"You turned down a job opportunity in D.C. to come back here?"
"Yep. Yep, I did."
That moment took me back. Back to that summer when Ben and I were newly engaged, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed. I had just finished my internship, and completed several interviews. I got a call as I was packing to come in for a second interview. I did, and I was offered the job. The benefits were exceptional, the job was exciting, the pay was good. It was everything (and more) I was looking for. I getting ready to sign the paperwork when I noticed the job location....Washington D.C.
I asked if I could look the papers over, and come back with my answer the next day. I went back to my apartment and called Ben. He was ecstatic for me. He knew how much I'd dreamt of getting something like this. I wanted to be happy, too. But I couldn't. My heart wasn't there. I felt like a failure. I was disappointed in myself. I had worked so hard to get that paperwork. I had dreamed of getting my education, going to a big city, and getting a big city job. I felt like I couldn't succeed unless I left my little town. There was nothing here for me to give me the 'good life' that I thought I wanted so much.
The next day, I drove back home without those papers. I had turned them back in, unsigned. I had thanked them for the opportunity, and then made up some pathetic excuse about why I was declining the job offer. I was embarrassed and ashamed to tell them I just couldn't leave my little ole' sleepy town.
I cried most of the way home, about 6 hours worth of tears. I was mad at myself. I was frustrated with myself. I felt like I'd wasted so much of my young adult life pursuing a 'good life' that I had just walked away from. I dreaded telling people. I dreaded the criticism.
And criticism I did face. Lots of it. You spent all that time, that effort to get to where you wanted to be, and instead you come back home. What are you going to do there? What kind of job can you get? You are wasting your time there. You could've had it good.
I couldn't explain myself. I didn't know what to say. All I knew is that home was where my heart was.
Five years later, I look back and I smile. I want to hug that girl crying in her car on her way back home. I want to assure her life will turn out so much better than she could have imagined that day. I remember the feeling she had that day, and the sharp sting of disappointment she had in herself. Oh, what I would tell her now!
She does have the 'good life' now. No, it's not the same 'good life' she had imagined. It's better than that.
You see, my definition of the 'good life' has changed. It goes far beyond prestigious jobs and big paychecks.
To other people, my life probably looks completely 'un'glamorous. I've heard, by definition, I live in a 'hick town, with small-minded people'. There's very few 'opportunities' for people here, and if you ever want to 'make' anything of yourself, you can't do it here.
And you know, by modern American standards, where we push a definition of visual success on every corner, that's probably about right. No, I don't live in a booming industrial area, or a flourishing business district. And we don't offer lots of 'opportunities', as defined by society today. And we may not be the picture of the 'good life' that most people imagine.
But how do you define 'good'? Is it a 6-figure salary? A powerful job? Nice cars? Couple of houses? Designer clothes? My definition of 'good' may not fit yours, and it most likely doesn't fit modern America's definition of 'good'.
You see, my point is this 'good life' that we often strive so hard to achieve is based on what we value as 'good'. Some may believe living in a big, metropolitan area, working a fast track job and having luxuries that this lifestyle provides is considered the 'good life'. And that's fine. That's their value of good.
However, the good life to me is living in a small town. It's letting my baby learn to potty train by peeing off our back porch. It's going to the old high school ball games and knowing where families sit because they've sit in the same place for 20 years. It's a bit of security in an unstable world. It's sitting on your front porch watching a busy world go by. It's hearing about an accident, and having your heart sink because it's likely someone you know. It's going to Teddy's and hardly finishing your meal because you've talked to half of the people in the restaurant. It's driving down old country roads, waving at everyone that passes by. It's watching a small community rally around the sick and the hurting. It's knowing your mailman and UPS man by first, middle, and last name. It's knowing who everyone's 'mother and daddy' are. It's the small town parades that shut the town down. It's growing gardens and raising animals. It's being surrounded by caring family, friends, and neighbors. It's hearing only crickets, frogs, and an occasional night-shift worker drive by during the nights. It's a comfortable feeling in an uncomfortable world. It's working hard, taking care of your family, and being happy with where you are. And it's knowing that, despite the stereotypes of where you live, it's truly God's country, and you couldn't be happier.
So as I sit here and type this, with my windows up, listening to the birds and watching the cows walk through the pasture, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness. I know I am living the good life...the good life as I see it.
Have a blessed Friday :)