Please allow me to take this opportunity, on my birthday, to whisk you on a trip down memory lane with me as I reflect on turning 30 and all the many things I am feeling and thinking today.
I have been silent for awhile. I was told by some that I was hurting friendships and relationships with my words on this blog and so, in order to sort out those relationships and also to be respectful towards the people in my life I value, I have tried to keep some of my thoughts and opinions to myself for awhile.
That is what I do. I am a people-pleaser. I love making people happy. I thrive on serving and helping others. It fulfills something deep inside me and I can ride the high of bringing a smile to someone’s face for days. However, with that has always come a deep-rooted insecurity about myself. I have always needed to be built up and complimented to feel good about myself and it has been a struggle throughout my life thus-far to be confident in myself. Only in the last couple of years have I finally found my voice and a way to live my life without apologies and without always needing the reinforcement of others. I went through a somewhat prolonged “ugly-ducking” stage as evidenced by the following photos. My mother once told me that she used to think “Wow, I’m glad Meghan has such a great personality, because she is really not that good-looking”. Thanks Mom.
I also grew up being very much a follower. I never wanted to be the person in charge, the host, the leader of the pack. I liked settling into a pleasant middle area where I could be loud and funny but not have to take responsibility for organizing events or making decisions. I never had a true “best friend” growing up. I had many good friends but no one I would allow myself to be completely real with. I was always afraid that people might not like the “real me”.
I am loud, like really really loud. I like to talk and the more excited I get about the topic the louder my voice becomes. I also have a poor habit of interrupting people. It’s something I became aware of only recently and I have been working on it because I think it is probably a really annoying thing to have a conversation with someone who never lets you finish what you are saying!
I have always been creative and as a child I loved to color intricate pieces of art with many vibrant and coordinating colors. I still remember being complimented by my elementary school teacher on my use of color and the way in which I put colors together. I treasured that compliment for years since I never felt like I was as artistic or intelligent as my older sister. I also loved putting outfits together and coordinating “photo shoots” with my sisters or “fashion shows”.
I tell you all of this to help you understand who I was in my youth. In many ways I was the same person that I am today but in so many ways I am different and I never imagined that I would change so much in such a short period of time. At 23 years old I thought my life was basically over. I believed that I had checked all the major milestones off my list: Baptized- check! Married in the Temple- check! Baby- check! I felt like all that was left was for me to endure to the end with my family and fight every day to keep myself and everyone around me righteous and safe from Satan’s grasp. This fate seemed somewhat depressing at 23.
Then, what happened, happened. I still remember telling Mark one night that I was afraid to lose my belief in the church because without it I might find that I am not actually a good person underneath it all. I was worried that without the framework and guidelines of the church I might turn into the type of person I always thought existed without the gospel- lazy, selfish, drunk, depressed, and lost. I didn’t have confidence that I would know how to be good and have morals without it.
Then my testimony crumbled, whether I wanted it to or not, and I discovered something amazing. I was a good person all along. I thought that everything special about me was because I was a member of the church but now in hindsight I realize that I was all those things and am still all those things because I am me. I still love to serve, I still want to make people happy, I still want to be a good person. A religion can’t claim those things about you or me, and if I was doing them only because my religion told me to then that doesn’t really make me a good person after all.
So many have asked what drives me now. What I have to live for if I am not spending my life preparing to meet God or earn a place in heaven. I am driven by a desire to be happy. I am motivated by a belief that this life may be the only one I get and I should make it great and touch as many lives and people and create as many good relationships as I can. I want to spend as many moments as I can in this life helping people, laughing loudly, and making the world better. I want to be remembered in the photographs I take, in the people I have spent time with, in the words I have written. I want to make many deep and lasting friendships. I want to be an example to my children of what it means to be selfless, adventurous, courageous, empathetic, and generous. That is a very high standard to set and I don’t always meet that goal. I am human and I am not even close to the person I want to be for my kids, but I try. Mostly I don’t believe in a next life so I live knowing that there is no way of knowing if my life will be long or short, so every day matters and every day I need to show my children and husband love and appreciation.
Recently I heard about an ancient Buddhist idea that we are walking through life backward in a sense, with our backs to the future and with our eyes facing the past. We can see where we have been but not where we are going. This really hit me as I heard it because this is so true of where I am now. I have spent a lot of time recently looking at the past and being angry about the things I was taught or the choices I made, and trying to blame others for those decisions or those teachings. This anger or blame does no good but looking at the path I have taken helps me to understand who I am and how I got here. I finally feel at 30 years old that I know who I am and I am finally beginning to have the confidence in myself that whoever I am is just fine. I don’t have to change myself to fit a mold or make other people comfortable. I am who I am and that person I am is pretty great. If you accept me, flaws and all, then I welcome you into my life with open arms. If you don’t then it’s too bad. I will not change myself for anyone else and If you don’t like me for who I am you are missing out, because I am an awesome person.
