I was lucky enough to be able to ring in my mom’s birthday with her and our family this week… and in honor of her, I thought it appropriate to share a few life lessons she has imparted on me over my lifetime.
· Express Gratitude. All the thank you notes. The thank you phone calls. I always dreaded my birthday and the holidays, because while all my friends were off enjoying their new shiny toys, I was stuck inside writing thank you notes on my "Thank You from Jennifer" stationary. What I couldn't grasp then, is that grace and gratitude are rare qualities. Qualities that must be taught. Values that must be instilled. And as a result, I have never received a gift without sending a thank you note or calling to express my gratitude. The funny thing is, as I’ve grown older and started gifting to my friends and family, I always remember the individuals who say thank you. Those who make me feel that my gift/gesture is genuinely appreciated. And it makes giving that much sweeter. So the lesson here? Splurge on some custom stationary. And next time Aunt Betty sends you a $25 check for your birthday, go ahead and send her a beautifully hand written note telling her how much you appreciate her. You’ll see how good it feels.
· You Can Never Be Overeducated. I was the first out of my immediate family to graduate college. My parents were blown away that when senior year of high school rolled around, I not only chose my major, but knew exactly which school was known for it. I wanted to be a Journalist, I said triumphantly. And the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State was one of the top schools. In order to get in, I’d need a math SAT tutor (I’m lucky to get 2 + 2 right most of the time) in order to get a high enough grade, and he’ll be coming to the house every Tuesday for the next six months. My mom looked dumbfounded.
“You mean you’ve already hired a tutor? I didn’t even know the SATs were coming. When are they? Do you need me to sign something? Do you need my credit card?”
Till this day my Mom still loves to laugh about what a mission I was on. I hired my SAT tutor, wouldn’t settle on my first score and took the test again, blowing my first score out of the water. I applied for the one and only college I wanted to go attend, got accepted and the rest was history. From as young as I could remember, my mom has stressed the importance of earning a great education and building a successful career. Not so that I could meet the right person, but so I could BE the right person. For that lesson, I’ll be eternally grateful.
· Know Your Worth. As young girls, we get caught up in drama. Am I skinny enough? Am I pretty enough? Are my clothes nice enough? While my mom always taught me to take pride in my appearance (she may have started me on facials and skin care regimes at age 10), she instilled the lesson in me that "whether you can or can’t, you’re right." She drove home the realization that there may always be someone smarter, someone prettier, and someone with more (and someone with less!) – what really mattered is what I thought about myself. Do I feel confident? Do I know what I bring to the table? Do I know my worth? When the answer was no, she stood by my side – and made me take a long, hard look in the mirror. Never afraid to call me out on my insecurities, my mom has always made me face things head on – and understand that if I didn't love something about myself, I could change. I could grow and become the girl/teenager/woman I wanted to be. Life is a journey and nothing happens overnight. Go slow, stay the course, and always strive to be the best version of yourself.
· Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight. I’ve failed so many times. College Algebra (I told you I was terrible at math!). Obscene speeding tickets (who buys a 17 year old girl a Mustang Cobra?!). Shoplifting a headband at age 14 and ending up in jail (slightly excessive punishment, however the cop did let me ride up front after I asked him nicely). An eating disorder that could have killed me. Hospitalized for a concussion that occurred after a few too many sake bombs (Arizona State knew how to party). Point is – I’ve failed. I’ve fallen down (quite literally) plenty of times. I am here today, blessed enough to say that my mother has ALWAYS been by my side. Sure, she’s been disappointed. She’s screamed, cursed and punished me. Yet each and every time, she was there by my side. And what I’ve learned from her unconditional love is that we will stumble. We will fall. But that’s not what counts. We are not measured by how many times we fall, but how many times we get up. And I've learned that resiliency and steadfast dedication to rising above, despite being knocked down, are all that matter.
I could write for days and I still wouldn't cover all the lessons I've learned from the woman I am blessed enough to call my mom, and I look forward to the wisdom she'll impart on me in the years to come. What I do hope is on this day (and the other 364) she realizes not just how much I love her, but how damn grateful I am for her unyielding support and love. Without the lessons she has taught me, I’d be a hell of a lot less stylish, certainly less driven, and quite possibly lost in this crazy world.
Thank you, Mama. Happiest of Birthdays to You.