I Used to Be Cool

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“Haha yeahhhh, I used to be cool,” I told her. I was walking one of the dogs through the neighborhood on our normal thrice-daily route when I ran into (or rather Ladybird ran into) a group of teenagers on a mission trip work camp where they were building a ramp for an elderly couple. The teens swarmed my little hound that always looks like she’s smiling and made small talk with me.

I Used to Be Cool

Yes, I live down the street. Yes, I love it here too. Yeah, I mainly work from home; that’s why I have a one piece and some shorts on at noon on a Wednesday — we have a pool. Birdie is one of three dogs. I own a small furniture painting business so I can stay home with my three boys…

“Wow,” one of the girls said. “You’re just. Just so cool!” “Nah. Not anymore. Haha. Yeahhhh, I used to be cool.” There it was. That phrase we see so much on shirts or mini van bumpers. It was a knee jerk reaction, something like when you’re paid a compliment but don’t know what to say in the heat of the moment so you quickly self-deprecate and try to move the spotlight literally anywhere else.

I walked away wanting to tell her, “I mean my house is really small and so is my business and my kids make me insane a lot of the time and my pool is one of those from a box that’s basically a glorified baby pool…” but then, I really thought about it and you know what?

I am really freaking cool.

I read a quote 10 years ago about how becoming a mother makes all your insecurities fall away. I read it and read it and read it. I wrote it down. I spoke it aloud. As a new mom at 23, I felt the least secure I had ever felt. My friends were moving to shiny, glittery cities on the East and West coats. They were finishing master’s degrees. They were going to happy hours with their coworkers in order to network. I was at home. Alone. With a performance degree I’d never use and a baby I resented nearly as much as I loved. “But you’re so young. You can for sure be a cool mom,” friends would say. So I tried to be a cool mom. I dressed Maddox in ironic screen-printed onesies and fed him only organic foods and dated a writer with a Huck Finn quote tattooed across his chest. I cut thick, straight across bangs and worked in the mall and told everyone how I didn’t have cable because “TV was bogus.”

But I wasn’t cool. I was insecure. I was sad. I wanted to be seen. I wanted to be different. I felt like I had one foot in motherhood and one foot out. I was trying so hard to be cool, to feel better, but it wasn’t working.

I think back to college. How my friends and I were always out and about. How we knew everyone and they knew us. How I knew about cool indie bands and what was trending in pop culture. Was I cool then? After all, that’s usually what people talk about when they say, “I used to be cool.” The good ole days. Your teenage or early 20s years when you were carefree and happy go lucky and your biggest worry was why in the world as an upperclassman you still have an 8am class two days a week. But, all through those years, I yearned for what I have now. I wanted kids. I wanted a husband. I wanted to be my own boss. Granted I don’t have a husband and I wanted to be an actor, not some antique picking furniture painter, but for the most part, I have all the things now I wished for then at my supposed “prime cool.”

It’s taken a while and it’s not been without a fair share of struggles, bumps, mishaps, and many teachable moments, but I finally have all the things I wanted, material and otherwise. I live in the part of town I coveted all my life. I have babies. I do my own thing. And hey, without a husband, I can adopt as many dogs as I want! Beyond that though, I am finally comfortable with myself as a parent and as a human being. I’m far from perfect, but I’ve hit my stride as a mom. I know my parenting style. I know what works for the boys and me.

My perspective of “cool” has shifted drastically. My Netflix queue is full of British period dramas. I love sweatpants and staying home. I’m in a wine club and plan my vacations based on amenities for kids in the resort so I have to put real clothes on as little as possible. My life is calm and settled and revolves around my kids, my best friends, and my business. My own skin doesn’t feel like a prison. In fact even though I’ve gained about 15 pounds in the last year I feel like I look better than ever. Maybe it’s just growing up; maybe it’s that magic thing where you hit your 30s and have some peace; maybe it’s a combination of a lot of different things.

Mamas, we are just really cool. Teenage me was always searching and always wanting. 32-year-old me is typically searching for something my kids have lost, but I don’t really want a whole lot anymore. I really can’t find a lot of areas where my life is lacking. What if instead of telling people “I used to be cool,” we collectively embrace just how cool we really are. We made people. We keep those people alive and fed and clothed and out of harm’s way. We are teachers and managers and planers and we are so creative.

So yeah. I’m really freaking cool. 

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Ashley
I'm a single mama to Maddox, Walker, and Finn as well as our three dogs Charlotte, Ladybird, and Nick Carraway. The boys and I live in the Colonial Village area of South Knoxville where I run a furniture restoration business, teach voice lessons at a non- profit school, and blog for Dollywood on their Insider panel. I love summer, British period dramas, baths, cheese, Charleston SC, Biltmore, travel, wine, and books. I'm Beatles obsessed, I sleep with too many pillows, I've been known to burst into song on the regular, and I'll never pass a stray animal or abandoned piece of furniture in the road that I won't put into my car. My house is a wreck, I don't limit screen time, we eat way too much convenience food, and I'm a top contender for the World's Okayest Mom.

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