Have you ever felt like things in life just aren't quite the way you want them to be? Do you get that nagging feeling that you're not living life to the fullest, like there are things you can't quite put your finger on that are slightly off-kilter? I know how that goes. I've gone through times of disengagement and vague dissatisfaction, not quite sure what was "wrong," so to speak, which left me unable to do anything to change it.
But when I started really thinking about it, I could do more than I initially thought. I can reflect on my strengths, talents, gifts, and personality, trying to see how God uniquely made me, and begin to search for ways to lean into them. I can evaluate the different areas of my life, asking myself whether I'm satisfied with them, noting what is going well and what areas I can improve in. I can process through how I can use my strengths in the various areas of my life, allowing more passion into my daily rhythms. And I can do what I can to improve my circumstances and choose to be content with the things I can't change.
Looking back on previous seasons of life to see what worked and what didn't reminds me of part of Tsh Oxenrider's book Notes from a Blue Bike, in which she talks about missing the culture of Turkey after returning to the US. She missed the laid-back atmosphere and the loose concept of time, being able to drop in on friends and stay the whole day without calling first or feeling like she was imposing on them. She knew it wasn't practical to treat friends in the US the same way, since it rubs against the way our culture functions, but she challenged herself to incorporate the things she loved about Turkey into her family's life in the US as well as she could, changing what was in her power to change and accepting the parameters around her as they were. When I first read her book, I couldn't believe how I could have missed such an obviously beneficial practice for creating a life I really love.
As I prepare to move to a new place, I'm reflecting more on what I've liked and disliked about places I've lived in the past, as well as places I've visited, like friends' homes. I'm working to incorporate some of the things I've enjoyed into my new space, and trying to find ways to avoid the things that didn't sit so well with me.
Taking the time to think about what things I've liked about where I've been allows me to get to know myself better. When I think about my preferences, I catch a glimpse into a part of my heart that isn't often exposed. I can move from a vague feeling of discontentment to knowing what it is that isn't quite working to actually taking steps to change so that things do work well. Throughout the process, I continue to learn what works best for me and how I can work to build a life I love, even if figuring that out takes some trial and error.
I liked living with friends in La Crosse and in the Cities. I loved being able to walk nearly everywhere I wanted to go when I was in school, too, instead of having to drive like I do now. I now know that working in sales doesn't suit my personality. I've also learned that being able to be involved in strong community is a must. The summer I moved home after college was hard without a good network of people to support me; since I have gotten plugged back into a church family, I've felt more encouraged, supported, and connected, and I plan to continue engaging in community everywhere I go. Not knowing my neighbors in my apartment building has been uncomfortable at best and guilt-inducing at worst, so I plan to make greater effort to get to know and interact with my neighbors when we move.
As I've learned more about how I'm wired, I'm able to make some small changes that allow me to spend more time doing the things I love, feel more comfortable in my surroundings, and pour passion and purpose into my life. Setting aside time to reflect and actually write down lists of things that have made me feel alive, things I've absolutely loved, things that have just fit, gives me a greater ability to focus, to say "yes" and "no" to the right things, and to feel like I'm slowly moving in the right direction and becoming the best version of myself. I highly encourage you to do the same.
What things in your life aren't quite satisfying you? What are you going to do about them?