This is the first time in 7 years that I have lived in the same dwelling place for more than a year…
I’ve never thought of myself as a transient person, but this simple fact about my life seems to indicate otherwise. It is partly due to the fact that my wife and I lived in Vietnam for two years and the subsequent challenges of getting back on our feet once we returned to the states. Nevertheless, I do acknowledge that I’ve carried a prevalent “What’s next?” attitude with me most of my life. On one hand, that has been a good thing because it has kept me open to possibilities and maintained an explorative attitude toward life. On the other hand, I’ve rarely felt like any particular point in my life was actually my life. During those first two years of marriage (pre-Vietnam) I always wondered where we were going to go, what we were going to do, when it would happen, and so on. When in Vietnam, I always wondered what would come next and how long would we be there. I’ll spare you the details of everything that’s transpired over the past few years, but the point is I was always wondering when the next phase was going to come; hoping for the next move that would finally get me closer to living my “real” life—the life that fulfilled my hopes and dreams.
“Stop acting like this isn’t your life,” is the phrase that snapped me out of this underlying way of thinking. Honestly, I don’t remember if it is something that I read somewhere or a if it just popped into my head, but it marked a major shift in my perspective on life.
“That’s right,” I thought, “this is my life. This is my life.”
I kept acting like my current job, my current house, even my current city was just a stepping stone or by-product of getting by and surviving until I actually arrive at my “real” life.
Sure, I might be in transition and am still trying to figure a number of things out, but that doesn’t necessitate that I not consider my neighborhood home and take pride in it; that I not embrace my job and opportunities there-within for what they are; that I not invest in my community; or that I not embrace certain relationships just because I’m always thinking I might move or that things might change. It’s okay to have transition and it’s okay to have hopes and dreams beyond where I am, but it’s not okay for me to act like this isn’t actually my life.
As I started to acknowledge that this is my life and take ownership over it, I noticed that a number of things stated to change. I became more interested in making friends and getting to know people. My wife and I started to talk about the possibility of buying a house (considering we have never been in one dwelling place for more than a year, this is a big deal!). Buying a house would mean at least committing to our local community for 5+ years. I started to seriously consider a two-year internship program at a local Jesuit retreat center up the road. I started talking with my pastor about ways to manifest aspects of my dreams and gifting here and now (as opposed to waiting for that elusive opportunity somewhere in my unknown future). In other words, acknowledging that this was my life cultivated a vital attentiveness to my surroundings. It feels much healthier and more peaceful.
I still have dreams of course, but I think it is only by embracing the present that I will have any hope of realizing those dreams in the future. More importantly, the fulfillment I long for isn’t so much found in a certain set of circumstances or geographical place on earth; rather, the fulfillment that I long for is found in a different way of being in the world.
Fellow pilgrims, may you continually be more present to your lives. May you journey courageously down the narrow path to life and continue to discover a different way of being in the world.