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what changed you?



Recently, Bob and I were out to dinner with friends and he said that having a daughter was the best thing that could have happened to him because his mindset changed about what it's like to be a girl has changed now that he has to raise one.

It made me think about the notable moments in my life, and the events that really changed me. I can honestly say that three things impacted my life and forever changed the person I was into who I am now…

#1 Taking karate as a kid. I started taking karate when I was 12 years old and studied martial arts for eight years. I was a shy kid, and karate brought me out of my shell. It really gave me the self-confidence I needed during those awkward tween and teen years. Karate was my life and my passion, so much so that I eventually became an instructor and worked my way up to a second-degree black belt.

#2 Losing a dear friend. One of my best friends passed away in our early 20s. It was a heartbreak unlike anything I had ever felt before. I cried every day for many months and found myself in a hole of sadness unlike anything I had ever experienced. But what came out of it was a reminder that life is short, and that I needed to stop putting off things that really mattered. It made me feel ready to finally marry my boyfriend of 10 years, it made me ready to start my own business, and it made me appreciate those I love even more.

#3 Becoming a parent. Okay, so this is probably an obvious one. Everyone says that becoming a parent changes you. But for me it was about more than the extra responsibility or the joy that a child can bring you. Having a baby made me stop stressing about the small things. I spent my teen and adult years obsessing over not having a flat stomach or that my boobs were too small; now I can't remember the last time I even thought twice about that or stared at myself in the mirror, judging the person I saw in its reflection. Sure, I am still sensitive to the judgement of others and still care about what people think (I wish I didn't), but the judgement I used to place on myself has somehow disappeared like a puff of smoke. And that feels so great.

What are the events or moments that changed you?

{Photo by Bonnie Tsang}


  1. Thanks for this thought provoking post Joy…and I agree with you, having children has made me less sensitive about body image or others judgement. It’s a very healthy change!

  2. what an inspiring post. so sweet to hear about how being parents have changed your lives! for me, it’s probably choosing to move across the globe for art school. this has really forced me to make thoughtful decisions, use my time wisely and be true to my own vision. and I think it’s also what has given me the courage to try my hand at starting a business. I would probably be drifting from day to day mindlessly otherwise!

  3. Thanks for sharing these moments in your life.
    My mother passed away a several years ago and like you I was in a dark hole of sadness but coming out of it I have learned to embrace life to it’s fullest and not sweat the small stuff. You never know when life will take a turn.
    xo Quinn
    Quinn Cooper Style

  4. I would say that the loss of people you love(d) is definitely a big impact in someone’s life, that actually has been the case for me. It is a very sudden souvenir of how life is fragile and how much some people have a big part in your life but most of all have participated to make the person you are now…
    I am looking for having a kid and i’m sure that will be the start of another life and another me …
    Thanks for sharing this with us Joy !

  5. The thing that has changed me most is moving across the ocean from Canada to Italy and falling in love with a local. It has made me evaluate the culture and customs back home compared to those in Italy. There are pros and cons for both places, which is why it’s great to go home for short visits!

  6. I think that for me it’s been also becoming a parent. You learn to appreciate the little things and remember what is truly important.

  7. Aside from having my son sending my husband on three combat tours profoundly altered our world. Grateful he is home safe today. Thanks for the post, Joy.

  8. Moving overseas has forced me to become more outgoing and to become a bigger risk-taker when it comes to my career. I, too, have used this time to set–for me–outlandish goals in the hopes of achieving them. So far, so good!
    Of course, having and raising a child (and that too overseas!) has changed me in innumerable ways. I’m much more attentive the the details because I’m now seeing the world anew through her eyes.

