September 15, 2015

Most Likely To Succeed

Remember those "Senior Awards" that as high school seniors we voted on and gave each other?  We voted for the "Cutest Couple", "Best Hair", "Most Athletic", "Perfect Smile", "Biggest Sweetheart", etc. and then had our pictures taken for the yearbook.  Well guess which one award I got???

Because FFA was my LIFE
If your first thoughts were "Most Popular" or "Nicest Car", then clearly you didn't know me in high school. ;)  I was voted "Most Likely to Succeed".  My best friends respectively were voted the "Future President of the US" and "Senior Genius" awards.  As you might guess, we were total over-achievers so these seemed to be pretty appropriate labels for us.  Sometimes I think about all I did in high school and get exhausted wondering how I did it all: FFA State President, raising 4-H animals, Model UN, 3 different choirs, drama club, International Student Club, French Honor Society, and then finishing it off doing Miss Alaska after graduating.  I had high aspirations to do a lot in life, so I was confident I'd show up to my 20 year high school reunion doing that "award" justice with a life of successful accomplishments.

On a nursing internship in a maternity hospital in Argentina

I started by spending crazy amounts of time studying in college.  I made it into BYU's College of Nursing (no easy feat!), earned a full-tuition scholarship, completed an internship in Argentina, and graduated nearly at the top of my class.  I landed a job right away as an ICU nurse and success seemed imminent!  Then I got married and moved to Texas where I quickly landed a job as a nurse at MD Anderson Cancer Center.  It was hard physically and emotionally, but I loved serving my patients and I wanted to be the best nurse I could be for my patients.

Then we moved to Minnesota and began our family.  I became too sick to work long hours through my pregnancies but found a great "fit" as a foot-care nurse in an Alzheimer's home--rewarding in its own way, but not as grand or seemingly important as an ICU or cancer nurse.  During my second rough pregnancy we flew home to Alaska for Christmas and I was able to go to breakfast with a handful of high school friends.  We had a wonderful time catching up with each other.  One of my friends was finishing up her Master's Degree.  Another had nearly traveled the world with her line of work.  Another had become fluent in several more languages since high school.  They had all accomplished so much and were doing big, exciting things with their lives.   When it came to me sharing what was going on with my life, all I had to offer was that I could barely work 10 hours a week and let my daughter watch "How to Train Your Dragon" 4 times a day while I tossed my cookies and took as much Zofran as I could get my hands on.  In that moment I remembered the "Most Likely to Succeed" label given me and thought how much I was not fulfilling that prophecy.......

Fast forward 3 years and we were living in Alaska, I had just had our third baby, was currently putting my career on hold to be a full-time mom, and we were renting a few bedrooms in a friend's house while Garrett started his practice.  I remember bouncing my fussy baby on the exercise ball one night at 11:30pm while watching a movie.  Garrett was still at his office, which had been the norm for a few months as he was getting his practice set up and organized.  I had been having a pity party all evening--here we were in our 30's with few earthly possessions, no home, and were down to one car.  I had struggled all evening with my two cranky girls who thought peeing their pants was an awesome idea and going to bed was a bad one.  Once they were asleep the baby began fussing on cue.  I sat and cried and thought of that stupid label again: "Most Likely to Succeed".  What would my classmates think of me and my "success" now?!  Certainly, their instincts about me were a little off.  I turned on the movie "Family Man"--you know, the movie where Nicholas Cage is a rich, single prick who gets a chance to see what his life could be like if he had chosen to be with the girl of his dreams and start a family?  He works at a tire shop, his wife is a pro-bono lawyer, they have a few kids, a minivan, and a modest house.  At one point in the movie Nicholas Cage turns to his wife exasperated and embarrassed that he cannot afford a nice, expensive suit.  He points out all that is "wrong" in their lives and how things haven't gone as planned.  He asks her how she would label this life that they find themselves in and she responds calmly by saying, "A really great success story."

Maybe it was the postpartum hormones or utter exhaustion, but I became emotional when she said that.  I looked down at my perfectly healthy baby who was starting to settle to sleep.  And then there were the two perfect, strong little girls sleeping soundly in their beds, and the wonderful, hard-working husband who was pulling late lates and sometimes near all-nighters to build his dream and provide for our family.  We had a life of happiness and love that many wealthy and accomplished people would envy.

Since that day I still have moments when I question the value and success of the life I lead: I don't have my Master's Degree.  I have forgotten most of my French and struggle speaking fluently in Spanish.  I'm not progressing further in my career at this time, and despite my best efforts my kids have some serious temper and volume-control issues.  Am I leading a life worthy of the "Most Likely to Succeed" title?  To some, perhaps not.  But when I think of the 3 miracles I was able to bring into the world, their general state of happiness, the fact that they are well-adjusted little people overall, the wonderful man I'm married to and the love we share, the health we enjoy, and the endless possibilities that lie ahead for us to create and live our lives as we choose, I have to say that perhaps we really are a great success story afterall.


The Allen Family said...

The greatest!! Love you guys!

Meg said...

What a good reminder, Holly! I definitely have days, too, where I miss the ability to contribute to the world in more immediately visible, less poopy-diaper-infused ways. But, I agree with you, that when I think about my REAL goals in life, I realize I'm pretty heroic! :)

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