The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made

Mistake

Mistake

I graduated high school when I was 17 years old. Seventeen going on sixty.

I had always been near the top (not at, but near) of my class and when I graduated, had a scholarship waiting for me at the local college. I attended and did great in my classes that fall. At first. Toward the end of the semester, I slipped into a dark depression and stayed there for some time. Though I started strong that first semester, I flunked out. I stopped going to class. I skipped finals. I left the house only to sit in the college parking lot, giving the appearance I had attended class. I didn’t register for a second semester, but kept going to my choir classes as if I had. Music was the only thing I looked forward to. It was the only thing I could do without trying.

I was tired of trying.

Without turning this post into a therapy session, I’ll let you know that first college semester took a long time to recover from. I lost my scholarships, lost the respect of my professors, and lost myself in the process. I felt as though I had thrown the rest of my life away, and there was no real future.

Eventually, I went back to school and changed my major. When I started college, I loved to do two things: write, and teach. In order to do both at the level I wanted, however, I would have had to go to school for far longer than I was willing – or thought I could afford to.

So I took the easy way out. I changed from English Ed to Business.

It took me too many years of going part time and forcing myself to follow through, but eventually I graduated with an Associate’s degree. It wasn’t anywhere close to what I was passionate about or wanted to do. But I knew it was something I’d be able to do well.

And I did do well. I held clerical administrative positions my entire career in “corporate America.” I completed tasks I was assigned, and even received a few awards for my work. But I went home every night and woke up every morning feeling completely unfulfilled. I started to care less and less about my work. I wasn’t doing this because I wanted to. I was doing it because I had to.

After all, I screwed up early on in life, and this was the career I was destined for.

But do you know what? Flunking my first semester of college wasn’t my biggest mistake.

My biggest mistake was thinking that was my biggest mistake. My biggest mistake was not going after what I wanted to pursue.

I figured it was too late for me, and that having an “A.A.” after my name destined me as the foundation of any totem pole for the remainder of my life. I thought I was required to settle in my work, and never advance to what I dreamt of doing once upon a time.

That was my biggest mistake.

It’s not my career (yet…), but guess what I’m doing? I’m writing and teaching. I’m speaking into the lives of others at every opportunity. I’m writing when I’m inspired to share something. I’m jotting notes about my days and the experiences I have so I can share them with others. I’m doing these things because I started to believe I could. I gave up on giving up, and I’m doing what I love to do. This is the only life I get, and I don’t want to spend it wishing I could have done something different.

The letters I carry after my name don’t mean much to anyone. It’s not entirely impressive to too many people that I have an Associate of Arts degree in business management. It serves an incredible purpose in reminding me, however, that I sold myself short.

It took me eight years, start-to-finish, to get a degree I never wanted. In a field I never wanted to be in, let alone retire from. But I thought it was my only (easiest) choice.

And that, friends, was a big mistake.

I was created to be, do, and live more than any test or degree tried to determine for me.

Today, I’m a writer. I’ve written for our newspaper, and been featured on other blogs, magazines, and websites. I have a handful of loyal people who repeatedly come back to read what I share. I have invitations to speak – and to teach. I work for a man who writes and teaches for a living. He is a dear mentor to me, and I’m soaking up as much of his knowledge as I can.

Today I do what I love and I’m able to do it because I chose to let my mistake be just that: a mistake. Not a determining factor, not a sentence, not a curse. A mistake.

Today, I do what I love because I know I’m capable of it.

And you are, too. Don’t wear your mistakes as chains. Carry the scars, but realize there’s new skin over those marks. You can have a new beginning to pursue your old dreams.

Making Moments Count: A Manifesto

MakingMomentsCount-A Manifesto

Prior to 2013, I thought I had life figured out. My marriage had overcome some serious obstacles, our oldest daughter had overcome her dramatic entrance into the world two months prematurely, I was (slowly) climbing the corporate ladder, building skills and leadership capabilities, and knew our life was headed toward a picture-perfect happy ending.

Then in April of 2013, our second daughter was stillborn.

No warning. No idea. No explanation. No realization it was possible.

Everything I thought I knew became obsolete and our priorities, dreams, and desires took a dramatic shift.

I quickly realized I didn’t have much of anything figured out and in reality, was barely getting by. I thought I was successful, but I had only fit into the corporate mold others had created for me. I believed my marriage had overcome obstacles, but in hindsight, we had simply dismissed resolving them. I thought I had been working toward the life of my dreams, but instead, I had been working toward the fruition of someone else’s dreams for me.

It took the death of our daughter to make me realize my marriage, my relationship with Little Miss, and any relationship or successful venture I was working on building and maintaining, was a façade. I was ill-equipped to leave any lasting legacy because I believed I had reached my ceiling in my life’s potential.

