becoming myself

one year anniversary of motherhood

It does not matter that Atlas will not remember his first birthday. The decorations, the presents, the photos — they were centered around him, but they were all for me.

Turning one is not a big deal for Atlas. From the womb until now, he is constantly reaching developmental milestones. His “normal” is to grow leaps and bounds every week.

But that’s not my normal. Every year, I clarify beliefs, shift priorities, and gain insight on relationships. I evolve, albeit rather slowly.

But I have never changed so instantly, permanently, drastically, as when I became a mother. The day I become a whole new person by giving birth to a whole new person.

Today marks one year.

One year of hard work and sacrificial love.

One year of surprise at how well I can function with so little sleep.

One year of recognizing the difference between loving your child and loving parenthood.

One year of wearing nursing-friendly clothes, i.e. bras that never properly fit.

One year of traveling with more stuff than I ever thought I would bring on a plane.

One year of telling anyone who will listen how I kept Atlas’ penis intact. He was perfectly made and I want him to love every part of himself.

One year of staring at the sweetest face I have ever seen.

One year of falling so in love with this person who has never spoken an actual word to me.

One year of learning the Father’s heart is just to be with me, to love because it would be impossible for him not to love.

One year of knowing the greatest responsibility for another life, and the greatest freedom for my own.

One year of never feeling insecure about my body. Now that it has carried a child, I could only ever be grateful for it.

One year of experiencing the purest love I have ever known, giving me hope that greater love is always possible.

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Happy first birthday, Atlas. Thank you for being you, making me a mother, and sharing with me the most life-changing year.

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i am every year i have ever lived and every person i have ever been

At 23, I had an epiphany about my identity: I am becoming a new person again and again.

It was my last year of college. Since I did not do any homework, I had an endless supply of free time on my hands to think about life. I had been in the same physical place on and off for the past six years, but Amherst still felt strange to me, an uncomfortable constant that was my closest thing to home. A lot had happened since I was 18, and my senior-self felt very detached from my first-year-self.

In between my years on campus, I went to Bible school, studied abroad, and travelled as much as I could. I found my faith and lost it and stumbled back again. I concluded upon my life’s purpose and questioned it. I embraced Asian culture and challenged it. I travelled because I did not want to waste the opportunity to do so and I travelled because I did not want to do anything else. I was passionate and judgmental, carefree and lonely, hopeful and entitled. Each year, I looked back and felt relieved: I am so glad I am not like that anymore.

At 25, I had another epiphany: I am the same person.

The “old” me and “new” me have different beliefs and goals, but they are the same person. At face value, who I was at 23 is completely different from who I was at 24, but remnants of past thoughts and experiences are still present memories within me. The convictions I maintained and aspirations I pursued continue to shape my values and ideas. I might not agree with my previously held opinions, but I would not interpret the world as I do now if I had never seen it from a different perspective.

When I graduated college, I wanted more than anything to live a wanderlustful life, but I also wanted more than anything to be loved. The latter desire was suppressed for years, tucked away under an attractive cloak of spontaneity, transatlantic flights, and faraway lands captured in photographs. I wanted both, and I chose between them. It was a long transition, but I grew to love my life as a wife and the freedom, power, and friendships I never knew I could have. I did not change into a new person; I uncovered roots of the same person I always was.

At 27, I understand more than ever: I am becoming new and I am the same.

As I grow older, I want different things out of life, but there is little change at the core of those desires. They are either hidden until the right time or reinvented time and time again. For example, my 9-year-old obsession with purple roll-on glitter sticks now takes the shape of wanting a nice peach shade of blush, but both stem from the same desire to feel beautiful, and accentuating my cheekbones is a great start.

On a more serious note, my dream of getting yoga certified was hidden until I learned to connect with myself. I did not know how much I had deceived myself until I began to take time and listen to myself, to sit with my emotions and acknowledge what they were telling me. I learned that the deepest longings of my heart are constant, but take on different forms as time goes on.

Pregnancy is the ultimate reality of becoming new while remaining the same.

