Lately I’ve been talking to an old friend, and her family is walking through a path similar to the one we walked just a few years ago, when we made the transition from living overseas to life back in our home country.
It’s brought back memories of those difficult days, when we weren’t sure what to do. We were at a crossroads, and turning neither direction was wrong. Unlike a Choose Your Own Adventure book, choosing one path didn’t mean becoming queen of your own country, and going the other way didn’t mean certain death.
For us, the choice was between continuing our cross-cultural life, or returning to a life where things “made sense.” At its simplest, the first route guaranteed adventure and a global experience; the latter meant a predictable routine and being closer to family and friends.
See? Both good choices.
That season of transition was one of our most difficult, but I’m grateful for it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything easier. The reason is because I treasure like gold the things I’ve learned from that experience.
Here’s what I told my friend to remember when she’s faced with a tough decision, when neither choice is wrong.
Do what you know to do
For us, it came down to opting for what we knew we were called to do, instead of what we might be called to do.
Let me explain. We realized that yes, our jobs overseas were important and life-changing, and the friends we worked with could say our presence there was valuable. But at the end of the day, someone else could do them. Nothing hinged on the balance of us living overseas.
But no one else could be my children’s mother. And no one else could be Kyle’s wife. Those were undeniably roles that I and I alone could play. If I didn’t do those things, there was no substitute. Nor would I want there to be.
So ultimately, we chose what was best for our family at that time over things that were good and noble, but were things that honestly, somebody else could do. I knew that when I looked back in 20 years, I wouldn’t wish I’d have chosen a job over doing what was best for my kids. That was a no brainer.
Do you feel stuck, not knowing what to do? Does your plate feel full to overflowing, but you aren’t sure what needs scraping off? Are you torn between too many people asking you to do too many good things?
First—breathe, and possibly get some sleep and eat a snack. It’s amazing the frustration we feel when we’re hangry (when you’re so hungry you’re angry) or tired.
Then, list out the things in your life you know are yours. Being your spouse’s spouse. Being your kids’ mom or dad. Check.
Decide what’s best for helping you do those tasks, and make time on your plate to do those things. Then, see what room you have left over. That’s the space you have for the other good options.
Sounds simplistic, and that’s because it is. When we’re in the thick of making tough choices, it’s often hard to see the obvious—at least it is for me. I’m surprised how often I return to this little truth, and it’s almost never over enormous decisions like, in which country should we live?
It’s about things like whether I should homeschool, or do something else. It’s when I consider a writing assignment. It’s even when I check my schedule to see if I have time this week to do coffee with a girlfriend. And the answer to each of these (and plenty more) is different, depending on the circumstances.
But the best answer always comes down to the basic reality of making sure they help me do the jobs I know I’m meant to do.
What’s on your plate right now that you’d love to scoop off? What choice are you facing? Does it help to remember that first, you’re meant to do those things that only you can do?