Regrets and Insecurities
What looks like a highly productive and diverse life, to me often feels like a smattering of shallow wading pools across the surface of a life that was meant to go much deeper. As I've rounded the corner of 30 and am well on my way to 33, I'm proud of my accomplishments - stable marriage, two kids, PhD in engineering, small pottery business, funky little vegetable garden, and yet I can't help a feeling of disappointment that creeps in when I am making strides towards gratitude for the life I've been given.
Here's where I struggle. As an engineering Adjunct Professor, I recognize that in the world of academics, I'm nothing. I teach distance courses from home, but that is the current extent of my involvement in academics. I'm okay with being a nothing. However, I look at the 8 years of schooling and people who invested in my education and feel like I'm letting them down. No, not a one of them probably reflects, "What happened to Paige? What a waste!". We make a much bigger deal of ourselves than anyone else does. I chose to stay home with kids rather than putting in 14 hour days to constantly prove myself and work towards the next level. I don't regret the decision, but I do feel like I've squandered something.
As a wife, I hate that my husband carries the brunt of the finances when I am so heavily educated. It just seems stupid that I am pursuing a business in ceramics, which pays next to nothing, when I could likely find a lucrative position in my field of study. Also, as proven last weekend while I was away at a pottery show, Joe is far better at running the house and caring for the boys than I am. I'm not looking for pity here - it is just the fact of the matter. My husband is amazing, through and through, and I feel like he got the raw end of the deal. I suppose I owe him a really awesome mug for his desk at work - you know - to remind him that I get to pursue this artsy passion while he grinds away at the cubical life.
Then there is the fact that from the age of 10 to the age of 23, I was so certain that I would be an overseas missionary, that it was my response when asked what I would do with my life. Guess what? I live in Raleigh, NC, US of freakin' A. I think of all those friends that invested in my short-term trips and feel like I have let them down. Yet once again, not a one of them is reflecting, "Wow. Paige sure was a big fat liar." But still, I carry that guilt. Not only am I in Raleigh, but as I've grown into this adult self who stays home with her kids, I find that I'm a bit of a hermit - as in I'm relieved when friends have to cancel their plans with me.
Then my 32 year old self steps back, swallowing that knot forming in the throat and says, "It's all dust in the wind. Your identity CANNOT be in your earning power, your sphere of influence, your accomplishments. It cannot be in how people perceive you." Everything I ever needed to accomplish was accomplished for me on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago. His love for me doesn't waver when I struggle to believe in His existence. His approval of me doesn't wane even in the midst of self-loathing. His joy over me doesn't dissipate when I fail to fully live up to my potential.
My choice now is to try to enjoy God. For me, this involves gratitude, observing his creation, and working with my hands. I can't express how thankful I am for what I've been given, and for the Giver himself. I'm thankful that there's more than this life. I'm thankful that it's okay if we never get to travel to paradise islands, the Alps or even take our kids to Disney, because there is so much more beauty and fun and fulfillment to come. And there is so much beauty now - in the plants as they unfurl their first leaves, in the taste of cheese as it mingles with tomato sauce, in the laughter shared between my boys, in seeing clay formed into a vessel. Knowing there is more to come makes dealing with these current disappointments possible. Knowing I am loved and approved lets me be okay with self-disappointment and move forward in confidence.