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.

Wishing in the rain

Rain always seems to come at the most inopportune times.

And it certainly doesn’t go away fast enough.

My cousin Jill and her daughter, Zoe, were in town over the weekend for Zoe’s soccer games, and my mom and I made somewhat of a trek out to go watch her play on Saturday afternoon. I had checked the forecast earlier in the day, and it claimed it would be cloudy and warm all day.

There’s a lesson I continue to learn yet never fully learn from at times: You can’t trust the system.

As we got closer to the soccer fields, the skies turned a bit gloomy, and we had to face an inevitable truth: Rain was on the way. On occasion, I’m like a cat in that I don’t like to get wet, especially when I really want to stay dry. Plus, I had a hair appointment earlier that morning, so my hair was clean and had that fresh just-went-to-the-salon smell. They have magical stuff there that just smells so good. Obviously I really didn’t want to get my hair wet (not that I ever do want to).

Thanks to reality, we can’t always get what we want.

We parked and got out of the car, and we immediately realized we weren’t properly prepared. It was chillier than expected, and I wasn’t even wearing socks. Keds are not very warm shoes, and I don’t like to have the rain on my shoes. (Can I get an “Amen” from all of my Coyote Ugly fans out there?)

We’re more drenched than this pic leads you to believe.

We finally found the field where Zoe’s game was, and as soon as we arrived, so did the downpour. There was a canopy over the bleachers, but the rain was coming in at a weird sideways angle, so I wouldn’t use the word “effective” to describe this covering. I had the hood of my jacket over my head, but that was pretty useless, too. The jacket wasn’t exactly made for rain—or protecting a girl and her hair from it. The people around us who were smart enough to bring umbrellas couldn’t even shield us. No matter what we did, there was no way for us to escape the rain at that soccer game.

Even though we were already pretty drenched, I had mixed feelings about the walk (run) back to the car. Sure, the car would be warmer and drier than the open and somewhat exposed situation we had on our hands at the time, but I really didn’t want to leave the slight protection we had underneath the tent.

But we had to get back to the haven that was the car somehow.

When we left, we took off running, but my mom was struggling. She claimed her legs were numb and then brought up what I thought was a silly observation: “We’re already wet! What’s the point?”

I guess sometimes you simply have to face the truth that you’re in a rainstorm that’s worse than you want it to be.

When I was sitting on those cold, wet bleachers, there was a point when I was simply wishing to be anywhere else—somewhere dry and warm and cozy. But all of that wishing did nothing but make me feel more miserable. I wasn’t even paying as much attention to the actual soccer game as I should have been because I was too busy focused on unsuccessfully trying to shield myself from the sideways rain.

But you can’t let the rain blind you from all of the goodness around you.

The girls were still playing soccer (and having some fun in that weather), the parents were cracking us up with colorful and sarcastic commentary, my mom was right there with me with her usual positive attitude shining through, and I was getting an opportunity to be there for family I don’t get to see very often.

We all have our own rain storms in life—some are short and don’t cause too much damage, while others seem like they will never end and just keep pouring, causing way more pain than we’d ever think possible. But we can’t just sit on the bleachers and wish for things to be different. It’s important to recognize the good things around you; it’s important not to let the rain blind you from the things that truly matter; it’s important to keep pressing on toward your haven, no matter how soaked you get along the way; and it’s important never to give up.

Hilary Duff once poignantly sang, “Let the rain fall down and wake my dreams,” and I think homegirl is on to something: Sometimes you need a little rain in your life that you have to endure to get your heart’s desires.

Even if that means getting your hair wet in the process.