As a little girl, I always thought life would be a series of steps to get to an end result, and there was always a right or a wrong. But as I aged, I started to discover that life gives us many different roads that lead to so many destinations. They say life is full of peaks and valleys: they’re right. One decision you make, isn’t a guarantee in life, nor is it the “end all” decision, and it’s definitely not a right or a wrong, it just IS. It’s just another step towards the big, vast open space of your life, which is your journey.
I’m well into my 30’s now, and I’ve found that the beauty of life is all about how we got TO this moment.
It’s not about an end result. It’s about embracing every darn step, whether it’s a success, failure, or anything in between. We aren’t meant to be the same person every year of our life. And we definitely aren’t supposed to be perfect. That would get old, real fast. Becoming oneself is a process that’s beautiful, yet terrifying.
Years ago, my ex-husband and I decided to go separate ways.
Did we try to work it out? Yep. Did we finally realize after 10+ years we were just way too different? Oh yeah. Did it take a ton of guts to leave? Hell yeah. But we did it, we agreed to move on, and be the best parents we could be for our son. Let me tell you, it was a challenge. But I’m not here to talk about that story, I’m here to write about how life went on after that story.
Life doesn’t just end after a hardship, though it might feel that way in the moment. No way. You peel yourself off the floor, face your biggest fears, swallow your pride, and accept every darn bit of yourself.
More than anything, you insist on loving yourself for following what you knew was right, even if it’s the hardest road you might ever face.
I had no idea where that road was taking me. All I knew was the road forever split in that moment, and it could be the biggest risk walking on. I was picturing that my journey after that split would be something closer to a hitchhiker scene from a movie, I’d be 95 years old, holding my 10 cats, sipping from a bourbon bottle and holding a cane screaming, “pick my old ass up!” So if that gives you any indication of how much hope I had after my divorce, there ya go (PS – I’m not even a cat person).
Fast forward, it’s summer in NYC and I’m stepping out for a date.
Everyone under the sun told me to start dating again. So I did. It was this weird, odd, out of body experience. And let me tell you, it was NOT pretty at first. My low moment? I walked home from a date (that I ended early because he grabbed my face TWICE and tried to kiss me – what a douch-canoe!) and I ran into the subway screaming. I got out of the train, walked into a Chinese restaurant, ordered take out, and walked home crying on the phone to my mom with a bag of Chinese food in my hand. There were lots of uncomfortable dates…lots. I left feeling defeated on some and wondered what the hell I had just done.
But then, a different date with someone new at Buvette restaurant in the West Village (by the way, I had canceled this date already because I was over the dating thing SUPER fast).
This date changed the outcome of everything I’ve ever imagined.
I met this guy who was smart, intriguing, hilarious, witty, kind, self-aware (oh how I love self-aware)… I’m gonna give you the cliff note version here, so you don’t fall asleep: I pushed him away for months. Yet he didn’t budge. He fought for me. He stood by my side. And he inevitably won my heart over, so much it scared me.
When we met, I had always said I would absolutely never ever have a child again, and probably never marry again.
I told him, “I’m just looking for a life partner to have fun with! Travel with! You know, keep it simple.” He always laughed when I said that, almost as if he knew something that I didn’t recognize. He told me I was a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Yep. I was. I fell head over heels – even though in my mind I was holding back, terrified of moving forward. But eventually, it hit me over the head like an explosion and I knew THIS was everything right.
As the months went on, everything ran as smooth as it could be. We took things slow, and were very careful about my son meeting him (we waited quite some time). But when he did, my son loved him too. He adored my son, and months after meeting him, my son started asking, “When are you gonna marry him, mom?”
Several weeks ago, we announced to my 10 year old son that he’s going to be a big brother.
A younger sibling was something I always had dreamed of for him, but it never made sense; until now. I find myself tearing up daily thinking of how this all turned out. I constantly question, How in the world did I get here? A place I never EVER would’ve guessed for myself? It’s place that would’ve scared me years ago, but now, I’m embracing and loving this journey.
Being a mother again is such a gift.
I am beyond thrilled to experience this with a new partner who is so emotionally supportive and understands the ups and downs of life, and finding balance. It’s all about the balance. Seeing the excitement through my son’s eyes is by far the biggest reward yet. He asks me daily, “How much longer until the baby is here?” My partner is over the moon to be a first-time dad, and is already hugging my belly and talking to our little guy. Even though it’s my second pregnancy, this will be a new everything; a totally different experience! Goals for myself? I hope I’m a bit more chill this time. I was worried about everything with my first son after he was born. This time I’m planning on just sitting back and enjoying the small moments knowing these little stages go SO FAST. Some days I look at my son and wonder how it’s been 10 years already. I want to remind myself daily to let this all slow down…it’s ok to slow down. Of course, the crying moments might be a disaster, and the hormones may be from hell, but at least I know that stage passes. I felt so trapped after my first son, and never saw an end in sight. But now I know it’s just a stage, and to not take it for granted. Looking at my oldest son, now, I never want to wish a stage away again, EVER.
The biggest take away through this, is that I’ve had to learn to trust myself again.
I had to make sure that every decision I made through this process aligned with every value I have ever believed in. I remember, in my darkest time, I wrote a huge list of my values.
I asked myself, “What is my core? What are my guiding principles? What do I fall back on that makes the complicated simple?”
When I saw my answers on paper, I gasped. I realized that my past was not being lived with my values in mind. So through this journey, I always made sure that every direction I moved toward was always in alignment with my values. Doing that brought me the utmost confidence to trust myself again.
Does this mean I have the answer to life? No. That’s the thing about life, do you ever really know how it’s going to turn out? Absolutely not. So why not enjoy every step of this journey, good and bad? As long as every decision you make is in alignment with your values, you’re ALWAYS making the best decision for you, no matter how it turns out.
The hardest moments that bring you the most intense fear are the ones that lead you to the best decisions.
When I look back at my life, I want to respect every decision I ever made, knowing that in the deepest part of my heart, I chose something because I knew it aligned with my values. That’s the only thing you can truly rely on. What a beautiful way to live, to never live with regret, but live with confidence!
Still, I know it’s a journey, and in those hard moments, it’s a challenge to find the light… but if you just keep moving, it’ll bring you to a peaceful place – your peak. Of course there will be valleys again… and you’ll have to walk that long road until you find a mountain top, but know it’s coming. It always does.
I found someone that I want to go through the good, the bad, and the ugly of life with.
Life isn’t perfect. But finding “your people,” who can embrace those imperfections and ride the wave of life, that’s what it’s all about. One day, if we’re lucky enough, we’ll be staring down at our old wrinkled hands telling the stories of all the hardships and successes we had. We’ll be able to look back at the journey and say, “I finally made it.”
Danielle Sapienza is a nyc area lifestyle photographer who celebrates the chaos of parenting! She loves to view the world through a child's perspective. As a mother herself, she’s inspired by the energy of those little people that run our daily lives with such power, enthusiasm, and emotion. “Life with children is full of adventure, with lots of crazy moments in between. Might as well enjoy the ride, and embrace the chaos!”