I don’t know about you, but personally, life hasn’t exactly turned out in the way that I once expected. Things have come up. Big things. Hard things. Depression, infertility, pregnancy loss, illness, financial instability to name a few of them.
I remember when my husband, Paul, and I had just gotten married. We dreamed and had big plans for our future as all newlyweds do. We were living in a mortuary basement where I cleaned to pay off the rent (oh, the horror stories I could tell you), and then went to my part-time job as an administrative assistant. Paul was going to school and working full-time. He took the bus, and I drove my grandma’s old, battered Chevy Lumina. Back then, even though our circumstances weren’t great (living underneath the viewing room in a mortuary is a unique experience to say the least), we had hopes of a bright future. That hope got us through several jobs, years of schooling, the birth of our beautiful son, and the loss of a child we’d never get to know.
At the end of Paul’s scholastic career we had hoped that we would find the perfect 9-5 job, settle down, buy a house and raise our family in peace and happiness for the rest of our lives. But for whatever reason, that wasn’t in the cards for us. Instead, out of the nearly 200 job applications we put out there, Paul received only one job offer after graduation.
It was clear that the Lord had something else in mind for us and so we moved away from all of our family and friends in Utah to work in Texas. This was very difficult for me. I cried every night for the first 6 months. I was lonely for my family and bitter about our situation. In addition to dealing with my own negativity, there were other voices in my head telling me that what I had wasn’t enough; that where I was at in life was not where they thought that I should be. There will always be people who will second-guess your life, sometimes even your closest friends and family who may think that they are encouraging you to do what they think is right. “Your husband should look for a new job.” And, “you just need to buy a house and settle down.” I added all of this to the dialogue in my head and I’ll tell you what, it was a recipe for not just unhappiness, but total misery.
I struggled making friends and fitting in because in truth, I didn’t even want to be there. But good things happened there, too. Paul found a better job within the industry, our daughter was born after years of infertility, and we were able to explore a new place and eventually even made some new friendships.
My husband works for a large construction firm on a management team that specializes in the refurbishment and construction of hospitals. This means a lot of moving around. There will be places that we will most likely reside in for longer periods of time, but at the end of the day, each of these projects will come to an end and our family will move on to the next city in need of a hospital or renovation. Settling down in a home is not in our foreseeable future. This is probably the hardest hurdle for me. Letting go of the dream of home ownership and embracing the traveling habits of gypsies was never a part of “the dream.”
Since then, we have moved two more times. Some of our experiences have been better than others, our facebook friend lists grow as we go along, and I still cry when the moving trucks leave our old homes to venture on to new ones.
You are probably thinking, “this doesn’t sound all that joyful to me.”
You’re right! Finding joy in and of itself has been a journey for me (hence the name). It was not something that I just stumbled upon, but rather, something I had to search deeply for. It wasn’t until I made the conscious decision to choose joy over sadness that I was able to stop crying at night, block out the negativity of others, and start living.
There will undoubtedly be a time in your life when you have to change your plan. It might be something simple, or it could be a drastic life change that you weren’t expecting. Either way, I’m here to tell you that only you can make a good situation out of it. Only you can teach your kids to roll with it. Only you can wake up each morning and find the sunshine in your day instead of the clouds of darkness.
Here are the 3 Simple Steps that helped me change my outlook when my life didn’t go as I’d hoped:
Let Go- Don’t let go of dreaming. Rather, let go of what the dream used to look like. Let go of what you thought you’d be doing, what you thought you’d have and where you thought you’d be.
I hoped and dreamed that I would have 4 kids, a house of my own, financial stability, two cars and be living near family. That’s not the case, and probably won’t be anytime soon. Letting go of this was the absolute hardest part of the journey for me.
Accept- Define what “now” is and what it represents. Is this forever? Is it temporary?
In the now, my husband’s work requires that we move around a lot, I have 2 kids, one car, insurmountable student loan debt (a subject for another day) and we rent. Over and over again. This could go on for several years, and many promotions before work allows us to settle down.
Embrace- Acknowledge the advantages of your new situation and figure out how to make the best of the challenges.
We get to travel and explore many new areas. I get to find new free things to do, new parks, new stores, try new foods, and experience the excitement of brand new surroundings.
The challenges we have to overcome: making new friends, attending new schools, and saying goodbye.
Going through this process has helped me to let go of my old dreams and forge new ones. We still have big dreams, but they look a little different now and they don’t hold us back from experiencing the life that we are living now.
Sometimes, we have to change our course to new and uncharted waters where fear and uncertainty dwell. But, just because you have to change your course doesn’t mean that your destination will be any less beautiful.
Just remember that.