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Outgrowing Past Versions Of Yourself

And why that's perfectly acceptable.

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When I was in my late 20s/early 30s … I was quite the social butterfly.

I went out almost every single Friday and Saturday night, always to the hottest spots in Nashville. I was very much a part of the “it crowd.” I even belonged to a swanky members-only club. I wore stilettos to work every day and out on the town every night without batting an eye. There were nights when I wouldn’t even make it to bed but then I would still power through an eight-hour work day the next day with nary a yawn. I was never a drinker or crazy partier, I just loved the social scene and going out with my girlfriends and I was truly living my best life. I couldn’t foresee or even imagine a time when that wouldn’t be the case.

It’s amazing how things change.

Over the past couple of weekends, I’ve been out twice with my girlfriends, which is a rarity for me these days. Two weekends ago, we went salsa dancing, and I wore my highest, sassiest stilettos for the occasion. After an hour, I was ready to take my heels and toss them in the trash, except my feet were screaming so loudly in pain, I was fearful when I removed my shoes, I would have nothing but bloody stumps left. By midnight, I was yawning and ready for bed. (Back in my heyday we didn’t even go out until around 11:30 p.m.) After wrangling my girlfriends, I limped pitifully to the car, mentally reassuring myself “Oh, I just didn’t get much sleep last night, that’s why I can’t hang tonight” because the thought that my life has changed so drastically in a decade that I was defeated by a dance floor and a pair of stilettos was just unacceptable to me. That couldn’t be it! There’s not a dance floor in the city of Nashville I couldn’t conquer. (At least that’s what I told myself.)

This past weekend, we went out for a girlfriend’s birthday, and this time I wisely wore sandals instead of heels. Downtown Nashville was crawling with people due to a Predators game and the usual “woo-ing” of bachelorette parties permeated every street corner. It was sheer pandemonium, and we spent more time in the car fighting traffic than we did actually hanging out. By the time we got to our second destination to see a band, we were so late getting there, we only got to hear two songs. Was I upset about this? No. I was already mentally planning out my Netflix line-up once I got home. Once again, I assured myself that it wasn’t that I couldn’t hang anyore … it was just too chaotic downtown for my personal preference. But you know what I’ve realized after reflecting on my last two weekends out on the town?

I can’t hang anymore.

And you know what else I’ve realized?

That’s okay.

For a long time, perhaps because I’m still single and haven’t really moved into the “husband and kids” phase of my life, I thought admitting that my tastes have changed and that I don’t enjoy the things that I used to enjoy the same way I used to enjoy them made me lame. Or boring. I thought that surrendering my penchant for the nightlife and for dancing all night with my girlfriends meant surrendering my youth. I never wanted to be like a lot of the girls I graduated from high school with … the ones who have all been married and having Tupperware parties for the past 20 years. I wanted to be footloose and fancy free and forever 21. Admitting that I’ve grown up and evolved past my 20- and even 30-something self felt to me like admitting defeat.

But Forever 21 is just a store, and I’m not 21 or even 31 … I’m 40. And don’t get me wrong, I still LOVED being around my girlfriends the past two weekends. I love to dance and especially to salsa dance. I just would have been happy to salsa dance for an hour or two and be home in bed by midnight. And I was honored to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday last weekend. I just would have been happy to do dinner and skip the traffic and the show and be home in bed by midnight. I haven’t changed THAT drastically … but I have changed … and it’s time to let myself. It’s okay if I don’t have the tolerance to sashay around in high heels for hours on end anymore. I can wear sandals and look just as cute. And it’s okay if I need to call it a night at 10 p.m. I can have just as much fun in the time that I am there with my girlfriends, even if I excuse myself a little early. It’s OKAY to be this version of Mandy … the version that prefers movie nights at home instead of checking out the latest hotspot and coffee shops over nightclubs. And this Mandy may not make the same choices and like the same things that THAT Mandy did, and that’s okay.

If you’re in a new season or a new chapter of life and you’re having a hard time adjusting to or accepting this new and different version of you, I want to encourage you to go a little easier on yourself. You’re not the 20-something or even 30-something or maybe even 40-something that you once were … but guess what? You’re the person that you at 20 and at 30 and at 40 fought really hard to become. And it’s ENOUGH. We are allowed to outgrow people in this life, and that includes outgrowing past versions of ourselves. You wouldn’t try to force a stiletto that didn’t fit (or a sandal … HA!) so why try and force a LIFE that no longer fits? Own where you are and who you are in this moment, because she’s pretty awesome. Without those previous versions of you, you would have never gotten to the here and now version of you. And every past version of you was exactly who and what you needed to be at that moment, but those moments have passed. It’s okay to let them go.

Because at the end of the day, you can walk tall in ANY shoes as long as you love and embrace every version of you.