At different times over the last two years, I signed up for two, expensive, online courses with weekly live calls and assignments. There was the year-long, nature-based, psycho-spiritual ministry program, and the 6-month memoir writing class. Also in this time frame, I launched a magazine I had been dreaming about called Being Human, and asked two friends to join me.
A few months into both courses I decided to walk away.
Then, four, beautiful issues into the magazine I called “a pause.”
Initially, I wondered, what is wrong with me and why can’t I finish anything I start?
Thankfully, the frustration and self-degradation didn’t last long. Within a few days, I was back on my feet again because I’m finally starting to understand and live by these three concepts.
The first one.
I’m figuring out how to be me and this growth will take a lifetime.
Sure, the teacher’s syllabus might say we only receive certification after exactly one year. The title of the course might promise us a memoir in just 6 short months. And printing only 4 issues of a magazine, well, that feels like a flop.
But I know the real transformation, the lessons, the clarity, and the experience I gained from each of these seemingly short-lived endeavors. I will never be the same because I took part in them. I may not be able to mount a certificate in my office, hold a book in my hands, or see the magazine eventually flourish, but does it actually matter?
Success is being relentlessly devoted to my own growth. The end.
The second one.
Life is too abundant and exciting of a process to focus only on the end results as the sole reason for my passionate participation.
Life is overloaded with meaning for us to conclude we wasted our time, threw away money, and piled up regret.
The only waste of time, money, and energy is when we try to convince ourselves to stay in a particular season, calling, project, or career forever. We can be grateful for every opportunity that crosses our path. We can give ourselves a high-five for sticking with a chapter as long as we did and we can move on.
Even when we don’t know what’s next, which was true in my case, we can pivot with confidence because a directional shift in our lives equals an influx of creativity and fresh perspective.
And the third one.
Freedom is being able to see I am never stuck. There are always good and viable options awaiting me at every stage.
Life is a series of branching pathways, a tangled, thriving root system stretching into eternity, everything secretly connected to the other.
When it is time to switch lanes, turn the page, or chart a different course, the choice will be there for you. It might seem like following another tendril into the unknown makes you foolish and flakey, but I think it makes you resilient and interesting. You become someone who looks herself and life squarely in the eyes, endlessly fascinated with her mystery, and determined to keep exploring!
Have you ever tried to put a wild animal in a box? I caught a bird that got in our apartment in a shoebox. It was spastic and flailed wildly in the box to the point that I was concerned that it was going to hurt itself. That is how I feel most of the time. In a box, spastic a flailing wildly until I escape. I spent 7 years going part time and working full time getting a computer science degree that I’ve never used. I went to nursing school and quit with one clinical left. I quit a job that I had for 30 years without another to go to.
So, I understand you. I did all these things because I felt that was expected of me by the world, by my wife. A deep people pleasing that took a breakdown to break out of. I am learning to live without boxes, which, deep down, has always been my desire. I never loved myself enough to be worthy of that action though, that is until now.