Eighteen months ago right here on this blog, I announced that I would spend every Sunday writing about my LDS mission in Quebec. That lasted for about three Sundays and then I let other things get in the way of my writing.
But July 1 marks 20 years since I returned from the Great White North, and I must admit—at more than one point in the past 18 months, I’ve measured my life now by what my 20-years-younger-self thought my life would be.
When I got home from my mission, the only future I saw for myself was marriage and children. It was all I wanted, and to be honest, I saw my mission service as pre-payment for that life. I sacrificed 18 months of music, film, sports, time with family, dates, and school, and the least God would do for me is provide that future I dreamed about since I was five. Right? RIGHT?
Except we all know two things: 1) He didn’t, and 2) That’s not how He works anyway.
Every now and then I feel extreme shame and embarrassment that I never got married. It’s not like I didn’t try…I mean, I wrote a book about it, if you want that whole story…so a couple of weeks ago I thought maybe I needed to quantify, somehow, what the past 20 years have been like for me.
In the 20 years since I got home from my mission, I:
- Graduated from college
- Started a teaching career
- Scored a master’s degree
- Saw the following in concert:
- Indigo Girls, Dixie Chicks, Sarah McLachlan (yes, Lilith Fair lol)
- Depeche Mode
- Harry Connick, Jr.
- Traveled to Japan
- Drove all over the United States multiple times, by myself
- Played piano for 9 musicals, twice as lead pianist
- Performed a solo in a musical about women in Jesus’ life
- Fell in love three times
- Coached a group of speech students to state champions in their event
- Started a podcast
- Wrote a book and somehow convinced someone to publish it
- Watched 66 of AFI’s top 100 movies
- Read hundreds of books
- Made dozens of wonderful friends
- Visited Apple Headquarters
- Presented at several national conferences
- Earned a fellowship with the National Endowment for the Humanities
- Selected as an ASNE Journalism fellow—three times (they kept accepting me even though the first two times I had to bail on the program)
- Landed my absolute dream job of journalism and popular culture teacher
- Selected for a competitive coding scholarship (totally failing at that, but that’s a story for another time)
I’m sure I’m leaving out other significant experiences and accomplishments, but I’ll stop here. Because here’s the point: I did not envision any of this. Not one bit. My tunnel vision on July 1, 1998 was limited to marriage and babies. I look at that list and if I hadn’t lived it, I wouldn’t believe it.
In three weeks, I’ll celebrate another birthday. In the weeks that followed my mission, my nana died, my dad retired from the Air Force, I met a guy I dated for the next six months (and of course, wanted to marry), I turned 25, and my littlest sister got married. It was a lot to process, and honestly, I’m not sure I really did.
So at the risk of “tempting the wrath of whatever from atop the thing,” here’s hoping the next three weeks before my birthday are more calm than they were 20 years ago, and that the next 20 years of my life yield more of the same.