I was at a party the other day and a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time greeted me and asked how life was going. I replied, “Good!” Even with extroverted small-talking skills, my mind went blank as to what else to say. I tried to muster up all the different follow-up phrases I could use: “Things are busy!” or “Work is great!” or “Yep, still living in the same place!” I tried to help the conversation by throwing something in the pot to talk about but stood there speechless instead.
What struck me in that moment was that I had nothing exciting or different to present about my life. I had no big news or headline-worthy announcement to reveal: no change in job, shiny house, cute baby, or new marriage. My life looked the same as last time I talked to her, and it made me feel insecure—like I needed to go to Africa and take a lot of pictures, or have a baby, or at least a baby bump so I could talk about my strange cravings at night. I had no show-stopping stories or news about my life to look impressive; my life felt ordinary.
Our lives are dated with really big moments: birthdays, graduations, marriage, moves, houses, kids. We see them as milestones and mile markers through our lives; they show where we’ve been and where we’re headed (and they make great conversations at parties). But what about the in-between? We actually spend most of our lives here.
We spend our time in the little moments where life is steady and routine; a place where Facebook doesn’t see. Yet we try to jump from milestone to milestone as fast as we can so that we avoid the reality that at some point in our lives the dust will settle---and then what?
Our days start looking mundane. Every day, we press snooze at the same time, drive the same commute, go to the same ol’ job. We’re washing dishes constantly (God, please send us a dishwasher), buying toilet paper, and paying off college debt (anyone?). We haven’t moved cities recently, and we’ve kept the same job for 3 whole years which feels like a lifetime. Life has slowed down just enough for us to recognize this truth: our lives are starting to look responsible and grown up and—let’s get real—that absolutely terrifies us.
I’m an advocate for adventure, travel, and spontaneity, I’ve spend much of my life chasing it. But perhaps, deep down somewhere, many of us are just scared of what will be there when the dust settles. We’ve gotten in the habit of chasing new things when we get bored: new destinations, jobs, relationships, experiences. We get affirmation by posting our accomplishments on Instagram, creating a polished look on our life. We’ve put all of our effort keeping our lives exciting and impressive.
Can I be honest? Seeking adventure and affirmation out there can be exhausting. It was for me.
I wouldn’t trade my days of travel, crazy internships, and moving somewhere “just because,” but I’m glad I’ve landed somewhere. My head got dizzy from the constant movement and my heart distracted from the newness. I spent several years avoiding the ordinary parts of life scared of what I might find. While all along, there was beauty surrounding me. I was just too distracted to notice.
As people, we’ve become so obsessed with the big, showy moments that we’ve forgotten the sweetness found in the small ones.
In the in-between we can find joy in commitment, strength in longevity, and peace in steadiness. We get to experience the growth that comes in investing in something and in someone for longer than a brief moment. We can see friends through different seasons of life in both the ups and downs. We get to plant roots, dig our heels in deep, and stick around for awhile even when it gets hard or boring. When we do this we’ll see color and richness, beauty and adventure in the most mundane parts of life. We’ll see life for what is really is.
So when the dust settles, we’ll be here---in the real parts of life—in all it’s beauty and richness. Not forward or behind but right here--- in the in-between.