The reality of any journey is how difficult it can be from time to time. As you have seen in my previous two posts, I had some significant disappointments along the way. But, as the years become greater in-between those moments and now, I see things in a much different light.
Look at this picture above, it’s a simple road that all of us have traveled. When we are on the road, we often can’t see very far in front of us, only the things that are around our present location. You can make out some trees ahead, a few hills or mountains, but that is the extent of what is seen. This is an interesting thought when we look at our lives in a similar way.
I can look back and see where the Lord was working in my life, what He was doing to get me to the place I am today, but not while I was in the middle of it. Similarly, I am unable to look ahead to 40 and see what may be in store for me and my family. All I can do is seek guidance from the Lord, my family, and those whom I trust that have been down a similar road before.
The hurt I felt when I was rejected by all the law schools in which I applied is still there. I remember getting each of those letters and how, after the second one I knew the rest would also contain a no. I remember applying for a job as a bank teller, having an interview, getting the phone call that I wasn’t hired, and wondering what was wrong with me. Ever been there? It is not a fun place to be but how I learned from those experiences!
I honestly believe the journey through those pains have made me a better husband, a better father, and a better person. While I don’t wish pain and hurt on anyone, sometimes they can be the best learning experience. They have taught me the value of not giving up, reaching out to others for help, and not being so quick to judge people who may be in tough spots. Each of these are areas I have struggled with in the past and it took me going through a rough patch in my own life to grow.
The one image that continually comes to mind as I think back on my own journey is my son. He was born while I was unemployed. As any parent will tell you, there is not a worse feeling in the world than feeling like you are unable to provide for and take care of your family. Ever have a moment in your life when you thought things couldn’t get any worse? This was it for me. Fortunately, the Lord provided an opportunity and while I would rather not go through something like that again, I am thankful for what I learned.
We will always be learning and the heart of these posts is to recognize those moments and grow as a person. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments about times in your life that while difficult, have been some of the best learning experiences for you. It is always helpful to go through these times together and learn from one another so I look forward to hearing from all of you on this journey.
When my dream didn’t go the way I expected, I shut down and tried to move on. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, it didn’t go away at all. In fact it got stronger and more intense. As I mentioned in the previous post, my dream was all about me and what I was going to accomplish. During this period of despair the Lord quickly showed me my passions and dreams were given to me to help others.
Often we move on once a dream or goal doesn’t go the way we planned. I believe this is the best part and the opportunity for us to really grow as a person and perhaps be led in an entirely new direction. Or, simply find reassurance that we are on the right track. Jeff Goins writes in The In-Between that we are missing out on life when we continually look to and wait on the next big thing to happen.
When my law school dream died it didn’t take away my plans at all, it just moved them. Will I be a lawyer or a judge? No. But, I have learned a tremendous amount about myself and what I want to do with my career and life at this point. I believe there is a lot to add to the field of public policy and I have not given up the overall dream I had so many years ago.
Now, where am I on this journey today? I am completing my Masters in Public Policy. I am currently writing my thesis and hope to complete it and graduate by late spring, early summer of 2014. You see, I wasn’t ready for law school or the added workload it would have required. How often do we think we are ready for something when in reality we need a few more years of experience, a few more years of maturing, or just a few more years of figuring things out? I am a firm believer in things happening for a reason. I don’t believe in luck or concidences.
Is there a time in your life when you waited and waited and nothing happened? What did you do in the meantime? I was not as productive during my years of waiting as I would have liked, but I still learned a great deal from my experience.
But for now, be encouraged! You are where you are for a reason. You may not be able to see it or understand all that is going on but hang on. I don’t say that as a simple line to sound cheesy, I really mean it and am there myself. Ask others you trust to let you know that they see in you: talents, skills, experiences. You may be surprised at where you are and where you are going. Looking forward to where the journey leads for all of us!
Ever since I was a little boy I have had a passion, love, whatever word you want to use, for politics. Can you believe that? Most of the time when I tell people that they give me that look that says, ‘really?’ It is a weird thing to like, I admit, and often times the conversations involving politics can cause anger and frustration. So, I have a passion for something that most people hate talking about. Fun, huh?
Anyway, through that desire I mapped out a plan of action that would take me where I wanted to be as a grown up. First, I would major in Political Science, attend law school, practice law for 10 years, get appointed as a judge, serve as judge for 10 years, launch my political career sometime in my early 50s, and end with being the Governor of Tennessee. Of course, all along that path I would involve myself in campaigns, committees, etc. to make myself visable. Sounds like a great plan right?
I accomplished the first one with a B.A. degree in Political Science. Alright, well on my way to my goals! Unfortunately, at least for now, that’s where the dream ended. My LSAT score was low, I was declined admission to all the schools in which I applied, and was left with no opportunity to attend law school. Definitely disappointed and felt lost.
Now, does this mean these dreams of mine are gone forever? Does this mean I was chasing the wrong thing? Not necessarily and all of you reading this have stories of your own similar to mine. What do we do when our dreams come to a halt or aren’t fulfilled the way we expect? Do we give up? Well, I did for a long time. I shut that part of my life down and moved on in an attempt to forget what had happened. What I missed during that giving up phase was a lot of growth and opportunities to learn from the experience.
I have learned so much, including the reality that my passion for politics and policy has not gone away. As much as I tried to shut it down and hide it, it is still there and as strong as ever. Does that mean I still want to run for office? Maybe, but what I have learned is the Lord has shifted my focus away from myself and onto helping others through those passions. If you look back at the top of this post, my dream was all about me and how successful I could be. As this series continues I’ll dive deeper into this and where I am now on this journey.
Have you ever had a dream end? Not turn out the way you expected? Let us know in the comments below…
Recently, my 5-year old son began talking about what he wanted to be when he grew up. It is the usual from a boy that age: fireman, police officer, astronaut. One day while discussing his plans to be a police officer as well as a tennis player, he turned to me and said, “Dad, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m 36 years old, how do I answer that question?
I gave a funny answer and laughed about it and continued to listen to him talk about his dreams and plans as only a 5-year old can do. However, that question struck a nerve in me that has lingered even now, weeks after he asked it. What do I want to be when I grow up?
Many of us are traveling through life simply reacting to the daily routine. We wake up, go to work, eat, spend time with family, sleep, and do it all over again the next day. Sure there are some great moments and many of us have a job we love, but are we truly living? We get caught up in ‘being a grown up’ when we’d much rather be doing something else with our lives.
I have been unemployed, have worked jobs just to pay the bills, and failed miserably at an attempt to enter a career field I desperately wanted to pursue. All of those moments have helped shape and mold me into the man I am today and moved me down the road toward the answer to my son’s question. It is a question I have been afraid to answer for fear of where it could lead. Ever have one of those moments? You know, a moment where you know what the answer is but are afraid to say it because it may sound ridiculous to those around you? May even sound ridiculous to yourself?
So, what do you want to be when you grow up? Is it too late? I used to believe that after 30 you needed to be in your career of choice or you would never make it. I am sure you know how wrong that is but that doesn’t stop us from believing it from time to time. In fact, I sometimes think about dreams I have and plans with the phrase, ‘it would be great to be ____ or have ____ by the time I am 40.’ Well, that is 4 long years away. But, instead of looking at the amount of time left to accomplish those goals and dreams I think, ‘that can’t happen by then, there is not enough time.’
Have you ever been where I am? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. I’ll continue my story in the coming posts and hopefully encourage you as I travel down this road.