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I'm Ali Rae and I love building brands.
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Since my birthday falls right after the new year, it has grown to become a time of reflection on the growth that took place during that year. If you’ve been following along with my last couple of posts, this year has been life-changing: business growth, another deployment under our belts, getting pregnant and giving birth to our daughter, and another Marine Corps move. Naturally, this year brought a lot of teaching and learning moments. Here are 26 things I learned in my 26th year:
1. Just because you build it, does not mean they will come.
So marketing is not my strong suit. I always figured if I had quality work, the clients would come…nope. And I am not very good at selling myself, which is, well, pretty detrimental as an entrepreneur. I blame my brother, Parker; he hogged all the confidence and charisma in the gene pool.
2. All things creative speak to my soul.
Photography, graphic design, web design, typography, calligraphy & brush lettering, adult coloring books. You name it!
3. Shooting in direct sunlight is challenging, but possible.
All you other photographers out there understand this! Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you’re faced with this situation as a photographer, it can be terrifying. Holy shadows.
4. I really like getting my nails done.
Apparently I’m boujee. I had to look up how to spell that. But really, when I have my nails done I feel like I’m put together.
5. Cracking iPhone screens is my specialty.
Cracked two this year. And one of those was like, double cracked…RIP.
6. Never ask a couple when they plan on having a baby.
You never know what a couple is going through or how long they have been trying and what effect that question will have on them. I’ve been asked this question before, and it just hurts. Mind your own business and they’ll have a baby when they have a baby.
7. Patience is a virtue.
I mean, I’ve always known this, but I’ve never been patient…ever. After trying to have a baby for almost three years and having two pregnancies end before the first trimester was over, carrying this pregnancy to term (plus three days) showed me that patience for the right time and circumstances is everything…even if that’s so hard to accept.
8. I’m not the best communicator.
And that’s hard to admit. I often assume that Caleb (and others too, but mostly Caleb) can just read my mind. But apparently that’s not the case! So, we shall continue to work on saying what I mean. Or saying it at all.
9. Everyone should have to be a server/work in food service once in their life.
PSA: Please tip your servers…they get paid like $2.13/hour. My favorite comments from a customer while I was working as a server this year: “You interrupted my conversation, so now I don’t even want to eat. Your job is to serve me; not interrupt me,” and “Maybe next time you can serve me naked.”
10. Deployments don’t get easier.
Every deployment is different and presents its own challenges. Time differences, circumstances at home and for the service member, pregnancy, duty stations, so many things vary during each deployment that no two can be compared!
11. Losing your military ID when traveling to a foreign military base is really scary.
Picture this—traveling alone, sixteen weeks pregnant, in Tokyo, Japan, after being pulled off your connecting flight because your connection is so tight, going to get your military ID to get through immigration…and it’s not there. I literally dumped out my entire carry on in the middle of the airport, while trying to FaceTime (had to connect to the WiFi first because, you know, I was in a foreign country and had no service) Caleb so he could tell me what to do, because my brain was fried after 18 hours of traveling. All’s well that ends well, though. I made my connection and it was smooth sailing to Okinawa after that.
12. Being pregnant without your husband around is difficult, even with an easy pregnancy.
I have a whole new level of respect for military spouses and any other circumstance that renders a woman a single mother. I did the easy part alone; I can’t even imagine giving birth without Caleb.
13. Natural disasters do not feel natural.
We moved everything out of our home on a Sunday and Hurricane Florence hit our area the following Wednesday. Watching from hours away, not knowing if our house was still going to be standing when the storm was over, was emotionally draining. We watched a gas station roof get ripped off of a service station three miles from our home; the school where I used to teach just got their cafeteria back this past week. People are recovering from natural disasters long after the media coverage leaves.
14. Attachment to inanimate objects is very real.
For me, this object was our home in North Carolina. I know they say don’t get attached to your starter home, but oh my gosh! So much growth happened in that home. I completed my Masters degree, did my first year of teaching and coaching, started my business, met some amazing lifelong friends. I fell in love with the hardwood floors, the high ceilings in our bathroom, our backyard, the big living room, the bonus room turned studio/office… Everything about that home felt right, which made it so hard to leave.
15. Renting out that home that you’ve grown to love is challenging.
Because no one is going to love it like you do. In fact, they will probably leave washers in the driveway and trucks in the front yard.
16. Practice what you preach.
I always tell other military spouses that you have to make the best of each new duty station. Well, that came from me when I loved the duty station where we were. Quantico is a great place to be, don’t get me wrong! We are so close to family and our hometown, but it’s so different and so fast-paced…I miss my small-town living. Hence…
17. I like a slower-paced lifestyle.
Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, and Stafford, Virginia, are polar opposites. 95 traffic is a parking lot across three lanes, while Sneads Ferry traffic is when you get caught behind a tractor on one lane.
18. Naming a child is very difficult.
I mean, they’re going to have that name forevvvverrrr. Does the name grow to fit the kid or does the kid grow to fit the name? Also, teaching can really spoil a lot of names for you…and I only taught for one year…
19. Things can be perfect, even when they don’t turn out how you expected they would.
I never planned to have Huxley as a C-section, but I am so thankful we did. When her heart rate began decelling while I was laboring, I felt like I was outside of my body watching myself have the deer in the headlight look. Nevertheless, we have a healthy baby girl in our arms today.
20. Speaking of C-sections…they’re no joke.
That was my first major surgery, and I really didn’t understand what “major surgery” meant. I now know that it means that it hurts really badly and takes a while to recover. I’m not good at the whole sit still and recover process, but who really is when they have a newborn?
21. It’s okay to accept help.
In the past, I have been described as “fiercely independent.” It is so hard for me to a) admit I need help and b) accept help. But Caleb was seriously the most supportive, patient husband and father amidst the recovery process and newborn phase. We have also leaned on family more this year than we ever have…thank you to everyone who has helped us this year.
22. Pregnancy made me more confident and feminine than I’ve ever felt in my life.
After years of feeling like my body couldn’t do what it was meant to do…when it finally did, I felt was large and in charge. However, that wasn’t the case postpartum…
23. Postpartum is hard.
So. Many. Adjustments. Adjustments between me and Caleb. Adjustments in family dynamics. Adjustments in hormones (holy hormones!). Adjustments in body image. Adjustments in mindsets. Adjustments in caring for a tiny human that relies solely on you. It’s hard. But ya do it. And it’s great.
24. “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
25. Moms are always right.
I think I can say that now that I am a mom. She always told me that as soon as I have a baby, I will want my mom to be there to help. She was right. I did.
26. A baby’s smile could literally solve all the world’s issues.
Every morning when Huxley wakes up, she smiles with her whole body when one of us picks her up. I can’t think of a better way to start my day.
So there we have it. 26 things 26 taught me. Here’s to learning 27 more things in my 27th year. I have a feeling Huxley Rae will teach me quite a bit in the next 12 months, and I. Can’t. Wait!
Head over to my Instagram account for a fun incentive I am hosting in honor of my birthday! Happy birthday to me!
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