Thursday, April 26, 2012

Living an Irregular Life...

I’ve come to believe over the years that I was never meant to live the regular life. God knows that I would have never been happy doing things like everyone else; following the standard pattern of living that seems to lead to the happiest sort of existence; or at least, the most ideal sort of existence. But that’s not true either; this set pattern of happy existence. It seems that when we take life’s most desired outcomes; education, marriage, family, and ultimate happiness, we place them on our own special timeline and think that if these things don’t happen within this timeline, then ultimate happiness will not be achieved. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and living in the proverbial Mormon Mecca (that’s Utah, by the way), there seems to be an established cultural ideal of when x, y, and z must be accomplished or there’s something wrong; or God’ forgotten you, or you’re not living rightly enough. It’s a culture thing, not a religion thing.

So we strive to graduate high school, attend college and/or serve missions, ultimately meet our spouse during our educational sojourn and most certainly pre-25 years old, start having babies… many many babies, and see our lives spread out before us like our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers before us. That’s how it’s been done, that’s how everyone else does it, and if it’s not in “X” prescribed timetable, somehow we feel that we’re failing ourselves, our predecessors, and our God. My mother got married when she was “almost 20”, my grandmother when she was 19, and my great grandmother when she was 18. They began having children very soon thereafter and because of this, we have gotten to know each other in a capacity that may not have otherwise come about – in such a capacity that many do not get to know their mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers. I’m grateful that my predecessors have lived life how they’ve lived it so I can be a part of their lives in this wonderful capacity. But it has not been my lot to live my life in that way. Not yet.

I am now 28 years old and seem to be spitting in the face of “the standard” which seems to come so easily to those before me, around me, and even after me. My timeline is not considered standard protocol and for some reason, this has caused me much angst for many years. It has caused many women around me much angst for longer than me.

But I’ve come to realize, I was never meant to live the standard life. I don’t think anyone is.

And I know that now.

Unlike my predecessors, I have done what would have been considered very non-standard things for women in their generation; even in my generation given my cultural surroundings. This can be said of the many women I know who may feel that their not so standard time lines is their curse, rather than their blessing. That they’re being left behind somehow; and their not living life how they perceive it should be lived, through no fault of their own.

As for my “non-standard” living, I’ve graduated from school with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. I’ve lived on my own since I was 18. I’ve taken on my own bread-winning role, traveled to some exotic places, and bought a car with my own money. I’ve moved eight times in 10 years, lived by myself, owned a cat, and assembled most of my own furniture. And just because I can assemble a bookcase or could tell you that snorkeling in Thailand is an amazing experience everyone should have, doesn’t necessarily make me non-standard, but it does thwart the societal idea of “this is how it should be by now.” I do not relate accomplishments or experiences as a “look how awesome I am” proclamation; though to be honest more women SHOULD boast of their awesomeoness because society does a fine job of tearing them down. Nor do I assume I would not have otherwise done these things had my life taken on a more standard timeline nor do I think you CAN’T do the things I’ve done with a few other things in the mix like marriage and babies. No. I’m saying this because I’ve finally realized that those wonderfully standard desires for life have not surpassed me simply because I’VE surpassed the ripe old age of 25. They’ve not surpassed me because I’ve gone to school and would like to own a house someday and get my own oil changed. Rather, I am grateful for the unstandardness of it because I wouldn’t be entirely happy any other way. And God knew that, He knows it. That’s why he’s God and I’m not. That’s why His plan is always better than mine. That’s why He knows me better than I know me and is going to set up things for my ultimate benefit. That’s true for everyone who thinks that they’re life is somehow missing the mark because “everyone else” keeps getting what they want and can’t seem to grasp. There is no standard! There’s only living individual lives as they are meant to be individually lived.

And knowing THAT makes what may seem unconventional, completely right.
That said, I’ve submitted my application to be a Peace Corps volunteer.

I’ve only discussed this process with a few good friends, a family member or two, and a girl from my Ward who served as a Peace Corps volunteer. I’m loath to announce such things and then, for some reason or another, have them not pan out. I’m no stranger to big goals, big plans, big ideas, that don’t quite seem to quite pull through. I blame the plans, not my resolve. Besides, some things are right for different reasons than I thought they were. We have all had experiences that seemed they were going to lead one direction, only to send you spiraling into what you think is a chaotic void, but was the right path all along. Trust that one day your hindsight will be 20/20.

At first I wanted to wait until I was officially accepted, the date was set, the region established, and then make a big surprising announcement like: “I’m moving to Vanuatu for 27 months!! Anyone want to buy a teal Scooter?” or “Tell me everything you know about farming in Sub-Saharan African.” But instead, I have opted out of such dramatic pronouncements and slipped this information in as a book end to my recent realization that my life isn’t meant to be “regularly” lived, that there are no regular lives, and that joining the Peace Corps makes complete sense; not as a way to attempt to live irregularly, but as an acceptance that that’s how it’s supposed to be and that what is supposed to be is the right way to be. Acknowledging that there’s someone up there that knows more than you do about what will help you experience your best life takes the fear or frustration or desperation or whatever it is that makes you shake your fist at the sky, out of the opportunities before you that may, at the time, not seem “standard” but are never the less right.

So I am committed. I’m excited. And I’m hoping that it will all work out; knowing that no matter how it works out it has worked out. 

Updates forthcoming!


Jaime Van Hoose Steele said...

Sooo excited for you to go and for me to come visit! Cheers to being irregular and having adventures!!

Just a thought... said...

This will definitely throw a wrench in your plans to be on the Mormon Dating Show! Hah! I have to say after having my oldest in Iraq and Afghanistan I was very glad and relieved to have him safely back in the home land at least for now. It's a scary world out there. Hopefully you'll be sent to an area that's a bit less war-torn. Good luck and God speed

Marisa Jean said...

I'm so jealousI I had my peace corps application in...then God threw me a curve-ball named Jonathan, my husband. I always wanted to go though and am so envious you get this opportunity!

The Sevy's said...

Way to take in all the fun and adventure this life has to offer! Good for you, Good luck on your next adventure. Keep us posted!!

Jessica said...

This. Is. Awesome. Good luck!! And Thank heaven for the non-standard life :)

I've been considering doing the Foreign Service exam but I keep going back and forth...sigh :)