Free, circa 2009, Erin Walshe
“I just didn’t imagine my life to turn out this way.” These were the words spoken by a friend of mine recently. It is also a thought that has crossed my mind on several occasions. And it is a subject that keeps creeping up in articles and posts around me.
Let me ask you. Is your life the way you imagined it to be? Has it turned a complete 180 and is hardly recognisable to what you conjured in the mind of your childhood or youth? Are you still on the journey to accomplishing the plans you dreamed of while some of it is staying on course but with little detours along the way? Or is your life all that you imagined and did you come to this place with all of the feelings that you thought you would have? Is it better or is it worse than you imagined? Or perhaps it is a mixture of emotions.
I’m sure that because of our limitations as human beings with a lack of foreknowledge and control over our circumstances, life isn’t exactly how we thought it would be. Maybe it isn’t where you thought you would end up settling down. Perhaps it involves more hard work than you hoped for. Or maybe some impressionable relationships that were not anticipated met you along the way. Wherever you may be or whatever you may be doing, I would like to share with you some thoughts that I have been remunating on this subject matter and the questions that come from it.
I once read a quote that said something along the lines of “What if all your dreams come true because you have dreamed too little.”
This really stuck with me. Don’t get me wrong. I am not insinuating that an individual who dreams of the “simple” life of a 9-5 job with a family and house are those whose dreams are too small or limited. They are important, they are necessary and they are beautiful dreams to aspire to. I believe for me, when I read something like this or think about how I had imagined my life to be, I begin to question if perhaps we have dreamed too little because we haven’t included the one who knows us best into our plans. Perhaps we have dreamed too little because we have independently imagined the direction we would like our life to go and we have then pursued those things that we believe will make us complete.
Here is where I would like to write about my personal experience so that I’m not imposing or implying what I believe to be true onto your own experiences. This is a little of the story of how I imagined my life to unfold and what I have gleaned from this recently. Now, we all know that who we are and the things we deem most important change over time and we must give room for this to develop our perception of who we are and the world around us. I’m certain that you have changed your mind on multiple occasions from when you were first asked as a child “What would you like to be when you grow up?”. Perhaps you are in your late twenties and continuing to ponder on that same question. I had a very active imagination and I knew from a young age that I would like to be a teacher. Below I include evidence of a poem from one of my journals in which I was wondering about my future.
In this poem I was questioning what I would like to be and nothing was too extreme or too silly for me to suggest. No, I did not end up with a degree in “princess” or with the occupation of an “ice cream licker”. Yes i did so happen to go to college and work towards receiving a piece of paper and yes I also began a line of work that I believe to be full of variety and colour. But I did not end up with days filled with braiding princess hair or earning a living by eating ice cream, although these two activities do make a regular appearance on my schedule. My point in saying all of this is when did I start to limit my imagination in how I foresee my life to be or even what I’m active about now in the present day? Am I settling for something mediocre because it’s easier, it takes less effort and there is less risk involved. Because let’s face it, it is scary to invest your energy in something that you’re not quite sure will ‘work’ out! But!!!!!!! I believe there is a way that includes having the most open and daring imagination while at the same time the security to pursue those things without the fear of ultimate failure!!! I believe that as someone who strives to love and serve God, that I will be complete in whatever my journey may entail, detours of rocky terrain and all. ( and there will be tough times of shaping us, there is no avoiding that!) Because I am created to know God personally then of course the one who designed me will know the very things that I need and will lead me into more of a discovery of who I am, in light of who He is. What if we were dependant on God when mapping out a plan? What would it look like to seek Him in the imaginings of our future? Indeed they would contain no limits as we follow a God who is not contained by our thoughts or workings. He is so much more and I think he has so much more for us than what we may be settling for!
I guess another point to add is that sometimes we limit imagination because we allow others to do so for us. I’m all for surrounding ourselves with people who can speak into our lives. However there is a difference between someone encouraging you in your dreams and those who are keen in informing you of the path they want you to take. One thing I’ve observed is that there is not one formula or one size fits all for how life will unfold for every person. We need to be very careful of not esteeming our route higher than others because it looks different to ours. The person who is not on the same chapter as us should never feel pitied. That person may not even want the things that you have! Throw off your air of entitlement because you think you have arrived at the point that everyone wants to be at! Young mothers who leave you out of the circle of their baby talk and think that this is the sole purpose of womanhood. The single adventurers who parade their map of exotic locations and freedom in order to show the other group that indeed it is them that is missing out!! We have got it all wrong if we are imagining our lives through the lens of everyone else around us!
To the individual who has imagined that they would be married by now or have that job they always wanted… To those who have thought they would have the house and the 2.5 kids living under it too.. To the nomad who isn’t residing in the exotic place that they dreamed of. God is there with you in it and his ways and timing are best. His journey is colourful and adventurous, comforting and secure. It is the imagination we all want because it has no boundaries and is so freeing. It is better than what we think of for ourselves as it fulfills us and most importantly brings glory to a God who is worthy!