A Summer Well Spent: 5 Life Lessons I’m Taking With Me


Hey – long time, no chat! I’ve been a busy girl, and I do owe you an update. It’s coming. Promise. But! I have spent this summer doing some serious soul searching, and as I was lying in bed tonight, my mind decided that 1 am was the perfect time to share all of my thoughts on it!

So here are some things I’ve learned:

Life is not meant to fit in neat and tidy little boxes. I am the girl who used to input every single receipt into Quicken and I would break each shopping trip into multiple categories. I spent so much time agonizing over our spending habits, but it never actually helped us change anything. But at some point a few years back, I upgraded my software and all of my categories got mixed up. And it turns out, it’s not so bad to just let my bank download into the program and let it be. As long as we have money in the bank, I don’t care how much I spent on groceries or shoes. It’s funny how something so simple taught me such a large lesson about life.

I’ve spent the last few weeks going through my thousands upon thousands of digital photos from the my fifteen years of marriage. It’s interesting how, back then, I couldn’t let go of five images of baby Aidan on a seemingly random day even though the sixth one was really quite perfect. Just that one picture will do – no need to clutter up my files with images that no one will appreciate in twenty years.

In addition to the photos, we’re decluttering our house. And wow, it feels good. We already don’t have much stuff, but letting go of the (literal?) dead weight instead of shipping it off to Colorado makes so much sense. I’ve made about three rounds through the house and I keep finding stuff that just no longer brings me joy. It’s nice to send it on to someone else finally.

But mostly, this is just about how I’m learning to see life. Perfectionism is only a virtue when it comes to carseat design and airplane manufacturing. The rest of life is messy and confusing and never ever ever neat or tidy.

And I love it.

Relationships are everything. My experience in Hawaii would not have been the same without the connections we have made here. From our acquaintances to our best friends, I have learned that simply meeting different people betters a person’s life. I never considered myself someone who’d be interested in a cookout with friends or a coffee with the girls. It all seemed so mundane and ordinary. But nooooo. It’s neither. Who you choose to surround yourself with makes every bit of difference. And I’ve met some of the most extraordinary and interesting people here on the island. We have watched the hours tick by as we laugh and share stories and talk about all the fun topics like parenting, sex, religion, and politics. I now know that a) I’m capable of making friends and b) “my people” exist.

I think what’s also helped tremendously is that my kids are now older and social events are finally enjoyable. As a mom, it’s frustrating and exhausting chasing little ones around a new environment. You don’t get much chatting time in when you’re constantly doing head counts, pulling out snacks and changing diapers. I don’t think I really understood how difficult it was having three children so close together in age. I just assumed my struggles were a reflection on the type of person I was. But now that I think about it, having a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and a newborn isn’t easy. And it really didn’t get easier until about five years later!

Living in the future completely prevents us from fully experiencing our present existence. I hate to admit it, but we’ve been pretty checked out of life since we learned we were moving to Colorado. While we’re excited of course, we’ve just wasted so many hours planning and stressing and micromanaging every stupid little detail about the move and our first month there. We should know by now that while yes, some things require immediate attention and have to be decided TODAY, much of it can be worked out on the fly. And generally, it seems to go more smoothly that way! But instead, we’ve spent hours house-hunting online when we know damn good and well that we just need to be there to get a feel of the place before we’ll know what we want to do.

So here I sit, fifteen days before we’re set to leave Oahu, and I’m feeling all the feelings about going. We’re ready. We are. But I’m looking through these photos and all I can think is, I need more! Did we go check out this waterfall? We missed that ridge hike! I finally got to see some dolphins, but I didn’t get pictures and I haven’t swam with them. I never saw a sting ray, and everyone got a picture with the sea turtles but me! We didn’t go do the shark cage adventure, and we need to do a few more family portrait sessions around the island. What we have isn’t enough! And we never made it to the Big Island either.

But of course, there are only two weeks left, and I should have been doing these things in the past two months. But we didn’t. We sat on our couch and planned. And planned some more.

So obviously, I still have some work to do on this. But recognizing you have a problem is the first step, right? And honestly, we may not have spent every day lounging on the beach or every Saturday up in the mountains, but we totally made the most of what essentially amounted to a two-year vacation in Paradise. I do know that. But who wouldn’t get a little panicky about leaving this beautiful place?

