Growing up, I remember money being identified as the ultimate indicator of having a successful life. The idea was a big house, 2500 sqft or more, and no less than a $50K annual salary with the goal of reaching 6 figures before settling down to marry and start a family. It seemed to be the message from family, school, and the media. There was so much focus on what we [children] wanted to be when we grew up.
What is success?
Our grades and test scores would soon validate our worth. Getting into a good college was of utmost importance so we can get a good job and that that somehow would mean we would have a meaningful life.
I never quite understood that because I noticed in every mainstream movie or television show, the people that had all this money, big houses, super prestigious careers, etc., were all miserable. In every family movie or show, the children of these quote-unquote successful people always felt that all the material things in the world could never compare to time with their mother or father.
So, for me, it was hard to choose what I wanted to do after high school. Or maybe it wasn’t that it was hard, but that I knew my honest answer would disappoint everyone around me. The family and educators that invested their time into me and had their own idea of what I would do with my life after leaving the nest.
When I Grow Up
As a little girl, before I was in any formal schooling, I wanted to be a homemaker. In second grade I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. During middle school, I wanted to be a teacher. In high school, I wanted to be a psychologist. During my senior year, I thought I wanted to own a preschool. When this was shot down by my aunt, who was a well-respected school principal back in her day, I looked into the only other suggestion my family had.
I declared a major in Occupational Therapy (although the push from family was Physical Therapy). I convinced myself that I would set out on a path to become a pediatric occupational therapist. Long story short, anything less than an occasional B was cause for concern growing up. Then I got to college and found myself failing two of my five courses. I lost my direct admittance scholarship within the first semester of college.
My guaranteed admittance to the doctoral program for Occupational Therapy in three years was gone just like that. I was not “smart enough” to pass the prerequisite level science and math courses that were needed to be an occupational therapist.
My freshman year in college was a pivotal moment for me.
Road to a Simple Life
What was I going to do with the life God had given me? I found myself transferring to a university closer to home and majoring in psychology. I was enjoying my coursework and intrinsically motivated to do well. My grades reflected that.
I began to pursue a path towards becoming a marriage and family therapist. Could I help others in their most intimate relationships? Helping others find joy within God, themselves, and those relationships with their partners and family.
Maybe I would one day have a private practice and be able to control my schedule to suit the needs of my future family. Still, in my heart, I was trying to hold on to what I felt called to even at age 5.
I didn’t really picture myself living in a huge home with six bedrooms and five bathrooms. A garage with multiple cars and a Yacht. Nor did I really see me in an office while my children went off to school most of the day. Don’t get me wrong, so many woman get such fulfillment from that choice. And a happy, healthy, loving mother is able to pour back into their children.
For me, I didn’t want to be so busy that I couldn’t show up for my kids without needing to get permission from an employer. My hope wasn’t to be bumper-to-bumper in traffic on my second cup of Starbucks as my everyday hustle. None of it lit a fire in the core of my soul. Life had to be so much more than that, right?
The Truth Remains the Same
I spent my entire academic life, up until graduate school, struggling with anxiety because of the pressure I felt to perform and make sure I succeeded in life. Yes, I made good grades, got involved in sports and clubs, and in college was a regular dean’s list student (after freshman year of course, ha). Often taking between 15 and 17 credit hours a semester with no summers off. I was doing everything I thought I was supposed to and nothing that I wanted to.
The truth remained the same. I just wanted to live a simple life. To be a wife who served her husband as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-23). I desired motherhood and to bring up my children in the way they should go so that when they were older they would not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). I had this dream of slow living in the country on a small homestead in which my children were homeschooled. We would open our home to others through ministry. I wanted a simple life that honored God in everything that I did. And non of it meant I just wanted to be lazy and not work (which yes, I was told to my face).
Now if you’re still reading this I’m truly grateful. I get it, not everyone wants to live with little, or a slow and simple life. Not everyone can. Sadly, this is a deeper issue regarding the way our country is designed. Our world. So thanks for sticking with me today. This is just me sharing something on my heart. Okay, back to what I was saying. Oh yeah, a simple life.
The moment I tried to ignore my heart’s longing for such a simple life was the senior year of my undergraduate studies. I told my mentor that my husband and I were expecting and that I would no longer be applying for the graduate program in Marriage and Family Therapy that fall.
See, my husband had joined the Army just after he and I tied the knot and we would be moving after I graduated. I also knew that once I became a mom, I wanted to be home full time.
So, instead of the graduate program I had been preparing to enter, I applied to an online program in education.
Why did I do that? If I wanted to be home and live a slow and simple life as a homemaker after God’s own heart, why was I still so focused on keeping up with the Jones’? Why did I need a degree to feel validated in a future decision to homeschool? What would they think if I suddenly decided not to pursue further education to live my truth of being a homemaker?
The Story I Was Telling Myself
Could it have been the disappointment on my mentor’s face who had invested so much of his time in helping me with a clinical internship at the university’s practice (which was awesome)? Or maybe it was my boss from my campus position’s (who became a dear friend of mine) response when I told her I was changing career paths so I could have a home daycare while we traveled in the military. No, maybe it was my dad’s reaction, that one broke my heart.
At such a pivotal moment in my life, newly wedded, becoming a mother, and soon a first-generation college graduate, I was met with so much disapproval.
There is so much pressure that is put on children and young adults. From expecting children as young as three to know how to read to seventeen year old’s knowing what they want to do for the rest of their lives. No wonder so many of us are depressed and anxious.
During 2019-2020, I stopped hiding our decision to homeschool. Our oldest was barely five and this is when most people would want to know what our plans were for her education . Unbeknownst to us, a global pandemic would force us all to slow down and simplify.
During this time, I found myself deschooling. Questioning everything. Really having time to stop and ask, Deanna, what the heck are you doing? Is this what you thought your life would look like? Because honestly, I had never felt more overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, anxious, lonely, helpless, and straight-up confused. My relationship with God seemed to take the back burner as I tried to solve everything myself.
I know much of it had to do with living in a freaking pandemic and the heart-wrenching racism the BIPOC community still are facing, but geesh. Now, after 13 months, I am finally crawling out of that place.
A dear friend of mine, Jessica, shared a song with me a while back that I want to share with you now. I hope it provides you some encouragement just as it has me.
Promises (feat. Joe L Barnes & Naomi Raine) – Maverick City | TRIBL
The blessing in it all is that no one is watching. Only God see’s me and my heart. I have a chance to look at how out of control I am in the bigger picture of this thing called life. There’s freedom and comfort in that, when I think about it. I went back to the source, my savior. The little girl who at eight years old went to the alter call to dedicate her life to the Lord, without asking her parent’s if it was okay. The young girl who sang in church choir and used the form of dance to praise and worship. The teenager that at her lowest cried out to The Father and who now, will slow down and listen to His voice.
Becoming More Myself
I am experiencing this pull towards less structure, less curriculum, less scheduling, and less noise. I was lost and now I am finding what God had always placed in my reach, more. More time, more peace, more of what matters. More of Him.
I can start to see the path back to the me that had always been there. The road to a simpler life designed to honor God. An intentional life. A life that before school and other people’s opinions was the reason I couldn’t wait to be a wife and mother.
I am finding more of myself each day. And though I am still deschooling all of what I was conditioned to be, I am hopeful. I am tending to my spirit, mind, body, and soul. I am realizing that what I want, is to just live a simple life.
Let me know if this resonated with you? Let’s check-in. How are you doing as we approach a year and a half almost of the pandemic? Stay encouraged!