Thursday, June 12, 2014

May 29th

Kuta, Bali

On May 29th, I sat at a restaurant alone in Bali, Indonesia. I made friends with the strangers sitting next to me. I walked the beach, pushing my feet firmly in the sand. Wanting to really feel my place on the beautiful island, leaving footprints with each step I took. A physical sign I was moving forward.

Being by myself for part of my vacation allowed me to really think of things that I never confronted. The meaning of May 29th being one of them…

My parents divorced when I was 15. My mom was really young when she married my dad, and among other things, they divorced because she was unhappy and didn’t really know herself. When I was 15, my mom went on this self-discovery journey, and I was incredibly angry/upset/stunned. I didn’t really understand what was happening with her. She wanted to see things, and read books, and decorate her home exactly how she wanted it. She wanted to meet new people, and create her own beliefs, and form her own opinions. But all I saw was the mom I once knew changing into a person she needed to be. I knew my mother as my mom. As a wife. As a classroom aide, a helping hand, a good friend, but I really didn’t know her. I couldn’t tell you what advice she gave me growing up, or what I remember thinking was so uniquely her. I couldn’t tell you what she stood for, and what she consistently did for herself. I could never separate her from us.  My mom was a part of my father, she was a part of her children. You saw it in her. But when it came to separating her from the equation, and seeing the individual she was, the image always came back blurred.

After the divorce, I asked my mom so often if she was ever happy, I asked if she felt better. My mom always explained gently that of course she was happy for some time, but she didn’t know herself, she grew up too quick. One time we were both crying and upset with each other and my mom said to me, “Katie, you don’t really think that I choose this path to hurt you, do you? Do you really think this life is easy for me? But for the first time, I can say it’s mine.”

The statement shocked me. It also scared me to my core. The idea of not knowing who I was, the idea of having someone else decide for me, the idea that I could be unhappy for so long, and then finally gain the courage to start over; these were just my thoughts for me but my mother’s reality. My mom has fought so hard to be someone who she recognizes, someone she is proud of. It is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. At some point she decided to stop cutting herself on the broken pieces of her marriage and life, and build herself something new. A life that is genuine and honest, and a foundation that is 100% her.

So, 19 was the age my mom was married and already had her first child. 19 has been the year I have lived in fear of. Like a ticking time bomb, I always treaded lightly around the milestone. “What if these life decisions are genetic?” I know that sounds ridiculous, but sometimes when people get hurt so badly by their own choices, you begin to carefully watch your own.

On May 29th, 1989, my mom was in her 19th year, giving birth to her first baby boy. Maybe the role of being a mom felt instantaneous for her. Maybe sharing her heart was as easy as holding her new little bundle of love in her arms. Maybe she was just trying to find her place, like I was in Bali during my 19th year.

I have a picture of my mom holding my big brother. Her smile is bright, and her arms know just how to support her baby boy, but in her eyes she looks fragile. In her eyes, she looks 19. The age of being at the cusp of everything, with a world of possibilities. 19 is the age of having one foot comfortably moving towards the future, and one foot always trailing behind in the past. 19 is the beginning of mistakes, self-discovery, and self-love.

In Bali, I closed my eyes and sealed my memory of my May 29th. And how my life changed in a different way than my mother’s had 25 years earlier.

I felt independent, strong, and deserving of a bright future; decorated with beautiful things I will gather along the way. I felt sure that good things are going to come, if I am patient, if I keep fighting for the good. If I keep staying true to myself. I felt 19.

The difference between my life and hers is not a mindset. It’s not a matter of money, or location. It’s the fact that my mom fearlessly let me watch her fall, just so she could show me the rare beauty of rising on your own. My mom has since been so honest with me, sharing her fears, regrets, and mistakes. She has made her life an open book for those who wish to read it, always sharing with honesty and love.

My 19th year this far has been full of blissful moments and successes. One day I asked my mom, “Do you ever get upset that you help me do all these things but you never got to do them?” (My mom literally gives me the emotional, financial, and spiritual support to accomplish anything I want) She said in her most loving voice, “Oh no, Kate, the way I look at it is, some people are beautiful flowers, but without water, they would never grow.”

Thank you, my sweet mom, for helping me bloom.
prettiest flowers in Bali


  1. I had tears through this entire post. It is so relevant to what I am going through right now and it helped me better understand what my mother is dealing with. Thank you, Katie for this beautiful post!

    1. Oh, I am so so happy that this post was relevant to you. It's definitely a difficult milestone, I am glad I was able to make sense of it this year. Thank you for stopping by. Sending love your way!

  2. Wow Katie, what a great post. So beautiful!! My parents divorced when I was 15 also. It was hard, but I truly believe that I am a better and stronger person because of it!


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