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I am now a couple months into my new career, having finally seen an end (albeit temporary) to my educational endeavors of the last several years.  I suppose it’s now time to take stock of where I am, where I’ve been and where I’d like to be.  I’m naturally an introspective person, so this sort of issue arises naturally in my mind.  But in keeping with my penchant for dreaming, not much comes of such musings unless I am intentional about it.  So this is my attempt at being intentionally reflective.

The other day I was coming home from a particularly challenging night at work when a random thought came to my mind: “I wish all that was required of me was to spend my week studying in a coffee shop.”  Of course I was alluding to the tasks that had previously occupied my day-t0-day as I finished my masters and nursing degrees.  But I quickly reminded myself how stuck I felt in those days.  How much I desired to “get on with my life” and give something back, as well as put something toward my future, instead of spending money I didn’t yet have.  I reminded myself of all the days I felt miserably alone, having spent the entire day/week/month in solitude, preparing for the next academic challenge.  But most of all I was reminded of that mentality that my life had not yet begun, that I was preparing for something yet to come, and how hard it was to understand or believe that there was no life to prepare for, that the present was in fact my life.  And this is the realization I force upon myself even now.  There is no point, as Colin Hay would assert, in “waiting for my real life to begin“.  A certain way to feel stuck in life is to persist in the mistaken idea that life hasn’t yet begun simply because you aren’t where you want to be.

I can accept this lesson.  I can welcome it with open arms because I’m on an exciting path.  I have a new job and a new home that I own.  I have great coworkers, great friends and an amazingly supportive and loving family.  There are certain things that I would say I’m “missing” in my life but all in all this is an exciting time.  But just the same I must ask myself why that feeling of longing for the past arose in my mind.  Why, at that point, did I want to go back to a “simpler” time?  I have come to the conclusion that in life there is almost always a trade off and all those cliched sayings are actually true: you can’t always get what you want, the grass is always greener, nothing worthy having is free, etc.  But cliches are fundamentally limited in their impact, by virtue of the fact that they are cliches.  But what isn’t cliche is a song that came to my mind in the midst of all this (it should be no surprise that the one thing to get through to my heart and mind would be a song).  “Painting Pictures of Egypt” by Sara Groves alludes to the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt out of slavery and into the wilderness, delivered from a life of forced labor into a life of wandering and homelessness.  My point isn’t to equate school with slavery although that connection can certainly be made; nor do I wish to equate my current situation with a feeling of wandering and homelessness, although that could be the subject of some other post in the future.  But listen to these words from the song:

The place I was wasn’t perfect

But I had found a way to live.

It wasn’t milk or honey,

But then neither is this.

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt,

Leaving out what it lacked

And the future seems so hard and I wanna go back.

But the places that used to fit me

Can not hold things I’ve learned.

Those roads were closed off to me

While my back was turned.

It’s not that I’ve arrived at some more profound knowledge that makes my past obsolete.  Rather it’s that I’ve now been called to a task that I was previously being prepared for.  The pains and struggles of my past were preparation for the demands of my present.  Going back would be a waste of that preparation.  It would be like a professional athlete wishing he could go back to the days of his training simply because the demands of competition were intimidating.  Of course there are applications beyond that of my vocational situation.  Spiritually and emotionally we are always being prepared, stretched and pulled.  We may resent the pain that such an experience can create and it may inspire in us a desire to revert back to a previous, simpler time.  But simpler doesn’t necessarily mean better.  Go ahead and give it a try and you’ll soon see that when you return to Egypt, you’ll either long for the wilderness from whence you came or you’ll simply come to love the chains which bind you there.  Either way you don’t belong.  You’ve been called to experience the trials (and freedom) that the wilderness has to offer; just another step in your preparation.  You don’t have to wait for your real life to begin because your real life is, in fact, a state of constant change, perpetually characterized by preparation for the next step, whatever that might be.