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Saturday, January 20, 2018

4 Ways to Be Sure You're Not Wasting Your Life

"How's your stall?"

I looked up from the floor, away from the dustpan I was sweeping crumb carnage from the lunch shift into and laughed. Travis always asked me this at the end of one of our busy shifts at the restaurant where we worked.

It was a reference to a Proverb. One that that talked about how you need an ox for a harvest. You don't want an empty stall. Otherwise, you can't do the work ahead of you. No work. No harvest.

The only problem? The manure.

Because you can imagine what happens to the stall of an ox, or any large animal for that matter, after a time. It's sort of like what happens to my son's diapers after a road trip.

Stuff builds up.

Questions would run through my head. Second-guesses, discontent. Often times I'd look at the work before me and wonder if I was on the complete

But this was a long time ago. Long before my son was born. Long before I even knew my husband. It was a very different season. A particularly lonely, doubtful one.

"Lot of manure today," I told Travis that day. "Lots of shoveling."

Travis and I would toss the phrase back and forth to each other. Both of us were waiting tables to pay our way through graduate school. Lots of 16-hour work days. Lots of closing at 2 a.m. and being back for the opening breakfast shift at 6 a.m.

Lots of swallowing pride. Bringing hot sandwiches and tea refills to women my age with slick hair and pressed suits at their important lunch meetings.

On my bad days, I'd hang my head and feel like a complete loser. Like everyone who ever warned me that pursuing an English degree would one day equate to me flipping burgers was right. And there were a lot of warnings.

But on my good days, I knew that I was gaining some grit. That if I had the tenacity to find passion in the small of my job, if I could learn to find something to be passionate about through the 16-hour work days and the all too-real crying in the walk-in cooler moments, someone would notice.

Eventually, I'd wind up serving dinner to a woman who one day became my boss. The stuff I did on a minor scale then (talking to strangers, giving bad news to tables, relaying messages to the kitchen, anticipating the needs of others) was all prep-work for a job I now love.

I don't know where you are today.

Maybe you're an assistant in a marketing firm waiting for an opportunity to show your creative ideas. Maybe you're a teacher frustrated with the administration, waiting for someone to listen to how you could improve your school district.

Maybe you're a new mom like me, and your dreams, friendships, travels, and social life have been put on a brief hiatus in place of building a new dream in the form of a wriggling, squirmy little one.

But these seasons – whether earning your way up in a company or feeling a little like life is whizzing by in the swell of plans, errands and keeping your laundry folded – all have deep meaning. Here's how to know you're not wasting your life:

You're in the thick of it.

Ah, yes. Stall-shoveling. Hard work. There may be qualities of your day-to-day that don't quite make sense, or seem beneath you.

Embrace that feeling and learn some humility from it.

It's true what they say: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. You have to start somewhere, and it may as well be at the beginning.

It's hard, and it's hard for a reason. You're laying the foundational work for the rest of your life.

You're practicing important habits and on a smaller scale.

I love the saying, "If you're not happy here and now, you'll never be."

Meaning, if you're not happy with what you have now, why do you think that gnawing feeling solve itself when you moved to the next level? And the next?

I'm totally guilty of this. First it was a boyfriend. Then an engagement. Then a marriage. Then a baby...now I have my eye on a home with a backyard for my son. But, I'm trying to learn contentedness where I am in this moment right now.

If I can't find peace and freedom in this season, I'll always be haunted by it.

And who wants to live haunted?

You're learning what not to do.

If you feel like you're in the background, ready for the dream job, ready for the right relationship, or the pregnancy test to show two lines – by all means, learn from the failures of others.

Let those ahead of you make the big mistakes and then learn from their guidance. It will save you a lot of future heartache.

You're ready to get back up and try again.

It's hard being in a season of waiting. But as long as you find purpose in the waiting, you'll be a stronger, more resilient you.


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