A few days ago I was sitting near our entryway putting on my shoes to go for a run. I had hoped to start the run much earlier in the day, but was stuck at home preparing a french onion soup. I had made a few mistakes, such as starting it in a non-stick stock pot, so it was taking longer to prepare than it should normally. As I sat there tying my shoe laces, a thought struck me.
Who is this person that I’ve become who gets stuck at home because they’re making french onion soup?
This is part of an identity that would have never happened a year ago. There was never a me stuck at home because I was waiting for a dish to finish, because there really wasn’t ever a me that was cooking a dish. Since a week and a half ago of me writing this, I’ve made several breakfasts, a steak, french onion soup, pasta, and then last night, spaghetti alla carbonara. Where did I come from?
What I realized in that moment of putting on my shoes, was that I was cooking, I had become a cook, albeit not a very good one yet, but a cook nonetheless. All my years before I never cooked, and couldn’t prepare a single dish consistently well. Years from now I see myself cooking regularly and becoming increasingly competent at it.
I had a similar realization as Liz and I were biking to church last week. Huh? Me on a bike going somewhere? Never would have happened last year. I used to own a beautiful $1,500 brand-new road bike (that I got on a mega-sale and Microsoft paid for the rest), but I must have rode the thing about 10 times TOTAL in the three years I owned it before it got stolen. Riding a bike to get somewhere was just not part of my identity before. I’ve been in Missoula for four weeks now and I think I’ve ridden my bike about 18 of those 28 days to get somewhere, and I love it. Riding my bike to get around is definitely something I see myself doing for many years to come. It feels natural and it feels fun.
I look back now at who I was a year ago and the types of activities I engaged in, I look at myself today, and see two different realities. In between those two different realities stands this year I have taken off. The realization I had, was that this year off gave me time to engage in activities that I would have probably never otherwise done, and those activities changed me forever.
Had we not lived in Ennis where there was no good restaurants to eat in, and had I not had time on my hands, I probably would have never tried out cooking, and stuck with it, and gotten hooked. Had Liz and I not taken 40 days to bike from Canada to Mexico, I probably wouldn’t have become so comfortable on a bike, and so confident in my ability to move great distances on it.
Sure we’ve done many other interesting things during our time off such as snow shoeing, backpacking, dog sledding, hiking, skiing, and many other activities, but these were more one-time, or short-term things that haven’t really changed me in noticeable ways. Those were really all things I could have snuck into my old life.
I’ve come to realize that the importance of this year off was that it has given me time to change, and that I’ve chosen to engage in life-changing activities. When my life was full of work, friends, church, and all the extra activities in my old life, there wasn’t much room for anything else. I would have wanted to devote a lot of energy to my new marriage, so all of those other activities would have gotten even less energy than before.
By leaving so much of that behind, I’ve created space to really focus on my marriage, which we have done a lot of work on. Liz and I in our first year of marriage have probably spent more time together than most married couples in their first 3 or 4 years of marriage, and that has been invaluable for us. That has also given time and space for other things to pop up, things I never would have imagined. If you had said to me a year ago that I would be regularly cooking and using my bike as my primary means of transportation, I would have thought you nuts. I couldn’t have seen the path from where I was to where I am now. I couldn’t have realized that it would involve having a nice kitchen, some time, some encouragement to mess up and some space. I couldn’t have realized that it would involve biking 2,000 miles over 40 days.
Whenever people ask me why I had to leave all the things that I did from the Bay Area, this is why. I needed time to change. Time however wasn’t the only ingredient, I had to engage in life-changing activities. That’s what I realized, simply be chance, I had been doing some of this year. There have been a lot of other fun things that I’ve done, but only a few of those have really been meaningful and life-changing. I also look back at a lot of the time from this year and realize that I haven’t always used it to its full potential, that there are changes I could have experienced that I have not. I sometimes feel like I need more time.
So, lesson learned:
- If you want to make a significant change in your life, you need time. There are no shortcuts or cheats here, you simply need to create some time and space in your life for that change to happen.
- You need to use that time to engage in life-changing activities. Don’t go and watch some movies, don’t just sit around, you need to pour yourself into something and see what sticks. Don’t waste that time. Please. Don’t waste it.