Marriage Means I Can't Do Everything -- And I'm Glad
Tuesday, January 3, 2012Tweet
Today I was reading a friend's blog post talking about how she was glad she had the experience of living in the city last year, but that she's decided she's happier in the suburbs. She tried out city living for a while and found it wasn't for her.
Then, on the way home, I was listening to this week's Motivation to Move podcast talking about how you can truly do anything you want. The example Scott gave was that people may say, "You can't just quit your job and move to the Grand Canyon and become a park ranger," but he knows a guy who did just that.
If you know my and Mike's story, you know that shortly before I met him I was deadset on staying single. I wanted to be independent, to have freedom, to go wherever my career might take me. I wasn't going to have someone else's life plans messing up my ability to do whatever I wanted.
Obviously you know how that turned out.
Here's what I got to thinking, though: My life has so much more direction because I can't do everything.
For example, I have a friend who is super-passionate and always goes after his goals. He decided he wanted to live in Chicago, so he found a job and a place to live. Boom. Then he decided he wanted to do the Peace Corps and got accepted to the Peace Corps. Then he decided he'd rather live in D.C., and again, he had a job and a place to live there within a matter of months. After a year he decided he wanted a different job, and last I talked to him he'd landed an interview for exactly the job he wanted. He wants something, he makes it happen.
In a lot of ways, he's doing exactly what I dreamed I'd always do. Going where he wants, landing whatever job he wants, moving cities when he gets bored.
Yet I've realized that that kind of wanderlust doesn't suit me. (Besides the fact that I have no desire to travel the world.)
Because I'm married to Mike and he has a job and we have a nice apartment we like, I can't just up and move whenever I feel like it. What that means is that if I did want to change jobs or move somewhere else, I'd have to be really sure that's what I wanted. I'd have to talk it through with Mike and make sure it fit with our life goals and finances and that it was something I wanted enough to make it worth the big change it would cause in his life.
In this case, I'm not talking about how it's a tradeoff, about how I don't mind giving up my freedom to go wherever I want because I have someone to love me and listen to me and do the dishes. I mean it's literally helpful to me not to have infinite freedom to do anything.
For example, you know how I got my original job at the college I work for? Mike had another year of graduate school left when we got married, so I knew I had to get a job in the Chicago area. After it was clear that publishing jobs weren't panning out, I went to the websites of every single college in the Chicago area looking for job postings. Do you think I would have tried that approach if I'd had every college in the nation -- in the world -- available to me?
When I started in my job, it was far from being what I wanted to do. But I didn't have the luxury of job-hopping around the country, trying to find a job that suited me perfectly. So I made the best of my situation, and in doing so, created my own perfect job. I took on extra work from other offices to fill the time, found what I actually enjoyed, and eventually had a new position created just for me. Now I'm doing work I love, with and for people I love, at a school I love.
It's not what I expected to happen when I first applied for a job there, but because I was working with the limits of the situation -- I needed a job, any job, in the Chicago area, NOW, so we could get an apartment before our wedding -- I ended up right where I needed to be. Otherwise I might still be on a quest to find that perfect job that would make me happy in every way.
I can't help but draw a parallel to my faith here. God gave us free will, right? Yet how many people have really found lasting happiness by just doing whatever they want, whenever they want, and chasing after every new pleasure that arises? I believe it is through our relationships with God and other people that we learn self-sacrifice, patience, love, and the joy that comes from serving one another in community.
External pleasures will forever be fleeting, and if we bet our happiness on the next big thing, we are bound to find ourselves searching again. I've had much better luck simply working with the gifts I've been given and giving thanks for the blessings that are in my life -- though that's not always easy, for sure! But it's a fact that I can't do everything and be everything to everyone. God made me unique -- gave me a unique calling and unique abilities -- and when I work within those limitations rather than fighting them, I find great fulfillment and joy.
And that's one of the many things my marriage has taught me.