my version of family values — that a loving family is the backbone of America, regardless of what that family looks like. Two moms, two dads, one mama, one daddy, mom and dad, grandmother, uncle, or the family you have chosen for yourself. Black, white, brown, or anything in between. Family is not defined by looks, but by love. To label it and define it and restrict it as anything else is to see family as shallow and unimportant.
I am proud to be spontaneous. And emotional. And impulsive. And passionate. And imaginative. And sometimes a little flighty. I value myself so much for these characteristics. For so long, I thought these were poor character traits, but as as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the only people who think I’m an idiot are idiots themselves.
I am proud of my body. Not because it looks a certain way or weighs a certain amount, but because it works. I haven’t always treated it nicely (see: a near-decade of smoking), but it has never forsaken me. After fifteen years of bone-breaking gymnastics and ten years of beating it down with adulthood and its insanity, it functions. It reminds me every day that I wake up with much more than I deserve.
I am proud that I’ve left Arkansas and exposed myself to a multitude of people, cultures, and experiences. I’m proud that I’ve been on my own in a strange place and had to rely on my own devices to survive. I’m convinced that I would not appreciate my home state and the Southern culture had I not escaped it for a while.
I am proud that I do not need anyone attached to my side to find value in my spirit. I’m able to value my individuality and my sense of self. A man is supposed to be your other half, not your keeper. My worth isn’t and has never been determined by whether or not I’ve had a boyfriend. I am okay on my own because I know that my self-esteem is something that is tied to me and to my soul, not to some guy that can leave whenever he likes.
I am proud that I managed to educate myself and make it through law school. At one point or another, I doubt anyone thought I’d end up there. I had a bit of a crazy spell (no … really) in my early twenties, and I think everyone just assumed I had turned into a tooth-stealing gypsy and had run away with the circus. Which would have been amazing if circuses were like they were in Water for Elephants and everything was all glamorous, but now it’s just a lot of old costumes with missing sequins and sad-looking animals. In any case, I managed to pull myself together and get a law degree. And while I’m not proud of myself for failing the bar, I am so very proud of how I’ve handled the ensuing disappointment. With a little bit of wine and a whole lot of faith.
I am proud to be the daughter of two parents who taught me that I was no better than anyone else because of how I looked, the things I had, who I loved, or what I believed. I learned the meaning of respect early in life, and as parents, this was the single greatest gift they could have given me. They taught me to be kind and compassionate and tolerant because each and every person fights very different demons. They taught me that value of a human being is not in the color of his skin or the practice of his religion or the spelling of his name or the person he loves, but in the depth of his soul and the richness of his heart. They taught me that laughter truly is the best medicine. They taught me that life isn’t always kind, but it’s always beautiful. Because of this (and so many other things), I am proud to be a Sowers.
I am proud of myself for realizing, after a long battle between us, that none of this would have ever happened without a faithful God whose grace and mercy bring me to my knees. I’ve gone out of my way to do things wrong, to forsake what I know in my heart is right, and each and every time I get knocked down, I’m welcomed back into His loving arms. Looking at my life sometimes, I’m tempted to ask why so many things had to seemingly go wrong. Why others’ lives seemed to coast through the day-to-days without so much as a speed bump, and mine had been through miles and miles of potholes. The trouble isn’t ever with being happy with our lives — it’s that we expect ourselves to be as happy as everyone else. And people are never as happy as you expect them to be. Everyone has issues – they just happen to be different than yours. And I’m willing to bet that if I threw my issues in a pile with every one else’s, I’d pick mine back up in a hurry.
God has never given me more than He thought I could handle. I just sometimes wish he didn’t trust me so much.
My life has never been perfect, nor have I always acted in a manner that makes me proud. However, I am proud of the way I’ve handled it all. I am proud of my reactions, and I am proud of where I am now.