The five best decisions in my adult life (so far) would be...
1. Having my daughter
This wasn't so much a choice (though I'm fiercely pro-choice, don't get me wrong!) as an instantaneous connection. As soon as I felt her growing in my body--much earlier than I should have, than most women do--it was the most profound, scary, desperate love I've ever felt. It still is! But up until my pregnancy, I had decided not to have children. The world is overpopulated; our species is unsustainable as we currently life; there are plenty of kids to adopt; I could go on forever. And I support anyone who doesn't want to have kids and think it's incredibly wrong for people to assume women will have children, or that it is there duty.
That said, she's my favorite thing I've ever done, and I'm pretty sure she always will be. She's forced me to look at myself differently (and become a different person; we all do when we have kids) as well as the world as a whole differently, and my entire life, from my career to my philosophies and even my personality, is all different in just six years of being with her. I can't wait to see wherever else our family takes us. Keeping her dad around after 16 years wasn't such a bad idea, either. ;)
2. Balancing my ambition with my own authenticity
I used to do things--everything, really--to please other people. Everything I did was externally motivated, and I wanted to please everyone from my parents to my teachers so badly that I never really stopped to think about what I wanted or enjoyed in my life. I never took the time to really learn about what I wanted to learn about until college; I was too busy working hard, taking advanced courses, doing hours of homework each night, working full-time throughout high school, participating in after school activities, and caring for my siblings while my parents worked to really have anything I enjoyed myself. There have even been periods where I quit reading--my favorite thing to do!--because I simply didn't have time. I think the longest period I went without reading for pleasure was two years.
I became extremely depressed, which teachers mocked me for and counselors attempted to have me medicated for, when the answer was really much more simple: stop working to please everyone else and start pleasing yourself. I'd like to say that I've mastered this concept, but I'm really still working on it. Even so, I'm still pretty darn ambitious, but it's mostly for two things: 1. ME and 2. supporting my family.
3. Stopping dieting
I'm still on the road to loving myself and my body the way that I am, but deciding to stop dieting, which never worked for me, and instead to listen to my body, to move it every day, and to simply eat to feel healthy and energetic rather than to count calories is one of the biggest blessings I've ever given myself. This struggle has been with me for nearly twenty years, and I'm done with it. I'm ready to live and eat authentically and stop apologizing for the space I take up. It's my body and my life and frankly no one else's business. My blood pressure is great, and though I'd happily lose some weight if it happens, I'd much rather eat what my body tells me it needs, get my heart (which a cardiologist has assured me is very healthy, by the way; though he said my stress levels need to go down...) pumping every day, and live happily without unnecessary guilt. I am so fortunate to have stumbled upon the Health at Every Size movement as well as the awesome Marilyn Wann, and I wish that more people could do the same. Your weight is not your health; your health is so much more complex than that. Weight is the last by-sight form of prejudice that we openly allow in this country and that's just not tolerable. Stop apologizing for your size!
4. Teaching in Spain
I learned so much during that semester; not just about teaching and that I actually did not want to do it for a living after all (at least, not in the school capacity), but about myself and how strong I can be. After getting lost (a couple of times!) in a foreign country in which you speak in only a passable level of the language (if that!) and surviving, you can pretty much do anything, can't you? I also gained a very important perspective about our school system and our country itself I would never have gleaned had I not ventured outside our borders, something that I would recommend to anyone.
5. Jumping from job to job
Many people like to poke fun at me because I married my high school sweetheart and never "played the field"; like I said in #1, that's one of the best decisions I made, too. I'll consider that one common knowledge, which is why I'm not giving it its own number! But one thing I didn't stick with was a job, and I'm so glad I didn't. I know lots of people who are still doing the same job they did in high school or college and they hate it, but it's safe and comfortable and what they know. I definitely understand the fear of change; I have that, too. But I also have a resilience that likes to show up when I least expect it.
I started out babysitting and painting faces (seriously, best job ever! Just not in much demand) as a teenager, then I worked in two fast food positions, one in which I managed a shift; tutored at my college, which I also loved doing; registered voters with Jobs for Justice; interned with NARAL and YouthNoise, the latter in which I ended up becoming editor, producer, and several other roles; taught in various capacities (usually non-paid ones, but still); volunteered widely; and written freelance for over 20 different companies. I have learned so much from all of these experiences, and I wouldn't trade any of it, even the moments that had me crying in the shower, for anything (though I would have definitely cut back my hours working when my daughter was a baby; that time passed so quickly and I feel like I missed a lot of it). I also got to know so many different people--of all different races, abilities, and ages--that my hometown would never have allowed me to do.