Meredith’s Musings: I Fell In Love With Me
article by Meredith McKinnie
I’ve always been presented aging as a tradeoff. The physical ailments show up more pronounced, but with each decade we become more ourselves, more comfortable in our skin. I’m only on my third decade, and I know this to be the case. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel at 50. I’m more anxious for that self-awareness than I fear the physical ramifications. Perhaps that’s maturity. Perhaps I’m being naïve. Perhaps you’re laughing at me right now, and that’s okay too. I welcome your participation in my follies about life.
But what I do know now, more so than ever before, is that I love me. I really love me. I love me in a way that I had never fathomed before. And I don’t mean in a “selfish, I am better than everyone and make no mistakes” kind of way. I mean it in a “You’ve always had potential, Meredith, and you finally took the steps and the time to foster success for yourself. And your life looks a lot like you imagined it would in your thirties.” I’m proud of me, both in my career, which I adore, and my relationship, which I adore even more. And I don’t think those two things just happened upon me. I don’t think I necessarily sought them out. But I do equate a sense of self-awareness and acceptance for welcoming good things in your life. You have to be ready to receive. And sometimes it takes years.
I was always a smart kid. I wasn’t “the smart kid.” Someone always did better, but I always did well. And in college, when I was finally challenged beyond what was easy, I fell in love with the environment. I fell in love with the people. I fell in love with logic and thinking and seeking knowledge. I’ll defend the college institution until the day I die, because it was the journey of learning that taught me more than what I actually learned. You have to travel the trail. And I did it for six years, for two degrees. My mother would jokingly ask if I would be a lifetime student. The implication made me positively giddy, because I couldn’t imagine anything more enjoyable.
So I did the second best thing, I became a teacher at the institution that I love, and I’ve done well. I’ve slowly progressed, rather timidly at first, but always adhering to my parent’s example of being a worker and being professional. I don’t remember when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I gained the respect of my colleagues and then my superiors. The people I had always esteemed my entire college career treated me like an equal and respected my opinion. I belonged at the table. And perhaps I always did, but until I knew it, until I felt it, it didn’t matter.
Eleven years ago I began a marriage that would ultimately fail. I sensed it would fail two years before it began, but I stayed out of fear. I didn’t know myself yet, didn’t trust myself. The fear of being alone, of no one ever loving me, that sneaky little devil of doubt convinced me this was it because it was there, no other reason than that. His role is irrelevant; it was about me. I wasn’t ready to be anyone’s wife, because I didn’t even know who Meredith was. I found Meredith in the ashes when the whole three years and vowed promises burned to the ground, when I said goodbye to the house all by myself, because I was the only one who cared, when I gained sixty pounds on my already obese frame trying to find joy in food during that first year after the divorce. Meredith had it tough; Meredith struggled for a bit. What was already a rough situation, I made worse, because I didn’t know what to do. I was lost.
But two years later, and many pounds lighter, I began to breathe again. I began to invest my efforts into my students again. I began to put myself out there. I had holed up in my little cave, and one day I didn’t like what I saw, and I changed it. It took years, but I did it. And every day was a challenge and a battle, but at the end of every day I could look myself in the mirror and be proud of me. And that became enough, and every day it became easier, and then it became routine, and now I’m accused of being the most vibrant, loud, self-aware person in the room with all the answers. I don’t have all the answers. I know what I feel in the moment, and sometimes it applies. But what I do know, though I have no idea when exactly it happened, is that I fell in love with me. I fell in love with my flaws and my hang-ups and my voice and my ability to love, and then the magic happened. It made me lovable in return. It’s funny how that happens. Once we love ourselves, others follow in step and see us as lovable. And I take a moment to love me every day, whether it’s a mile on the treadmill, a wink in the mirror, a smile when no one is around to see, or an overpriced lotion just because it smells good. I’m good to me, because I deserve it, because no one will take better care of me than me. I will invest in myself, so there is more of me to invest in others. I fell in love with myself; I’m worth it, and it shows.