I remember the exact day—the exact moment—when I realized I didn’t have to keep pushing. It was August 19, 2016, the day after my birthday, and my family was on vacation in Maine. While I sat on an adirondack chair reading Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, my kids were roaming around the grounds of Inn by the Sea with the resident gardener, learning about flowers and the role of bees and butterflies. Most parents were walking the property with their children, but I chose to let mine go this alone so I could have a moment to rest.
At the time, I was six months pregnant with Winnie, working full time, with my sights set on larger roles within my organization. I was hustling and I was climbing and I hadn’t thought for a second about how to keep all the balls in the air when our last baby would be born three months later. But something about the vacation in Maine—the clean ocean air, the smiles on the faces of my children, the hand holding with my husband—made me wonder if I was chasing and not choosing the life I wanted. Then Shauna’s words leapt right off the page; they were new to me, though the book is marked up, dog-eared and weather-worn some three years later:
I could either wrestle my life into something fantastic, something perfect. . .or I could plunk myself down right in the middle of the mess and realize that the mess is actually my life, the only one I’ll ever get, the one I’m in danger of missing completely, waiting around for fantastic.
She goes on further down the page:
This isn’t about working less or more, necessarily. This isn’t about homemade or takeout, or full time or part time, or the specific ways we choose to live out our days. It’s about rejecting the myth that every day is a new opportunity to prove our worth, and about the truth that our worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling.
Why had I believed my chasing would magically lead to choosing? Why did I keep pursuing the extraordinary when the amazing, fleeting ordinary is what held the most precious things in my life?
In that moment, on that trip, with that new life moving around inside me, I knew I had to choose a different way. That it may mean the loss of status, money, or power, but the alternative was too great.
I traded in the extraordinary for the ordinary nearly three years ago, and they have been the happiest of my life.
Listen, this isn’t a stop everything, quit your job, downgrade your career trajectory post. I promise it’s not. I’m still working everyday. I have a business that sometimes takes me away from my family, and I have big goals for where I want my work to lead in the next year or two. No, this is a wake up to your life post. It’s a “plunk yourself down in the middle of the mess” and find joy there, without or without the fantastic.
Not everyday is a party. Not every trip is a vacation. Not every friend is a bestie. Not every job is a career. Not every meal is a masterpiece. A beautiful life is constructed in countless ordinary days and just a precious few extraordinary moments. Living fully in both is the secret.