Many people say "I want to be like her when I grow up" when talking about older women, grandmas or mothers. For me, I say "I wish I could have been like my daughter when I was younger".
I have a daughter. Many people say that she is a lot like me. I have to disagree. She may be a bit like my 46 year old self, but she doesn't resemble my 18 year old self hardly at all. And I couldn't be prouder. Taylor Evadeane is a much better young woman than I ever was!
When I was a teenager I tried to morph myself into whatever the "popular" crowd was looking for. On the outside I looked like I was having fun making the choices I was, but on the inside it felt wrong for me. I said and did things that would be seen as socially acceptable even though it conflicted with my heart. I was drinking and having lots of "fun" for most of my high school years...and always regretting it the next day.
Taylor spent her high school years not changing for people. She wasn't perfect, by any means, but she made choices that came from her heart and not cultural tuggings. I am pretty sure it was not easy to make the decision to not drink during high school. There were many Friday and Saturday nights she sat at home when I know she was missing doing stuff with friends. I am sure that it was difficult to hear about all the fun that was had over the weekend on Mondays in the cafeteria.
When I was young I was a bad student. I didn't do very well in school. I struggled with tests, papers and more. I truly felt I was not smart. I didn't believe I could do better. I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't able to do well in school....and then lived my life in a way that wouldn't allow for any other option. I stopped trying. At all.
Taylor has always worked incredibly hard at her school work. It seemed like she took twice the time to study for a test or read a book than other kids her age and still didn't do as well. Her dad and I knew something was not quite right. We had her tested back in 3rd grade but nothing came of it. They said she was fine, "normal" and that she just needed to learn how to study. Even though I felt they were wrong I had other kids and was trying to keep my own head above the mommy waters so fighting for her got pushed to the back burner. Taylor, however, started to fight for herself. She asked us to have her tested again, in middle school. And when those tests came back much the same she asked for others. She knew that she had the ability to do well but just needed to know what was going on with her so she could learn HOW to do better. We had her tested by an outside source and wouldn't ya know it, she was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. She became her own best advocate. She learned what environments were best for learning, study skills that would help her navigate through the disorder and educated every teacher she had from that point on what her situation was and how they could help her. She believes she is smart and capable of much....and lives her life in a way that doesn't allow for any other option. She never stopped trying. Ever.
When I was a college student I was....AGAIN...partying a ton. I spent more time on drinking that I did on studying. I chose a big school where I could fade into the crowd. I was looking for a fun time at college where I could enjoy myself, meet new people and maybe think about a degree. I also was very interested in finding a boy that liked me. It consumed me. I was looking for love, affirmation and belonging. I tried finding it in guys.
Taylor has been in college for almost 1 year. She chose a very small, private college where she could stand out. She was looking for a enriching time at college where she could get a good education, grow in her faith and develop a community of people who love and encourage each other. She is not focused on boys. Oh, I am sure that if a super sweet guy comes along she won't mind! But she is not looking, searching and yearning for a boyfriend. She is consumed by fostering great friendships with guys. She is looking to learn to love herself more, affirm herself more and know who she truly belongs to. She is finding that in her heart...and in God.
You see... Taylor has a faith that is deeply rooted in her heart. HER heart. Not mine or her dad's. She makes choices that are VERY different than the ones that her dad and I made at her age. She is wise beyond her years. Oh, she can be a sassy gal too... no worries, she is normal where that is concerned. But she has a moral and spiritual compass that I had but was unwilling to live by at her age.
We have tried to teach our kids to be their own person. Sometimes the person they choose to be isn't socially or culturally acceptable. But it is to us. Because no matter what their choices are, they are our children and they are loved unconditionally. We are not trying to create mini-MEs. We are letting go (as hard as it is!) and letting their hearts guide them. Taylor is listening very well to her heart.
Taylor is beautiful. INSIDE and out. She is funny. She is compassionate. She is smart. She is faithful.
I am sure that she has felt like, at times, she is out on a limb alone. But she has done it with grace & balance and with eyes focused on what is most important to her....and is a wonderful woman for it. She knew she wasn't alone. Not for a minute.
Taylor is not her mother...she is better.
I sure wish I was like my daughter when I was 18....
and somedays at 46 as well.
Photos are taken by Taylor's fellow Taylor University student and treasured friend....the amazing and talented Natalie Halleen! Thanks for sharing Natalie. :)