Because journeys trump dashed expectations

Sometimes our hopes that turn into expectations don’t quite live up to the hype we give them.

And that’s actually not always a bad thing.

It’s been such a joy to see their love story unfold.

I spent the holiday weekend in Northern California for a wedding and was able to explore San Francisco for a bit before I went up to Wine Country. While I lived in Orange County for more than a year and a half, I never made it up to the Bay Area during that time. I had always heard about how fascinating it is, so I was excited to experience it.

My sweet friend Tara had given me a few ideas of things to do, one of which was to visit Coit Tower, where you’re able to see the entire city in a 360-view from up top. I made the trek up there and was enjoying seeing all of the different people on the streets as my made my way to my destination. One thing I kept thinking was that people who live there must have really great quads—those hills are no joke.

When I finally made it to Coit Tower, I wasn’t exactly expecting there to be a line or a fee. Clearly I was living in some type of fantasy land—the line wrapped around three different corners, and I learned it was going to cost me $9 to step into the elevator. I decided to go ahead and pay and wait because I was really curious to see how amazing the views were. I kept thinking about this quote from the Hannah Montana movie: “Life’s a climb, but the view is great.”

I had been standing in line for a while and was probably still about 15 or 20 minutes away from being able to go on the elevator when an employee began walking down the line asking for a single rider. FINALLY, ANOTHER PERK OF BEING SINGLE! I quickly let him know I was riding solo, so he took me to the front of the line to squeeze on the elevator with a group of three people and a few other couples. The man controlling the elevator began telling us a little about Coit Tower and expectations for when we got to the top. If I ever need a hype man, he’ll be one of my top candidates. He made everything sound amazing.

When the elevator opened, I began climbing the last set of stairs to get to the top. My heart filled with anticipation that I can’t really explain—I think that there had been so much build up that I was expecting something more magnificent than I could even imagine. I took the last step to the top, and I tried not to let the disappointment take over.

This is it?

It was only $9 and time you’ll never get back, Nat. It’s fine. You’re fine. Everything’s fine.

Nice $9 views

Sure, the views were beautiful, but the whole experience wasn’t as glorious as I thought it would be. I walked around the tiny loop, snapped some pics, stared out into the water we were overlooking, and then moseyed back down the stairs to the elevator.

As I began the trek back to my car, I gave myself a pep talk to try to make sure that I didn’t spend my whole walk disappointed with what had just happened. I know that I have high expectations for many things in life, and it’s certainly a letdown when one of them doesn’t pan out as I originally hoped, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth the work to get there.

I thought about how much I had enjoyed the walk there—the sights, the people, the brief conversations I had with strangers, the artwork along the walls and sidewalks, the hills (it’s a love-hate thing), the weather, the ability to walk in the beautiful sunshine without sweating like a haus, the stories behind each unique door I passed. All of it.

No, not everything is going to be as we expect it to be, but that doesn’t mean that the journeys we take to get to those desires we have are wasted. I didn’t waste time in that line—I invested in conversations with other people and gave my mind and body some time to escape from all of the pressures and worries I’ve been dealing with lately (I have a lot on my plate right now). I didn’t waste money to ride an elevator and see a city from above—I invested in other people’s careers and in a city that provides a number of amenities for a countless amount of people every single day (I actually have no idea where the money goes, but that’s what I’m choosing to believe).

This is where people were taking couple pics together, so I figured I needed one, too. Of me.

Even though I’ve been as single as a dollar bill for basically my entire life, I have high expectations for what I’m looking for in my lobster. And I truly believe that it won’t end up being like my Coit Tower experience. At the same time, I want to make sure that I’m appreciating this journey along the way. I don’t want to waste my singleness by wishing that I weren’t single. I mean, I got to cut in line in front of a bunch of people because they’re all in relationships or traveling with other people, and I’m not. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

We all walk different paths and are able to go through different experiences in life. They don’t happen by accident, and we are where we are on purpose and with purpose—I fully believe that. So why not try to enjoy the moments we’re given without constantly focusing on what’s ahead? It’s great to have hopes and expectations and to imagine what those fulfilled hopes will be like, but it’s even better to be fully present and to let yourself enjoy every breath that you’re given.

Yes and amen.

Sure, “life’s a climb, but the view is great,” but it’s that climb and all that you endure through it that help you become the person you were always meant to be.

