I am happy.
Like most people, I fell into the daily grind. After moving back from Japan – what I call my Neverland experience – I went to work paying on credit cards and hoping to meet the man that would start my life fulfilling all the promise I had been told for years that it held. From the ages of 27 to 33, I lived.
Just as many people who grew up in church, I felt like I didn’t quite love God enough, but I was trying. I felt like I had no reason not to be happy, but although I wasn’t unhappy, I wasn’t happy. I lived day to day trying to do and be what I was supposed to do.
When I was young, well-meaning friends of my mother would occasionally tell me that God had an amazing plan for my life. They failed to qualify “amazing,” and so I kept looking for it, expecting a bolt-from-the-blue experience that would tell me I was finally on the right path. You may not be surprised to learn that it has never happened.
I was already 29 by the time I had my first boyfriend. I wasn’t against dating, but I refused to date anyone I didn’t think I would marry for the first 29 years, and then realized I was nearly a decade older than my mother had been when she married, and the “chastity until marriage” idea seemed farcical. I knew one girl from my church that was still a virgin at that age. Even my sister, who had not had sex before marriage, married at 21. I had already put off any sexual activity 9 years longer than her and my mother – easily twice as long as they had after puberty.
It seems impossible to talk about growing up without talking about sex. But it had little impact on my life as I moved forward. At 33, I met the man I would marry two years later. We were friends first, and then dated, and married. He was not the “strong Christian man” that I had been told to look for. He was simply a person – what almost all men are – living his life in the way he thought right.
On the last day of our honeymoon, I received several phone calls, and upon calling my brother back learned that my sister had had an aneurysm burst. She survived the event, but a series of strokes and medical issues left her severely injured and bedridden for over three months. Her young sons were prevented from seeing her for over a month while she was in the ICU. Over time, she has regained function in the left side of her body, but remains severely limited on the right.
The injury brought a shift to our priorities, and my husband and I decided to move closer to family. He sold his company stocks to pay off our remaining debt, and we sold his house and purchased one with cash in Kansas City.
Today, we make about two thirds of the income we made before relocating. But the lack of mortgage, an emergency fund, and being closer to family have had several positive impacts on our lives. I miss being able to see my younger brother for coffee on Saturdays, but the shorter drive to my sister and parents allows me to have a closer connection with them and my nephews than was possible before.
My husband and I are not rich by American standards, but we are in the top 10% of wealthiest people in the world, simply because we own our home and have no debt. We argue about details now and then, as most couples do, but do not have fights about major issues because we work together to decide what we want the future to look like – at least I think we do!
And then, a few weeks ago, I realized I was smiling a lot. I mean, a lot. I am almost never not smiling lately. When I was in high school, people would occasionally ask me what was wrong, and when I would reply nothing and why they would say, “You’re not smiling.” I haven’t smiled that much since high school. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been happy since high school.
But I am happy now. I am not happy because my life is perfect, but because… I have hope. I do not feel like I’m failing God because I’m not fulfilling a Mother Theresa-scale “calling.” In fact, I have come to the conclusion that, well-meaning though it may seem, telling children they are going to do something great for God is a horrible burden to place on them.
I could not be happy if I believed I was shirking some important calling from my creator. I am not a person who feels comfortable with mediocrity. But I do believe that I’m where I should be, doing what I am meant to be doing in this moment. Should God call my husband and me to make another change and redirect our work, then at that time, I am confident we will follow those instructions.
The relief of not having to constantly be looking for the next good thing, or figuring out how to juggle a financial or emotional mess is immeasurable. For the first time in a long time, I do not labor under the stress of feeling that I have to do something amazing with my life. I’m allowed to just be happy.