However, I am not perfect. I know that in the last two years many people have been offended by my views and opinions. I don’t aim to upset and offend. I am just not the best at presenting my ideas and thoughts in a way that is empathetic and kind. I am a passionate person and my words can be misinterpreted as self-righteous. If I have come across that way I sincerely apologize. Please be patient with me, I feel like I have turned on my brain for the first time in my life and have found my voice and the confidence to use it. I don’t profess to know everything, I simply enjoy discussion and open conversation. I think I lived too much of my life feeling like I couldn’t say everything I thought and now I make few apologies for having ideas of my own and expressing them. My aim is never to be hurtful, my aim is to help other people see my point of view and consider it even if they don’t come to the same conclusion. Ideas should be challenged. Nowadays, I value honesty and a say-it-like-it-is attitude.
As I enter my 30’s I am apprehensive, excited, and grateful. I am sad that my 20’s are gone forever and I will never be in that chapter of my life again. I am nervous about blinking and being 40 without feeling like I have done all that I wanted to do in my 30’s. I worry that some of the best years of my life are behind me. I am excited for the decade ahead in which my children will become teenagers, my love for Mark will grow deeper, and my adventures will only become more epic and fantastic. I look forward to hopefully becoming more grounded, more patient, more mature, more confident, and more open-minded. I have so many goals for this chapter of my journey, among them: I would like to run a marathon, travel to places like Italy and Thailand, teach my daughters about confidence and sexuality, explore other cultures and beliefs, get my first tattoo, take more photographs of my family, and use my time and talents to serve people in need.
I am so grateful at this point to have found my “niche”. I have finally found where I fit in with a group of friends who I can be my complete and whole self with. Some of these friends are also ex-mormons and it’s wonderful to have no filter with them and be able to say everything I want to say all the time. I also have so many dear friends who are still members of the church and the ones who have been able to see that I am still a person worth spending time with and developing a friendship with despite my departure from the church have forever carved out a place in my heart. Good friends have become incredibly important to me at this stage in my life, I think it may be because I never had the confidence to let people in to the very deepest parts of myself before and I am still constantly amazed by the caliber of women who seek out my friendship despite my many quarks and flaws now.
There are some things that I take from my 20’s with joy and gratitude. Lessons learned. Relationships formed. Happiness found. Most of all, a deeply reinforced love and admiration for my husband Mark. He is my rock. He is the best decision I ever made. He is my everything. It never fails to surprise me when other people want to make him out to be the villain in our little saga. He is the most amazing man, the most incredible person I have ever knows and I feel lucky every day of my life that he loves me. I could have never anticipated how our marriage would turn out. I hoped for bliss but with my back to the future and unable to see what would come I simply jumped into the great unknown and held my breath. I’m so glad he turned out to be so wonderful. He makes me want to be a better person and our life is never boring. I am so thrilled that I get to spend many more years discovering what our life will be together.
My kids are wonderful. I am lucky to be there for their questions and snuggles. I feel so liberated to be able to raise them however I want and to make choices about how I want to handle each situation that comes our way. Instead of dread, I feel excitement about teaching my children about sex, about body image, about gender roles, about marriage and family. I no longer feel worried about them making choices that I don’t agree with and having to feel conflicted about that. I now feel an immense freedom to love and accept them for whomever they are instead of feeling like I have to make them be who I want them to be.
Last year, as 30 loomed closer, I started to think about the way in which I wanted to to do in my final year of being in my 20’s..
* I had the opportunity because of my age and fertility to donate my eggs to a good friend this last year and watch with excitement as she is now a month away from delivering her precious baby boy. It was an incredible experience that I will write about later in detail but it may be one of the greatest things I have ever done or will ever do in my life.
*I decided to get LASIK so I can see clearly for the first time in my adult life and it is AMAZING!
*I have always wanted to vacation with my high-school girlfriends and it is finally happening later this month for a weekend in Vegas. I am so excited.
*I stopped trying to censor my clothing and beverage choices in front of some of my Mormon friends and became comfortable with wearing what I want and drinking my iced coffee in front of everyone. I realized that if someone thinks I am a bad person or my friendship is not valuable because of what I wear or what I drink they are obviously not a very good friend.
*I have started to move my business more towards boutique newborn photography and I couldn’t be happier about it. I will still always be happy and love to photograph families and weddings but photographing people’s precious new babies truly makes me happy and fulfilled.
*The one word I can think of that encompass my feeling about the present is “free”. For the first time in my entire life I feel free to make my own choices, to live my life according to the dictates of my own conscience, and free to be who I truly am. I have thought about getting this word tattooed somewhere on my body. We will see if I go through with it, but I would love to solidify this feeling in my brain and always remember how I felt at this juncture of my life feeling free.
*I am planning a sensational 20’s themed dinner party this weekend with all my dearest friends to celebrate and while it feels a bit narcissistic to be throwing such a big shin-dig for myself, I feel justified having never had a big 16th, 18th, or 21st birthday party. I can’t wait to party like it’s 1929 and I feel incredibly lucky to have such wonderful friends to party with.
(sensational photography by the brilliant Brandon Busa)
So 30 is looking bright and exciting, my 20’s will be missed, but the end of one chapter just means the beginning of another. Cheers to new adventures, new discoveries, new relationships, new ideas, new beliefs, new victories, and new chapters!