Back in 2010 when I began the practice of choosing a word for the year, simplicity was the first to speak to my heart. I noted, “With my definition, it means that I will be focusing on always evaluating and reevaluating what I can do to get back to having the simple things in life be as big of a focus as possible by making sure that I am not so exhausted at the end of the day or on weekends that I miss out on spending valuable, quality time with family.”
At this phase of life, I was in the last year of my 20s, a wife and mom of two, and middle school teacher in a K-8 dual language public charter school. I was typically staying at the school 2 hours extra and often working on weekends, always thinking, if I just get these pieces in place, then I will be able to dedicate more time to my family. Yet, then there was always something else that felt pressing to develop or refine. Eventually – years into my career – I realized I would never reach that phase. There would always be more I wanted to do, and it was up to me to reel in my professional passion and drive to set some boundaries.
One afternoon early in the year, I left the school 1/2 hour after contract hours in order to get ready to host a Pampered Chef party at my house – something I committed to before selecting simplicity as my word. Nonetheless, it gave me a reason to leave work earlier than typical, and I found myself reflecting, “How nice would it be to come home at a decent hour on a more regular basis? Not because I was expecting guests and not because I had to leave for a prior obligation, but just to get home at a decent hour and still have energy for cooking and cleaning and in turn energy for quality family time before the bedtime routine.”
Despite having this desire and recognizing it was time to re-evaluate in order to better prioritize my family, that was the year that on top of juggling what already felt so overfilled, I decided to begin a doctoral program while continuing to work full time.
As I reflected back on the word at the end of the year, I noted, “While at times it seems that word is the opposite of what I have been doing this year because I get so busy, it was a good reminder to slow down and refocus, making sure to reevaluate my priorities. […] I think it will be a word I focus on for years to come, especially for as long as my girls are at home!”
Almost 11 years later, I can affirm that the word is still strongly on my heart. It has resurfaced in different ways over the years as I have made small – sometimes almost unnoticeable in the moment steps – that eventually led to big shifts. Nonetheless, it remains a work in progress. The nature of being a wife and mom with a full time career means I continually need to evaluate what my professional obligations are and what I am committing to that are actually extras. I have to consider where there is flexibility in my position to make choices that support me in simplifying.
My spiritual director helped me to see that it made sense to do so based on how conflicted I was feeling with different demands in my vocation and career, even after painfully stripping away a layer that I thought would make all the difference, only to discover, I still felt too torn with different roles and obligations that remained. During that time, the phrase on my heart was, “Simplify in order to discover the sweetness contained within.”
The current pandemic context has further supported me in really embracing the rhythms of family life and considering possibilities for what I want to hold onto longer-term, rather than rushing back to life as it was before as virus related restrictions are eventually eased. Getting more clear on proper prioritization through a Catholic lens has helped me to recognize that I am passionate about many opportunities but then make choices that align with what I most highly value.
In God’s providence, all the time that I invested in my career and having completed my doctoral program provided me with the opportunity for my current role as a teacher educator. While still demanding, it provides me with more flexibility to mold my career around family priorities. I am grateful for how even when I can clearly look back and see how out of alignment my early career life was with prioritization through a Catholic lens, God was able to use those experiences to reveal desires of my heart to me, which led me towards a deeper understanding of my Catholic faith, stronger convictions for the choices I was making, and gratitude for the ways in which He has been working in my life throughout the years.
Copyright 2020 Amanda Villagómez // Photo by Andre Ouellet on Unsplash