On NOT Succeeding
Over the years I've spent a lot of time dwelling on the fact that my husband and I haven't "made it" yet. We got married when we were barely in our twenties and have been busy ever since, but have yet to reach some of the milestones we set for ourselves. To be sure, we've done some incredible things and I'm intensely proud of 'em, but we still have a ways to go. I used to lament what I felt was our lack of progress, but this morning, as I was dropping my son off at preschool, I realized there are some perks to being a bit unsettled:
1. The longer the wait, the more clear the vision
Before the children came along, when I was a college student and my husband was trying to get his recording studio off the ground, our future seemed to go in a million different directions, depending on my/our moods. Some days, we dreamed of living above the studio building and enjoying life on the beach; other times, we thought about the suburbs and how nice it would be walk our kids to school and have barbecues with our neighbors. In other more idiosyncratic moments, we talked about traveling around in an RV, making a permanent home on wheels. Truly ambitious discussions led us to daydream about living abroad, surrounded by a myriad of cultures and, ancient art and history. The possibilities were endless. As time has gone on, we’ve been able to glean which of those scenarios that best fit us; thus some ideas have fallen by the wayside (living atop the recording studio), while others have remained and will become a part of our family narrative (Europe with the kids and later, the RV as retirees).
Now that we are in our early thirties, with almost a decade of marriage and two beautiful boys under our belts, we are simply smarter and more experienced than we used to be. We know more about who we are as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. Many of things that mattered so much when we were younger are no longer necessities. We have a much better idea of what's truly important and reflects the beliefs we hold as a unit. I used to compare myself to so many other people and I tried so hard to incorporate what worked for them into our lives, and nine times out of ten, I failed. After discussing my thoughts—at length, always at length—my husband and I finally came to this conclusion:
Our home, rented or owned, will be a place filled with love and respect, and we desire to live simply and authentically, with a focus on creating lasting experiences rather than acquiring things.
3. Past mistakes lead to growth
It has taken me years to understand the beauty and importance of failure and the character that it builds. I’ve always wanted everything just so, and when it wasn’t, I fell apart and/or quit whatever I was working on. Now I realize that was simply a way for me to avoid the work that comes before success. I wanted to stay comfortable and save face, rather than jumping out there and possibly most likely looking foolish. I refused to see the bigger picture, which was one cannot develop without some element of risk because there are no sure things. Now I humbly embrace the bumps and bruises as reminders of how far we’ve come as well as what not to do in the days ahead. The mistakes of others have also served me well. Seeking wisdom from people who have been through hard times is a treasure trove of information.
Yep, that's me taking a tumble while sledding.
We are hungry for our vision of success. Every day, we wake up ready to get one step closer to the life God meant for us to live, and it’s truly inspiring. Of course, I have days when it all feels like too much and I doubt myself, but I don’t dwell on those feelings. The fact of the matter is that many of the people who have “made it” aren’t extraordinary; they simply worked hard and never gave up.
I am surrounded by people in my boat, people “on the verge”—working hard, going to school, pursuing their passions, making connections, with blessings on the horizon—and I love it. It is incredibly inspiring and it keeps me focused on the unique gifts I can bring to this world. It’s hard to identify with someone who is no longer struggling because all we can see are the enviable fruits of their success, which can be a bit distracting. However, when you witness firsthand some of the blood, sweat, and tears people have put into that goal, it not only makes you root for them, but makes whatever you’re working toward seem that much more attainable.
Yes, struggling is difficult. There are times when true prosperity seems so far in the distance, it makes more sense to just quit. Those are the moments when I choose to dig in. I keep on writing, or singing, and praising Him. I give my husband a kiss, hug my children tight, and focus on living the life He died for me to have.
Now, it’s your turn! What have you learned by not making it? And for those of you who are exactly where you want to be, what do you wish you’d known?