We have struggled with when and how to tell people about our new take on life and our subsequent path changing decisions. We’ve been through a bit of turmoil the past couple of years with yet another untimely death in the family and transitions to new careers, a new location, etc. While we love Flagstaff and our new home, not everything panned out the way we thought it would. During this time of transition, we were forced to reflect on what we are doing with our lives and the fact that anyone, including ourselves, could be gone tomorrow. We want to spend time with our kids before it’s too late; before we know it they will be grown. We are taking this opportunity to eat Dessert First.
Up until this period of serious introspection and reflection, I was racing around like a crazy person trying to be “successful”. I had to be the best PhD student UT Austin ever saw! Looking back now, I realize this was unrealistic, but at the time, it did not keep me from trying! During this time Pat was deployed to Afghanistan, I had 2 children, Noah, age 4 and Grant, age 2. I literally worked day and night – the second the boys went to bed I was working until I couldn’t stay awake any longer. I was always exhausted – trying to be a star PhD student, single mom to 2 little boys who were angry their dad was gone and didn’t know how to express it, and wife of a deployed service member who was constantly in danger. I ended up with pneumonia. With no one to help me. But this is the life I had chosen. I saw no other options for success than to keep on truckin’. I would later take much pride in being able to pull off all of the “accomplishments” I had during this time. Was I happy? I was constantly stressed; worried I wasn’t doing enough to be competitive in the academic job market. I used much of my free time to work rather than spend it with family.
As we began a new life outside of the military and school, we still had the same mentality. The kids had to go to swim, soccer, t-ball, chess club, etc. to be successful. I had to go way above and beyond in every aspect of life, stretching the number of hours in a day to get everything done. We worked, cooked, cleaned, drove kids to activities, went to bed tired and did it all over again the next day. Yearning to travel, we saved for a trip we could take once a year if we were lucky. This is not the life we had dreamed of.
Don’t get me wrong – we love our children and take joy in being with them and providing for them, but we were once again racing to succeed. But what exactly is success? Completing my dissertation, Pat earning his Professional Engineering license and both of us finding civilian jobs as Pat was going to leave the Air Force so I could pursue my career. This of course, is what we were “supposed” to be doing. Success is building a career instead of simply having jobs. Success is making more money. Success is building our forever home. Success is the kids excelling in every aspect we conjured up for them. We were so far in the box, it didn’t even occur to us that it was possible to live outside of the box. The box was a part of who we were, it was safe, it was familiar. But that box became unfulfilling.
Our new plan is to live life fearlessly. We will not let the fear of the unknown, the fear of not being “successful”, stop us from exploring, finding freedom and true happiness. Success is finding happiness and creating good stewards of the World with our children. Sailing the World sounds glamorous – the reality is it’s going to be hard work, but will provide endless bounty of reward. Here’s to jumping out of the box and into the waves. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us, on our boat, Dessert First.