Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Life can throw some real challenges at you but it’s funny how life always seems to sort itself out. We are resilient people with busy schedules. After reflecting over the past 10 years (that means all of my twenties) here are the top 10 things I wish I knew back then:
It’s OK to Want to Do Every Career Imaginable - In my twenties I went through so many phases. My lucky husband was a witness to this. I wanted to be everything from a Social Worker, Baker, Peacekeeper, Bank Teller, Teacher … honestly, you name it and I’ve probably wanted to try it out. If it wasn’t for me wanting to pursue so many different career paths, I would have never landed here, as a couple and wedding photographer. I love trying new things, enjoy a challenge and get bored very easily with mundane tasks. Shooting weddings every weekend is a perfect fit.
Letting Go Is Hard but It Gets Easier - This was a real struggle for me. I got married at 20, had our first child at 21, moved across the country (away from my own family at 21), had our second child at 23 all while trying to find and maintain who I was as an individual. I had a very difficult time missing my family while starting my own. I didn’t picture having a family of my own, away from my parents and sister. I struggled and despised our first posting. It wasn’t a fairytale, easy as pie beginning. I had a lot to learn about myself, parenting, and being a good wife in a new province away from everything I knew. It was a lot of new roles in a very short period of time.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I’m happy to say we are 10 years into our marriage with the military (anyone that tells you that you aren’t marrying the military when you marry a military person is straight up lying to you), raising our 2 boys, starting and maintaining my own personal career which I built by myself (with the support of my husband), we’ve purchased our first home, first vehicles, traveled the world - I could go on.
My heart is grateful for the struggles early on. It allowed my husband and I to learn to really work as a team. Do I miss my family on the West coast still? Every.single.day. But I know, what I’ve built here in Ottawa is worth it.
The Weight Comes and Goes - Over the past 10 years my weight has fluctuated a lot. I gained 60 lbs with my first son and another 60 lbs with my second son (without losing all of the weight from my first pregnancy). I’ve been a size 2 but I’ve also been a size 10. I’ve tried fad diets, working out a ton, relearning new lifestyle choices. I’ve tried it all. At the end of the day it’s been challenging for me to put me first. As a mom of two and an owner of two businesses that need my attention, taking personal care of myself has been set low on the priority scale. I’ve learned that when life slows down a bit to take advantage of the time and give myself the healthy attention I need. When life is busy, try not to beat myself up over it. There are only so many hours in a day.
A Little Sacrifice Lends Unimaginable Gains - While in my twenties, I didn’t really worry about what we spent our money on. If I saw a cute outfit for the boys, I bought it. If we wanted to eat out at a restaurant because, well, it was my turn to cook - we did. We spent frivolously most of the time. It wasn’t until we were posted to Ottawa that I could see myself setting any sort of roots down. I didn’t picture a home in our last posting because I didn’t want to feel stuck there (remember, I wasn’t a fan).
Quickly, we fell in love with everything Ottawa had to offer. It’s a wonderful city to raise a family boasting with so much opportunity to grow together. We finally found a house layout and style we could agree on (this is a story for another day) and decided now was the time. We were not the starter house type of people, we hate moving and didn’t feel the need to grow into and out of a home more than we needed to. Are you ready for this? We created a budget and actually kept track of where our money was going and when we’d meet our financial goals. We were able to pay off all of our debt while saving for a downpayment in only a year. It was both shocking and a little insane to see how much money we were wasting before. We were able to purchase our house, refurnish the entire thing, buy brand new appliances and two new vehicles all in the same year. Small sacrifices like not buying that cute outfit or actually cooking from home makes a huge difference. Promise.
It’s the Experiences that Mean More - I absolutely love gift giving. It just makes me feel good giving someone else a gift - especially my children. We had such lavish Christmases (and sometimes still do) but looking back, our family doesn’t often remember a single gift we got. Seriously. If you asked what we got for Christmas or a birthday a year or two ago, we likely wouldn't remember. What do we remember? Sledding down the toboggan hills in Kanata, cuddling up watching movies as a family, swimming in the hotel pools, making sandcastles by the beach and jumping over the waves, or feeding the deer carrots outside of the truck windows. My children still talk about their favourite memories when we go away and what they liked the best. The smiles on their faces when we go new places and try new things will always mean more to them than an actual gift. They’ve even suggested canceling Christmas and doing something as a family instead. Yes, our kids are only 9 and 7 and already see the significance in memory making vs. gift receiving. I wish I had known this then.
Trying New Food Doesn’t Always Suck - OK this one might seem really silly compared to all of the rest but it’s a lesson I’ve learned over the past 10 years. I would describe my tastes in my early twenties as immature and childish. I liked “kid” vegetables (of course not cooked), if it looked gross of course it likely was and if I didn’t know where it came from - well, it just wasn’t happening. All this was true until Josh took over our home chef duties and stopped catering to my picky wants. I’ve grown vastly in my tastes over the years thanks to him pushing me to try new things. Some things do remain the same though - I am not a fan of sushi and thankful my oldest son is so they can do sushi dates without me.
Stop Trying to Make Bangs Work - Every time I get my haircut and add in the idea of bangs I get excited. Something different is always fun. Nope. I always end up hating it so it’s time to face the facts and not go down the whole bangs are cute on Stephanie route.
Amazing True Friends become Family - These are the people you can always count on regardless of how busy they are or what they have going on. These are the people that don’t need to be asked to offer help but just know when you do (because sometimes you just suck at asking for help). These are the people that become your family when you don’t have your extended family around. These are the people that you celebrate birthdays and holidays with and the people that celebrate your achievements with over the years. These are the people that don’t expect anything in return and don’t create drama in your life. Keep these people close. They mean the most.
It’s OK to Unfriend People - It has taken me a good 8 years to realize I don’t need to be (or even want to be) everyones friend. Everyone has their own interests, passions and way of life which is what keeps life interesting. What isn’t ok is to keep people in your life that are toxic to your growth, mood, or the true relationships in your life. It’s ok to out grow people and move on. Saying goodbye to toxic relationships allows for the good vibes only type of people to share more of your time. Meet more of those types of people and create a genuine circle of close people in your life.
It’s Perfectly Acceptable to Say No - This one has also taken me years to learn. I always found myself saying no to someone followed by an excuse. I felt like I needed a reason behind my “no” answer. Do I want to go out after a long weekend of weddings? No, I can’t say I do. Saying no doesn’t need to be negative. In fact, I wish more people would say “no”, say how they feel rather than commit to something only to bail later. If you aren’t interested in joining activities, purchasing something, or something of that sort - just say so. We are all adults and respect someone that can make decisions on their own and stick to them.