At 35 weeks, my uterus has grown about 1,000 times its original size and my brain-cell volume has decreased. My body, mind, and emotions will continue to undergo drastic transformation through labor and postpartum, but I will still be 100% me.

At first, it was a big deal for me to consider stepping down from my role as primary breadwinner and be a stay-at-home mom. The prospect seemed foreign and unfulfilling and the antithesis of the successful life. Then I realized this is not an incongruous step I am taking, but completely in line with who I am and what I want. I never had to shift my priority from career to family.

I have always prioritized family over career.

Recalling the pattern of decisions I have made, I see how my profession was never number one. Instead of internships, I spent my undergrad summers volunteering at camp, in large part to work alongside my sister. Instead of trying to get ahead academically and professionally, I took two gap years from college and went to Bible school, the second year again to be with my sister. While we were both students, we spent nearly every school break traveling together and exploring the world.

Family has always been important to me, and I long to be surrounded by those I love. It is why my relationship with my mother continues to hurt, it is why I never want to cut ties with my step-dad, and it is why Noah applied to school in Denver in the first place — for us to be closer to his parents and two youngest siblings. It is why making the decision to support my husband by staying home and caring for our son is an easy one.

Twenty-three feels like a lifetime ago, and I anticipate feeling the same in several years when I reread blog posts and journal entries from my late twenties. I look back and feel very thankful: I am so glad for how much I have grown. I am every year I have ever lived and every person I have ever been, and I am becoming new and becoming myself all the time.

How do you view who you are in light of who you used to be and who you want to be?

soundtrack of my childhood

The soundtrack of my childhood is

Giggles and made-up words and stroller wheels on the bumpy sidewalk

Ice cream trucks and carnival music and peeper frogs at my grandparents’ house

It is my pencil furiously scratching on the yellow legal pad where I keep all my stories

Of little girls just like me and little girls I want to be

It is the deep, bellowing “Signorita!” at Vincent’s Pizzeria

Where a plain slice is $1.25 and I always pay in exact change

It is Maranatha music blasting from the living room stereo as my mother cleans the house

“You should be a singer,” we always tell her, but she thinks she isn’t good enough

My summers are

Slathered sunscreen, crashing waves, and squawking seagulls at Jones Beach

Smacking of bare feet on rough concrete at Manorhaven pool

The crunch of Frosted Flakes in red solo cups on family vacations in Massachusetts

Where my cousins are Long Island meets Boston and I can’t wait until I’m a teenager, too

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But my childhood is also

Secrets and lies and hiding with the door locked and the lights off

Screams and broken dishes and slamming doors and if you go to sleep you won’t know

It is caught in the middle, it’s none of their business, and passive aggression always wins

It is indecipherable conversation among nameless relatives and foreign faces that look just like mine

The steady drip in the cold, damp basement bedroom in my father’s house

It is taunts at recess and “Can you even see?”

It is pretending I’m from Hawaii because no one would ever want to be from China

Pretending and make believe and believe enough to make it real

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At midnight, when the streetlamp guards the empty road like a sentinel, the soundtrack is

The blaring whistle of the train two blocks away

The chorus of cicadas outside my 2nd story window

Decorated with the weather-worn “don’t forget me, firefighter” sticker, I don’t want to be forgotten

It is the sporadic thud of a green crabapple falling from the tree in the front yard

It is the snores of my mother’s boyfriend sleeping downstairs

The gentle breathing of my little sister in the bed next to mine

Whom I’ll always protect, I will always protect

My childhood soundtrack is not quite evening and not yet morning, but it is always there

Longing for the night and the adventures in my dreams

Longing for the day when my adventures begin

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Inspiration: Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge

“It’s not that I remember everything clearly. It comes to me unbidden, my history, in a fragrance I catch on the breeze, in the sound of the birds happily going about their joyous business of finding things to eat. It is a hint of eternity on the wind, a connection to seasons past, the memory of wonder, of longing, of knowing. I am still three and seven and twenty-two.

At times there is within me an echo of the truth that I am eternal. I am connected to my present, my future, my past. So are you. We carry within us every age and every moment of our lives.”