My managing editor sent me a link to this beautiful piece yesterday (head's up: there's some language in that link for those easily offended by curse words) and I loved its message. The writer Amy had, upon welcoming a big city visitor to her new-found small town life, received the following lament from her friend:
“You deserve a bigger life.”
As someone who moved from bustling Los Angeles to a smaller Midwestern city, I'm very much familiar with that reaction. I get it. I hear so much of myself in Amy, who felt as if she were forced to justify a series of decisions. We moved for family health reasons. We needed to help sort things out. We wanted to be there for our parents.
Still, the hesitations in many friends' responses to our move were all so palpable. Their translations were instantaneous and pointed: You're giving up. You're throwing in the towel. You're shrinking.
In her piece, Amy sheds light on this truth: "Geography is not what makes us interesting. Or, rather, if we choose to live someplace other than one of the world’s most populous and happenin’ cities, it does not mean we are living in boring places. Or that we are leading small lives."
She then goes on to list what a big life looks like: one of truth and authenticity and creativity and humility. A life worthy of pursuit. And yet, I found myself asking as I read Amy's beautiful piece, "What if I don't want a big life?"
What if I do want a small life? What if my friends were right? What if I am shrinking? Would that really be so bad? Wouldn't it be kind of lovely if - at the end of the day, or the year, or my life - I was emptied of myself? A body that has been wrung out like a sweat towel from years and years of pouring into family and friends and strangers and neighbors?
I do not want to live a life of reserves; with unused energy or talents or moments that would have been best offered to others. I want to live a life emptied and spilled, as if I used my body as a vessel for service and grace and great, great love.
I don't know, maybe that is the big life. Or maybe it's the small one.
Or maybe big and small mean the same thing when you look at it from a higher perspective, like the water tower or a helicopter or the highest of diving boards in your childhood city pool.
Maybe, then, it's best to just jump off and see where we land - whether in the bustling metropolis or a sprawling forest. Under bridges and freeways, atop mountaintops, in lakes or streams or rushing rivers.
Because the way I see it, anywhere is big enough to be small, if we're willing.