A Good Life

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We limit ourselves in so many ways by the stories we tell about our own lives. The narratives we imagine for our futures due to pressures from society, family, loved ones, etc.

What if we imagined something different.
Created a new narrative—a new story.
A story where we’re not afraid of change. The pressures of what our family/society  imagines is a good future. The myths of “happily ever after” “prince/princess charming” “The American Dream.” Let ourselves envision what a good life looks like.

Simple Gifts: Fresh fruit from the market
Simple Gifts: Fresh fruit from the market

That doesn’t necessarily mean a life on a Caribbean island, but could mean many little or big things. I recently heard a story of a chef friend who “followed his dream” to run a  fast-paced, well-renowned restaurant. The pressures of chef-life which involved a high stress environment and days and nights away from his wife made him an unhappy alcoholic. What he really wanted, he confessed, was to work a nine to five job for the postal service and come home to his wife every night. Finally, after the stress became too much and alcohol took its toll, he left the restaurant and took a job with the postal service. He now happily works a nine to five, doesn’t drink, and goes home to his wife every night. From the outside, it looked like he was living his ideal life, but the reality was much different, and it took real bravery to make that change.
We too often look into other people’s windows for an idea of what happiness and fulfillment look like, rather than searching our own souls.
Throughout my northern life, when a rare south wind blew through our Michigan fields and forests I felt like I was the violin, and the wind was the bow. It pulled me up from wherever I was to stand with my face to that rare breath conjured from warmer waters, and deep somewhere around the bottom of my heart, I ached. It was like a siren song pulling every fiber of my being, but my head shook itself at the impracticality of such longing.
Why is it so improbable that I have both a northern and southern soul?

First three face cords of firewood
First three face cords of firewood
Photo credit tanyacanam photography

A limitation I set upon myself.
I met my ex husband when I was nineteen years old. We married when I was 24, and divorced when I was 28. I loved him. He’s a good man and will always be a good man. But my life with him was made up of expectations from society and my parents of what makes a good life.
I come from a family of teachers—a path I dutifully followed. I love teaching. It’s truly a fulfilling passion for me, but I never questioned whether it was the only way to be fulfilled and create change in the world.
My ex husband loved to hunt, fish, and wanted to live in a cabin in the woods. These are also things my father loves. I love and value them too. Those were things I never questioned, and I followed that path without a second thought.
I got degree after degree, taught, made a home for me and my husband.
Built gardens.
Held dinner parties.
Worked hard.
All the things I’d been taught made a good life.
I cried almost every day—a bottomless well made all the more deep because I couldn’t figure out why I was so sad. I had everything I should’ve wanted. It truly was a good life.
Yet…
I was still unsatisfied.
When that south wind blew, my heart ached so hard it felt bruised.
It took a lot of fumbling. A lot of mistakes. A lot of struggle, hardship, and boatloads of pain to find my way to the place where south winds originate.
I don’t regret any of the fumbling; mistakes; struggle; hardship; pain. They were lessons that will make up my life-long arsenal.
We’re so afraid.
Afraid of change. Of what other people think. Of mistakes, struggle, hardship, and pain.
My life today still has pain, struggle, and hardship.

Daily I fumble, happily, towards what a good life looks like for me.

Now, if I cry, I know the origins of my tears. And that, is worth it all.

Boat Contemplations
Boat Contemplations

Author: Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills is a freelance writer/writing consultant/English Professor/Creative nonfiction writer from Michigan's Upper Peninsula living on the island of Isla Mujeres in Mexico.

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