On my bathroom counter sits a glass quote with a floral background one of my 4th grade students gave me at the end of last year, “Life isn’t a matter of milestones but moments.” Thoughts from Rose Kennedy. I’ve kept it up mainly because I love the soft floral touch to my gray and white bathroom, but also because I’ve been curious to see if life as I am experiencing it really is about the moments and less about the milestones.
Some people have labeled my personality type as assertive, type A, directive. Others label with a more positive spin: visionary, outgoing, confident. Partly due to makeup and partly due to upbringing, I’ve been fairly driven my entire life. Mainly driven to meet goals influenced by my family through childhood, then in high school having personal goals toward reaching the American Dream. After living in an Eastern culture for seven years in my 20s, my goals have become a little less Western, but none the less still driven toward some future milestone. And if having my own personal drive wasn’t enough to make an endless To-Do list, I married a man who has the perfect mix of kindness toward others and a competitive, intense focus toward pursuing a career in medicine in his late 20s. My desire is that through sharing our story of transition, your story will be inspired with a new perspective.
So there we were one year into marriage both having moved a combined 29 times in our life, now moving for the second time as a married couple to a rental house within a week of Tom starting medical school. For the record, I would not recommend finding a place to live one week before starting medical school in addition to accepting a full-time teaching position. Probably the least responsible move we made in our marriage to date… oops!
But wait for it… our story takes yet another turn… six weeks later, our favorite announcement, “We are pregnant!” At this point our milestones are coming as fast as moments and for two driven people, these moments have the potential to lose face-time to adulting milestones: marriage, raising a pet, medical school acceptance, getting a “real” job (which is just a rude way people approve of your career because your job is finally in the exact field of your degree), buying a car, joining a church family, and having children. Naturally after all of our moves added with my pregnancy hormones and a sudden urge to NEST, we just wanted to be “settled” to reach a point of stability in our lives. So we bought a cute, cream, cape cod house on the corner…maybe not our dream home in all aspects but pretty dreamy for being our first home and in medical school.
During Tom’s block break in March, he worked tirelessly for 10 days ripping out a 46 sq. ft bar (yes we bought a house with a bar in the middle of it) and putting in new laminate flooring. We lived up stairs, then down stairs, and for weeks with saw dust and subfloor. Although there was an end goal in site, we were living displaced in our own home and, remind you, at this point I am 8 months pregnant!
We eventually used school breaks to finish the floor, patch holes, re-stain the decking, weed the garden beds, and mulch. With me now staying home with our baby girl, I worked on all the other details that came with moving, insurance, banking, driver licenses, learning our town. The To-Do list seemed to be disappearing. Just maybe we would be able to rest by the start of the new school year.
But on Friday, September 1st, just 5 months after moving in, a microburst caused a hailstorm the size of baseballs to hit our house! It all started while I was in the shower getting ready for dinner guests with my husband an hour away working on research at the hospital, and my four-month old in her pack-n-play. It sounded like several people were breaking in. Seven windows were busted, the siding was torn apart, the roof damaged, and our newer hybrid car completely totaled. And the To-Do list GREW extra long yet again and much of what is on the list cannot be accomplished in a day, a week, or even a month and so much is out of our control.
At first I responded to the storm with laughter and joking around while I reported the insurance claim. But after the initial shock, coming home to a boarded-up house caused the laughter to turn into discouragement, impatience, and the unsettled, displaced feeling arose again in my heart.
Hailstorms don’t happen to the majority of us and hopefully we will not experience another to this degree in our lifetime, but whether it’s a new transition, unexpected circumstances, or just the in’s and out’s of daily life, the To-Do lists exists and we have to make a decision of how we are going to respond.
From medical school to motherhood and now to managing repairs, I have come to realize that I can be happy. That happiness comes when I let go of an unrealistic expectation that my To-Do list of life will be completely checked off or that I’ll finally reach a “settled” life stage. Maybe it is possible for someone who gives up all dreams, all milestones, all hope, but most of the people I know (and stalk on social media) are seeking to develop friendships, to learn to new skills, and experience a little adventure. And as much as we desire to feel settled I just do not think we will find it in this life time, because we are always ending one milestone and starting another.
I know that I was created to pursue my family, to open my home to hospitality, to teach others about clean living, and to walk faithfully through the frivolous moments as much as the memorable ones as a stay-at-home mom. Many of these are new roles, some chosen and some given, but I am thankful that life’s ever-changing transitions keep me from complacency with who I am and who I know. I’m thankful that having our “new” car in the auto repair shop 4 times in the 6 weeks we have owned it has helped me understand my husbands schedule a little more. I am grateful that a shattered baby room window has provided the money to replace 20-year-old, pet stained carpet in the upstairs of our house.
Sure there are moments of feeling displaced before the milestone of finished construction or feeling vulnerable with a new acquaintance before a deep friendship forms. There are moments were you get a small breather between major milestones and there are other times like our past two years where we have been in a constant state of displacement, much longer than we anticipated. We are all looking for the To-Do list of life to be checked off, but what if that is not the greatest hope we can have?
So to the single girl awaiting the time she meets her man, to a newly married couple who is learning how to fold the towels the other spouses way, to the mom of two kids about to have three under three, to the missionary transitioning from overseas back to the United States after 15 years abroad, to the undergraduate contemplating grad school… you can be happy. Happiness doesn’t come when we have reached a certain desired milestone. We experience happiness when we are content in the moments, when we enjoy where we are and who we are spending these moments with, rather than allowing the next milestone to rob our ability to be present for the current one.
Happiness doesn’t come when we have reached a certain desired milestone. We experience happiness when we are content in the moments…
In my future blog posts I look forward to sharing with you more of our story, financial wisdom, home DIY projects, etc. so check back soon!
Header Photo Credit: Jessica Gale