The Path to Fulfillment

This post was originally written for and published in the MILLIE Journal.  It answers the question, what makes you a MILLIE (Military Spouse who is "a creative problem solver, who owns the military experience in their unique way".)

According to Gary Chapman, my love language is “Acts of Service”. It took me some time in my young adulthood to find my way and apply that to my career, but I did. At the time I got married, I had the best job in the world. After the wedding we PCS’d 3 hours away from my home city and I chose to maintain my employment. As a nurse in a cardiovascular ICU, I loved everything about my job. Despite the hardship of my new commute, I scratched and clawed to hold on to that job, long past the point of reason. I would sign up for consecutive shifts, travel to Baton Rouge for a couple of days and then drive back late at night after my last shift. The roads were dark and long but I didn’t care because I had the privilege of taking care of people in their darkest hour and most intimate moments. These people trusted me with their lives and I couldn’t walk away from that level of servitude.

It took me a long time to leave the job but I eventually did. I worked in another hospital closer to Ft. Polk but it never seemed a good fit. I became a volunteering aficionado on our post. I did FRG, soccer coaching, taught various fitness classes; I even dabbled in business with family photography. Still, nothing quite fit.

We had our first baby right about the time we PCS’d. In our new home I started out with plenty to do caring for the new baby, embracing my role as a mom, and carving my spot in our new neighborhood. While I was, and still am, proud to stay home with my baby, I felt aimless and I needed to do more and serve outside of my home. I didn’t know how to bring my baby along and as the new family in town I also didn’t know how to leave my baby with someone. I didn’t know how to sit still and not serve my neighbor so I brought my immediate neighbors food frequently and hosted parties whenever I could. I laid in wait for the right time to do the right thing that would flex all the right parts in my heart and in my brain.

Right before my son turned one, we met up with my parents in New Orleans and my mom gave me her old sewing machine to take back home. I didn’t know what I was doing but Pinterest and YouTube did. What started as a plan to make cute party decorations quickly turned into sewing small gifts and then immediately into quilt making. I made my first quilt to give to my mom. It was a terrible mess but I was hooked.

I looked for any reason to make someone a quilt. Babies, moving, christening, mother’s day. My brother got a new dog and I even made a pair of quilts for his dogs (which they promptly chewed to pieces). When I wasn’t making a quilt for someone I knew, I was making one for donation. I was finally finding my groove again and it felt really good.

We PCS’d again, had a baby again, and I started feeling that same aimlessness again. This time, I took a leap and decided to make a business out of quilt making. I feared that the business would take away the joy, the reach, the creative spirit, but man oh man, I was wrong. The joy of knowing that something I made with my own two hands will go out into this world and serve as a comfort to someone else is immeasurable. The reach goes far beyond those that I know as it ripples outside of my close circle and the business has flexed so many of the nooks and crannies in my mind as I explore new ideas and problem solving.

Recently, my Baton Rouge experienced crushing floods. People I know and love, my neighbors, my patients, my people, were losing their homes and everything in them just like that. I sat helpless and restless and horrified as I scoured Facebook and text messages looking for welfare and property updates. Rather than continuing to wring my hands, I started sewing some fabric and sold some simple wall hangings and gave every penny of the sale to the Louisiana Flood Relief Fund. I may not be physically in the place I call home, helping my neighbor, but my business and the joy, the reach, the creative spirit, have allowed me to care for my people, how ever small it may be, with my own two hands.

As a MILLIE, we move, we make nice, we uproot, we repeat. In between each of those steps, there are a million different forks in the road where we choose our path and make our lives. I never went back to work in the hospital after the first baby. People often ask me when I will go back to nursing and the answer is, when I can give it what it deserves and the path guides me there. Until that time, I love the path that I am on.