October 24th is a very special date to me as it’s my mom’s birthday. For those who are new here, I lost my mom to cancer almost three years ago and there are few specific dates like today that make me think of her more than others. As a preface, I never write anything on here to sadden anyone (especially friends and family) but I love remembering her and writing is my easiest way to do it.
Ever since I was younger, dates have always been important to me and I tend to remember the most random ones. I’ll remember dates of when I met people, did things for the first/last time, had meaningful experiences, etc. Yet I’m usually the worst at remembering people’s birthdays. I always tell people I can remember my family member’s birthdays and my best friend from highschool’s birthday (hi Lylah) and that’s about it. But my mom’s always sticks out to me from the rest.
October is hands down one of my favorite months. It’s the start of fall, it’s filled with pumpkins (one of my mom’s favorite things) and you can just sense everyone’s happiness from the shift in a bit colder weather. I love it not only because growing up I’d always watch the classic Halloween movies after trick-or-treating but everything fall is just.. better. Less humidity, colder temperatures and basically rolling myself into a burrito blanket at all times on my couch. And of course the produce in fall is my favorite part. It also always, always reminds me of my mom. Each year on her birthday I take time to reflect and celebrate her as a person. This year, as it’s my third year on her birthday without her, I decided to write something on my blog about this date and the things that I’ve learned through my mom, the past few years and just life in general. A lot of this I feel like can be applied to truly anyone – whether you’ve lost someone or not – and will make you think a little deeper.
There are a lot of things I do, say and feel in my life now as a 24-year old now that are different from the 21-year old I was when I lost my mom. Things I’ve learned, ways my mind and spirit have shifted but still so many things she taught me and I grew to appreciate from her when I was younger that I still focus on today. So here we go, I hope you enjoy. Also.. if anything, I hope this makes you think of the people in your life who help you appreciate the world differently. Whether they come or go, I know everyone placed into our lives is placed there for a purpose. If they’re physically apart of your life for a short amount of time or 21 years, there is so much we’re constantly learning and growing from.
Here are 24 things on October 24th I’ve learned.
1.When you lose someone, you gain a lot in other areas of life. And you’ll learn how to be dependent on yourself.
This took me a bit to realize but I remember going on dates the year after my mom died and even coffee meetings with new friends, thinking I learned a little bit about myself and other people with each new encounter. Not only that but I gained new opportunities in business (worked with Quaker, Brooks and even Whole Foods – my dream!), earned a full-time salary job and then left it to become my own boss. I gained a different view of life that truly anything is possible if you’re open to receiving and accepting of it. You also don’t need to rely on someone else for everything (I grew up thinking how would I ever do anything without asking my mom for help but I learned how because well… I had to). Nothing will come to you right away but with time, you’ll get what you deserve and even more. I lived in my own apartment by myself, paid my own bills and did things I thought I could never do without my mom but I grew as a person and learned to navigate the hardest parts of life. It’s a journey but you’ll make get there.
2. Worry Less. You’re always worrying and it won’t get you anywhere.
One of my mom’s biggest pieces of advice to me was to stop worrying. Ever since I was younger I’ve been a hypochondriac and it’s something I’m consistently working on – worrying and fearing things less. There are so many things out of our control and once my mom went through her battle, I realized the amount of insignificant things us as humans are always concerned about that are either super miniscule in the grand scheme of life or truly out of our hands. I used to call my mom daily with whatever problem I had and automatically assume the worst. Truly I’m laughing thinking about it because it made me realize (and still does) how worrying never gets us anywhere. It only creates and prolongs the problem that 9x out of 10 won’t exist in 5 days, weeks or years. It adds unnecessary stress to our minds, which in return affects our bodies. Once we start to let it go and let the universe take control, there’s a sense of ease and calmness. That’s what we need more of, and less worry.
3. Decorate your apartment/home and make it your own space. It’ll keep your mental health strong and your heart happy. Keep in mind that pumpkins aren’t just for fall and the best ones will last long beyond Halloween.
My mom was an interior designer growing up and she truly had a gift. She would paint beautiful landscapes for friends and family as Christmas gifts, painted a mural of the beach my family visited every year in our basement and painted the entirety of people’s homes for a living. You could say I got my entrepreneurial spirit from her. The year before she passed she even told me how to properly do invoicing (although Quickbooks has saved my life this year), gave me a file box to sort through my paperwork, etc. She also had a love for all think craft fairs, pumpkins and leaves. Growing up our house was always decorated with pumpkins and mostly year round. Now every October I make sure to fill up my apartment with art, pumpkins and make sure to create a space I love being in.
4. Eating out, not eating perfectly healthy all the time and consuming food for joy and happiness rather than only for nutrients won’t kill you. It’ll make you a happier person.