And still, after my entire world had been turned upsidedown, I was expected to fit into the mold that had been created for me. Life was not certain or guaranteed, and what was supposed to be a celebratory season in our lives was wrought with tragedy and despair. When my world came crashing down, it exposed the weakest points of the foundation I had built my life upon. It also revealed, however, the ways I could strengthen and rebuild.

Life and its precious moments were too important. I realized – after intense mourning, continual grieving, and whole-hearted seeking – I hadn’t been living. None of us had been living. Our family was surviving. One grueling day at a time.

Some things got worse before they got better. I had to learn to fight for a better marriage, rather than accept fighting as the way to be married. I understood my husband and our relationship was the foundation of our family, and of our future. If our relationship was broken, so were the lives of our kids, the legacy of our stillborn daughter, and the promises we vowed to one another when we said, “I do.”

I realized if I claimed to believe God is the giver of life, I needed to start living as such. If I wanted to get anything out of the life He could make possible for me, I had to start investing in it. I might not have the chance to do what made me happy later on – as “later on” may never come.

It became my mission and passion, then, to guide others in seeking and finding the life they were designed to live, embracing the freedom that comes from fulfilling our calling, and making each moment count. I want to equip others to make moments count in the ways I never realized they could. I want to help pave the way for strong marriages, strong families, and stronger faith.

This is what I write. This is how I teach. This is why I’m making moments count.

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What Am I Supposed To Be Doing?

I don’t like challenges. I don’t like things to be hard.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. I like overcoming things other people think are challenging, and I like walking through to the other side of “tough stuff” looking like an unfazed superstar. If someone else thinks it’s rough, and I plow through unscathed, I like that.

If I’m not winning, or if I’m really struggling, or if it’s just plan tough – I don’t like that. Not at all. If I can’t figure out the daily sudoku puzzle in the newspaper, obviously the puzzle is mistaken. I don’t ever try to keep going to find out, though. I quit. I throw in the towel.

I’m tired of tough stuff. I’m tired of failing.

I went to the grocery store the other day in our June-gloom weather. It wasn’t raining so much as it was misting enough to be annoying and quite literally put a damper on my evening. After I got the groceries and loaded up in the car, I found myself just sitting for a while.

What am I supposed to be doing?

What Am I Supposed To Be Doing-

It wasn’t a simple question. It wasn’t like, “Oh, right, I’m supposed to be driving home right now….” It was deep. It was rooted in frustration. It was a plea.

What am I supposed to be doing?

There are a lot of things I’d like to do. But I’m either too busy, too broke, or too scared to do them. I want to travel. I want to write that first book (and it’s subsequent sister books). I want to sit on the sofa and knit another sweater. I want to take the kids to the zoo (but…rain). I want to read more, write more, do more, go more, be more.

Instead, I find myself in a grocery store parking lot, miffed at the rain, miffed at our budget, and miffed that my life is so hard.

I said it. I complained about it out loud. My life is hard.

I mentally justified all the reasons why. Apartment life with kids, crazy work schedule, trying to build my own blog, not having a clue what I’m doing, enrolling in every webinar on the face of the internet planet, cooking, cleaning, churching, being responsible, running Harlynn’s Heart, and trying to not let the fact that one of my children died, kill me altogether.

Total whine-fest.

What am I supposed to be doing? I’m tired of not knowing. I’m tired of muddling and struggling my way through things. I’m tired of trying to figure things out. I’m tired of feeling purpose-less.

Have you been there? Are you there right now? It’s not just that I’m confused about my path, or losing sight of my goals. I feel absolutely purpose-less.

It’s a lonely, dark, scary feeling.

I started the drive home, instead of waiting for an audible answer. After all, I had ice cream in the car. (It was on sale….dangit…)

Seriously, God, what am I supposed to be doing?

 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
~ Exodus 9:16

Those words were spoken to Moses. The dude who led a bajillion slaves out of Egypt, and brought the 10 commandments down from the mountain. He struggled with his purpose. He struggled with what he was supposed to be doing. He doubted. He wondered. He tried to get out of doing the hard stuff.

He tried to get out of doing the hard stuff. He argued with God, and was like, “Actually, Lord, I have a better idea…you could just send my brother instead, and I’ll be on my way now….thanks for the talk….”

I don’t like this feeling. I don’t like wondering if I’m anything more than a vanilla latte addict. Val who? Oh that gal that was addicted to lattes? Yeah, whatever happened to her?  Pass the mustard.

What am I supposed to be doing? Well, I reckon I’m supposed to be doing whatever I can. I suppose I should stop focusing on the things I don’t like or can’t do, and get to gettin’ on the things I can actually accomplish. I suppose I should let the challenges sharpen my traits, and my tough times drive my pursuits.

Eventually, one day – maybe even in a single moment – my purpose will be revealed. I know everything I’ve struggled through will have prepared me for, and shaped me for it.

Then I’ll know. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.