Katie Holmes has a three-part mantra these days.
"I don't have any fear now, I don't have a lot of rules for myself, and I don't take myself that seriously," she tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's cover story.
And when it comes to her career, "I feel ready for new challenges," she says.
The star, 35, is poised to reprise her role as Jackie Kennedy and appears against type as a vigilante school teacher in the new black comedy Miss Meadows (out Nov. 14).
And Holmes will soon go behind the camera for her feature directorial debut.
Yes, her 2012 divorce from Tom Cruise made headlines around the world, but Holmes has long since moved on.
"I don't want that moment in my life to define me, to be who I am," she says of her post-split persona. "I don't want that to be what I'm known as. I was an actor before, an actor during and an actor now."
She is also a mom, and life with her 8-year-old daughter Suri "means everything to me," she says. "I'm learning every day, and I have been since the minute I became a mom."
Part of that learning curve is accepting that things don't always go smoothly at home, she admits.
"My patience has grown, but between 4 and 6 p.m. . . . I mean, wow," she says. "Between tickle fights and glitter art, I try to throw in some manners along the way."
For much more on Katie Holmes, including her feelings about falling in love again, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday