I read a lot. I buy a lot of books. I plan to have a library in my house when I get married, full of new and used books that make me smile. I adore everything about books. The characters, the story, the way they can speak to our own lives. I love living vicariously through books, experiencing the romance and adventure along with the hero and heroine. And sometimes I wish my life was a book, plotted out for me with a beginning, middle, and end, and all I had to do was live the story.
But life isn’t a book. It isn’t predictable. It isn’t that simple.
The biggest difference between life and novels is that life isn’t going to happen to you the way a plot happens to the characters in a book. Life isn’t going to give you the experience you want when you sit alone in your house, scrolling through Twitter or Facebook, reading about everyone’s exciting lives while watching reruns of Friends, and wishing you had one of your own. Life isn’t going to happen to you. You have to make it happen.
It isn’t easy. That’s probably the one thing we’re never really told when we’re growing up. I don’t think I ever was. I never thought that just living life would be hard. That enjoying life, creating memories, basking in those moments would take work and effort. It doesn’t seem like something that should be so difficult, especially when I see people doing it so effortlessly. I sit there, watching them create an amazing life, and wonder why I can’t seem to do the same. I wonder when I became so complacent; when I stopped trying.
I spent a semester in the Middle East during college. It was by far the most important time in my entire life. I changed when I was over there, grew into someone different because of the people I met and the chances I took. And it was hard. I lived with people I’d never met in a country I’d never been to. I had to step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. Some days, I hated it. Some days, I cried. But there were other days when I was in complete awe of just exactly what I was able to experience over there. I created so many memories that I was able to take home with me, and even today they make me smile.
One of the lovely young women I lived with in Egypt would always say how much it bothered her when people complained that they didn’t get to do something because they weren’t invited. For her, people were in control of their lives, and it was up to them to invite themselves. There was no sense in waiting around for someone else to give you permission to live your life. That was your own responsibility.
It seems obvious, that your life and experiences are your responsibility. But I will be the first to say that it is much easier to try and place that responsibility on someone else. Because then your disappointments, your boredom, your frustration isn’t your problem. It isn’t something you control. It isn’t up to you. The reason you don’t have an amazing, exciting, memorable life is because someone else hasn’t given you permission to have one.
But if you sit there waiting for permission, you aren’t going to find it. In many ways, we’ve already been given permission. God created us, breathed life into us, and urges us to go out into the world and live it to the fullest. It seems a waste to sit in your house, living vicariously through books, movies, or television, when there is an entire world of experiences that God created for us to enjoy.
There are a lot of things I want out of life, things I would love to experience. I want to finish my Masters’ degree. I want to publish a book or two. I want to fall in love. I want to be a mother. I want to make a difference in someone’s life. I want to travel around the world and write about what I see. I want so much, but I find myself doing so little. Maybe I don’t I try very hard. And I think I’ve perfected the art of running away.
I’ve wasted many experiences in my life. Perhaps I was too afraid to take the chance, or perhaps I convinced myself that if it was meant to be, it would just be. I can’t imagine how much I’ve missed out on, because I was waiting to receive some sort of sign that I was meant to do this or that. Or I was waiting for God to speak to me and tell me this is the path I was supposed to take. I think I’ve used God as an excuse in certain cases, convincing myself that if He really wanted me there, He would have told me with His big, booming voice from on high. He would have made it happen.
But our life isn’t our life if God maps it out with simple turn-by-turn instructions. So when I sit alone in my room, and contemplate why I’ve done so little in my lifetime, why I’m twenty-four, single, living paycheck to paycheck often under my parent’s roof, I don’t really have anyone to blame but myself. My choices are simply that, my choices, and so far my life choice as been to be complacent.
It isn’t enough to want things. Anyone can do that. My eight-year old sister can do that. The part that’s hard, that I can’t seem to master, is going after what I want. You have to be willing to work for it, to sacrifice for it, to live for it. You have to prove to yourself that what you want is worth it and that you’re worthy of it. If I’m not willing to get up and take a risk, make a choice, or do something unexpected, I’m not going to have all those experiences that I long for. That is your choice. It can only ever be your choice. You deserve to have the life you dream about. But you have to be willing to fight for it, and you have to see it through.
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