One of my favorite memories of raising my big kids is all the hours we spent watching Magic School Bus and gleaning life wisdom from the fabulous Ms. Frizzle. Not that we watched a lot of TV but the Magic School Bus videos counted as educational time! Ms. Frizzle taught us to take chances, make mistakes, get messy.
I don’t fancy myself all that much of a risk taker but when I spend time looking back over some of my life choices I see that I have never necessarily taken the easy road.
I left home and moved to the city first at 16 then for good at 17;
Jumped on an airplane with a one-way ticket to England at 19;
Decided to learn French as a young adult and dove into University (rather successfully I might add) in the French Language with very little preparation;
Married a West African (who did not speak English) one year after meeting him and signed a legal oath to provide for him financially (for immigration purposes) should he turn out to be a bum;
Chose to have my first child while in University;
Decided that, after 6 years in Uni preparing to teach other folk’s kids, I would ditch all my well-laid plans and stay home to homeschool;
Purchased a rental property which has involved plenty of stress at times and many financial ups and downs;
Five years ago, just before the new year, I felt a call to return to school which made no practical sense as I was homeschooling three kids, awaiting a much-needed hip replacement, and finances were tight. But I knew it was right and dove in heart first.
And since then I have taken risks in telling the truth about some of my story – in putting myself “out there” even when I feel imperfect or afraid, in refusing to compete and hustle to be who I am not.
I believe that each of my risks, my mistakes, and even my messes have helped form and equip me for the work I have the privilege of doing today with A Life in Progress.
I believe that each of your mistakes and heartaches and all your imperfection and messiness is part of a beautiful tapestry and that instead of making you a failure it is simply part of your journey. Part of the gift that you get to offer back to the world.
Which leads me back to Ms. Frizzle and her motto: take chances, make mistakes, get messy.
We have no guarantees in life, do we? We have no idea how many days we have here on earth or if people really can be trusted or if our bodies will hold on to carry us through our retirement plans. We don’t get to control who our children become any more than we control the weather. Friendships end and people die and businesses fail.
But sometimes, because we take a chance, we meet strong, stubborn women who challenge us in beautiful ways and become our soul sisters. Despite myriad mistakes, our kids grow up and delight us (and call us to maturity) in ways we would never have planned for ourselves, our marriages become more deeply rooted as we persist through the rocky seasons, or sometimes we finally find the courage to leave. And through our messy imperfection, we learn that we are stronger than we ever realized.
We take two steps forward and one step back, we let go of an addiction only to replace it with another, we mess up and apologize, we fall apart and pick ourselves up all over again. But we keep going because we realize that our aim is no longer perfection; it is simply choosing to live each day fully, awake and aware.
We loosen our grip and take chances, make mistakes, get messy.
I want my kids to choose careers they love, not those that everyone thinks are safer and more likely to make them money. I want them to go on adventures, far and wide, be open to learning new languages, meeting people from other cultures and customs and not subsist on fear. To be willing to do hard things even at great personal cost. I want them to be wise and kind and willing to give and not just take.
And if I want this for them then it seems to me I must be willing to model this, however imperfectly.
What about you?
You have bills to pay and meals to prepare and people to tend to. Is there any room left in your life for a little risk-taking, a little stepping out, a little willingness to try something you are secretly excited and afraid of all at the same time?
Is there any breathing room in your home or calendar for creativity – for literal mess-making for you and your little people? Any room for adventure or spontaneity? Any margin in the budget for unexpected compassionate giving?
Are there some big messy mistakes in your past for which you haven’t forgiven yourself? Or forgiven someone you love for?
Do you want to give yourself permission to loosen your grip a little and take some chances, make mistakes, and get a little messy?
I don’t ever set resolutions for the new year but I do aim to live purposefully year ‘round.
What if this year we all decide that not one day will pass without us getting curious, offering our small gifts, asking questions, risking rejection, trying a new way, feeling fear and showing up anyways, or being open to new possibilities?
What if we choose to live eyes and heart wide open? Unshackled. Letting go of everything that binds and holds us back from truly living with purpose, health, and joy.
Join Ms. Frizzle and me in taking chances, making mistakes, and getting a little messy this year. Let me know how it goes.
Photograph by Benjamin Cottrell @artisunrest