Sometimes it’s not only okay but totally necessary to let go of certain dreams. I have spent the past few months really thinking about my future, my ambitions, this blog, and what the hell my purpose is in life. I’ve been spinning my wheels for a while now and I’m just getting nowhere. And what’s that quote? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Yeah, that’s the one. I keep getting sidetracked and mostly, just totally effing impatient when it comes to my future. I can’t just let things be – I feel like I need to have every answer right now. And that leads to a lot of stress and frankly, it generally leads to me feeling inadequate. Because I think when it comes right down to it, I have too much on my plate at this very moment to have my career in order. I’m only halfway done with my degree, and I have three homeschooled children at home.

I don’t need to have it all figured out. And instead of constantly trying to force the issue, maybe I should just let things come organically. Because I don’t seem to be doing so well with this frantic and aggressive approach I’ve been employing for awhile now. It’s difficult though, because I approach everything with an endgame. So it leads to lots of “dreams” that may not ultimately be the things that will fulfill me. But once it gets in my head, I veer off in that direction and lose sight of what I really wanted all along.

So I redid my vision board and I thought long and hard about what I actually want in life. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll share the revised version. Mostly, I’m starting to understand that this narrow view I have of what my life might look like in the future is severely limiting my ability to experience joy now. (So I guess we’re back to the last point up there.)

And to wrap it all up…

Have some damn patience with life. No matter how good things are going, I’ll still find 15 things I need to do that will make it EVEN BETTER! It is time to step back and truly focus on what I have surrounding me now: four amazing people who make life worth living and a chance to experience a whole new section of the United States. How dare I be impatient about what might come after? There’s so much good now, and that’s all I ever wanted right? An easy and obvious way to insert bits of joy in to my daily life? I have that! Living here has shown me SO many things that bring me joy. And I’m pissing it away. I’ve proven that with the last few months. I’m either worried about logistics or I’m feeling like I’m not contributing enough to (the world? the blog? my family’s finances? my husband? my kids?). When you know what? It’s okay to just wake up every day and be happy. I am in a position right now to do that. And I owe that to the Universe. I’m just about as fortunate as I could possibly imagine, and it’s a serious slap in the face to anyone who’s helped me get here if I don’t take advantage of all my life has to offer.

And since I fancy myself to be somewhat intelligent, I’m thinking that through my continued happiness and through choosing joy each and every day, those other things will come. The career opportunities will present themselves, and my purpose will be fulfilled. Because that’s what happens when we take advantage of all the opportunities life has to offer. More doors open.

I have learned a lot this summer, and I’ve done it while spending time with my favorite people. So while I may have missed out on some adventures, and I may leave here without conquering my huge to-do list, I guess I shouldn’t consider this summer a loss.

Maybe it’s exactly what I needed to make a fresh start in Denver.


  1. Z says

    Like you I want all the answers now. I guess most of us do.
    But, ya you nailed it all. It’s okay to just let things flow.

    I’m sure it’s not easy to say Bye to Hawaii I find it hard just by staying 4 nights…but we all learn to move on.
    I’m sure there are new adventures sweaters and snow waiting for you.

    You were lucky you came here…maybe you can again :)

    Take care and keep happy.

  2. says

    Those are all great lessons!

    You know it’s funny we’re getting ready to move in the next couple of days also. And although our move is nowhere near as drastic as yours it does represent a significant change in lifestyle and I can entirely relate to your feelings at this time. But there’s the thing, I’m determined to make the next adventure as wonderful as this one! And I’m sure you’ll have the same experience too!!!

    • Nicole says

      Hope your move went well! Yes, I definitely worried that our Colorado adventure couldn’t top Hawaii. But as I look around at our beautiful new city, I feel the same sense of awe that I did two years ago when we were new to the island. I love it!

  3. Islandgurl says

    Wow you’re blog is so powerful Nicole. It came at just the right time. Thank you for sharing your life’s story. I can relate to it somehow…I myself need to do some soul searching soon. God bless on your move to Colorado!

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