When Christmas came around last year I asked my parents to forego getting me presents and just give me one giftcard for Southwest airlines. I said to my mom simply, I want experiences this year. I wasn’t trying to be profound at the time but it’s funny the way that one request set the tone for an amazing year. This has been a year of less ‘stuff’ and more experiences. This year has been about people and places.
As I sat down this week to make a list of the things I needed to do before I head to Indianapolis on Thursday to see Peyton Manning’s return to play the Colts I thought, this has been a year of great experiences. Then I pulled out my calendar and I took a little mental trip back through where I’ve been in 2013 and where I have yet to go.
In January I traveled from Tampa to New York to Ghana and then 6 hours by bus to Togo. I spent a week in west Africa building an aquaponics center on a school for the blind. How many people will ever get that chance? I don’t know but I can tell you it was incredible. And what a start to a year that would literally let me travel at least once a month 11 out of 12 months. Maybe there’s something to be said for speaking things into being.
Anywho, in February I would travel to the midwest to spend a long weekend with my best friend. My first time staying the night in her home. A snow storm screwed with my trip but I got a good couple of days with her, lunch with my Mom, and a taste of winter (yeah, I’ll keep Florida winters forever please).
March would take me to Raleigh where I spent my 2nd Easter in a row with my niece, sister, and bro-in-law. Now that I work for a church I’m not sure this tradition will get to stay intact but it was really special to be with them again this year.
April took me to Texas to spend a glorious weekend with one of my sweetest friends Auburn in Austin. I had the most amazing time. I literally fell in love with Austin, and of course Texas bbq. I bought my first pair of cowboy boots. It was a little hard to get on the plane back to Tampa but only a few short weeks later I would spend 5 days of May in Salt Lake City, UT with my friend of fifteen years, Sean, and his family. It was gorgeous and my time with them was priceless and overdue.
June took me to Daytona beach with hundreds of kids for a week of camp. Whew. Followed closely by a trip to my baby sisters wedding in North Carolina the following week where I would stand beside her in yellow taffeta and watch her say ‘I do’ after four long years of long distance dating. What a sweet, sweet summer.
July would see me to Chicago where my Mer said ‘I do’ and I caught up with my college roommate and her growing family. Afterwards I would spend a week in the midwest catching up with friends and enjoying some ‘downtime’ while my family was out of town and I was using their house and car like a high schooler. It was the perfect summer trip filled to the brim with people I love.
August was my fail month – I stayed put. Hey, a girls gotta earn the money to fund all this travel, right?
But September I was back at it with a trip to Raleigh to be with my sister, bro-in-law, and niece again. Followed by a weekend at the beach with my church ladies in Clearwater. And then a road trip to Jacksonville to cheer on Dad and the Indianapolis Colts against the Jacksonville Jaguars (we killed em).
Thursday I leave for Indianapolis to make my return along with my favorite Manning. Two weeks later I will again hop a plane to North Carolina where I will meet my new nephew, Titus, for the first time. Finally, I will wrap the year up with a week in Indianapolis celebrating the birth of my Savior with both of my sisters, their families, my parents, and one set of grandparents.
I can only close this by saying God has been so good to me. Some of you know I turned down an incredibly lucrative job offer to take the job I currently hold at a church. The week my job decisions were to be made I was really struggling. I had three offers on the table (which I recognize is a blessing in itself with this economy). I had worked long and hard for four years and I still kept defining success by a number. But when I sat down and wrote out my priorities for the next 5 years (I can’t really think beyond that) these are the things I wanted:
– I want to cheer my Dad on at as many games as I can from now until he retires. He won’t coach forever and I want to treasure this season. I want to be there.
– I want to spend time with niece and nephew. I want them to know how much I love them and I want their childhoods to be full of memories with their ‘crazy aunt b’.
– I want to travel, visiting new places and meeting new people.
There were other more practical things that made their appearance further down like ‘pay off my house’ but the top ones all had to do with family, friends, and experiences. When I looked at that list I realized that what I wanted required more time than it did money. And that lucrative job? There wasn’t anything wrong with it. Not one thing. I loved the people and what they had told me about the job. But it was going to be 80-90 hours a week instead of 40. It didn’t include Fridays off. It didn’t leave time to lead bible study. That job wasn’t going to encourage me to fly around to be with my spread out family. And the job I chose, the job I have since fallen in love with was offering me the chance to work in an area I’m passionate about AND have 52 more days off per year.
Last week for the first time since that tough impasse in March my Mom said to me (unprompted), ‘I was thinking Becca, you made the right choice. About the job. You’re where you’re supposed to be and you’ve had so much more time with our family this year because of it. Thanks for choosing us’. That. That is what important decisions are about. That was the precious, teary moment when I thought – I am finally doing it, putting experiences over things. I have finally placed the value on the right things.
I don’t know if the rest of my life will get to be this way. I imagine that in the future my career, my spouse at some point, a family of my own, and/or life in general might get in the way of my traveling every month. They may limit my ability to see games, or to take my niece trick-or-treating, or keep me from clearing my schedule to travel 1200 miles to help my sister out when she asks. I may not always be able to do this but when the choice was mine to make: I chose right. I chose what mattered and it has made this the best year yet.
I am teary as I write this. When I look at the last 7 months I am humbled by the Lord’s provision in my life and for how He has blessed me beyond measure with the things that matter most. I wouldn’t trade a second of this years travels or the people that make those memories. For as long as my situation allows I’m picking experiences. Hands down, every time.