1) My mother only wore makeup on the rarest of occasions.
She taught me that to be successful in her every day life, the key wasn’t to mask her face with unnecessary false pretenses. I will admit, it took me many years to understand and follow this lesson. As a teenager, I never understood why she didn’t put foundation and blush and mascara on every day before her work as an emergency veterinary technician. I wore enough makeup in my teenage years to last me a lifetime, and I believe I applied a below-average amount compared to other teens in my cohort.
I like to get dressed up, put my foundation and mascara on, and look nice. Every once in a while. But my skin likes it much better when I don’t. But the true lesson is that makeup is only one part of an enormous cog system built to tell women what “beauty” means. My mom never told me I had to curl my hair in order to be a woman. My mother never showed me how to apply makeup, in order to make me more beautiful. My mother actually never stressed the necessity of makeup, because there is no necessity to it. Femininity is not dictated by the flawless nature of your foundation-packed skin.
2. My mother taught me that if my job didn’t inspire me, to quit it and find a new one.
My mom quit like ten jobs over the course of my childhood. I think I was eighteen or nineteen when she finally found her passion. It drove me NUTS that she could never figure out what she wanted to do. Every year or two, there was a new job offer, a different salary range (up or down) and always she was looking for the next big thing. It REALLY drove me nuts.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized why she did it, though. She was never satisfied with her own progress because she was never in the correct career path to make her feel satisfied and fulfilled and impassioned. She finally achieved that, after two or three decades of searching. She loves her career. Every single day. And every single night, when she is on call. She loves it.
Yeah, she quit a ton of jobs. But she taught me that if the job I am doing does not make me feel like I am actually utilizing my skills, emboldening my passions, and doesn’t make me feel like I’m doing the best work possible… then I shouldn’t do it. That I should figure out what really does it for me, and then do it.
3. My mother is going to apply to law school in a couple of years, and she is nearly fifty.
When I quit my well-paying job after three years of steadily ascending the corporate ladder, I’m pretty sure my mom was proud of me. I decided to quit my job to pursue my medical school prerequisites, and I know why she was proud: Because she is fifty, and plans on applying to law school in the next year or two.
My mom waited twenty-five years to push and pursue her own goal. She doesn’t want her kids to do that, and to be her 25-year-old daughter, and to have her support and encouragement to commit to seven more years in school, and a quarter of a million dollars in debt is pretty amazing. She taught me that if I want something, I have to be willing to just do the work, even if others don’t understand or don’t encourage you. It’s not on anyone but myself, but she is willing to tell me she is proud of me, and to encourage me.
My mom taught me that if I want to do something, I can do it. Even if I’m a 25-year-old mother of a young child. Even if I quit a high-paying job. Even if my undergraduate degree was in anthropology. Even if anything. My mom taught me to believe in myself, because she believes in herself.
4. One of my mother’s kids has dropped out of college, and the other one had an unexpected child at the age of 21.
Some parent’s nightmare involve kids dropping out of college or children being born out of wedlock. My mother’s worst nightmare for her children is to see them not fulfill their potential, or their passions. Luckily, when my sister dropped out of college, my mother let her figure her next steps out, and then supported her. When I was pregnant in the middle of my senior year in college, my mom just said, “Well, push through it.” (Pun intended.)
And that is probably one of the biggest lessons my mother has taught me; My life is not her life, but she is always willing to help me get to my next step, even if it involves something most parents would call, “A mistake.” I have never felt as though I’ve made a mistake that was irreversible, and I give credit to my mother for that.