My husband failed his entire first year of college. Straight F’s. Even in gym. He was grieving the loss of his older brother who should have been raging in that dorm life with him but was instead in a casket. Sometimes you can make plans for yourself, and then life throws a wrench in the tricycle you’ve been building. He could barely put his pants on, nonetheless master chemistry. He had always worried he wasn’t good enough. Now he had a years’ worth of academic gibberish to prove it. F is for failures. This May, my husband graduated with his Master’s degree. Straight A’s. It took him nearly 10 years to finish his bachelors. 10 years. It took him 10 years to believe he was worthy of following his gut. He’s the smartest man I know. But I didn’t need his transcripts to tell me that.
I wrote a book that my agent thought would be a slam dunk. It was rejected by every major publishing house in the Christian industry you can think of. Sometimes for fun I go to Barnes and Nobles and look on the backs of books for publisher names. I smile as I read the same brands that have denied my projects. I have had more rejection letters than I can count. I’ve had doors slam shut before I could get my fingers out of the way. I published my 5th book in October. I kept writing even when it felt like no one believed in me. Sometimes no one will believe there is a plan for you. That is why you have to believe it for yourself.
My Nana raised 10 children in the inner city of Boston for many years as a single parent. She had one dream; go to college. When you have 10 children and are a black single mother in the inner city during the civil rights movement, you can’t always just accomplish your dream because you dared to dream it. No one cares how bad you want it. It won’t matter if you hang an inspirational poster. No one is interested in your vision board. Reality sets in. You have kids to raise and mouths to feed. She couldn’t go to college. But she could make sure that her children got their own educations. She tethered her dreams into their dreams, and she worked hard to see them live the life she had imagined for herself. In her 70’s they were gone, and with them went her reasons for not attending school. And so my dear Nana started the drive toward the destination she had always envisioned for herself. She attended Harvard University. She attended Harvard in her 70’s. Sometimes the beauty of the story is in the time that it took for you to stay true to the journey. In her 30’s she didn’t know how she would ever go to college. But she did believe one thing, she could get there from here.
This is such an instant generation. We want love, happiness, fulfillment, and peace and we want it now. We don’t want to work for it. We don’t want to spend years in the hamster wheel. Everyone’s on a sprint toward success and we want as many social media accolades along the way as we can get. We see the top of the mountain, and we know we are meant to dance on the tip of it, and so somehow we miss the fact there there is still a mountain. You won’t find happiness that way. THAT’S A MOUNTAIN. Who cares if it takes you longer than the guy next to you to climb it? No one sees you dancing on a mountain top, and is suddenly unimpressed because it took you time to scale it. People just see your mountain-conquering self doing a shimmy on the ledge and they see someone who just climbed through blood and sweat. You are a beast.
So whether you quit your job or got fired, it doesn’t really change anything. If you are grieving the loss of your father, or your husband, or your son, or your marriage, take the time you need to heal. We put this giant imaginary stopwatch on our lives and every morning that we wake up we listen to it tick. When we are still single at 30, or working as a waitress in our 40’s, it can be tempting to believe that there is no plan for us. That God cannot or will not hear us. That life has served us crap, and we have no choice but to eat it. It’s okay to hit pause. And it’s okay to take the detour. Smash the clock. Your journey is not dependent on how fast you finish. It is dependent on whether or not you have the stamina to push through to the finish line.
Sometimes no one else will believe there is a plan for you. That is why you have to believe it for yourself. No matter how far off track you have gotten, no matter how many years have passed, no matter how much time you have wasted, you go to the base of that mountain, and you take one step.
You won’t find happiness. It’s not something you trip over. You will never stumble upon a Pegasus that carries you to the top. No one magically finds the secret to what makes life easy. It’s not meant to be. Joy is born through the perseverance it takes to push through the crap you never thought you’d get through. You will get through this.
And you can get there from here.
Heather Thompson Day is a lecturer for Southwestern Michigan College, Purdue Tech University, and Ferris State University. She is the author of 5 Christian Books and writer for The Spilled Milk Club, Facebook, or check her out on Instagram.