I recently ran into someone who had been an acquaintance in high school. As we were talking I said, “I used to be Nicole Gaggini.” It was a simple enough comment but afterwards it kept coming back to me. “I USED to be Nicole Gaggini.” Used to be? Wasn’t I the same person now? Sure it was 17 years ago, and alot has changed, but am I really that different? I guess that I look the same, with the exception of a few more pounds, some wrinkles and the occasional gray hair. (Ok, so maybe a teeny bit more frequent than occasional, but you get it.) But it doesn’t matter what the outside looks like, the inside is the important part. Is that the same? The answer is an unequivocal NO. No, I am not the same person that I was 17 years ago. In high school I was so sure that I knew exactly what my future held. I was going to go to college and meet the perfect man, and get outstanding grades so that I would land an amazing job. I was going to have a “career.” I was going to get married, and work for a while and have a few kids after I turned thirty. I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but that was after I had conquered an amazing career. I would have a huge house and spend my days playing with my exceptional children. Was there anything wrong with my perfect future? Nope, nothing except that it doesn’t even come close to the amazing life that God actually had planned for me.
Did I go to college? Yes. Did I get the outstanding grades that I was sure that I would get? Nope, not even close. In high school, I never had to study. I got straight A’s and graduated 10th in my class. In college, I had my butt handed to me after the first few weeks. I didn’t know how to study. While I was trying to teach myself study habits, I was also trying to keep one nostril above water and not drown in bad grades. I managed to graduate with respectable grades, but it took all four years of college, working hard, to undo the damage that my first semester did to my grades.
Did I meet the perfect man? Again, a resounding NO. I met a nice guy and we dated for a long time. I was sure that we were going to get married and this piece of the puzzle was falling into place. WRONG! But looking back, I wouldn’t change it. I learned how to be in a relationship…actually that’s not true. I learned how NOT to be in a relationship. The way that I was in that relationship was not the way that I wanted to be. I was so immature and bratty. When we fought, I said horrible things to him and vice-versa. That isn’t how I wanted to be and that’s not how I wanted to be treated. That’s not how I deserved to be treated, but honestly he didn’t deserve to be treated that way either. I learned how to fight fair, so that when I did finally meet my husband, I treated him with respect and I expect him to treat me the same way. And you know what, he does. He not only respects me, but he cherishes me. I didn’t marry a perfect man, but I married the perfect man for me. For that I thank God everyday.
Did I land an amazing job? No, but I had a decent job and was able to support myself. I had a cute little apartment and I had a car. I was officially a “grownup.” And while I didn’t love my job, I was pretty good at it. It gave me the opportunity to know that I could take care of myself if I had to. In the end it made me respect and appreciate my husband even more, for working so hard to allow me to stay at home with our children. Wow, what a major weight he carries out of love for us. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it. It is a huge gift that he gives us that goes under-appreciated far too often.
Did I get married and have a few exceptional children that I play with in a huge house? Well, yes, I did get married and I had children…(definitely more than a few!) and we have a house that I love. It is certainly not huge and it is definitely lived in. But more importantly it is definitely LOVED in. There is artwork on the walls, (of the crayon/sharpie variety). There are hardwood floors, unfortunately it’s the wood that you see where the carpet has been ripped up from our psychotic dog. We have cardboard temporarily covering the window in the living room, thanks to an overenthusiastic toddler who put his head through the glass while jumping on the couch. (Don’t worry, he’s fine.) But it is our house. It is the house with the beautiful flower gardens that my husband has carefully tended making our yard a place of beauty that we love to enjoy. It is the house that my husband and I are, hand-in-hand, growing our little family. It is the house that is protected by a slew of guardian angels that keep us all safe. It is the house that God is gently cradling in His almighty hand.
Do I spend my days playing with my perfect and exceptional children? If by playing, you mean doing their laundry and cooking their meals and let’s not forget driving their butts around to nine trillion sports practices and doctor’s appointments, then absolutely. My career, if you want to call it that, is taking care of these little souls that God has entrusted to my husband and I. It is exhausting and frustrating and unappreciated and wonderful and exceedingly rewarding all at the same time.
Are my children perfect? No way, but there are definitely exceptional. Yes, they are incredibly smart and cute/pretty/handsome. They are all of these things. But more importantly, they are kind human beings. They love their faith and they love each other. We have had challenges, with nine kids, you can only imagine the challenges. But we have gotten through them. We have had broken bones and stitches. We have been on lock down from a stomach virus for weeks. We have had surgeries and ER trips. Heck, we have stared down cancer and won! (Thank God!) I know that there are many battles to come. But I also know that hand-in-hand-in- hand-in hand…etc. we can get through it. It’s not always easy, but it’s always possible. That is because at the center of family, at the center of our home we try to keep the focus on what is truly important, God from whom it all came.
So am I still the same girl that I was 17 years ago? Nope, I’m the vintage version of that girl. A little wiser, a little grayer and alot happier.