This day signified the end of my official schooling. It was the completion of 13 years of public schooling, 3 and a half years of undergrad study, and finally 2 years of postgrad study. The majority of my life has been spent as a student, and on this day as much as I was keen to get away from essays and 8am lectures, I was also a little nervous about doing life no longer as a student. Study was my norm, I seemed to be pretty good at it, and it always provided me a pretty clear direction and goal to work towards. While the nerves about the unknown were lingering, something powerful was exciting me, and that was the reality of the upcoming break that was coming my way. Only a few days later Josh and I headed to the States for a few weeks to visit my family – for Josh’s first America trip! This trip had been booked for quite some time, and I was totally psyched for it, but it was actually the break time that followed the trip that made both the trip and life seem even sweeter. It is now 4 months since that trip and I’m sitting at my desk, 4:30 in the afternoon, and I’ve spent half the day reading and cleaning, and the other half watching a 10 month old try to navigate her lunch and the art of crawling. Today was not an anticipated day off from my usual 9-5 grind, but is my current usual. And writing about it I feel no guilt, no shame, but only genuine content and confidence in what I’m doing with myself. Although, it hasn’t always been this way. Since the new year began I’ve had many people ask me what I’m doing, and before I can even answer they add, “Are you working? Has it been hard to find work?” Well to be completely honest, I haven’t even been looking. What I have been doing is putting my time and energy into number forty five… take a break and be okay about it.
It was pretty early into my last year of study that I decided I would be taking a break after graduation instead of jumping straight into the workforce. I felt that the year that had just gone had been a little more than I could handle alongside the pressures of study and life in general. I had been in my first year of marriage, adjusting to my first move out of home, figuring out my roles and responsibilities as a wife and independent adult, taking on new leadership roles at church, settling into a new ward, dealing with the physical recovery of my first ever surgery and the heartache and pain of an unexpected ectopic pregnancy, all the while trying to figure out this post grad degree, constantly debating whether I should drop out. Interestingly enough, the year that followed was the same difficulty in new-not-fun forms.
For quite sometime I had the first half of number forty five squared away. I was taking a break, but being okay about it was something totally separate and not exactly existent. Only 3 weeks out of uni and Josh was blessed with full-time work which really alleviated any need for me to work. Josh and I talked about how I was going to spend this year and he supported the feelings I had about taking time off. I felt super confident that I was doing what was right for me, for this time in my life. It didn’t take me long to realise that that confidence was only evident at home. I was stuck in feeling the need to please people and fit into the idea of how I was ‘supposed’ to be living life. My first responses when in conversations about my current situation would start with, “Well, I am working at YPT – young people’s theatre – teaching Drama on Saturdays.” Step one: Validate your worth by asserting the fact that you are working and are ‘good enough’ to be hired. “I’m just taking a breather and jumping back into proper work in term two.” Step two: Completely explain your reasoning to others because you have ambition and direction and you don’t want people to think you’re a slacker. “Otherwise, I’m not really doing all that much. Nothing really.” Step three: Minimize everything else you are doing with your time because none of it is as valid as working.
Those three steps were exactly what I had been doing, and the saddest thing is the whole thing was just a mind game I was playing with myself. I had no way of controlling what people thought or any way to know what they were thinking beyond what they told me. I needed to get outside of the trap of trying to please what I thought people expected of me. My beautiful sister in law Alyce (who, with her husband, has just started up a new business – inov8 life) gave me two books for my birthday. I started reading one of them and it has been just what I need in my life right now! I know my values and my unique strengths, and one of those strengths is understanding my limitations and needs. What I needed help focusing on was outlined in that book, “Set your own path. Keep moving in the directions of your dreams, regardless of what other people think.” It was time for me to become comfortable with my confidence in what I was doing for myself.
Earlier this week I was scrolling Facebook and a song popped up on my feed and it hit me to the core. It has been a while since a song has spoken so specifically to me, but this one did and it is really what set the fire to write this post. I don’t know exactly what my future will look like, but I know there are challenges in it. Josh and I are at the point of life where people consider having kids or start having kids, consider buying a house or actually are able to and do buy a house. These two topics are currently the most talked about topics in our household and I think its because we feel a bit like we have little control over making either of them a reality. We knew from the beginning of our relationship that with Josh having Huntington’s Disease life would bring us a number of difficult trials. With each passing year and failed pregnancy there exists an element of fear about how it might affect the number of children we’ll be able to have. The eventuality of Josh becoming symptomatic increases the reality that one day I’ll be the main income earner, and more than likely that the dream of ever owning our own home may always be a dream. I said before that I don’t know what my future holds. None of us do. But I do know that what I do right now, matters for that future. I need to have this time.
Its time to take back my life, prove to myself – and only myself – that I am okay, and that I will be okay with whatever life throws at me! It’s not always easy. One of the things I’m currently struggling to do is to not compare my life’s journey to others. I think it’s one of the hardest things to do because we’re almost programmed to monitor our progress against someone else’s. The reality is there is no measuring stick that says once we reach ‘this point’ everybody should be at the same place. It doesn’t work like that. I’m finding that I can’t even compare my present self to my past self because when life chucks fast balls at you it can get destructive. I keep trying to find my way back to that girl I thought was so strong and healthy and seemingly invincible. But she didn’t go through what I’ve been through so looking back at something while I’m trying to move forward just hasn’t worked. I’m letting go of that girl and trying to discover that future self that I can’t currently see, who is even stronger and wiser and happier. And I’m starting that by being honest with myself, even when others ask. It was about two weeks ago that I gave someone my most honest answer about what I’m doing with my time and it felt great! “I’m taking some time off, chilling out and it is amazing!” I no longer minimize what I’m doing with my time, but instead get excited when I can share it with others. I love the time that I have, and the greater freedom I currently feel to do what will help refresh and prepare me for the next stage of my life. They say ‘haters gonna hate’ and they might. Everyone is entitled to have an opinion, and mine is that I know what I need, whether anyone else agrees. And above all, I have great faith that my Heavenly Father knows my life best, and I’m trying to continually check in with him. This time off won’t be my life forever. The more I embrace this time the readier I feel to leave it, but if you do care to know what I’m up to these days while I’m still at it, just ask. I promise not to say “Nothing really”.