My mom was the one who introduced me to eating healthy. Growing up we always had vegetables with our lunches and dinners but she’d also let me get my favorite oreos at the store, buy me my favorite chocolate croissants at Whole Foods (truly they’re the best) as a surprise and always put a new fun drink in my lunch when she packed it in high school. She showed me what food freedom was before I knew it myself. After struggling with disordered eating during high school and college, I’m currently at a place in my life that I haven’t been in over 7-8 years. I feel comfortable eating things like bagels, pizza, ice cream and foods that aren’t filled with greens because they’re filled with moments of satisfaction and memories to accompany them.
5. When someone isn’t meant for you, trust in that you’re better off without them. Better off by yourself and you’re all you really need. No matter how long it takes to notice it.
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, it was right around the same time I fell in love for the first time. It took me almost three years to realize that the person no longer had a place in my life and even my mom knew it. It’s hard to let go of certain people – we all do it every single day – but when you finally let go of the ones that aren’t meant for you and realize your own worth, you’ll really feel it. You’ll feel that shift in your life and know that if it came once, it will come again. It’s a matter of waiting and letting things fall into place.
6. Travel well and make the most of it. Stay at a nice hotel, take plenty of photos, write down all of the recommendations and spend money on experiences over material things. Experiences matter more.
When I was sixteen, my mom took my best friend and I to New York for my 16th birthday and for my 17th birthday, I visited Chicago for the first time. It was also the first time I visited Loyola (where I ended up going to college) and for those two experiences alone I’m forever grateful. Grateful I got to spend them with my mom but also I got to experience cities I had never been before and that many people never get the opportunity to visit. My mom always told me that when/if she could travel, she wanted to make the most of it. Eat good meals and do fun adventures like visiting museums or going for bike rides on the beach. During the time she got sick, she’d continuously tell me “aren’t you happy we went on all of those trips and had all of those memories?” One hundred and ten percent.
7. Show compassion and love for other people, even when you find it hard to.
Not everyone you meet in life will have been what you’ve been through or be as positive or optimistic as you and it’s okay. Everyone is on their own journey and that’s what makes us connect differently to one another. But be compassionate. Show love for the people that are in your life and continuously remind them of it.
8. You can never say I love you too much. Truly.
I used to call my mom probably 5 times a day if not more. I’m sure that many of you are like that or have someone in your life (family or friend) that you call, text or communicate with that much. I’d say I love you in a given hour long call over 10x. I had the closest connection to my mom and was stuck to her like glue. Sometimes it was just a habit of saying it a lot but I remember she’d always joke with me that I said it too much. But in what I’ve learned, there’s never enough love and there shouldn’t be a limit.
9. Music is actually everything and will get you through the best times of your life and the hardest. Listen to it when you’re sad, worried, anxious, on the way to a new experience, at work, when you’re happy… listen.
When my mom was an interior designer she would take me on design projects and as a reward buy me a CD every time. Then when I was around 14 she would drive my best friend and I to and from concerts and wait for us as we tried to meet the bands. Every time. I’ve loved music for such a long time but it didn’t really have an impact on me until my mom was diagnosed. I started creating playlists every month, for everything I was feeling (the good and bad) and have continued for the last three years. It’s such a release for me and is one of those things that makes me so happy. Concerts, music, the experiences and the feelings. It’s something that I feel connects me with moments, places and people – especially my mom. There’s never not a good time for it.
10. Take more photos. Of everything you see. The people you love, the moments others might find insignificant. Do not care what people have to say because you’ll want to hold onto memories.
I discovered my love for photography in high school but it wasn’t until the last year or so that I’ve started to notice literally everything around me with such a deeper view. The way the light hits the buildings, when people run into each other on the street and hug, getting breakfast with a friend. I take photos of it all and don’t even care anymore because when I look back on the moments I get this instant surge of happiness. When I look for photos of my mom and I, I feel like I have so few of them that having photos with other people in my life, things and moments is extremely significant for me. I want to capture and savor it all.
11. You can get a job after college. And what’s even better is you can get it, quit it and then work for yourself. And still be successful.
I was so worried about getting a job after college that I started having anxiety from it. Finally, I got it and then I had anxiety from that. Then I lost my job and started working for myself. It’s been hard doing it on my own but then I have moments I realize how insanely lucky I am that this is the life I get to live. It always somehow works out so this is your reminder – if you’re hating your corporate job or whatever work you’re doing now. It doesn’t last forever and you can be successful doing whatever makes you happiest.
12. Therapy is the best investment money can buy.
My mom invested her own money in therapy for me in high school and I went for over a year. It helped me through so much and then I didn’t go again for four years and I wish I would’ve sooner. It’s all about priorities and it’s quite an expense but if I can not go out to dinner a few times a month or cut back on other areas of my life… spending a few extra dollars on my mental health is worth it.
13. Get back into painting because that’s your next best therapy (and cheaper).
I absolutely loved watercolor paints in highschool and figured why not start it again last winter. My brother bought me watercolor paper and paints for Christmas and it might have been my favorite gift. Throwing music on and just throwing paint on paper for an hour or two is one of the most therapeutic things I’ve found. Calming, relaxing and maybe just what I need from time to time.
14. Text a friend or family member every day and ask how they are.
It’s simple, easy and can make a difference in not only your day and theirs but in the connection you share.
