I'm excited to share this guest post with you today. I met Emilie in Lexington, VA — I got to be what we call in our church her visiting teacher, where I was her mentor, for about a year. She is an alumna of Southern Virginia University where my husband teaches!
The problem with writing personal blogs is that the person you are when you write them may not be the person you are when you publish them.
For far too long I have been attempting to write a blog post about my desire to become “better”–a more productive, more aspiring, more motivated, more…something…person than I have been in recent years. Yet each time I think I've finally expressed exactly how I feel, I change.
Whether for better or for worse, I am unable to remain the same person today that I was yesterday.
My long-suffering husband takes my “better” aspirations in stride. It is not uncommon for our Sunday nights to go a little like this:
Me: I need to be better.
Hubby (wise man that he is): I think you're great.
Me: Yeah, I know you do, but I know I can be better.
Hubby: Ok. What would make you better?
Me: I should get up earlier in the morning. The book I'm reading this week talks about how getting up even an hour earlier in the morning will help me find focus and accomplish more.
Hubby (enthusiastically supportive): Count me in! I'll wake up an hour earlier with you.
Me: Great! This will be the week that defines our future. I know it will!
Monday morning always dawns brightly; birds are singing as I spring from my bed, pull out a to-do list and start checking things off. By 7am I feel like this will be my best day ever!
And then the kids wake up. And life happens. And I'm exhausted by noon and just want to curl up on the couch watching Netflix until the kids get home from school. On Tuesday I wake up fifteen minutes later (but neglect to wake my husband), and by Thursday I'm back to square one.
So much for productivity.
I used to be great at being great. Type-A, 4.0 GPA, student body president, valedictorian of my small liberal arts college, I thrived on having too much to do in too little time. Most days now I feel like I have too little time, too much to do, and an even longer list of things I should be doing (but don't).
So why am I not better? I know I have the capacity to be better. I have even identified the problem areas and devised possible solutions. I just don't follow through.
I've come to the realization that my problem isn't that I'm failing; it's that I'm managing.
I'm doing ok. My kids have clothes, the bills are getting paid, and I'm kinda fulfilled in my work. Life is not bad. It's ok. Is that really so terrible?
My “yearning for greatness” (as my inner Anne Shirley likes to call it) will not be silenced, despite the fact that most people I meet tell me they think that I'm doing pretty well. I do need to give myself some credit: I'm a work-from-home entrepreneur, devoted wife, and, most importantly, the mother of 4 small children. Living the American dream with a minivan and everything.
In my heart/soul/conscience I can feel that I'm designed for greatness, and yet for much of my “adult” life I've felt that I'm in a holding pattern. Yes, it's true that I have been busy, but I could stack bricks all day and be busy. Without a plan or a purpose those bricks will never make a house; they're just a pile of bricks and a waste of time.
I'm not in any way trying to discount motherhood or the feelings of fulfilment that come from doing good work in my home. I love my children, I'm glad to be a mother, and I know that they have made me a better, more self-aware person than I ever could have been on my own. But, at the end of the day, I know that my kids are watching me and are affected by all that I am and all that I do. Without dreams of my own, am I emulating a well-lived life to them? I would hate for them to believe that they must pick either a loving, caring home with a family OR the pursuit of dreams that give them a sense of worth and fulfilment.
If I can reflect both, my hope is that they will not sacrifice family for success, or vice versa.
A while ago I found a video recording of myself telling my high school English class what I wanted to do with my life. Watching it, I was fascinated by how confident I was (despite a truly awful haircut). Since it was an exercise in public speaking I was making half of it up as I went along, but my conclusion stated emphatically that I would make a difference in the world. Even if it was on a small stage, I wanted to leave the world a changed (and hopefully better) place for having been here, and I would have no regrets. And the most amazing thing is that I KNEW that I could do it.
That is the star that I'm chasing.
I know it's not fair to compare myself now to the single and care-free woman I was fifteen years ago, when my goals were easily outlined for me by a collegiate-minded society (4.0 GPA! Graduate with honors! Participate in absolutely everything you possibly can!) but it's hard not to. I was really good at running that race…but what do you do once you've crossed the finish line?
I need to find a new dream, and it terrifies me. But living without a dream terrifies me more.
You see, I've met people without dreams, who've become accustomed to what “is” and shy away from thinking of what “could be,” and I don't want to be like them. The individuals that I admire are always moving towards something–step by step, changing their position until they find themselves where they want to be. Once they get there, they pick a new destination that wasn't visible before. It's like a dance…and swaying to the music is not nearly as much fun as waltzing across the room.
Ultimately, will any of this make me happier?
I hope so.
Because I dearly love to dance.
Emilie Davis is a writer, speaker, and creative partner with LinkHouse Consultants. She lives in Virginia with her four children and a husband that somehow manages to make her laugh every day.