For as long as I’ve known my bride — even before she was my bride — one of the things we’ve most enjoyed doing together is dreaming about the future. At some point this may be a problem in our relationship — eventually we’ll be too old to have a future to plan for. But that’s a good 60 years out, and who knows, maybe we’ll enjoy planning our funerals too.
One of our first “bonding moments” was at an amusement park called Canada’s Wonderland. We were both 17, we weren’t even officially dating yet, and while our friends went on the rides, we sat together and dreamed out loud about what we wanted from life. We talked about how many kids we want (Nicole wants 4, I want 2, we’re still debating), where we wanted to travel (I wanted to take her to Europe, but I explained that we’d have to go to Asia first) , we even planned to move to the States some day.
And even now that we’re an old married couple, its a bit of a default position when we get bored: what do we want to do next?
So as we sit around biding time, waiting for the next adventure to arrive via maternity ward, I can’t help but plan for the next chapter. Its a little strange when you realise you’ve accomplished 10 years of dreaming and now you’ve got another 10 years to plan out. I guess there’s this realisation of adulthood that’s sinking in. I’ve never really thought of myself as grown-up — I always had more I wanted to accomplish before I considered myself there. But we’ve got those things all checked off the list now, and I guess I have to concede that we’ve arrived…
So what’s next? Once Abi arrives the countdown begins for the move home. We’ll settle into an apartment somewhere near where we went to school, re-connect with old friends, and… then what?
- To be honest, we don’t really know! I can tell you that we’re planning 6 years out, and no further. That we’ve understood that there are not just 3 gateways to freedom like we thought when we were younger, but there are four: high school, college, career and debt.
Two college degrees, four vehicles (plus a motorbike), and countless moves, all in the name of getting to our goals as fast as we could, have introduced us to the cold reality of North American capitalism. Debt is almost this “for-granted” thing in our society, and the closer we come to eliminating our debt, the more I’m angered by how it suppresses us. Our number one goal when we move home is to finally and completely eliminate all our debt by the time we’re 30. When we’re close to that goal, then we’ll think about signing a mortgage. And we intend to stay as debt-free as possible.
My first real awakening to the shackles of debt came when two of our friends began preparations to move to Africa as missionaries. Its a wonderful pursuit that they’ve been after since they were teens themselves, and it intrigued me enough to look into the qualifications their missions organization required. Know what was near the top of the list? You must be debt free. Not even a car loan.
I can safely say that we’re in better shape than most. Our individual debt is well below the average and primarily made up of “good debt.” My credit rating in college was abysmal, but once I married an accountant, she began the long process of whipping me into shape. I’m proud to say that we use cash for all our purchases, have (or had, until we decided to move) a decent amount of money in savings, and have a strong credit rating in both the US and in Canada. But we’d frankly rather have zero debt.
So that’s priority number one. A house is in there, and I recognize that means more debt, but we won’t approach that decision lightly. We’ve been watching the market carefully for the past couple years and its obvious that now is not a good time to be investing in real estate. We’ll move on that when we’re good and ready.
- At an equal rank with priority number one is obviously our kids. I have strong feelings about how my kids are going to grow up. I have a deep loathing for some parts of our culture and Nicole and I are going to take personal responsibility for making sure that our children have a balanced and informed view of the whole world.
Nicole and I make a great team. We balance each other out emotionally and intellectually, and we’re going to teach our kids to approach life in the same way. They will not be sheltered, nor will they conform. They will be provided for in all aspects of life, but they will not be so comfortable that they become complacent. God will be at the center of our family and they’ll be intellectually challenged. We will not teach them religion, we’ll teach them about relationship. And they will learn to make their own choices.
The bottom line is that all of that means they’re likely to be home schooled for at least a few years. As they get older this is something we plan to research and plan for better and a pursuit that Nicole is exceptionally qualified for.
- Another thing that we’re learning, and that is surprising to me as a priority, is community. We wouldn’t have made it here without the community we discovered and helped build, and frankly its become a lot less comfortable here without it. We’re not sure where God would have us involved back home, but we’re aware that this time we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. We’re eager to find a church and begin serving where ever we can lend our strength to that good work, and as before we’ll dive into that head first. But we’re also going to look for ways to be involved in other communities — both for our own emotional well-being and because God expects it of us. Christians should not keep to themselves in their comfortable little churches, we should be ambassadors. We’ve never hesitated to serve in our churches and in other countries, but we’ve dropped the ball on serving our communities. We plan to learn how to do that… I might even have to break down and introduce myself to a neighbour or two…
- I’m going to pursue writing. I had something of a revelation over the past months, which took the form of those Embracing my Inner Geek posts. I began writing those because I realised it was important for me to acknowledge my primary strength. For the longest time I’ve wanted to be good at something other than technology; to pretend that was just my day job. But the reality is, I’m good at what I do. God’s blessed me with an amazing career, and I should thank Him for it and praise Him for who He made me.
When I got to that point, everything made sense. I’ve tried so many times — more times that most of you know — to change directions. I’ve even gone as far as applying to college. And every time the door closed. It was like God saying: look at what’s in front of you! And when I finally did, most of the rest of the stuff (most of it) just seemed to fall into their naturally ranked positions.
The number two thing I love doing is writing. I used to love poetry, I have been an avid reader since I was a little boy — I came home from Kindergarten in tears when I realised that they weren’t going to teach us how to read and write until 1st grade, and I’ve been blogging my heart out on the web for nearly 7 years.
I love literature, and although I have no proper training or shaping, I think I want to pursue it as a hobby. Do you know I haven’t really had a hobby for over a decade? You don’t have time for such things when you have ambitious dreams to chase after…
So, my goal upon our return to a country where I can work for anyone I want without the need for government issued paperwork, is to get a free-lance writing gig at a local newspaper or magazine. I know I have a lot to learn about the field, but I’m willing to be humble (I think) and start from the beginning.
I’m not sure what’s tougher about moving home: leaving behind what we worked for and lived in, or acknowledging that this chapter — the past 10 years of our story together — is over. Sitting, as we are, in this sort of purgatory between chapters, the slow flipping of the pages of the universe, we realise we’re a little bit excited about what comes next. Its 6 years. Don’t ask me where that number comes from, but I know it for sure: the next chapter is 6 years, and then all bets are off and we start fresh chasing the next story God has to tell.
Until then, maybe things might not be as exciting or as different or as adventurous as we might be used to, but I think they’ll be good anyway…