Meaningful, Not Big

The other day, I was reading Anna’s beautiful post about her mother, and one thing she said really stuck out for me:

8. Life doesn’t have to be BIG to be meaningful. She never held a high-powered job. She never went on a single exotic vacation, traveled the world, or met famous people, but she is still remembered all of these years later for how she made people feel.

This really struck a chord with me. I have a lot of big, big dreams: travel the world, live abroad, publish a book, do this, do that. The list doesn’t seem to end. And I get anxious sometimes that I am not going to achieve those things, and worry that I will regret it deeply one day, at that proverbial deathbed moment.

What I am starting to realize more and more is that life’s meaning isn’t found in the grand things. It’s found in the every day things: in the look my mom and I shared when we realized we had found my wedding dress, in the quiet satisfaction of a clean kitchen, in the giddy anticipation of Bryan returning home from being away for a week.

I don’t know about you guys, but I am constantly inundated with messages about “live your dreams” and “never settle for less” and “live life to the very fullest” and those are all great things, but I think that we often get confused about what they mean. I know I do. Absolutely we should chase our dreams, but it would be very detrimental to do so at the expense of the other things that really matter in life: family, friends, love.

I always thought that living life to the fullest meant squeezing the juice out of every single moment. Sometimes, when we are having a quiet evening or weekend at home, I look at Bryan and say, “I feel like we should be doing something right now.” Like I am failing because I am not wandering the streets every evening trying to find some grand adventure that I haven’t experienced yet. Even though we try new things and go new places, we go to the mountains when we can and try new restaurants. Those are adventurous things! But living life to the fullest doesn’t mean constantly having to try new things and go new places. It simply means being fully engaged with every moment. It means being mindful and aware of everything that you are doing and experiencing, whether that is washing the dishes or stepping off a plane in a new country you’ve never visited. That’s it. It’s paying attention to how important every moment with the kids I work with is, and how precious every day with Bryan is.

My travel and living-adjacent-to-the-ocean-while-learning-to-surf dreams have not died. They are still important, and I will still strive for them, but they shouldn’t be causing me to be discontent with the beautiful life I already live. Life doesn’t have to be grand to be meaningful. We just have to look a little closer at our daily lives to see the meaning that we have been missing.

Meaningful, Not Big

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