  9. So many things have changed me, but a majority of it is growing up and all of life’s experiences. As a child, I was always shy. I still am to some degree, but my mom taught me to speak up and always ask questions if there was something I didn’t understand. Doing so has helped me excel in school, work and other places.
    I’ve also learned to be a bit more outgoing and go out and do the things that I’ve never done before or would like to do. I am more likely to talk to people unlike the past. I will try to do things I’ve never done before and am happy for doing so.
    I’ve lost a couple friendships along the way and realize that good friends are hard to come by. So I’m learning to cherish the friendships I do have.
    Lastly, there are some things I never thought I had it in me to do, but I have. As long as I push myself harder, I can do it. So I just keep trying.

  10. I think that’s really cool that you studied martial arts! Life is filled with so many things that cause us to live more, things that are sometimes hard and hurtful, but they strengthen us and help us appreciate the good. thanks for sharing and have a beautiful weekend, joy!

  11. Loved this post. Getting into the dance school of my dreams, and then deciding I didn’t want to be a dancer after three months at the school changed me as a person forever. Dance was wonderful, but also the most punishing thing I hope I’ll ever put myself through. I felt inadequate for so long, and giving it all up was incredibly liberating. Happier now than I’ve ever been 🙂

  12. What a great post Joy!
    The thing that changed me the most was when I started dating someone in college who was very passionate and committed to what he was studying. I was (and am) a classical singer but felt really lost – I didn’t really know how to connect with my art and thought maybe it was dumb to clearly care whether or not you succeeded. It may sound simple, but his drive ended up driving me to be a better musician and dedicate myself fully to what I was doing (and still do). Though he and I ended up parting ways, I still think of how he changed the direction of my life for the better!

  13. beautiful post, Joy! and I agree about becoming a mother and how it changes you in different ways – I have way more patience than I ever thought possible (especially now that I have a toddler that wants to do everything himself and moves at a snails pace!) and seeing joy in little things the way they do.

  14. Lovely post. I totally agree with you about parenthood. I was always worried about my tummy and how fat I was. Now I’ve had two boys and my tummy is more wobbly and covered in stretch marks than ever. But I’m so proud of it. Oddly though I think I’m slimmer now because I’ve stopped obsessing about and decided that I’m happy to be me – a very proud mummy who loves the body that was clever enough to make my beautiful boys.

  15. This is so refreshing and beautiful. My dad is an NFL Hall of Famer and I just so happened to fall in love with and marry an NFL player. In our last season, a nagging injury forced him to retire early and it so disgustingly shook our world. I hadn’t ever pictured a life without the predictable and strict schedule of football, and also couldn’t imagine us thinking of a new career path so early in life. This has changed me in the best way possible, reminding me it’s not our careers that define us, but how we live our lives to glorify God and bring joy to others. I hope to be as fabulous a mommy as you are one day.

  16. i think for me there are many benchmarks in my life that changed me.. but most recently i think it’s my journey with my husband in trying to become pregnant… it’s taking a bit longer than expected and the heartache month after month has really tested our patience and love for each other. there were definitely months where i broken down crying (literally after a meeting in dc, i found out i wasn’t pregnant and proceeded to break down crying at a nearby cosi), but i think it’s made me a stronger person. i thought that perhaps becoming a mom would make me stronger.. i never thought that the process in trying to become one would make me strong. wow. i can’t believe i just shared that. 🙂 thanks for the space to let it out. i haven’t talked about this online before!

  17. Facing some hard things that happened to me in the past. Once I faced them and learned how to deal with them emotionally, it changed my life in a way I can’t even describe. Getting my dog, Rufus, is another huge life changer. He’s taught me so much about myself and has brought me so much inspiration.
    Jules of Canines & Couture

  18. for me the number one thing that changed me was when my mom died of cancer. her mother died of cancer too (both my mom and i were in our late teens when our moms died), and so did her mother’s brother, while her mother’s sister survived cancer. it made me realize that even those things that you think only happen to other people can happen to you too and it’s also influenced the way i think about life and death. genetically i’m likely to get cancer some day too, and i try to live life fully so that if i do get it i won’t regret anything, and i would definitely choose to just live with it instead of going into endless nasty therapy for months which may not save me.
    other things that changed me: getting my first real job and becoming financially independent, and becoming a parent.

