Neighbor Post: Lessons From A Life Not Going "According To Plan"
Meet the Neighbor:
I met Stephanie sometime in high school. And although we were never extremely close, we were a type of "fast friends."
We had a mutual friend, and although Stephanie had known her longer, Stephanie was Never a "mean girl" about it. She welcomed the opportunity to get along with this new acquaintance (me).
I met the 18-year old Stephanie. She was vibrant, artistic, and ruthlessly creative. A free spirit. Those were my first impressions anyway.
Thanks to Facebook, I've had the opportunity to witness some of her journey, including her marriage. Stephanie is still a vicious visual artist! But today she is also a wife, a mother, and a blogger over at AfroMom.us — and I'm so grateful for the opportunity chance to share some of her journey today through her own words in this neighbor (guest) post. Enjoy!
In less than two years it will be 10 years since I graduated high school, full of optimism, inspiration, and goals.
Honestly, the me at 18 might be a bit disappointed and confused as to what happened over the past 8 years.
I had the perfect destination that my family permanently imprinted in my mind, heart, and values. You know the basics — excel in college (in a degree they approved [of]), graduate, start a career, maybe start dating, get married, and then wait 'til your 30s to have children.
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
Except that I took so many detours I am currently in such a different destination that some family may wonder if they gave me the correct map at all.
I will spare you of divulging all the terrible life choices that lead me here — I'll save those for a book — just know there are a lot. All deeply rooted in finding myself, daddy issues, insecurities, reckless behavior, and desperately trying to "adult" the first time around.
If my disappointed 18-year-old self sat down next to me now, shaking her head, I would have to explain to her that the plan given to me had been seriously flawed, and that those detours led me to a bigger and better plan -
So we didn't graduate college, or intend to change colleges or cities, or to get married without the career, or have health issues, or have children before 30 [and] definitely not before the career— and the list can go on forever.
Instead, God set up life changing events, that at the time may have appeared as road blocks that revealed all the issues that led to the bad decision-making so [that] I could put the pieces of my life together.
Although examining the pieces caused a lot of heartache, once I put them together, I gained a glimpse of God's vision for my life. Thank God I was able to divert from my flesh's plan in time, because...
"Where there is no vision, people perish." - Proverbs 29:18
Ironically, God took my eyesight, one of the roadblocks that gave me that vision and purpose for my life, outside of the stereotypical "life goals."
[I was the] Equivalent to one of those women who put their boyfriend on an engagement deadline or 'I'm leaving you,' whether the man is ready or not. I was unknowingly breaking up with God because I wasn't getting what I thought was for me, but in reality I wasn't close to ready for what HE had in store.
So I stopped playing rock, paper, scissors with my life choices and expecting God to answer selfish prayers that HE never owed, or promised, me.
What's the big issue with trying to follow your own path [and] chasing material social status?
Well, that's just it — it's material!
Do you plan on strapping that career, college degree, or financial independence to your back to take it with you into His Kingdom?
I am not saying people with those things are wrong, God has His different purpose-filled plans for everyone. However, we tend to neglect the eternal things He has promised [e.g. peace, love, joy, goodness, kindness, etc.] because we are so captivated with the life we are "supposed" to have on earth.
The original sorrow I felt from my life not going "according to plan" couldn't be filled by anything else, and now I can move forward with God's vision for my life.
As I sit with my freshly graduated self, I wouldn't communicate all the nitty gritty details that would eventually bring us to this place, because it would all be necessary for her to realize how glorious God's directions are. And HE is a way better navigator than her and I could ever have imagined.
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me,
and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes
and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord,
and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."
- Afro Mom Stephanie Gowdy-Ware
(Originally published on September 11, 2016)
Neighbor Q & A
CF: How do you deal with people in your life who may try to relate to you based on who you were in the past, your 18-year-old self?
Afro Mom: Luckily the people I associated with at that time in my life have evolved for the most part. Honestly some of them are the people I'm closest to because during that period they knew the real me, not the person most people saw who was willing to do anything to fit in. There is an unspoken bond between us. Many of them went through the same mistakes and we're reaching for the same goals.
Of course my family still has their own unspoken visions for my life, but at 26 I think they are truly now understanding that I'm probably not going to follow that path, no matter how hard they push. That can often lead to heated discussions but I have to do what is right for me.
CF: Do you ever judge yourself in your current place in life based on those 18-year-old self aspirations? How do you overcome those moments?
Afro Mom: Sometimes I look at the people around me that followed the path I originally set for myself and judge myself, thinking that I may have made some horrible decisions. But then I remind myself that those choices made me who I am today and helped me grow in different ways. that I don't think college and other paths would have.
At the end of the day those choices helped define my purpose and that's better than following something else just because somebody told me to.