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Memphis Dads Take Over :: The Plan

As an ode to dads this Father's Day, Memphis Moms Blog has asked some of our contributors' baby-daddies to step in and write for us. They were given no direction--just to write about whatever they felt needed to be said.

This morning's post is from Ryan, husband to Memphis Mom's Blog contributor, Lori...

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plan noun //plan// a set of actions that have been thought of as a way to do or achieve something.

In life, many of us have a ‘plan’ or template of events in our mind that may look something like this: school ► career ► marriage ► financial security ► kid(s) ► retirement

I’m writing this not to offer advice or try to ‘fix’ anyone but rather to tell my story which is more accurately a story of us (me + my wife).  I want to offer encouragement to you if your story does not follow your plan.  I’d also like to highlight the joy and strength in going off script.

As a guy, I like to be in control.  I like to have a routine.  I like to predict, strategize, and mitigate situations.  Therefore, it was only natural of me to have a very linear straight line trajectory for my adult life.  My plan consisted of college, marriage, career, kids, and retirement.  Nice and neat, a road map for the life ahead, however it went a bit like this: college, marriage, temporary contract and restaurant jobs, 1 kid, moving 600 miles south of home, graduate school, moving an additional 200 miles south of home, restaurant jobs, more graduate school, 3 more kids (during said grad school), and present day career. But at this point I’d like to back up a bit and see where I went off course.

My future father in-law asks “How do you plan on supporting my daughter?”  I was sitting with the parents of my future wife in a small hotel in the Republic of Ireland.  In my coat pocket was the engagement ring I had purchased prior to my departure for a 5-month study abroad, and here I was asking permission for their daughter’s hand in marriage, old-school style.  My dream was to become an archaeologist, my answer to my future father in-law was to work and make money, the dream and the answer were inherently a contradiction.  Fast-forward a few years and the contract archaeology job combined with waiting tables on the weekend had led me to the decision to go back to school to provide a more secure future.  I thought that at the age of 26 I could put in a few years of graduate school, find a good job and have our first child before 30: a good plan.  It so happened that we found out we were expecting Ali prior to getting into a grad program, and walked into my advisor’s office in Kentucky wearing a three-month-old Ali strapped onto my chest.  One and a half years later we ‘planned’ on having a second child and lost him/her in a miscarriage.  More schooling seemed like a good idea as we had grown accustomed to making due with 3 pennies in the checking account.  Of course my first semester in a PhD program in Memphis wouldn’t be complete without the birth of our second child, Asher, just prior to finals.  During this time I was waiting tables in the evenings and the thought of my very linear concept of a sequence of life was replaced by daily survival.

Nearing the end of my 6-year stint as a career student (2 years of a Master’s in Kentucky, 4 years of a PhD in town), I looked forward to securing the elusive archaeology career job and moving away.  However, I should have realized by then that my scheme was not going to match reality.  Two more children, a tenure track position in Memphis, and moves to Mississippi and back to east Memphis, I’m still holding onto my idea of the trajectory of my life.

However, what I’ve learned and what I’d like to encourage you with is that there is great joy in letting go, deciding to be content in all situations, holding onto faith, trusting your spouse, and living life as an adventure.  I’m realizing that my plan was constructed out of selfishness and was limiting.  I hate to think of what my life would look like if everything went as scripted out in my head over a decade ago.  Maybe Clarence (It’s A Wonderful Life ref.) will show up one day and take me back and forth but to be honest I wouldn’t want to see it.  I do know that if my plan had been followed to the tee there wouldn’t be as many smiling faces to great me at home when I pull into the drive, my wife may not still be the vibrant caring compassionate woman she is today as she was when I first met her, my faith refined through the fire would not be as strong, and I’d be unsatisfied as a reliance on my own abilities would have never fulfilled.

What I’ve learned is that plans are good, a vision is better, and the path I’ve chosen almost always isn’t the best way.  What I continue to learn is that my life should bring glory to God, honor my wife, prioritize my family, and serve others.

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