The Courage to Become | Aimee Gonzalez Niebuhr
The Courage to Become Fulfilled
When Catia invited me to share my story of courage in this inspiring series, I felt relieved that she and I met during my thirtieth year of life; had she propositioned me any sooner, well, then there might not have been a story to tell. This year has been the year of my becoming.
Perhaps I am a late bloomer. Maybe it is that I spent many years devoting my gifts to nurturing the blossoming of others: my husband and our marriage, our two growing boys, my many younger siblings, and the countless people I hold dear. You see, while those who know me most intimately would tell you that I have always lived a courageous life, the truth is that I am only just beginning to break free from fear and find fulfillment.
It isn’t to say that my childhood wasn’t fulfilling. My mother, a relentlessly heroic single mama, taught me grit and perseverance. We found smiles in simplicity. I was the girl who sat beneath the crooked branches of the mesquite trees in my South Texas backyard filling my journal with poetry. In the fifth grade, I earned the title of “Texas Rising Star” and had a poem published. It was my first taste of seeing my words in print. I was hooked. When interviewed at an awards banquet and asked whom I planned to be when I grew up, I confidently proclaimed that I would be a journalist and published author. In my ten-year-old heart, it was destiny. What could ever stand in my way?
Yet, over the course of my life, my fearlessness faded. My poetry became darker; my journals more filled with angst, until, at last, writing ceased altogether. I could tell you of all of the experiences that diminished my feminine power: the assaults upon my body and spirit, which profoundly affected my self worth for years to come. Experiences that shaped my perception of the world, leading me to believe that love wasn’t truly love without pain; life couldn’t truly be lived without aching. And women were intended to slowly fade away.
But that isn’t the story I want to tell you today, and the sobering truth is, if you are a woman reading this account, you likely have your own stories of injustice layered somewhere within your soul, amongst the songs of triumph and gladness.
No, I want to tell you about the day that I decided that I was courageous enough to seek fulfillment. The moment when I realized I was bold enough to become.
Before I could begin my ascent, however, I had to stop and confront my discontent.
It is difficult as a mother to say the words aloud: I long for something more. I was living a life many dream of; a life I had dreamed of myself. A man who wanted nothing more than to provide happiness and stability loved me, fully, and I loved him in return. I was healing past wounds. Growing into myself. We had welcomed two remarkable boys into the world; their ability to see every miniscule moment as marvelous brought me profound joy. Staying home to care for and homeschool them was a gift. Life wasn’t always perfect, and it was rarely easy, but it was ours.
Yet, I continued to struggle internally with feelings of worthlessness, while wearing a brave smile for the world. I played the part of gracious wife, gentle mother, patient teacher, and with each year that passed, with every moment that I spent pouring my soul into others, I felt myself drifting further and further away from the girl who once occupied my body. The girl who dreamed. The girl who put pencil to paper and wrote the words dancing in her head. The girl who believed that everyone had a story to tell. That every voice mattered. (Even my own.)
Had I not had my daughter, I might not have ever found that girl again.
We sat in the postpartum room alone together in the stillness of the night. My new beautiful baby, hours old, felt so delicate in my embrace, somehow smaller than her two brothers had been, yet her eyes were alert with wonder. She was tiny, but she exuded power. A deeply profound sense of urgency filled me as we held each other’s gaze; an urgency to become the woman I had always imagined myself to be.
How would I ever begin to teach her that she could be anything, anything, she desired, if I could not face my fears and manifest my own desires?
In the weeks that followed the fiery urgency grew; it was as if a small spark of possibility had grown into a passionately raging fire. Though I had been able to ignore it in the years that had preceded, there was no putting it out this time. There were moments that were uncomfortable, as I reconciled the fact that motherhood alone could not sustain me. For years, I hid behind the guise of the giver, acting as though my life were too busy to be able to give to myself. Yet, it wasn’t about all of the moments spent mothering. It wasn’t even about the fear trying and failing.
I was afraid to become, because if I did, I just might discover how powerful I could truly be.
(Spoiler alert: I jumped in headfirst and did it anyway.)
Laptop balanced against my knees, my six-week-old daughter nursed eagerly at my breast as the debit card shook between my trembling fingers. I purchased my little corner of the internet. A blog. A space for the words suppressed for a decade to finally exist.
As the clock counted down to a new year, tears of gratitude streamed down my cheeks. “You can be anything you choose to become, baby girl. And I am going to show you it is true.”
It has been eleven months since that fateful night; they have been some of the most transformative of my life. As a mom who had her babies young and didn’t finish college, I’ve found the courage to apply for freelance writing jobs, and I have earned them. I’ve seen my words published and shared in places I have only dreamed of. I’ve met women who inspire me to share my truth and speak it loudly.
My stories are no longer shouting at me from the insides, begging to be written; out of my body and into the light they have come. And even if no one ever read them at all, it wouldn’t matter, because that has never been the point. There is joy in knowing they exist, because through their existence, I exist.
Not as Aimee: the once broken and now pieced-back-together girl. Not as Aimee: the wife, the mother, the friend; though coveted roles they all may be.
I exist as Aimee: the one with the divine gift.
(As each of you are also called to exist.)
And when my old companion fear begins to raise her voice? I look her in the eye. Aloud, I cry, “I am ready to accept the gifts offered to me,” tilting my head a little higher than even fear can stand.
Most of all, I am beginning to understand the gravity of Dr. Brene Brown’s message when she told us that “any gift that goes unused becomes a burden.”
I feel the weight of my longing lifting, and I have never felt more alive.
Essay by: Aimee Gonzalez Niebuhr
I'm Catia, a woman, wife, mama, sister, sister friend, you know -- I wear a million hats just like you.
One of my biggest whys is that I want people to feel good about ALL of who they are. Including you.
If I could choose ten words that best describe me I would say: honest, welcoming, giving, curious, loving, earnest, empathetic, spiritual, playful, and sassy. Let's add: adventurous. That's 11.
Nice to meet you!
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