I have this theory that most of us, deep down, know exactly what changes we need to make in our lives. But these changes are uncomfortable and scary and we keep their screams for attention muffled under layers and layers of status quo. We go to work, we fold the laundry, we watch our shows, we lather, we rinse, we repeat. What was that? Oh nothing, nothing at all. Carry on.
Maybe at some level, we don't believe our lives are truly our own. Maybe we convince ourselves that because these changes might disrupt our routines or upset people we love, we can't make them because they aren't fully ours to make. So we don't say the hard thing to say. We don't do the hard thing to do.
One day in the early part of our marriage, my husband came to me and said a hard thing to say: "I need to quit my job and go to school full time because I want to earn a Ph.D."
That conversation changed our lives. We had an infant son at the time. I was only working part time. How would we survive? I had to give up the life I had sketched out, the one where I stayed home and had babies and went to lunch with other moms. I got a full-time job. He went to school. We tag-teamed caring for our son and when we couldn't, we took him to our mothers' and kindly babysitters. It was monumentally hard, but we did it. We did the hard thing.
One year ago, I said a hard thing to my parents: "I don't believe in your church anymore. I'm leaving."
That conversation also changed my life. It was like dropping a relational atom bomb. My parents had to give up the life they had sketched out, the one where we all held hands as a family in their exclusive heaven together. And I knew that for the rest of their lives, this would likely be the first thing that comes to mind when they hear my name. It was excruciatingly hard, but I did it. I did the hard thing.
The thing about hard things is that everybody's hard thing is different. Maybe yours isn't going to graduate school or leaving your faith. Maybe yours is getting on an airplane, calling an estranged parent, standing up for something unpopular, saying no. Maybe it's coming out of the closet, quitting school to pursue art, calling the doctor, advocating for a child, admitting you need help.
But here's what I know: The hard things are worth the effort. Every time I've done the hard thing, I learned volumes about myself. I summoned bravery I didn't know I had. I made mistakes and learned to forgive. I discovered newfound capabilities and lasting, supportive friendships. And most of all, I learned that listening to those muffled screams for change is actually the most literal way to acknowledge that we are worthy of being heard. Because we are worthy. Every one of us.
So, here's to a brand new year. Let's do the hard things.