A Story about A Long Time Goal
When my husband sat me down and told me that he wanted to finish his masters’ thesis, quit his job and move our family abroad to get a PhD, I told him to go for it. “I’m all in for this adventure,” I said.
But in all honesty, those words were easy for me to say because I did not really believe that he would do it.
Now before you write me off as an unsupportive wife, I need you to know that Taido, my husband, had been trying to finish his masters’ thesis for over 10 years. We had these planning meetings once or twice a year where we both made goals, individually and for our family.
His goal of finishing his masters and getting a PhD always resurfaced, as did my goal of writing and publishing a book.
We revisited this goal whenever we pulled out the worn sheets of paper with our ten year old handwriting on them, and it became a source of discouragement.
Because I believed we began these planning and dreaming sessions as a life giving exercise, I suggested that we scratch the masters’ thesis from the list. “Let’s focus on new dreams,” I would say, “You know, ones that we can actually accomplish.” But Taido never would let this one fall off of the list. He would return to it again and again with the hope that this might be the year of the thesis.
And some years he made progress. Really excellent efforts towards completing that beast. One year we even dedicated an entire summer sabbatical to the thesis.
But no matter the efforts made in some years or the lack thereof in others, January would roll around and I would watch him with his head in his hands, fighting the crushing disappointment that again, he had not done what he had set out to do.
So if I tell you that when Taido told me in September that he was going to finish his thesis and that he hoped that by the following year we would find ourselves living in the United Kingdom where he would be working on a PhD, you’ll forgive me if I was skeptical.
However, skepticism is a dream crusher. I have enough of my own unrealistic dreams to know this to be true. So instead of mentioning that maybe I had heard something similar to this before, or instead of bringing up problems with the idea of quitting a stable job and going back to school two years before our own children would start their higher educations, I simply said things like,
Make it happen, honey.
I love you. Go for it.
Because, friends, I ask you, what is the point of arguing about something that is probably not going to happen?
There was a tiny sliver of certainty in my brain that knew that my husband had it within him to do this thing. The same way I know I have a book in me.
It’s just that having it in you and actually doing it are two entirely different animals.
Since we are already in Scotland, and my husband is currently sitting in an office in Kings’ College doing research towards what will one day be a PhD, I don’t have to tell you that he did exactly what he set out to do.
Less than a year passed before he had accomplished all that he had told me that by the grace of God, he would do.
I don’t know exactly what changed, but for some reason, this was the year, and the process of watching him was both excruciating and wonderful. He has told this story himself many times, but through a combination of countless hours of work, graciousness on the part of his co-workers and family and just pure miracles, he finished the thesis in time to be considered for a PhD the following autumn. Then he was accepted to two PhD programs in Scotland. A journey of faith carried all six of us out of our (in retrospect) simple, idyllic life in Arkansas and into this new expat life abroad that we are still trying to figure out.
The timing seems strange in so many ways. We are unusual among the other families that are here in the program. Taido is older than a lot of the professors. We have older children, and in two years, it will be time for them to start joining “the real world.”
I am coming to terms with the fact that the world is changing and that what I find unusual is perhaps becoming completely normal. A year ago I did know what a digital nomad was, and now I am becoming one. Education is changing and the certainties that could be counted on when our parents graduated from college no longer exist for our children. Even now, we are watching people complete the very program that Taido is pursing who have zero prospects for their hopeful employment as professors of theology.
Still in light of the changing world, and maybe because of it, I think it is more important than ever before to look closely at the pieces of paper on which we have scribbled our dreams and to ask ourselves which ones we might finish this year. Which ones have we have begged and pleaded with God about? Which ones keep us up at night? Which ones are important regardless of whether or not they will bring in the money, security or respect we think we need?
Write them down again for this year and again next year.
I know that there are dreams we write down that we have to author for ourselves by following through or using one of the six thousand programs currently being advertized.
But sometimes a dream has to take a backseat to other parts of our lives. We have children to raise or a loved one to care for. We have debts to pay off or a new roof to buy.
But if we keep writing them down, saying them out loud and asking if this is the year, then one day, like beauty from ashes, a buried dream can rise.
This is why I will pen the words Write a Book on my dreams for 2014, just like I have for the last fifteen years.