Just ask Hannah Montana.

Because your life is not a cookie-cutter creation

Your life likely looks completely different than those around you and maybe even completely different than you thought it would years ago.

It’s crazy to me that she doesn’t even realize how much she’s capable of achieving.

And you can trust that that’s probably a good thing.

I went to the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center School of Nursing graduation on Friday to see one of my girls graduate and receive her BSN degree. This young woman has been through quite a bit since I’ve known her when she was a freshman in high school, and she has handled every single trial and heartache with such grace and tenacity. I’m so proud of the person she’s become and can’t wait to see how she continues to change the world.

As I was sitting there listening to all of the accomplishments of various individuals in the program and thinking about how impactful nurses are, I had a brief thought of near regret enter my mind: Maybe I should have been a nurse. While I love helping people and supporting and encouraging them, I don’t think it’s exactly the career for me. That’s a lot of pressure to keep people alive—after all, I can barely keep myself alive.

I was having a conversation with someone on Saturday, and we were talking about various things about us and how we got to where we are now, and I said something I wasn’t really expecting to hear myself say: I wish I had kept playing soccer. I don’t like having regrets, but it’s one thing that I admit that I’d like to change about my past.

On Sunday, I went to my sister’s indoor soccer game, and for the second time that weekend, I wondered what my life would have been like if I had stuck with soccer. I was always pretty good at it growing up but then quit to focus on other sports in high school. I think there’s a little part of me, though, that has always wondered what might have been. What if I had continued to play? Where would I be now? The obvious answer is on the cover of a Wheaties box and inspiring girls across the world.

More realistically, it might have simply changed my college experience and where I went if I had decided/been good enough to play at that level.

I can “what if” until I’m blue in the face. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t pursue soccer, and I’ll never know what would have happened if I did. Or if I became a nurse. Or a million other possibilities of things I could have done. My life would be completely different in a number of ways, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Besides, I’m in the now and need to live and be fully present in the now—not in the past or the future or a place and time that don’t actually exist.

Update: I’m not on the U.S. women’s national team.

We all make so many decisions on a daily basis—some seemingly small, others more monumental. But even those small decisions can be life-altering. Every single choice we make helps us get to the next steps on our journeys, and I think it’s so wonderful how unique and different all of our stories are. I’m fairly useless in the kitchen, but I do know that people who bake cookies and cupcakes are able to use special tools to make all of their desserts look alike, especially for occasions like bridal and baby showers and other festive celebrations. I think it’s really neat that God doesn’t do that when he creates people—He makes each person so special in his or her own way with a story that is completely different from every other human’s on the planet.

And I honestly believe that it’s really great that we often have no idea what’s in store for us.

I used to hate surprises. Like, truly hate them. I always used to read the last page of a book before I would even consider beginning it because I wanted to make sure that I was going to like the way it ended. I played it far too safely in so many areas of my life because risks meant unpredictable outcomes. Somewhere along the lines, though, I realized that not knowing where each choice I make and action I take are going to lead is so much better—for both my heart and my mind.

With the exception of Back to the Future (although that one did give me a little anxiety), I’m not a huge fan of movies about time travel or people switching places and messing with other people’s lives (I don’t like any version of Freaky Friday), mainly because I don’t like the idea of people being able to alter their pasts to change their presents. I know that many of us would like to be able to change the situations in which we find ourselves, but the struggles and storms are necessary to get us to the better places we need to be and to shape us into the individuals we were always meant to be.

It’s OK if your life didn’t turn out to be the way you thought it would. I don’t know all of the reasons why we have to go through the things we have to go through in life, but I do know that there’s purpose in everything—in every joy, every sorrow, every celebration, every season of mourning, every hope fulfilled, every broken heart, every success, every failure. Everything.

I’m not a nurse or a professional soccer player or a Grammy-winning singer (that was a pipe dream—I have zero musical talent) or an actress or a SportsCenter anchor or an Olympic athlete (I was so bad at gymnastics that they asked me to leave, and my sprinting career died when I realized that I’m not actually fast) or married to my lobster (thanks, Friends).

And I’m thankful for that.

My life is far from perfect—there have been some really tough mountains I’ve had to climb and moments that I’d rather forget than remember. But if Miley Cyrus taught me anything worth learning in life, it’s that it’s all about the climb.

