My heart and my head are in a constant battle. Do you feel it? In a world of conflicting messages, ideals, needs, wants and (many times unwarranted) opinions about what you are doing, it is not always the most gentle place to be in. The place of uncertainty. The place of deciding if you want money or happiness, companionship or independence, a sense of settled or a sense of being uprooted, children or sanity, grad school or…not debt…, americano or chai tea, an apartment or a house van, paper or plastic, blue or pink. Where do you want to live? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be?
I wish that I could say that my return from Peace Corps was one of the streamlined “success” stories. You know the ones, right? Jane returned from Peace Corps, sent in her single application to her dream government job, GOT THE INTERVIEW (!!!!! she didn’t even think she was qualified !!!!) . The interviewer immediately asked her about her Peace Corps experience…and guess what? The interviewer was ALSO a returned Peace Corps Volunteer! She was chosen over 10,000 applicants, landed her dream job, lives in a loft apartment- you know the ones I am talking about from the movies that when you were young thought ‘I, too, will live in this small apartment with gigantic windows overlooking the vastness of the city one day as I am struggling to be something in my early 20s’. Then you found out that said apartment is actually 1 million dollars in real life and you still don’t know who you are and you are now 24 living back at home and enjoying every single home cooked meal…I digress.- In the end, Jane is the ‘Peace Corps Success Story’. If this is you to some extent, I am not trying to make a mockery of you. Seriously, congratulations. The point of this whole facetious tale is to let you know that I am not Jane.
Don’t worry, though! I am alright with not being Jane, because one thing (out of many many things) that Peace Corps taught me is that, I don’t really think I want to go down that path right now. Or maybe ever? I am not sure. Oh…and the hiring freeze when I returned home also confirmed the fact that maybe a government job was not in my best interest at this very moment. I like to call those moments “door closing moments”.
Honestly, I am always looking for those door closing moments. They make my decisions easier, and they allow me to have a sense of peace that, “Hey, this didn’t work out now now and wasn’t supposed to work out now now, so I’ll do something else that may make me 100 times happier. Or not? Who knows? But ima try.”
I really did think that I was supposed to take that rout. When I got home, however, it was so clear that it wasn’t what I wanted. What the h*** do I want?
I want winter. I want to see the leaves change and die and freeze and be reborn. I want education. I want to learn new things. I want nature and hikes and long meandering runs through the woods. I want concerts and picnics and friendships. I want to not keep up with the Jones’ but be in a space where I am useful and my heart is full of a sense of purpose. I want family. I want to be near them in the ups and the downs. I want to have time to cook. I want tattoos and slow days, sometimes, and chocolate cake and time to journal and breathe. I want a church. I want to help others be calm too. I want to focus on not becoming the best, most rich, most successful version of me, but rather a kind and purposeful human being. I want to practice contentment.
Woah. Contentment. Is it as hard for you as it is for me? Every single day. Every day, I have to actively remind myself to be content. To be in the here and now. To remember my blessings and to accept my hurts. I used to get down on myself for not being more naturally content (whatever that means), but, if you are like me, give yourself some grace! We live in a society of discontentment! It is literally shoved down our throats every day. It is an infection in our minds. A disease of our hearts. You know when I am most discontent? When someone unintentionally tells me to be.
EXAMPLE #1. I am working a job right now that I really enjoy and pays just ok. It is enough for me in this moment, and it is meaningful work. People ask me ALL THE TIME, “Well, Stephanie, now that you are back, what are you doing for a real job? *cringe* (PEACE CORPS WAS THE MOST ALL CONSUMING REAL JOB I HAVE EVER HAD YOU CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!) I smile even though I want to attack them in a fit of fiery ear smoke rage and tell them what I am doing. They pat me on the head and tell me that I need more money and the job I am doing now is not enough and so on and so forth. Thank you for this opinion that I did not ask for nor did not help me in any way. I immediately started second guessing my finances.
EXAMPLE #2. I decide to go spend time with my sister and her family in Colorado for an extended chunk of time. I am happy with this decision. IMMEDIATELY when I am asked about what I am up to and I tell an unnamed person, they tell me it is not smart to be visiting Colorado right now because it is too hot and there are prettier times to go. First off, I JUST CAME BACK FROM 130 DEGREE WEATHER BATCHES. Secondly, I am going to spend time with my sister…is that not enough? Nevertheless, I got down on myself for not picking a different time. Update on this example, the weather has been awesome every single day, and I have been having an amazing time with my family. The reason I came here. Thank you very much.
EXAMPLE #3. This one seems ridiculous to me. First off, cats out of the bag when it comes to my next endeavor. I am going to India in about two weeks to get my Yoga Teacher Training 200 hour certification. Again, people ask me what I am up to. I tell them (YOU ASKED PEOPLE). The amount of people that have responded with “why are you doing that and going there” actually blows my mind. Why don’t you just do it in America and not go somewhere (lets choose some of the adjectives that I have gotten) dangerous, Hindu, dirty, far away, out of America, not beautiful (this is real conversation, people), and so on. Now, this example just is so mind boggling to me on so many levels that I don’t even want to go into it, but point being, although I haven’t let it truly bother me in this particular situation because I am so incredibly excited for my YTT and India, people just feed you discontentment about your own personal decisions. ALL. THE. TIME.
Don’t let them.
I haven’t written in a while, so I am doing my best to not unload a whole lot in this one post. I haven’t written because of this time of uncertainty, mostly. If I don’t know what I am doing, what on earth do I write about? Exactly that, I suppose. The funny thing is that, I do know what I am doing. So do you. I am waking up, I am sipping on some coffee, I am working, I am working out, I am smiling a lot more these days, I am having meaningful interactions. I have some really cool stuff coming up in the next weeks, months, and year. I have a great life ‘outline’ that I am more than willing to edit when need be.
We should not be creatures of fear. Seasons of uncertainty give me powerful seasons of faith. My future is certain. The uncertainty that I feel is only apparent uncertainty and that of which is outside sourced.
This morning I remembered a tattoo that I have and why I got it in the first place. Through a long and difficult trial in my teens and early adulthood that led to the death of my father, I often reminded myself of this: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matt. 6:26
We will struggle. We will mess up big time. We will be uncertain. We will have great disappointment. But we have a purpose and a plan every day. I can be content in that.