Do you remember in high school when things were black and white? You knew when you graduated high school you were either going to college or getting a job. You had your life planned.
Then in college you might have had a fuzzy period where you changed your major a few times, but eventually found that career path. You finally found that job, that spouse, and you were on your way to finishing your life plan…you know… the 2.5 kids, house, dog, retirement, traveling, followed by the tombstone engraved with beloved wife and mother.
Maybe that isn’t how you envisioned it, but it is what I envisioned. I had a linear idea of life. It was simplistic- too simplistic and naïve.
Strangely, I knew that I wanted to be a physical therapist by the time I was 12-years-old and my mind never deviated from that path. I considered myself fortunate to know my calling so young. It never dawned on me that I might have multiple callings or different callings in different seasons of my life.
In the past year and half I have had some pivotal moments that have changed the trajectory of my life, but more than changing paths it has deepened and enriched the meaning of my path. It is a strange, out-of-body type of experience, to watch yourself mature. I realize how young I have been and I realize I still have a long way to go, but I am thankful for the new richness I have found.
Having a Baby
They say having children changes everything. I always assumed they were talking about responsibilities: bedtime routines, shift of financial resources, etc. I didn’t realize it would change my perspective of time and shift my values so drastically.
As a newly wed, 12 short years ago, I proudly announced to my husband that I wanted a career and if he wanted a parent to stay home it would be him. Looking back, I am one, surprised at the patience and calm my husband has always exhibited, and two, marvel at how much I have changed.
When my son was born my view of time changed. It dawned on me that life is full of trades; when I say yes to something I must say no to something else. Up to now, working long hours was not an issue. My husband and I would work together and our work created avenues to travel. It was enlightening and fun. I didn’t feel a sacrifice when I said yes to work. But there is something about watching your baby grow that makes you realize time is fleeting.
Suddenly, it was different. I quickly realized the sacrifice I was making when I dropped my infant off in the dusk of the morning and arrived home to him already asleep. I realized this season would be shorter than I had hoped and spending the time commuting was not what I wanted.
Meeting Pivotal People
We all have had pivotal people in our lives. Sometimes they are people we have known many years and sometimes they are people that enter for a moment. This particular person was my interviewer. He asked me a general question about my strengths and weaknesses. He then summarized my comments to make notes by saying, “so you are a good organizer that can’t prioritize.”
A light bulb went off in my head, “I am a yes man”.
I guess I should have known this about myself, but I sat there shocked. I knew at that moment I needed to learn to prioritize what was most important in my life and stop letting my time be used whichever way the wind blew. I needed to make more changes than just my commute.
Have you heard the quote about listening to your heart for it has some way of already knowing who you should be? I love that quote. I believe that God created us all uniquely and that voice in your heart is the Holy Spirit directing you. Suddenly, I realized that God had been stirring my heart on a new adventure, one I didn’t see coming.
Making Hard Choices
Shortly after transitioning from the clinic to working at home I began conquering my dissertation for my doctorate of science. I was proud of what I was accomplishing. I was fascinated with what I was learning. However, four months in I realized I had not seen my baby much more than when I was working across town.
I still had 1-2 years left to complete the dissertation process. I knew I was more than capable. I had begun to transition my days to see my baby more and stay up nights to work on the paper. I was captain of my life. I was making my goals a priority. I was conquering it all…or so I thought.
One late night as I hit the pillow at 4 AM my heart echoed a question so loud it altered my path. “Why are you working so hard?” I started coming up with answers, but none seemed to satisfy the question. For some time I was finishing the degree out of indecision, obligation or maybe fear of regret. I had already changed career paths, but I couldn’t decide if I should quit the doctorate. What if I wanted to go back to that career? My heart knew I would love to be more present in my days with my son. More awake for my husband. My heart ached for a second child, but I couldn’t find time to add that addition. I loved the school, but it didn’t seem to fit where I was headed. I was faced with a very hard decision.
I have since learned hard decisions are what make you the author of your life. It is what treads your path. I felt resolved it was time to let school go. I realized that I could do anything, but this time I could not do everything. I could finish school and my family would support me. But I couldn’t add another baby, or be as mentally present with my son. I had to choose.
Fear gripped me. My heart was resolved that quitting school was what I wanted. However, I felt the pressure of public approval. I was terrified I would regret my decision. I was afraid I would lose who I was. I had to wrestle with the concept that my identity was not what I did for a living. How would I explain to my mom, to my professor, to the dean of the school, to myself that after 7 years of hard work that I am done?
It wasn’t easy. I had several tell me I would regret it. The dean warned me I would become a mere statistic. I wondered if that was true. I had others support me and love me either way I chose. The hardest part was it was my choice to make and no one else could make it for me.
I heard a TED talk explain hard choices are hard because they are two good choices. The only thing that makes one choice better than the other is what you value more. And the choices you make become your story.
So as I start the next chapter in my book of life, my path is traveling an unpredicted curve. You never would have convinced 18-year-old me that I would willingly move out of a career I love and a degree I dreamed of with such calm. I also never would have believed I could be more fulfilled than I was 2 years ago. As I continue to grow I am in awe that God has given me the gift of being the author of my own life while lovingly coaching me through it. I am gaining perspective in how my story should read. I realize that my life may have many more unpredicted curves, more hard choices, but the curved roads make the most scenic routes. I have been gifted the ability to be the author of my life and I do believe it will be a masterpiece not even I dreamed possible.