  19. Thanks for this lovely post!
    I was reading this amazing commencement speech by George Saunders yesterday and I found myself thinking about the same thing.
    It’s a little hard to pinpoint the exact moment that led to the change, but I think quitting my old job in finance to pursue a happier more fulfilling life has changed me. It gave me such a great sense of freedom, it made me let go of the fear of not ‘succeeding,’ and the feeling that I need to ‘compete’ with everyone to get the promotion, to get married, or to have kids. Quitting my old job and disconnecting from that world allowed me to reevaluate everything with a clear mind. Before I quit my job I felt a lot of pressure to do things at the same pace as some of my peers and that if I didn’t do something at a certain time it meant I was a ‘failure.’ I now no longer feel that pressure and I no longer feel the need to compete with others. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life but I’ve come to accept that as okay and to take things as they come.

  20. Thank you for such a beautiful post. I also took karate when I was younger and although I truly enjoyed doing it then, I didn’t realize until later how much of an impact it has had on my life. It has always help me put things into perspective as well as remind me to go after what I really want. I’m nearly finished with graduate school now and I often think about how I’d handle school/work/life if I hadn’t learned self discipline and self confidence through martial arts. I adore your blog and thank you for your daily inspiration!

  21. I absolutely love this post, Joy. It’s so important to remember these transformational moments in our lives. Nearly three years ago my husband (he was my live-in, longterm boyfriend at the time) lost both his brother and his brother’s wife in a tragic car accident. While the sadness is eternally ingrained in many moments, this loss has helped me appreciate the love in my life. It reminds me to love my husband and everyone important to me every day and, though I haven’t yet mastered it, I try to appreciate every moment I have on earth. I’ve also learned to give people a break. You have no idea what the person in line next to you is going through. The other milestone for me was finding out I was pregnant. I’m 18 weeks along now and having this itty bitty life right there with me every day has been the most amazing experience. Profound joy are the only words I can think to describe how I feel since that little pink line appeared! Who knew you could love someone so much even before you meet?
    xx, risa

  22. I’m so glad that such a tragic experience such as losing your dear friend could turn into such an uplifting and fulfilling thing in your life. It’s amazing how grief can help us move forward. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I’m so glad you gained much through the experience.

  23. What a beautiful, thought-provoking post. After some reflection I think mine are: 1) having multiple miscarriages and having my baby boy (nursing as I type). He brings remarkable joy into our loves to be sure, but the profound change has come from learning to hope, to believe and to trust in my body. I kept thinking I was weak that my bday couldn’t do it. The whole Experience from getting pregnant to having a healthy pregnancy to labor and delivery to being a mother has helped me feel empowered and more trustworthy of the body I live in and want to take care of forever. 2) doing a year of fieldwork for my dissertation in rural Mexico. Feeling like a stranger in another country has made me both appreciative and critical of living and working in the U.S. I met people who have become family who opened up their homes to me without reservation. Sharing stories of our lives has made me more compassionate and adventurous.

  24. Losing a friend is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It makes you reexamine your time and what you put time into and not into. I still think about them daily but in a positive way not so sad anymore. Sorry to hear about your loss.

  25. That’s so beautiful! You make posts that are so touching, that make me think for hours about things I have never thought before!
    I’m not entirely sure about the things that really changed me. The time I did not get into a specific university in Brazil, when I spent my entire life until then studying for that was heartbreaking. Moving to the US was one of the hardest things I had to do alone and meeting Bret… I guess those would be the things that changed me the most. I’ll spend a lot of time thinking about this this weekend.
    The picture of you is gorgeous as well. If there is one person that should never look in the mirror and worry is you, you are SO beautiful!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  26. Hi Jane,
    Thanks so much for sharing. The process of trying to get pregnant is truly one of a kind and a life-changer as well!
    Wishing you the best in your journey to grow your family!

  27. The thing that has changed my life the most is my first relationship… and realize how it feels to get hit by the person that one loves the most. During two months the abuse escalated to the point that I kept myself strict. No mistakes. No odd remarks to the conversation and so on since the hitting, kicking(and so on…) only occurred when I had ruined his temper. In another words, it was my own fault. I was the one who was to blame… at the same time as my inner core knew that I was correct, that I wasn’t mistaken. And the thing that changed my life the most, that I can feel the most proud over… is that I one day decided: “no more. If I stay any longer, I will sooner or later get killed”. So I left alone for school two days afterwards, and didn’t come back. I had set myself free from the hell, with my own hands.
    Yet at the same time… I can’t hate him. He was, is the love of my life and has changed my life in a way no one else would be capable of. To grow up a little bit more, to think more carefully… made my life turn into shades and colors. I learned how to appreciate things in life. Be grateful.

  28. Thanks for this post, Joy! I think it’s my favorite yet.
    Going to college changed me. I grew up in a rural, low income area with parents who did not complete high school and were not very focused on improving their lives financially, culturally, or spiritually. I am a very different person now.

  29. Starting a blog with my dear friend from London! I had no idea how much I missed writing and sharing with others. I finally found a community I love and a path I can be happy on.
    Also, a relationship not working out in college taught me that I can’t control everything and that I will never have the perfect life. Once I gave up those illusions, I was able to see all that was good in my life and just live it.
    Good is so much better than perfect.

  30. I often think back on watching Julia Child and Jeff Smith with my Dad. He taught me to love cooking and experiment with it. I was cooking the family dinner often by the time I was 12. Now my husband prefers my or my dad’s food over a restaurant and that fills me with such feelings of love. It’s very satisfying to have positive food memories from my childhood and to be making new ones now.

  31. I really loved reading this! There are several moments that have really changed me, but I think one that really stands out (okay, sorry this is going to sound so very cliche) was receiving my acceptance letter to Stanford, my dream school. I was a very average student in high school and knew of so many other, more qualified people who were applying, and so until I received the letter, I really underestimated myself and my abilities. When I got that fateful e-mail, there was just a huge wave of “you are more capable than you ever imagined yourself to be” – and now, I find myself being confident in my abilities so much more.

  32. What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing, Joy!
    For me, the biggest game-changer was getting ditched by my travel companion in Paris at age 19. She flew back to Canada, and I carried on without her, on my own. Travelling alone for six weeks was one of the scariest and one of the best things I’ve ever done, and has had such a huge impact on who I’ve become as a traveller and generally as an adult. I’m so grateful to have had that experience.

  33. What a thoughtful post. Thanks so much for sharing this. My grandmother used to say that you would be the same person ten years from now that you were today were it not for the books you read or experiences you seek out, the people you get to know, and the things life throws your way. I’m with her on that. It’s empowering when I realize that the first two in that list are things I choose. Even with the last item on that list, I still get to choose how I respond to it.
    My three life-changers are pretty easy:
    1) Surviving a house fire and severe burns as a child. A brush with death young changes your perspective, helps you see what’s important early on and not be blinded by the inanities around you. The poor treatment you receive from some who don’t understand and the overwhelming love you receive from others draws some very clear lines in the sand.
    2) Traveling the world in my early adulthood. I love people: their traditions, their habits, the things they’re passionate about. I love do normal everyday things with friends in other countries or states: going to the movies or to the grocery store in the US is quite different than going in Burma or Germany or Vietnam or Sweden.
    3) Living as a young person with a life-threatening disease with no known cure. The ability to make plans for the future and still be flexible as changes come is crucial. Knowing everything could be taken away in short order – or that I could still have 50 years left – means that the present is palpable and real in a way it never was for me before. Makes me love the family and friends around me more, value “success” (whatever that is) a lot less, and makes me seek out joy wherever I can find it. Thankfully, there are good things all around, if only we take the time to find them.