15. If you’re unhappy, go to the root of the problem and figure out why and actively change it.
Relationships, health, friendships, work, anything…
16. Go out for breakfast once a week.
Do something fun in your routine that you wouldn’t normally do. Whether it’s getting a croissant at a local bakery or bagels with your boyfriend down the street. Wake up early and make a morning out of it.
17. Never be afraid to be vulnerable and tell people how you really feel or what you’re going through. However, share things when you feel comfortable.
When I found out my mom was sick, I told less than five people. Half of my friends at college had no idea and I didn’t tell a soul on the internet until a month after her passing. At first I had a hard time opening up but once I did, it became natural and easy. When I used to first meet people I would be nervous or afraid and now I just know it as apart of my story and who I am. I have nothing to be ashamed or nervous about.
18. You don’t have to change for anyone’s standards or meet anyone where they’re at. Show up for yourself and what you deserve will show up right back for you.
When I started dating in college I found it hard to fit into the mold of what everyone did around me did. Probably why I didn’t date anyone until I was 21. I don’t love to drink, I am not a party person and I live a life focused on health, wellness, waking up early and spending my nights going to yoga and making dinner. To me, that’s enough and what makes me happiest. I’m introverted and love being alone. Growing up, my mom was always the one I wanted to be around and when I lost her, it felt like I needed to fill a void. I needed to date and find someone who could hold the space she held. But then I realized, I’m enough as is and whoever will fill the space will accept that. Never change for anyone else because if someone doesn’t accept you for who you are, they’re not meant to take up space in your life.
19. Wake up every morning and think of three things you’re grateful for and never forget to show gratitude.
Something else I learned from my mom and within the last 24 years is that I have so much to be grateful for. I wake up most mornings like “holy shit, how is this my life?” Where I live, who I date, my small but loving family, my few close friends… some people have close to none of that. Things could always be worse and I never forget to remind myself of the little things that matter.
20. Quoting movies, especially Christmas ones, is one of my favorite things.
My mom and I used to quote Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation constantly. Every year we would probably watch Elf more than a dozen times and would always say “I’m in love I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it” #mood. I now do it with my uncle and it’s one of my favorite memories.
21. Learn about where your food comes from, learn how to bake and cook things that are outside of your comfort zone and make things that other people enjoy.
Go to farmers markets, buy local produce, look up recipes and actually make them. Start new hobbies and get inspired from those around you who love to cook and love food as much as you do. Bake the things you grew up making like brownies, basic chocolate chip cookies and banana chocolate chip bread.
22. It’s okay to be emotional, grieve and feel. It’s okay to not be okay at times.
I once told my therapist how sometimes I just feel like I’m going through the motions day to day and not really feeling anything and she told me that I actually am feeling. I’m allowing myself to process certain situations and events, take them in and I’m sitting with them which is perfectly okay to do. It’s okay to have off days, to be anxious and not feel your best. I’ve learned that these days come and go just like bad days at work. Not every day is going to be like that and I always know something better is around the corner. With every “off day”, a better day follows.
23. Hug people for more than five seconds. Maybe ten. Honestly, make it twenty. And give more of them.
Knowing my mom I realized I loved hugs more than anything. There’s truly no better feeling. Or holding someone’s hand. Showing the simplest physical connection. Anytime I meet someone I always say “can I give you a hug? I’m a hugger”. When we’d go to church as a family, my mom would sit in the passenger seat and I always sat behind her. She’d put her hand behind the headrest for my hand and I’d just hold it. It was the simplest act of love but once of my favorites. Holding hands, giving hugs. Do it and do it longer than just a brief moment.
24. Everything in our lives happens for a reason. People are placed into our lives for a purpose and it’s all meant to help us learn and grow.
I sometimes think of the events and moments that have happened since almost three years ago when I last saw my mom. I wish so badly that she could be there to meet certain friends of mine who I didn’t know then and know now, hear about the relationships I’ve been in and the places I’ve traveled… so on and so forth. But then I think of all of the other people who are there for those moments. The people who have been along with me to hear my stories and journey. The people that message me saying they’ve gone through similar circumstances. It all happens for a reason and I’m a big believer in the universe giving you what you need to help you through what you need.
I wanted to share this once again because I think writing down what I am going through not only will help myself but help others possibly going through similar situations. When I first told my mom’s story back in 2017, I remember I had hundreds of messages that people shared of losing loved ones and I never realized how many people went through what I’ve gone through. In the last three years I’ve made at least three close friends who have all lost a parent and it’s interesting to see how people who have lost a loved one look at life differently.
I can say I’m more hyper aware of my surroundings, I learn to appreciate the littlest things (like light and clouds and giving hugs to strangers) and my perspective on life as I know it is constantly shifting and changing. That alone is something I without a doubt can 100% say I learned from my mom and maybe the most important thing — appreciate everything around you, in all ways, at all times.
I hope you enjoyed this and if it meant something to you, let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading and understanding, always.
Happy birthday, mom.