Our second apartment was a downstairs apartment in the River Forest complex. This one had far less steps than the first apartment we lived in and got us out of the annoying 25 miles per hour speed limit zone one must drive through every time you come in and out of Flushing. For my own mental health, I needed to not drive that dreadfully slow stretch multiple times a day. This second apartment is where we spent years two and three of our marriage. It was where we first had friends over for dinner. It was the address my college diploma was mailed to and it was the place where we learned that we cannot golf together, even if it’s free. We had some big, marriage defining fights in that apartment as well as a million and one small moments we shared back when it was just the two of us. I can still remember the envelopes I kept in the top dresser drawer where we carefully allocated money from each paycheck as we saved for the down payment on a house. In those initial years of marriage the goal was the first house, and I saw this apartment as just a small step towards our real life.
I’m an enneagram 1, which means I tend to see everything as a problem to be solved. I’m always striving to improve things. Back then “improving” our life meant getting to those measurable next steps: the house, kids, promotion. I lived with blinders on, with a laser focus of the next thing to come. I lived with this angst of never being able to settle in, because we aren’t going to live here long anyway. Every new day was just one day closer to being a real adult, to getting to the good part. I wish I would have known how much good was actually packed into those early days.
I’m still not great at taking off the blinders. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear “stop and smell the roses” or “enjoy the journey”. I do enjoy life and I do look around and #findtheawesome all the time, but it’s still my first instinct to think about what’s next. One passage of scripture that has been helping me to process this lately is Ecclesiastes 3, the verses about a season for everything. I’m fairly certain that even if you don’t consider yourself religious, you know exactly the verses I’m talking about. (Cue the Turn! Turn! Turn! song.) The idea of seasons reminds me that there is always a new season coming, and a new season is always the goal. I know for myself that about two-thirds of the way through every season here in Michigan I start thinking about how much better the next season will be compared to what’s happening right now. So this plays well into my ideals of forward progress and improvement. But here’s why seasons are a particularly useful metaphor for me: there’s nothing anyone can do to speed up the changing of the seasons. No amount of preparation or hustling can fast forward this current season. It’s a reminder to me that it doesn’t matter how badly I want the next thing or how much I have worked for what’s to come, the timing is ultimately in God’s hands. When I can let go of the control I think I have and it’s no longer on me to move things forward, that’s when I can slow down enough to enjoy where I’m at right now. That’s when I remember that it’s not all about the improvements ahead; it’s about being present right now. It's about sitting in this current season and being still enough to enjoy it.
Those years in that first floor apartment may have indeed been a stepping stone for us. But they were also part of what laid the foundation for us today. A bunch of seemingly insignificant days woven together to make up the trial and error of learning in early marriage, of inside jokes and favorite memories, of hours of talks about big dreams and overwhelming fears, and growing that deeper understanding of each other. Maybe only a blip on the radar of our lives, but also life shaping at the same time.
Perhaps much like this very season I’m in right now, if only I don’t try to rush past it.