on the life I thought I wanted
Shortly after I moved back to the DC area, I started a temp job. It happened rather quickly, and less than 24 hours after interviewing with the temp agency, I was stepping off the metro into the middle of a busy DC morning.
I walked along in my suit, hair done up nicely, high heels on and arrived at a high-rise building on the corner of 14th Avenue. It was a gorgeous spring day, but no one on the street seemed to notice — they hustled and bustled up and down the street, headphones in their ears, eyes whipping back and forth between a screen and the steps ahead.
I entered the building to find a huge lobby, complete with marble floors and gorgeous flower arrangements. It seemed like something you might see at the start of a chick flick, as a young woman starts a new life in the big city, a world of possibilities opening wide before her as she nervously watches the elevator doors close.
I half expected a somewhat disheveled but wildly attractive young man to rush into the elevator at the last moment, flash a dashing smile, and introduce himself.
(That didn’t happen, in case you were wondering.)
Growing up, I dreamed a lot about what my life would look like where I’m at now — in my mid-20s, as a young professional.
I dreamed up gorgeous apartments decorated impeccably, an array of fashionable outfits all lined up in my closet, a lively social life filled with outings and adventures throughout the city, commuting around the city using public transportation, and a job in a high-rise office building on the corner of a busy street.
In short, I dreamed of a life we see so often depicted in movies, where the measure of your success is your job, your boyfriend, or your fashion sense.
I’d never worked in a high-rise office building on the corner of a busy street. My last job was in the middle of nowhere with hammocks on the back porch and bountiful trees blowing in the wind. And as I sat at that desk in my suit on that first day as a temp, I realized something — this isn’t what I want. At all.
The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize that so often the things we think we want, in fact, are really the exact opposite.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The grass always greener on the other side.” But I heard one recently that I’m learning to be far more accurate, “There isn’t greener grass, it’s just a different pasture.”
Our society is one of constant discontent. We’re bombarded day in and day out with advertisements telling us that we should want more and be more and do more. It’s all about more more more. It’s never about what you have right now, right where you’re at. It’s never about looking around you and realizing what you have in this moment is actually pretty great.
For most of my life, I was a person who was always going and that idealized city life complete with power suits and happy hours after work seemed to fit in perfectly. I dreamed about living somewhere like New York City, walking straight out into the street from my apartment, hailing a cab to whisk me off to my destination.
It wasn’t until I was presented with a version of that life that I realized how my dreams had actually changed.
When I think about my dream life now, it isn’t filled with city life, a full social calendar, or a designer wardrobe. It’s full of simplicity — a house in the suburbs with lots of space for people to come in, curl up with a blanket, and share their hearts. Nights and weekends that are often free, and if they’re full, they’re full of joy and vulnerability and digging deep. Days spent resting and relaxing, adventuring, and belly laughing over delicious food and crazy games.
When I got home from my first day temping, I was exhausted. I’d left the house at 7:45am and it was nearly 10:15pm by the time I got back. I did the math, and the job required me to be gone for 11 ½ hours every day thanks to the commute.
The recurring theme in my life over the last several months has been margin — space for the things that are really important in life, time to slow down and savor the moments you’re blessed to live.
I run a small business now, so my life is by nature a little busier than most. And I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my life to be like — right now, in the building phase, and however many months from now when I get to wake up and walk just a few feet to my office to spend the day.
It isn’t all solidified yet. In some ways, it’s another idealized world — only instead of fashionable suits, high rise buildings, and the calendar worthy of a socialite, it’s filled with comfy clothes, fresh flowers on the table, late night conversations wrapped up in blankets with mugs of hot tea, and dance parties in the kitchen.
I’ve decided I’m going to write it all down, so I know what I’m aiming for, so I can check the things I’m doing against the things I know I want to be a priority and adjust.
My life will certainly never be perfect — not now and not when I get to the point where I’m running my own business full time. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be in love with every minute of it.
A life doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy at every moment to be a wonderful, inspiring, beautiful life.
However my life looks, at whatever season I’m in, I want to love it. And there are things I know I want it to be full of — things that aren’t about productivity or status or someone else’s version of success, but things that are about relationships and celebration and making memories that last.
It’s about sticky fingers from s’mores in the back yard. It’s about giggle fits and laughter from Sunday night games. It’s about new discoveries and adventures with the people you love. It’s about going to the Farmer’s Market for the first time and biting into the most delicious peach you’ve ever tasted. It’s about fresh tulips on the table because flowers make everything more lovely. It’s about hand-written cards for your friends, just because you can. It’s about breaking out the champagne and toasting to life because it’s the most perfect Wednesday afternoon. It’s about being in awe of the azalea bushes in your yard that bloomed overnight. It’s about curling up on the couch and listening to the wisdom of others and letting them speak truth into your life. It’s about bowling nights and mini golf, Sunday night dinner and Friday night movies, chips and salsa and grocery store flowers.
It’s about choosing people and laughter and love over the other superficial things that fade away. It’s about investing in the ones God’s placed in your life, showering them with extravagant love. It’s about joy and peace and savoring and celebrating life because it’s a gift God gave us to love.
It looks nothing like the life I thought I wanted at 10 or 15 or even 20, but I can’t imagine a better one.