Most days I’m okay with new me and my new life. No, that’s a lie. Some days I’m okay with new me and my new life. I’m proud to wear my mommy card and show pictures of my children to people I barely know because they are just so adorable. I don’t even flinch if I’m out in public and find mystery crunchies on my shirt. I buy cream for weird rashes unapologetically, and scrap sticky spots off the floor with my fingernails like my mom did before me. I’ve grown accustomed to claiming cleaning and mowing the lawn as some of my favorite hobbies. There is rarely any “me time” unless you count pooping by myself while my son bangs on the bathroom door. This is all part of what I signed up for when I became a mom. But there are days when I feel more robotic than human, because those aspects of motherhood are just part of the programming, and sometimes I miss the days when I had a choice in, well, anything. My children are captaining this ship. I realize that.
I also feel as though school is sucking my soul away. Dramatic? Yes. Accurate? Most definitely. I’m burnt out. Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe it. I am forgotten-lasagna-still-in-the-oven, flat-iron-turned-up-too-high, iron-fell-over-on-favorite-tablecloth, no-I-don’t-need-sunscreen fried. After being mommy robot for 12+ hours every day, I have to be a college student for 3-5 hours every night. Academic Kayla is constantly obsessing over her teacher’s expectations and how to perfectly fulfill the requirements for each assignment. For a people-pleaser like me, this can border on unhealthy and has led to some embarrassing breakdowns at my desk. I’m tired of every waking thought revolving around what someone else wants, needs, or expects. I’m so mentally exhausted that I can’t shut my brain off to sleep. But it’s okay. I knew when I decided to pursue higher education while raising a family it would be hard. I knew I would have to make sacrifices, so I’m not mad or even complaining. It is what it is, and I’m willing to do it.
This week, I was reminded that I wasn’t always this fried version of myself. Once upon a time, I was a zit-faced teenager never seen without a sketchbook in hand. I drew dorky anime people. I scanned those doodles and digitally colored them. I shared them with my friends on art boards. And it made me really happy. After I graduated high school, I stopped drawing. It was just one of the many hobbies a teenager must sacrifice to the adulthood gods in exchange for education and jobs. At the time, I didn’t miss it. I satisfied my artistic needs with blogging, making creative cakes, and painting my dining room chairs purple. Each of those things gave me an outlet to express my Kaylaness. No one else had a say. I suppose art is a little selfish that way.
Last week, I felt this familiar twitch in my right hand. My pointer finger tapped my thumb and yearned for a pencil. On my knees, I riffled around under my bed until I found an old friend: my sketchbook. Leafing through the pages, I realized I had not drawn anything since 2009. I pawed around in the box that housed the sacred book until I found a mechanical pencil and my trusty click-up eraser. Cross-legged and hunched over, I began to draw. My pencil moved fluidly, sketching the outline of a jaw and a soft rendering of some cartoonish eyes. Shoulders, hands, and clothes all followed. Hair, a mouth, and a nose completed the head, and I turned my attention to those pesky feet. I’ve always struggled with feet. I could see what the shoes should look like in my mind, but there was a disconnection between my vision and my hand. Thank heavens for that eraser which turned a few failed attempts into something I could identify as feet. With that finishing detail, the picture was done. I held it out to admire it from a distance. It was no Van Gogh, but it mine. The simple sketch was this organic expression of my spirit. It was a raw exploration of my psyche, and the relief I felt afterward was comparable to the satisfying sheen of a freshly mowed lawn. I get chills just thinking about it.
I cannot wait for graduation. I’m making lists of things I want to do in the few months I’ll have off before starting my master’s degree. It may or may not include copious of drawing, reading whatever I want, writing about whatever I’m thinking, and naps. Lots of naps.