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When You're Doubting Yourself, Here's What To Remember

For those to whom nothing comes easily.

Woman, Actually is the little corner of BuzzFeed where Mariela Summerhays writes about everything and anything to do with being a millennial mother — a woman first, mother second. Yes, you'll read about the glorious struggle and joy of child-rearing — but also about relationships, mental health and more. Because as it turns out, growing up doesn't stop at motherhood.

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I WAS GOING through an old memory box, found upon a recent visit to my parents’ house. Beside a maths notebook filled with terrible poetry and postcards from a friend I’ve long lost touch with, was a printed copy of a personal statement — in a font I’ve since retired — which was submitted as part of my university application.

The introductory paragraphs go as follows:

I have read that the world can be divided into two types of people. There are those who move effortlessly through life, steadily and surely, seemingly unaffected by the tangles of life others would surely get caught in; it is not part of their nature to confront, and their aptitude for remaining emotionally unattached to anything or anyone, means they are never crippled by heartache, neither delirious with happiness.

I’m irrefutably of the second group of people, who awkwardly stumble through life, fall down, but inevitably lurch up again.

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OTHER THAN THE SURNAME with which I signed that personal statement and my tendency for exceedingly long sentences (though my editor might disagree), there is not much of my adolescent self that I’ve done away with. If there’s anyone reading this, soon to leave school and hoping they might shed the more unflattering parts of themselves by their late-twenties, I apologise — you won’t find such comfort here.

There is still not much that comes easily to me. Everything is so effortful. I am not an elegant swimmer. I stumble over my words when making a speech. I don’t fancy myself particularly attractive or a natural beauty, whatever that means. Motherhood and work seem to take all of me, yet none of me at the same time.

I’m constantly snagging my clothes on corners and my love on hearts that can’t hold mine.

Last week, a relationship I put so much heart into for years finally collapsed, despite my efforts. One of my darling children is struggling, an obstacle we thought we’d long ago faced and conquered, yet again rearing its ugly head. And at the end of the month, my time as a writer and editor with my beloved BuzzFeed ends.

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I REMEMBER the admissions officer being young, maybe as old as I am now, and that he wore a blue button-down shirt. As we entered his office and he rounded his desk to sit across from me, the first thing he said after introductions wasn’t a question about my ordinary grades, which I’d spent the last couple of days rehearsing how to justify. Instead, he smiled, as if he’d been looking forward to this particular interview and half-stated, half-asked:

“So, that was an interesting personal statement.”

To this day, I feel that I was perhaps only asked in for an interview so that he could satiate his curiosity about who this teenager was, who felt it was appropriate to submit what was essentially the contents of a diary for entry into university.

But it got me to the door and I made sure to walk through it.

Trying to save relationships you hold dear until you can’t anymore, means you never have to live with “what ifs”. Through grit and love, I will get my baby through anything, as I have before. And though I wrestle with whether this industry is for me or whether I'm a writer with a voice worth having, I'm willing to work through the tears and heartache it takes to find out.

The thing about everything you have being hard won, is that you always know what you want — there is only so much fight you can fit into each day, you have to choose. If you are of the half of people for whom nothing comes naturally, nothing is ever given to you — you will always earn what is yours.

I’m irrefutably of the second group of people, who awkwardly stumble through life, fall down, but inevitably lurch up again.