Today's post comes from my friend, Rev. Aimee Moiso, who recently wrote this article on her blog, The Ridge Path, reflecting on how to take joy in life's journeys. My deepest thanks for her willingness to share it here at Nourishing Joy. – Kresha
A week ago, I was sitting on the couch of a college friend, drinking wine and talking about life. This is one of my dearest friends in the world – a kindred spirit, a sister.
When we met in college, we already had much in common: we were eldest daughters, had backgrounds in music, grew up in similar homes in similar neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest, were the products of public education and progressive churches. We grew up on homemade granola, camping, and car trips to visit the grandparents.
Today, though, our life paths have diverged. She married her college boyfriend and they have two gorgeous, creative and wonderful children. She and her husband went to grad school in different fields. Last fall, they bought a house down the street from her parents, around the corner from her sister’s family. Her daughter attends the same elementary school she did. She and her husband have a happy, honest and thoughtful marriage, and they are in the process of adopting a special needs child from China. She works part time in a challenging and rewarding job with opportunities for future growth, and continues to write and perform music on the side.
By all measures, she is living a fortunate and blessed life.
By contrast, I didn’t marry my college boyfriend. I moved across the country and worked at a non-profit in Washington, DC. I went to graduate school to become a minister. I had opportunities to travel for work, study and pleasure, and within a few years I set foot on all the continents except Antarctica. I lived for a year in Switzerland doing a second masters degree. I have amazing friends who live all around the world and I go abroad at least once almost every year. I work in a job that is interesting, engaging and on the cutting edge of ministry with college students and in interreligious dialogue. My job comes with solid health insurance, great benefits, and two months off in the summer. I have incredible freedom with which I can do things like spontaneously drive to Seattle to see my college friend.
By all measures, I am living a fortunate and blessed life.
As I sat on my friend’s couch, I told her about my next career plans – to pursue a Ph.D. In addition to being supportive, she told me she was a bit envious that I could just up and do that – move across the country or to the other side of the world to complete a doctorate. It made me smile as I sat in her lovely house, knowing her children were comfortably asleep in the next room and her loving husband was on his way home. Yes, there’s always something to long for, always a story you wish might be yours, always an awareness of what you have and what you lack.
This is not the first time the two of us have had a conversation like this. We’re often comparing notes on the twists and turns of our lives, how we felt led down different paths despite our similar backgrounds, values, convictions. The great blessing of our conversations is that we have uncovered the secret of being in our 30s: we can live vicariously through the stories of the other.
Because neither of us can do it all.
We’re of a generation that told us women can do anything, be anything, and have everything.
But in our 30s, we know the truth that we can’t do anything, be anything, have everything. There are choices, and there are paths, and with them comes joy and regret and surprise and pain.
Each of us is happy with our choices. Each of us loves the life she’s been granted. And each of us feels a bit envious of what she doesn’t have. But it’s not because we feel cheated, or because life has been unfair, or even because we envy each other.
It’s because sometimes it would be nice to live in a world where choices are infinite, opportunities unlimited, time exponential.
That’s not the world in which we live, so every so often we have to grieve what isn’t, or wasn’t, or won’t ever be.
And so we sit on the couch and take stock of what we’ve each received, take joy in being able to share it, and look forward with hope to the promise of the chapters still to come.