First things first. I SPENT NEW YEAR’S EVE IN TIMES SQUARE! My best friend and I drove (yes, drove) to New York City for a little vacay and to bring in the new year (and her birthday, woot woot!) with a LOT of other people. It was like you might imagine: people, music, people, people, music, people, people, people, people. Oh, and a big shiny ball. We found our spot at 11 that morning and somehow managed to get in the section closest to the stage and ball (thank you NYPD for your assistance with this). We knew we would be there for 13+ hours but ya know, you don’t really know what you’re in for until you experience it. We realized too late that we forgot our snacks but we ended up being okay with that because it meant we didn’t have to use the *gulp* adult diapers we were wearing. Yes, you read that correctly. There are no public restrooms and if you leave you can kiss the night goodbye. So we put those diapers on and said a few (dozen) prayers that we wouldn’t need them. The day was fun and long and cold but mainly fun. We made new friends and watched some famous people perform. We watched lots of people dance unashamedly and as the time passed, we laughed at how we were actually there. We had held the plan loosely because we didn’t know what to expect or if we would even make it to Times Square in time to be in the crowd at all. But here we were and the clock was finally close to midnight. The crowd started to gather because everyone wanted to have the best view of the ball and it was around this time that I began to wonder if my obituary would contain the words “trampled” or “suffocated.” The final countdown was on and it was really an experience like no other. I don’t want to glamorize it or anything. It was still cold, crowded to the extreme, and we (and I’m sure many others) were hungry and would have paid a small fee to use the restroom. But how cool it was to experience in person what most only watch on tv (while saying that anyone who does it in person is crazy, right? They aren’t wrong). That many people, counting down to zero, the ball dropping, 3,000 pounds of confetti dropped and swirling around you. The music, the collective sigh of relief among the crowd that we did it! My friend and I love Blue Bloods & the very first scene in the first episode has Frank Sinatra’s song Theme From New York, New York playing so we played that on the drive up in excitement. After the ball dropped, it was the first song that was played and it really was a great moment. I mean, we practically felt like Tom Selleck was there with us (if you know, you know). We collected some confetti, slowly made our way to a pizza joint (with the rest of the city), then called it a night. Whew. We slept good. And just like that, another year was gone.
I’ll admit that I’ve struggled in the past at the turn of the new year. Another year. Did I accomplish anything? What do I have to show for it? Did I serve my purpose? What even is my purpose? I saw a graphic going around on Instagram for several days around this time. Since it was the close of a decade, each of the last ten years were written out and a blank space was by each one. Lots of people were filling them out and posting the highlights of each year. I didn’t see one that didn’t have marriage and children included in the last decade. That stung a little. I couldn’t help but think, “Why not me?”
I have seasons of joy and seasons of pain when it comes to this. I could easily write a list of reasons I’m grateful for the timeline of my life. I have more freedom, have been able to travel more (hello NYC) and have said yes to more opportunities due to not having my own family duties. I have extra precious time with family and friends that I would not have otherwise. And I’m truly grateful. But as each year passes and my dream of being a wife and mother pass right along too, I often find myself in one of two places. One, I clench my dream so tight that I am determined it is necessary for happiness. For joy. For fulfillment. I make up my mind that I will not be fully alive until I have what I want. It’s during this time I find myself having lots of pity parties. I look at everyone else’s life in envy. The other place I find myself is completely lacking hope, shoving my dreams aside, trying (but never succeeding) to convince myself that I actually don’t want that. Nah, it’s not for me. Who cares. This leaves me feeling even worse. There is something especially awful about deciding to give up hope.
I spend a lot of time alone (shout out to you fellow small business owners/entrepreneurs) and I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. A couple years ago I noticed this pattern of highs and lows, clenching and hopelessness, and I decided that was not the way to live. I know life will always have hills and valleys, but I don’t think we are meant to live in this sort of chaos and I know for certain that God is the one (and only one) who can set us on more solid ground where no matter our circumstances, we can be secure, live a joy-filled life, and still hold on to hope. I still have moments of what feels like despair and moments where I feel truly at peace, but the high to which I go and depth to which I fall are not as far apart or frequent.
I know that my purpose is where I’m at right now. To build the relationships I have right now, even though they are not yet wife and mom. To do the work, namely Do Write By Me, that he has put before me. To write the best dang letters and words I can, even when it feels like such a silly thing to call my “purpose.” I have been at this long enough now that I’m making hospital door hangers, nursery signs, and first birthday boards for couples who I made wedding signs for. I’m making baby announcements for the second children when it seems like I just made one for the first. I’m watching what seems like everyone else’s life move right along and if I’m not careful, I get lost in the why not me? again. I find myself wondering why my very job is to help people celebrate things that I wish I had, but don’t.
Over time I’ve found that I can experience joy in helping others celebrate. I really have two options. I can make that hospital door hanger and be sad and mad the entire time, wishing it was my own child I was preparing for. I can be bitter about the work that God has given me to do. Or I can put myself in that mom’s shoes and imagine the joy that she has as she prepares for her child. This makes me want to share in her joy, do my best work and be happy while doing it. This is not always an easy choice and dangit sometimes you guys want such cute stuff that I can’t help but wish I was making it for my own, but in the waiting there is joy and I’ve learned my life has purpose and meaning now, as I do the work I’ve been prepared and equipped to do.
I got a good visual of this the other night as I was FaceTiming a friend in Texas. She gave birth to her first child less than a month ago and when she called, I was outside working in the shop at my grandparents’ house. She set her phone up directly in front of her and was cooking dinner. I set my phone up on a ledge in front of me and was sanding some letters for a sign. It was like a mirror image of each other and as I looked at the screen I thought, this is it. This is life. Each person being assigned to their own task. Every assignment comes with highs and lows, but none is more important than the other when all are assigned by God. A couple years ago I would have felt the sting of that phone call. I would have envied her position and been so distracted during the conversation that I would have gotten off the phone not even remembering what we talked about. But in this moment I saw so clearly that we are just two people living out the life that God has given us, and (somewhat surprisingly) I felt peace.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that every season has value and purpose. I used to reassure myself by saying that where I’m at now is preparation for the future. While I do believe that to be true, that’s not all it is. Where I’m at now is... life. Right now is where we need to be living. Looking to the future with hope, but living in the now with peace and purpose. I could choose to live in gloom, not seeing my current season as the blessing it is. I could be bitter while I work but I would much rather choose to feel the joy for each couple, each expectant mother, each person whose life I get to add some happiness to. I am grateful to get to play even a small roll in helping you celebrate.
So let’s raise a glass to the new year! The year we lean in and see each day for what it is - life to be lived with joy and hope and purpose and love and excitement for the future. The year we keep those dreams alive. The year we ask God to make our paths straight while we wait on and trust in his timing and leading. Here’s to 2020!