  34. A beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. I would say finally leaving a safe, steady job to follow my life-long passion of psychology changed me. I became a student again, was poor, and struggled to get people to recognise that my previous skills were valid in my new profession. I’m now in a job I love, helping kids and I feel like those lean, hard years shaped me into a better, more tolerant person.

  35. i love this! so real. life is about these moments that define you. for me, it’s def studying abroad to london. i grew up during that trip. i learned how strong i can be and also that there is an entire world out there waiting to be discovered! this trip ultimately led me to meeting the love of my life. meeting mr. shugar has changed my life forever. without him, i would still be a wanderer.
    thanks for such a lovely blog…always!

  36. Joy- thanks for this post. Moments that have defined me. Losing my father suddenly at a young age really turned me into an adult. As the only child of a single man, I had to take care of all of his arrangements myself. It taught me about self-reliance and about moving forward even when you feel like you can’t. About finding inner strength that you never knew you had. About forgiveness and letting go. About the meaning of family. Having multiple miscarriages and then finally becoming a parent has been HUGE. Losing so many babies taught me to appreciate the small things and that joys can be fleeting, so it’s best to live in the moment. I experienced gut wrenching grief for the first time in my life, it was an entirely different grief from losing a parent. It taught me the real meaning of friendship and revealed even more what wonderful friends I have as well as exposing some relationships that needed to be let go. Becoming a mother just totally cracked open my entire universe. I have never loved a human being like I love my son. And that kind of love is simply transformative. The amazing travel that I’ve been able to do all over the world has really opened my eyes and heart to all the amazing diversity and possibilities that exist. That there is no right way or wrong way to live, that things we take for granted here in a first world nation are extreme luxuries to others, that people are so beautiful.

  37. Doing a year of service on the east coast. I met my husband and other life-long friends, and I solidified the values that would shape the way I live the rest of my life.
    P.S. I love these posts for the opportunity for reflection and the chance to read all the wonderful comments!

  38. what your husband said that having a daughter was the best thing that could have happened to him because his mindset changed about what it’s like to be a girl has changed now that he has to raise one.
    that is the sweetest i have ever heard from a guy say about a girl!
    things that have changed my life forever are:
    1. losing my closest cousin whom was 15 years old at the time
    2. seeing my mother go through surgeries after surgeries since childhood, i feel helpless and i wish i can do something to make her healthy, stronger and happier
    3. seeing my beloved family members hurting each other, again all i could do is not get involved
    these are the things out of my control and it stays with me forever

  39. Joy, I love your blog along with the thousands of other people, but I savor these posts where you are so giving of yourself, so transparent, and just doing a great job as a blogger to invite us readers in with the hope to encourage, uplift, and challenge ourselves. I want to sit on this question for the next couple of days especially considering I’m due to have my first baby this Monday. I mean…MONDAY! I still can’t believe it. But I’m excited to think about this question and really evaluate what trials, tribulations and triumphs God has brought into my life to truly shape me. Grateful for this post.

  40. Thanks so much Vivien! That really means a lot. As much as I love all the pretty things I want to share with my readers, I also really love interacting and hearing from you in this way too. So, Im glad to hear you enjoy them 😉
    Best of luck to YOU and the amazing journey due to you any day now!!

  41. Losing someone close to you is a painful game changer…I lost my father when I was nine and it taught me the same. I know not to take those I love for granted.
    Meeting the guy I’m about to marry tops the list. Also meeting my best friend/soul mate gal pal.
    Moving to Cali to pursue acting also changed me considerably. There’s just something about ignoring your fears for the greater good that reminds you during the hard times that you’re capable of doing anything you set your mind to.

  42. this is really a thoughtful and inspiring post.
    at first when I considered this question I couldn’t think of anything. but the two things I can think of are both sad, I’ll definitely be pondering this for a while.


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