Updated: Feb 9, 2021
If you're in your late 20's, slowly approaching the big 3 0, I am sure you have seen the social media queries of other 20 somethings asking for 30 year-olds to share their wisdom for the coming decade. While I have seen a lot of great advice on these lists and responses - one has stuck with me. Not because it was something I wanted to keep in mind as I enter the thirty, flirty and thriving phase, but because it was something I learned the hard way in my late 20's.
FALLING IN LOVE WITH FINN
Even though I was only a teenager when I fell in love with Finn and many people continually questioned our relationship and doubted it would last through high school and college - even at the age of 15, I knew I loved him - really loved him. I fell fast and hard for Finn. I remember feeling euphoric and not just in the first few years but every time I was in his arms, every time he smiled at me when I did something off the wall goofy. I felt unbreakable for almost a decade while our love thrived.
Falling in love gave me self confidence and assurance that I had worth to someone other than myself and my immediate family. Through my relationship with Finn I learned how to see the best in myself and finally had an outlet to be my ultimately weird and goofy self without fear of scrutiny or that I'd be the butt of mean jokes. It was liberating. I can attest that when you really love someone, that that love grows at an exponential, immeasurable rate and when you think you've reached a point where you couldn't love that person more, the universe proves you wrong. Sounds amazing right?
FALLING OUT OF LOVE WITH FINN
Falling out of love was a completely different experience. It happened so gradually I didn't even realize it until it was too late. Like water against the river bank, our unresolved marriage problems eroded at my love for Finn. I can't really pin point when it all started; when I went from loving him so much I'd do anything and everything, endure every hurt, every sleepless night to find a way to repair our marriage, to somehow looking at him and only seeing the father of my children and a long-time friend. I guess it doesn't really matter, because unlike falling in love, falling out of love was silent, numbing and covert. It was almost as if the harder I tried to fix what had been broken within me, between us, the less there was to repair.
I'll admit this sounds super depressing and for a long time it was. It was dark and lonely and made me feel the exact opposite of euphoric. Especially because I had no idea what was going on simultaneously within me. In fact, it is the exact thing that makes falling out of love so much more powerful than falling in love -
FALLING IN LOVE WITH ME
Let me clarify though. When I say I fell in love with myself, I really mean I found the strength to love myself FIRST. I began prioritizing my own wellbeing, my mental health, my relationship with my child(ren) and my relationship with God. Simultaneously, as I was struggling to find happiness in my marriage, I was finding ways to enjoy my own company, to reconnect with passions I had let go of and to turn to God when I felt weak or broken. Through these actions and with the help of some very truly amazing friends and family, I began to love myself first and prioritize what makes me happy.
Overtime, small decisions welcomed strong walls and healthy boundaries that helped me better prioritize what was worth my time and energy and what I needed to distance myself from. After those healthy boundaries emerged, I started making time for people and activities I really enjoy (hiking, art, reading, writing, etc.). If it didn't serve me or add value to my life and happiness, I stopped indulging. I became a new woman, a new mother and a better friend to myself and others. As I became an advocate for my own mental health, I also felt called to be there for others struggling and developed renewed and new friendships with people fighting their own battles.
Looking back, it is so much easier to see now that during the darkness of falling out of love with Finn, I was headed towards a brighter, healthier and stronger relationship with myself. Is it the way I pictured my life going? No. Is it the way I wish I had found this amazing inner strength and self-love completely independent of anyone else's thoughts or feelings about me? No. But I am beyond glad that I became the woman I am today, even if she was born out of hardship and loss.
If you haven't already, please learn to love yourself first. I promise you it is the most amazing gift.