It’s been a while. A while since I sat down at my own kitchen table with a cup of ice water at my side in a glass that belongs to me. A while since I drove my little red Mazda around town with my iPhone on the dash and my black aux cable plugged into its port. A while since I was home. I knew this month was going to be crazy, but I couldn’t expect just how chaotic it would feel. I somehow managed to plan four trips all back to back in the span of just four weeks… and that right there is an itinerary right out of crazy town. But it happened! And you know what I missed the most while I was off chasing my wildest dreams? I missed my ordinary life.
For some reason, our generation of Millennials is one of the most self-driven groups of young people probably to exist in the past five hundred years. I think we tend to dream big dreams because in this day and age, it’s easier than it’s ever been to see what other dreams everyone else is achieving at any given time. Just imagine the age before Facebook when you might’ve heard that so-and-so had been awarded this accolade or your cousin was traveling to China to help bring world peace. It’s one thing to hear about someone else’s achievements, but it’s another thing entirely to see them with your own eyes, every day, zipping by loud and proud in front of you like the Main Street parade.
I think that’s why a lot of us feel so stuck all the time. In high school, I thought I had no choice but to be the first female President, solve world hunger, or find the cure for cancer. If I didn’t do something noteworthy on a global scale… well, then, what value did my life have? What was the point of living if I couldn’t live boldly by doing something no one else had done before?
Honestly y’all, I think we need to take a long hard look at ourselves when reaching for anything we want. Because at the core of my desire to chase after these fancy achievements was, honestly, pride in disguise. My longing to help the world was there, yes… but it was overshadowed by an even greater longing to glorify myself.
My biggest dream used to be to make a name for myself. To become world-renowned in something. Anything. (Well, anything with a positive connotation to it.) And now? My biggest, wildest, most crazy dream is… to live an ordinary life.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking these past 8 months. A lot of time pondering my friends who graduated college this year and now ask themselves, “Is this it?” at the end of every tiring work day. Friends, I’m right there with you. I’m “living the dream” as a self-employed, full-time business owner and at the end of my work days, I sometimes ask myself the same thing. Is this it?
I think the answer to our question is that we’re looking in the wrong places. If we are searching for our life’s fulfillment in our work… we’re never going to find it. Don’t get me wrong. There is something wonderfully rewarding about doing work that makes you feel that your strengths and passions are being used for the greater good, that you’re using your unique gifts and abilities to make a difference in your world.
But what I’ve come to discover that we must remember is that work was never meant to be our life. It is meant to help us BUILD a life.
That’s why, after these last four weeks of traveling, shooting, and teaching all over the country, living out the life I always dreamt of living, I now find myself falling asleep every night dreaming a dream that’s both bigger and smaller than the strange bed I’m sleeping in, hundreds of miles away from everything I know, as I suddenly gain everything I thought I wanted yet nothing I didn’t know I needed.
What I dream of is a home. Blueberry pancakes on a Saturday morning. Breakfast in bed. A cup of hot chocolate with those little mini marshmallows bobbing on top as the snowflakes fall outside my window, Christmas music playing and twinkling tree lights casting a technicolor show up onto the walls. I dream of lazy weekends and long drives to nowhere. Of the leaves crunching under our feet in the Fall, the sleeves of our sweaters pulled up tight far past the bare skin of our wrists. The first cool day of the season and the first sweltering day at the pool. Sunday mornings singing in church and Thursday evenings spent filling soup bowls in the back of the homeless shelter kitchen. I dream of ice cream sundaes in the evening August breeze and steaming caramel mochas with coffee art hearts on top at a corner cafe on a cold February morning. Huddling around the fire with s’mores in hand or a puppy on our laps. Of movie nights on the couch with the intoxicating aroma of homemade chocolate chip cookies rising in the oven. Silly fights and tender kisses. I dream of a home filled with laughter, realness, tears. Of family memories made that go undocumented yet unforgotten. I dream of a life made full by time spent with the ones I hold most dear and love the deepest.
As I prepare to finish out my first full-time year as a wedding photographer, I’m also preparing for a new season to begin. A season of moving and marrying and becoming someone’s spouse, which I’ve heard is a pretty big deal. Someone told me last week (actually two people, both in the same day if you’d believe it) that after marriage, my first ministry is my husband. I couldn’t agree more. Sure, it’s going to be a transition from everything I’ve known up until now, getting ready to love, support, and serve another person like I’ve never loved, supported, and served anyone else before. But I know that spending three hours of my Sunday evening making him breakfast and lunch for the upcoming week after I’ve been gone for a month is worth so much more than the work I could have gotten done instead. As I get closer to marriage, I feel my priorities shifting and my heart’s deepest desires transforming into something more “we” and less “me.” I’m not too sure what that means for his, my, or our future… but I know we’ll be there together. I know what it is that I dream of now.
And nothing on this Earth could top this dream of mine, this crazy wild dream of a beautifully ordinary life.
So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.
So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. -Ecclesiastes 2:22-26