LeConte and Lipstick: Lessons from my mother


Mom and I on the way up Mt. LeConte.


     Today is my mother's 46th birthday. If you saw her, you probably wouldn't believe that she was 46, much less old enough to have an adult daughter. It's not even that she has always had an excellent skin care regiment and taken care of herself. The truth is, you won't find a middle aged mindset when it comes to my mom. I'll be saying the same thing when she turns 70: her spirit is boundless.

     I am lucky enough to be so close to my mother. She's not my best friend in the "cool mom" sense, but rather in the soul mates way. She teaches me everything she can and knows when I have to learn my own lessons. The lessons that she did teach me weren't so much the french braiding or cooking variety (although she is an excellent cook), but rather some things that were a bit more unconventional.

1. Work your ass off for what you want.

     When I was in high school, my mother worked 45 minutes away from home. At that time, she also got her MBA in Marketing and maintained a 4.0. She also went on to get certified to be a lay minister in our church. Just to add another talent and drive into the mix, she is also the one who showed me the joy of long distance running. Her expectations for me are high, but she also was the right role model to teach me to rise to the occasion.

2. Give love and be tolerant.

      Mom and I sometimes joke about lost people tending to seek us out and find us everywhere we go. But the importance of helping those in need isn't a laughing matter to us. My mother's kind spirit towards everyone she meets, especially those people who need her help to get through tough situations, is an inspiration. She taught me to be kind in every situation I encounter. The world is a vast place and people's troubles are often more than we can ever know.

3. You can fall in love more than once, but the most important person to fall in love with is yourself.

     Sure, the romantic in me wants to believe the idea that everyone only falls in love once and it lasts forever. But, at 21 years old, I have already found that this isn't the case. As my mother says, you can grow out of a love. That doesn't make it any less valid. Those people will always hold an important part in who you are, but you are allowed to move on. However, the most important foundation for relationships and life itself is learning how to love yourself. Don't apologize for the things that make you who you are.

4. Lipstick can solve (mostly) everything.

     You know the scene in the first episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai pulls endless amounts of make up out of her purse for Rory? Well, you might not know exactly what I'm talking about, but if you've met my mom then you're familiar with the situation. Although her make up routine is fairly simple, you'll never catch her without at least ten varieties of lip product in her purse. It's not so much that lipstick makes you look better. But the act of picking out a tube in the midst of stressful chaos is a little luxury that takes you out of the moment and clears your head. Similarly, putting on the brightest shade you own to tackle a hard day can work wonders. The idea of lipstick is a subtle meditation: it shifts your viewpoint and makes you stop thinking about your problems, even if it is just for a minute.

5. Moisturize every day.

     You wanna know why my mom doesn't have wrinkles? It's because she never tanned or smoked while she was younger, but she has also put on moisturizer every day since she was fifteen years old. You can bet I'm following suit.

6. Reading books is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

     My mother often quips that she feels incomplete without a book. She also tells me often that she "goes through them like tissues" because of how fast she reads. Considering this is her primary form of entertainment, this is no surprise. Not only do we have books everywhere in the house, but seeing her read so often from a young age showed me that it was a worthwhile endeavor and a great use of my time. Not only is it fun, but it certainly makes you more worldly and gives you a better vocabulary.

7. Feeling like an outsider can sometimes be an advantage.

     A consistent theme throughout my mother's, and consequently my own, life is never quite feeling like she belonged with the crowd. I'm not talking about special snowflake syndrome, but rather an overall dissonance with the way of the average world and her own thoughts. This can be quite lonely at times, but on the other hand it offers a unique viewpoint and an edge that would be lost otherwise. It is certainly ok to like what is popular; there's no shame it that. However, not quite being satisfied with what is on the surface leads to a hell of a lot of interesting discoveries.

8. The only way out is through.

    This is a mantra that my mother and I have repeated to each other through quite a few tough scenarios. Whether it is a school assignment that I don't want to do or a long day of work, the best way to get through a situation is to well, get through it. Unless you want to completely remove yourself from the ins and outs of daily life, there are going to be some things that you face that are less than pleasant. But the sensation of accomplishing them anyways? It's awesome.

     There are innumerable other lessons that my mother continues to teach me every day. She showed me the light on being chill about dating as well as what the best curse word is. And even with her undeniable sense of grit, she is spending the evening of her birthday helping with special needs children at her church. There isn't a role model I'd rather have.

     So, with all of my love, happy birthday Mom!