We can’t actually hop in DeLoreans and go alter our pasts in hopes of changing our current situations, but we can use those times to learn and grow and guide our future decisions and actions.

And we can trust that everything that’s happened in our lives thus far is all part of the perfect plans for the unique and special journeys that become our own beautiful stories.

Some destinations are worth the journeys to get there

I’m not a huge traveler, and I think I’ve figured out why.

The journey to the destination feels like forever.

If I’m being perfectly honest, road trips aren’t really my thing. I guess every once in a while I enjoy them because there sure are a lot of memories you can make if you’re with other people, but I generally don’t jump at the opportunities for them. I’ve driven to Florida and New Mexico multiple times with my family over the years, and each time I was reminded that riding in a car for long periods of time isn’t the most enjoyable way to spend multiple hours of life. Actually, sitting for any extended amount of time is a challenge in itself.

But sometimes those road trips are needed.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I drove to Tennessee. We were both going through some difficult times, and I think we both needed a little getaway. It was a long drive, and we spent more time in the car than at our actual destination, but it’s a trip I’ll never forget for so many reasons.

rodeo_group
West Texas rodeo time

Over the weekend, I needed another escape. I think we occasionally simply need to get away from our normal surroundings and routines to clear our minds and be refreshed. On Thanksgiving, I had talked to my cousin Rachel about traveling to visit her and her family in West Texas—when you’re going through the rough stuff, it’s best to be around the people who make you smile as much as possible.

But to get to some of those people, I had a journey to make.

I’m actually glad I went on the weekend I did, because I was able to escape the snow that happened in Dallas on Friday. I don’t like snow in general, but I really don’t like that people in this city act like the world is coming to an end if there’s any frozen precipitation, and traffic becomes an absolute nightmare. Dodged that bullet. I drove through some flurries on the way out west, but it wasn’t too bad.

What was bad was my fatigue.

I was so tired. I usually don’t get enough sleep on weeknights (it’s a horrible reality that I’m trying to work on), so I’m pretty spent on Fridays. During the first almost two hours of the drive, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it without falling asleep at the wheel—there were a few close calls already. But I made a quick pit stop at a high-quality Love’s station to use the restroom and stretch a little, and I was a bit revitalized after that. I put on some tunes for a car concert, so that helped, too.

I knew I was going to have to make one more stop to get gas and because I have a bladder the size of a jelly bean. But the second stop left me in a state of torture. I was on the phone with someone from the government (long story) for way longer than I thought it would take, but I was hoping to wrap things up by the time I finished filling up my car so that I could use the restroom again. (Small bladder and kidney stones magnifying that issue are a bad combination.) I was still waiting in the car for my tank to fill—it was SO cold—and still on the phone, and then I saw a sight I didn’t want to see: a school bus full of kids pull up. Why were they stopping here? It wasn’t a big station, so I’m assuming there was only one stall in the women’s restroom. When the gas was finished, I made a bad decision: I said, “Screw it—I’m leaving.”

And there basically wasn’t anywhere else to stop until I was practically to my cousin’s town.

rodeo_wesley
Family = worth travel time

You know what, though? Somehow I survived, and the entire time in the car getting there was completely worth it. I had such a great weekend with Rachel and her sweet family, and I even took a pretty long nap on Saturday, which I definitely needed. (Rachel even made her two boys stay out of the room where I was so that they wouldn’t wake me. She’s incredible, and she gets it.) She and her husband were so welcoming to me all weekend long, and her two little boys are precious and hilarious—they kept me entertained the entire time.

As I was driving home on Sunday morning, I kept wishing I could snap my fingers like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and be home without having to endure the drive again. But that never happened. I guess that’s just life sometimes—you have to go on journeys that can often be frustrating and painful, but you have to persist through them in order for you to get to where you ultimately want or need to be. Sometimes they take you to new and exciting places, and sometimes they lead you right back home. Sometimes you have people with you, and sometimes you ride solo. Either way, you grow and change along the way and learn things that help you become the person you’re supposed to be.

We’re all going to face challenges in life. There are certainly no guarantees that everything is going to be easy. In fact, it seems like most of the things that are so great and wonderful either take a lot of effort or a lot of patience—or both. But when we last through those journeys, we might just realize that everything we went through was worth every second of the tough times.

And we might also realize that love is strong enough to make you forget about all of that, anyway.