Some people say that I’m shallow, consumed by trivial things. Partly because I am one of the easiest people to shop for in the history of, like, ever. Ask me for gift ideas and I can give you a 5-page list – mostly of items that can be bought for $20 or less. Another reason would be the fact that I am a packrat. Things that have no value to anyone else are special to me. And then, too, I tend to chatter on mindlessly about anything and everything – but seldom about the deep stuff. I don’t open up easily. Very few people have ever bothered to look past my trivial exterior to see the soul beneath.
And yet, the pieces aren’t too hard to put together. I find pleasure in simple things because of my joyfully exuberant personality. I attach value to certain things because they belonged to someone I care about or because they are associated with a treasured memory. I ramble (almost incessantly) because it’s hard to talk about the things that I really care about. Triviality and a certain roughness in my demeanor serve as my armor, a protection against feeling too deeply. And when that doesn’t work, they do a fair job at playing levee and holding in a flood tide of emotions.
But this is not a healthy way to handle deep feelings. Enjoying trivial stuff is good, a natural extension of an abundantly alive soul. But building a wall between my emotions and the world around me – that’s not good. Deep emotions are a blessing, not something to be ashamed of. I admire people who wear their heart on their sleeve – that takes a special brand of courage. The more deeply we love, the more agonizing the pain when that love is betrayed or rejected. And yet, if we turn away from experiencing the good to avoid the bad, are we truly alive?
So this year, I am resolving to work on that. To strip away the tough façade I’ve built for myself and to learn what it means to be truly vulnerable. It’s a scary thought, you know? That others will see the real me, the girl behind the mask. This will no doubt be a process, however. It would be absurd to think that I could drop the mask overnight, but I’m sure enough going to try. Maybe you’d like to join me and be your real self? Be abundantly alive?
Last week, I wrote about my dreams being put on hold. I learned something about myself through writing that article. Those old dreams have been on the shelf collecting dust for so long, I had almost forgotten what they were and how much they once meant to me. For me, it has always been easier to push hard or painful things so far back in the closet of my mind that I can almost forget about them. In order to write about those old dreams, I had to pull them down, clean the dust and cobwebs away, and take a good hard look. They and I had to become reacquainted, as it were. And in that process, I realized something.
The girl that put those dreams on the shelf so many years ago is gone. She has vanished, leaving only her memories to remind me of her. I stand here today as a totally different person. I’d like to think a better person than I was then, but certainly a completely changed person. Putting myself back in her shoes and seeing the world through her eyes was not an easy thing to do. For a brief span of time, all her deepest fears and insecurities and longings and dreams became mine again. And I realized that I am glad that I am no longer that girl.
I also realized that as I have changed, so too have my dreams. They have grown and matured right along with me. This period of waiting has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only has it made me a better woman, it has also given me better and more beautiful dreams. So I will not be putting all those old dreams back on the shelf – they are dead and need to be buried. It is time for new dreams, new plans, new purpose. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
My days in high school seem so long ago. Back when I was young and full of dreams. Dreams of a successful career, of making a difference, of changing the world. I was going to do something big with my life and I couldn’t wait to get away from the people and places I’d always known. I worked hard to graduate at the top of my class – even after skipping 11th grade. I made an almost-perfect score on the ACT and applied to my dream college. I was on my way to the life I’d always dreamed of. Funny how God has a way of changing our plans.
After my first year of college, I needed a summer job. My dad offered me one in his company. By the time fall semester rolled around, my dreams of college and career were gone. A number of circumstances had come up that forced me to put my life on hold. No, I shouldn’t say forced – I could have chosen to leave anyway. I could have put my needs and desires first. Most will say I should have. But here I am, almost 8 years later, still in the same place with the same people and doing the same things I wanted so desperately to get away from. Do I wonder what might’ve been? Of course. Do I regret walking away from what I’d always wanted? Not for a minute.
I’m not saying it’s been easy. Far from it. Doing the right thing always comes at a high price. Just because I turned my back on my dreams doesn’t mean that those dreams were dead. I’ve struggled numerous times with that decision. Did I make the right choice? Am I crazy? When will it be my turn? I always come back to the same answer – I am where I’m most needed. For now, that is enough. I wonder if life will always pass me by, if my day will ever come. Maybe so, maybe not. Either way, I will continue to live my life by the only creed I know: to do as much good as I can wherever He places me. Whether the rest of the world applauds or condemns me, even if I walk alone, I know in my heart that I have done the best that I could. In the end, that’s all that matters and I believe He will honor it.
Another year has slipped into the past. As each of us says goodbye to 2015 and greets a brand-new year, what thoughts are in our hearts? Is it regret for all the things we didn’t do last year? Maybe for a few things we did do? Relief at a chance to begin again? Anticipation of what the future brings?
It’s quite common and perfectly normal to step back and take a good hard look at ourselves and our lives at the beginning of a new year. A good chance for self-evaluation. It’s easy to lose focus in the everyday hum-drum of life; now is the time to refocus and redefine. Who we are, where we’re going, what we want. To get back on course in this tempestuous sea of life.
I always ask myself a list of questions around this time. The answers, though some may be difficult to admit even to myself, invariably point me in the direction I need to go. Perhaps they will help you as well.
- What did I do right last year?
- What did I do wrong last year?
- Am I the person I want to be? Why not?
- What is my biggest weakness? How am I going to beat it this year?
- How can I treat the ones I love better than I did last year?
- What specific things do I want to accomplish this year?
- What do I want to accomplish in the next 5 years? 10 years?
- How can I be moving toward those goals right now?
- What am I doing that is not bringing me closer to where I want to be?
- How can I make a difference in the world around me?
The only way to answer these questions is with complete, even brutal, honesty. Only when we are honest with ourselves can we see progress. Getting specific with what is wrong and how you are going to fix it will put you on track for a great year. With determination, clarity, and more than a little help from above, there’s nothing we can’t do.
Happy New Year to you and yours from Dirt Road Princess! May your days be filled with peace, joy, contentment, and above all, love.