I spent the day being interviewed on camera a few weeks back. It was exhausting — thinking deeply about things, answering questions coherently and attempting to limit the number of “ums” I used. It was also wonderful to meet new people, share a meal with them and say our “thankfuls” around the table. The last question they asked me was the hardest to answer.
“What do you want from the future?” the interviewer asked me as she knelt in the feed alley and I stood next to the headlocks, trying to ignore the camera aimed at me. Before I tell you how I chose to answer her, I thought I would conduct a mock interview with myself about the past.
What advice would I give my 5-year-old self?
Eat more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because the peanut butter will cause you heartburn when you are older. Enjoy those crinkle-cut carrots; the effort that goes into cutting them makes them taste better. Watch more “Sesame Street” and “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.” Try harder to memorize all the songs Mrs. Connie teaches you so that you have them filed away for your own kids. Don’t argue about naptime; there will be far too many days in your life during which you will wish desperately for one. Be a good sibling; sending your 3-year-old sister down the hill on a sled by herself is not a great decision, and she will never let you forget. Soak up all of the mom-time you can get because there are more siblings to come.
What advice would I give my 15-year-old self?
Attempt to be friends with everyone. Sticking to cliques is overrated. Do not spend so much time and energy trying to fit in with those who are fake — only put effort into genuine friendships. You may not understand what that truly means for years, so be patient with yourself. It might be all right to be more involved in school. I know you love your cows, but they will still be there for you. High school is a small chapter in your book of life, and it definitely will not be your favorite one, but just grin and bear it. Fighting with your parents is part of life, but listen more so that, when you have kids, you will know all the best lines. Use your own brain.
What advice would I give my 25-year-old self?
You married a man who is your best friend — you are a lucky woman. Remember that. Be proud of being a farmer. It is a real career, a lifestyle, and you can own that and stand up straight. Speaking of standing up straight, have good posture. You feel and look more confident when you stand up straight. Absorb all the mothering advice you can glean from your mom because where she’s headed in the next 10 years will have no cell service to reach her for answers. Appreciate your grandparents; they are pretty awesome. Listen to stories from people of all ages; everyone has a tale to tell, and we all love to know someone cares enough to listen.
What advice would I give my 30-year-old self?
Friends of all ages are the best; make more of them. The older the better. They are the most blunt, most wise and most hilarious. Embrace experiences; you are not too old yet — stop aging yourself. You will lose important people in your world in this decade; keep carrying that real camera around and driving your family crazy with the amount of pictures you snap. If you feel like hugging someone, do it. The world needs more hugs. Use your “teacher brain” to do amazing things. Don’t doubt yourself so much. Get your body in shape; it has to carry two more babies. Learn how to make homemade bread sooner than later because it is as therapeutic as it is delicious. Say “I love you” more to your close friends and your family, but only if you mean it.
What advice would I give my 40-year-old self?
Embrace your uniqueness, as cheesy as it sounds. Weed out the people in your world who make you feel guilty for being yourself. Be blunt. Be funny. Be honest. There is a shortage of real honesty in the world; be one of the people brave enough to share it. Get cozy in your skin. This is the suit you will have the rest of your life, minus a few parts in the next few years. Overall, it is a tough outfit you were blessed with; appreciate its strength. Say yes when you feel it in your gut; say no when that inner voice so much as whispers it at you. Find a way to laugh at life’s inconvenient moments — before you yell and feel your blood boil. Patience is a virtue you do not possess a lot of; continue to do your best. The next years will test your strength and resolve in many ways. You get to choose how to write your life’s story — do not forget that. Keep moving.
What exactly do I want for my future?
I want to be me. It sounds cliché, perhaps, but I truly do. I want to simply be the girl who smiles when she cuts carrots into crinkles, knowing that all the kids love them as much as I do. I want to eat that occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich while wishing I could sit and watch “Sesame Street.” I want to say yes to adventures without hesitation and no when it feels warranted. I want to be the me that all her life experiences have formed her into. I want to make the world a brighter place every day.
Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.
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