My mother sat on my bed and listened patiently as I described every. single. detail. I was fifteen, burrowed under my comforter, and surrounded by tissues when I heard a light tapping on the door.
“Hey, you okay?”
My ears perked up when I heard her voice, full of empathy and concern, and instantly went from crying to mere sniffling. My silence, as always, was her queue to come in.
So, I’ll admit it—the source of my tears was totally some lanky, immature teenage boy who either said or did something stupid to “break” my heart.
I've always had a flair for the dramatic and my sob story soliloquy ended with a picture of my future life: a lonely apartment filled with cats. It was on this day, through bouts of laughter, that she gave me an unforgettable piece of advice:
Fall in love—with your passions, with little things that make you happy. Don’t worry about the rest. As long as you are cultivating yourself as a person and find fulfillment in that, your life will fall into place as it should. Take advantage of this time to discover you.
While it seems obvious, it is often hard advice to follow. This is mostly because we live in a society that puts pressure on women to balance it all—family, career and time for yourself. It can be overwhelming.
What should we prioritize?
It is easy to get caught up in the mindset of planning: when to have kids, when to launch your career, how much time you can take to travel before you start a family.
My girlfriends and I often talk about how we want to be “younger” mothers, yet still plan to backpack around Europe or go to medical school before we even consider marriage.
This is where we get stuck and it feels as though the timing will never work out the way we want it to. We begin to make sacrifices early or resign ourselves to the idea that we won’t ever do those things: that it’s more realistic to dream about them.
But the main point that Mami was trying to make to me, a point that she has made time and time again, is that you don’t need to focus on things that are not in the immediate present. Life is too unpredictable to plan it down to the second:
By the time I'm 25 I'll be vice president. At 28 I'll met The One. We'll date for one year and be engaged for another. We'll enjoy being newly weds for two years before we get a Golden Retriever who we'll have while I'm pregnant with Yunior before I'm 35...
Yes, Mami's advice, like everything else is spot on:
There are no certainties in life so do what sets your soul on fire and cling to the belief that things have a way of working themselves out.
That if we tune out society's noise, we discover that we are exactly where we're supposed to be.
Gracias, Ma. Te amo.
Washington, DC native and self-proclaimed Latina feminist Giuliana Cortese, is a senior at Georgetown University majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and will relocate to Nashville, Tennessee for the next two years as a Teach for America corps member. When she isn’t writing, you can find her on a run, practicing yoga, museum hopping, or “thrifting.”
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.What is the best piece of advice your mother has ever given you?