It's true what they say--God does work in mysterious ways! If you had asked me just a few years ago where I would be right now, I certainly wouldn't have painted a picture like the one I see today. Scratch that; it's not a picture at all, but an ever-evolving story. While the beginning and end have been written, I get the pleasure of co-creating the plot-line with my Creator. Through the ups-and-downs, the twists-and-turns, the story we are creating is one of adventure and hope. While life may not go as planned, and circumstances aren't always ideal, I have discovered I still have the ability to choose. Above all, I can choose which path my life will take. I can choose to get bitter or get better; I can choose to give up or get up; I can choose to hold on or let go; I can choose to "forget" or forgive. And while I have found the latter of each is always a much better way to live, that doesn't mean it's always my default choice.
The story I'm about to tell you, as do all stories, begins with a choice.
I just graduated from college and before me were a limitless number of choices. However, the $20,000 in college debt loomed above like a dark cloud ready to release a torrential downpour if I didn't take shelter soon. In this case, soon was a 6 month period of deferment before I had to start repaying the loans. Seeing as how I had no money, and the only things I owned were a Dodge Intrepid inching toward 200,000 miles, a few pieces of dilapidated, dorm room furniture--purchased at Good Will--and a plastic set of drawers containing all my clothes, the number of choices I actually had seemed a bit more limited than I originally thought.
So, the first choice I made was the same anyone in my shoes would make. I took up rent-free shelter in my parents basement. Considering I was getting married in a few months, it seemed the most prudent choice. Its' not like I had a job or any money that would afford me the ability to make a different choice. Besides, this way I could save money and start planning out my future. At least that's what I told myself.
Then came the choice to get a job. Due to the fact that church jobs I was qualified for were few and far between, I made the next best choice. With the help of my brother, I landed a job at the telecommunication company he was working for. While there wasn't necessarily anything wrong with the job, working at the help desk, doing Internet tech support wasn't part of my 5 year plan. The hours weren't that great, and most mornings I dreaded waking up and heading off to work. I'm sure being at my desk in the call center by 5 in the morning had something to do with it. Even the sun had enough sense not be up by then. But the paycheck made up for all that. Which was good since I wanted my choices to prove that I was financially stable.
Which lead to the next choice I made--to marry the woman I had been dating. Although you could argue this choice came almost seven months ago when I bought the ring and planned the details of my proposal over Christmas break. Either way, the wedding was soon and I would no longer be taking care of one, but two. Which meant there were many more choices I would have to make. Like trying to start a family. Buying a house. And eventually getting a divorce.
Over the years I had become accustomed to the belief that this is how life was meant to be. That pursuing my dreams was no longer an option. That my wants and desires were required to take the back seat to responsibility. That somehow, being an adult meant joy and fulfillment always had to be secondary. That growing up meant I had to choose between living a life and living a life of significance.
Looking back, I see that many of the choices I made were for the wrong reason. I can't begin to tell you how many choices I made out of necessity. Moving in with my parents. Settling for a job I didn't particularly care for--not just once, but three times (that I can currently remember). Then there were the choices I made out of obligation. The choice to get married--because that's what you do when you've been dating someone for an extended period of time; especially right out of college. The choice to try to start a family. The choice to purchase a house. Each of these choices I made required other things to be put on hold. Things I wasn't ready to let go of.
Inevitably, all these choices lead to resentment. I didn't like where my life was headed. Every morning consisted of a Starbucks run--where uttering a word was no longer necessary for my grande white-chocolate mocha with an extra shot of espresso to be made. Pulling out of the Starbucks parking lot, I finished my 3 minute commute to work where I would spend the next 8 hours, my fingers mindlessly pecking the keyboard while my glossy eyes stared at the screen in front of me. From there I would go home, eat dinner and sit in front of the television to unwind before heading off to bed. Just so I could get up and do it all over the next day. Because I now had to pay for all the wrong choices that had enslaved me.
I felt trapped. Trapped at my job. To quit would spell financial ruin. The loss of income would result in the loss of the house, the car and my excellent credit score. To take that new job was risky. Packing up and moving was irresponsible--even though it was my dream job. At least that's what I was lead to believe since it came with a much smaller paycheck and required moving across the country. Then there was my marriage. If I'm at all honest with myself, I had some doubts about this marriage. Nobody knows this, but I almost broke it off after we were engaged. I was unsure marriage was the right choice at the time, but I chalked it up to a case of 'cold feet' and trudged forward. From the beginning, there were indications it wasn't going to work out; I was just too blind and too stubborn to see them. But again, I made the choice, so I lived with the consequences--good and bad. Which eventually lead to the choice to get divorced. While it was a tough choice, it was a choice that, according to her, needed to be made to 'right the wrong we made five years ago.' Then there was the house. It walled me in--literally and figuratively. To sell after the market went south would be a financial disaster. And uprooting myself in the middle of the divorce would essentially be giving up and she would win. So, I continued to make choices I didn't want to make, but felt I had to.
I have a feeling that's where most of us find ourselves. Feeling trapped. Trying to make ourselves believe this is what life is all about. That these are the responsible choices to make. Please understand, I'm not saying every choice I made was wrong. I'm not suggesting that getting married right out of college is a terrible idea (but it might be). I don't think buying a house because it's cheaper than rent is a bad choice. Neither am I advocating for skipping out on responsibility. Sometimes taking any job is the best choice because bills have to be paid. But that choice starts long before the bills are even due; and begins with choosing not to incur that debt in the first place. All I'm saying is those weren't the choices I was ready to make. And they weren't the right choices for me at the time. For where I was at in life. For where I wanted to go. And for what I wanted to do.
I believe there is a different way. That life can be much more. That we can find joy and fulfillment. If only we would have the courage to make different choices. To take our time, assess the outcome, and make good, informed choices. To stop allowing others to dictate the way our lives need to be lived. Because, in the end, the choice is ours. We can continue to make choices out of necessity. We can keep letting society dictate the trajectory of our life. We can continue to buy into the lies the media tells us. We can always settle. Or we make the difficult choice to do what is right--for us. Where we have been. Where we are. And where we want to go. That's what I'm doing. And I have to tell you, it's much more enjoyable making these kinds of choices.