Looking back and reflecting over what has happened this past year is absolutely insane. (It has been a while since I wrote anything about my life, so if the writing sounds like crap – lie to me). Lots of great things have happened, which I will get into how they all unfolded, but I also want to give you the picture of the real mess that was, and sometimes still is my life, because I find it encouraging to know that hard things can still happen when you are absolutely crushing life, and great things can happen to the most broken and undeserving of people (both ring true for me).
Last January was rough. I was coming up on a year of single motherhood, sharing a room with Zara, although staying in a house with some great friends. Zara was still not sleeping, I had my last semester of grad school left, I was set to move out in May and I had no signs of being employed anytime soon (aka diaper monies). Most of all, I was lonely. Not because I didn’t have friends or couldn’t handle all of the tasks of raising a kid as one person instead of the traditional two – that was hard and I had my days where I was like “I’m getting a box and I am shipping this kid back to Piedmont Hospital,” but it was doable.
The best way to describe it was when I visited my best friend Amber in Chicago – I had a conference I was presenting on (ethics in STEM, result: there are none! Kidding.. Kind of) and Amber had to watch Zara for me during that half of the day. She took her to Millennium Park and did a Chicago touristy tour for Zara while I was out. We talked after and she was telling me about how Zara was doing all of these funny and cute things and that she really wanted to share it with someone in the moment, like have someone there who could also be laughing with Zara and talk about the cutest things that Zara does, in agreeance that our kid was an incredible tiny human. That’s what it felt like most of the time in the first year. I had my mom to call, for sure, but it’s not the same as having a partner be absolutely stoked to tell you what dumb/hilarious thing Zara did while you were out. Or to tell you that they are here to help in the middle of the night when you’ve been up for a few hours rocking a crying baby. Or to make you a plate of food when you just got home and are hangry, but so is your kid. Or to give your kid a bath – I don’t know about y’all but this is my least favorite task as a mother and anytime anyone offers to give Zara a bath I did not hesitate to say “GO FOR IT!”
This is not to say single motherhood is the worst and there are no signs of light. I could make any decision I wanted without consulting anyone. I was usually her favorite and never had to worry about her not wanting me to help her, but someone else. We were ride-or-dies to the utmost extent of the word.
I remember sitting on my friend Jackie’s couch telling her how lonely I felt. I had talked to a few guys who were not interested in dating while potentially having to maybe become a parent, and I was feeling really discouraged. I, later, at my house got out this journal and wrote down three big things I was anxious about. I wrote that I wanted a job to financially support me and Zara, someone who loved Zara as much as they loved me, and I wanted a place to live after moving out of Morgan and Kahra’s. Let’s not get it twisted – I did not write these things down in the hopes of them all magically appearing from God within the week. I wrote them down because it made it less about my timeline (which was more like: “I needed this yesterday Big Man!”) and more about His. It was my way of saying, this is what I hope to have, but I am good with my current life, I’m gonna keep living and if these things happen – jackpot. It made me content and honestly grateful for what I had without those 3 things.
A couple months later, Jackie ended up buying a house with her husband and daughter who is 2 months younger than Zara (no, Fionnoula, their daughter, did not help with the down payment, but she provided emotional support). They offered to let me stay there until the end of the year or until I found a job and could afford my own place. They also gave me time to go on dates and get out by myself and feel like a normal human (jackpot!)
Now for the juicy details you have all been waiting for. So, Jackie, Brendan and I are driving to see their new house. Jackie says from the backseat that maybe this guy at work, JK, might be a potentially good match for me. Brendan had already watched Zara and taken her to Jackie’s work, so JK has met Zara and they are basically BFFs. I am skeptical and Brendan is like, “well, maybe JK doesn’t want to date anyone.” So, that was that. Later I find out that Jackie is grilling this dude at work like “would you date someone with a kid? Are you secretly an ass?” (kidding, but she was thorough for real) all that good friend stuff. Fast forward to Jackie and Brendan’s move. It was March 10, my mom had taken Zara because she wanted to give me space to work on my thesis papers. So naturally, Saturday night, I go out like any mom given freedom would do. Jackie’s move said 8-11AM, so I am set to roll in there at 8. I get a call at 7:30AM from Jackie and she’s like “hey, want to come over a little early so we can eat donuts, get some stuff together before everyone comes?” I lived 5 minutes from her, so I threw on some sweats and show up. Then this car pulls up and out of the car is who would be JK aka Kwam. And I know Jackie is up to it.
Kwam shows up in some sports gear because he’s going to play football after, and I played sports in college so I think I know sports guys. Sports guys are not always the kindest and they can be really cocky, especially when it comes to the ladies, and so I place Kwam in this category prematurely. He was for sure cute though, to the point of me just losing all sense of how to act like a normal human and say normal words. Through a few more hangouts, he ended up asking me on a date. (I promise I am not going to go through the evolution of Kwam and I, but the first date was memorable).
So, a couple weeks later, Kwam asks me to go for a walk. He also asks if I want to bring Zara, which meant a lot considering she’s my #1 woman. He shows up with a toy for Zara which, to me, is the best part of it all (flowers are so 2017, try getting an astronaut rubber duckie on your first date). So we go get a beer and Zara is tearing up the place, eating crayons, butt scooting to other people’s tables, just really making me look like I have a superb, well-behaved child. Zara ALSO ended up blowing out her diaper and I had to change it – I tried to do it real fast because I was nervous, so I missed a lot of it and Jackie had to get the rest later. This date is so terribly hilarious to me. Luckily, Jackie showed up halfway through to take Zara and put her to bed so we could have normal adult conversations and not clean up poop. I have killer friends.
Obviously, the poop did not scare him away. Not a lot about me having Zara really scared him at all to be honest. I am not going to go through our whole relationship because it’s a lot of awkward hugs and long talks, but I will say that things didn’t always feel excellent – we had to learn a lot of things really early on and it made for some conflict and insecurity. We have had hard talks about how Kwam fits in the family that was already Zara and me, how to allow myself to give him some responsibility for Zara and stop trying to do everything myself, how to actually tell the other when things feel hard or you feel insecure, especially in parenting, but also in life in general. The thing that rocks about Kwam though, is that he never said “this is too much for me, I am out you crazy mom,” which I thought FOR SURE was going to happen on multiple occasions. (We just flew to my friend’s wedding in Arizona and the flight was long, so I send Kwam a text saying “this experience on the plane might make you run for the hills, man!”).
Now we are here, a year from last January, living a much different life. I am not saying that if you write something down or pray for something or try to manifest it in your thoughts that it’s going to happen. I am also not saying that if you get your life together that life will be without challenges or good things will happen, because great things can still happen in some pretty big messes, but what I am saying is that finding small things you can be grateful for/content with in the really, really hard times opens your eyes to more small things that start to turn into mediumly (not a real word) cool things, that over time completely change your perspective even amidst your situation. I also am happy to share more in person or listen if something is really tough and you just need someone to bounce things off of.
I am the happiest I have been in a really long time. This year I get married and have a job I love, Zara has someone to call daddy, and Kwam gets two ladies walking down the aisle instead of the standard one lady (scandalous!). This whole situation/life process of getting pregnant unexpectedly and being a single mom to what life is now is something I can look back on when things get tough again to remind myself that some really great things come from some really big messes.