Finding Hope: Preparation

So I always remember that Oprah had this saying: Luck/success is when preparation meets opportunity.  Or something like that.  After a quick search on Google, there is an actual quote by a Roman philosopher that says, “Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet.”

If you read back through this blog, you’ll often see that I regarded our 4 years in Indiana as a prep phase.  In my head, our world looked the same, but we were making preparations for our future.  This was part of keeping hope.  We were struggling financially, I still had trouble finding happiness day-to-day, but I was hopeful that our preparations would pay off.  I could have been way wrong, but it turns out I wasn’t.

So in terms of preparation, here is how I see it:  James went back to school to get his bachelor’s degree.  He has always been the breadwinner in our family, so his preparation was in that area.  I hope to contribute more in the future, but for now I am largely in charge of the kids.  We aren’t sexist or into traditional roles at all.  This is just how it’s happened for our family.  He did the stay at home dad thing for a while in 2009 & 2010, and quickly learned it’s not his jam.

Anyway, so in addition to working (full-time!) on his degree, he was able to find a job that allowed flexible family time.  I look back at his crazy variable-shift hours, and I’m so grateful.  Although he was constantly exhausted, I don’t really recall J complaining.  I was honestly doing enough of that for the both of us.  I remember near the end of his degree, I took a step back and realized how difficult it had to be juggling everything he was.  I’m a big baby if I don’t get 8 hours of sleep.  He was surviving on about half of that, and it took a few years before it really became obvious that he was mentally and physically spent.

So he graduates after 3 years, and immediately he is contacted about going to Afghanistan for a year.  Yeah.  We’ve spent years barely seeing each other between his school, work, and the Reserves.  And now he’s gonna leave?  But you know, our preparation period wasn’t over.  We had a mound of debt that needed to be addressed.  So although it meant delaying our “future” for another 12 months, it felt right.  And so that’s what he did.

On my end, there was preparation, but it just looked completely different.  I kind of giggle when I think of how our preparations seem particularly appropriate for our move to a tropical island.

So you should know that for about a decade, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a bathing suit.  Right or wrong, I was so self-conscience that I refused to go to the beach even though I lived 30 minutes away from the ocean for five years.  So the idea that I used our time in Indiana to overhaul our family’s health and my own body only to end up in Hawaii is pretty damn awesome.

Of course, the things we learned will benefit us forever, and they certainly weren’t just so I’d feel comfortable lounging on a beach.  But my point is that it was all part of my prep mode.  We learned a different way of living, and I gained hope for what our future could look like.  And as I gained confidence in that area of my life, we also decided to homeschool our children.  And that in itself is a process that has evolved completely.

When we started, we planned to “school at home”.  Essentially, I thought we needed to take the standard curriculum and apply it at home.  But over time, I’ve learned more about my desire to educate my children in a different way.  But that process took us through one of Indiana’s online charter school programs.  And even though it was a ton of work, I’m glad we tried it for two years.  We were able to prepare for the kids’ future education.

Another large part of my preparation was learning how to not spend money on unnecessary shit.  I thought for a long time that shopping made me happy.  But then I’d end up with mounds of useless crap.  So those years in Indiana helped me cull through our belongings and understand that we aren’t really sentimental people.  If we have no use for something, get it the hell out of the house.  And I also learned to only buy things that really made one of us happy.  Wasting money doesn’t work when you have bigger plans.

But I think one of my biggest preparations was using that time to learn about myself and what I wanted for our future.  The truth is that in many ways, J’s happiness seems to reflect my own.  He wants to have a job he enjoys, but he is happiest when I am as well.  And we love to sit and dream together about our future.  So we did that a lot.

I realize this post is sort of a jumbled mess, but that’s how our time in Indiana felt too.  Our children were forging unbreakable bonds with their grandparents, while J and I were preparing to break out of our shells.  Our lives didn’t look a whole lot different on the outside (except for the obvious health changes), but internally we were transforming on a large scale.  And then, J was offered the opportunity to move to Hawaii.  And it felt like everything that had been in the works for four years was culminating in that elusive “future” we talked so much about.

It was preparation meeting opportunity.

We did not just sit around and twiddle our thumbs for years waiting for something grand to happen to us.  I am grateful that the opportunity presented itself, but I will never undervalue the work we put in to prepare.  If we had been given this opportunity 5 years ago, we could not have enjoyed it to its fullest.  Our time here wouldn’t look anything similar to how it does now.  It’s easy to think of us as lucky or blessed, but I would hope that if you had been reading my blog for any length of time, you’d know that this wasn’t just handed to us.  J put in some serious work to advance his career, and that paid off.  And no, I wasn’t part of that journey specifically, but I was standing by his side making sure the other facets of our life were ready.

And the reason this fits so specifically into my theme is that when things didn’t feel or look different, I had hope that we were truly preparing for something bigger.  It didn’t happen quickly.  Four years is a long time to struggle and worry.  If I had believed that our forever was going to be filled with instability and discontent, I could not have continued to prepare.  I had to believe that I deserved happiness (we ALL do), and even if I didn’t know what that looked like for me, I could absolutely get there.

And even now, I’m still in preparation mode a bit.  I’m happier than I’ve ever been, but I still don’t know what my personal career/future looks like.  I won’t be a stay at home mom forever.  So I’m getting my psychology degree.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, and some days I wonder if the time and money is worth it.  But it still feels like something I need to do, so I am.  And maybe I’ll never use my particular degree, but it might be something in the process that I needed to experience.

The other thing is that our time in Hawaii doesn’t mean we’re finished.  I’d hate to believe that will be the best time of our lives and everything after will be downhill.  It’s possible that we could have an amazing few years here, and then maybe we’ll go back into a temporary preparation mode to prepare us for even bigger things.  You just never know!  But I’ll always have faith that from here on out, our preparation time is necessary.  Even when it’s not fun, and even when it feels like you may never get to your future.  Just don’t let go of the hope.  Sometimes it’s really all we have.