Relationships, at their best, are less about the short-term annoyances we face and are more about the long game.
I get that. I understand there will be days when we wonder to ourselves, “Is this worth it?” hoping that something, somewhere, somehow convinces us that yes, it indeed is.
But we’re not perfect. We’re human. We have moments of weakness–selfishness even–when we decide to put our happiness above the relationship to which we’ve committed ourselves. We call it quits.
You guys, I called it quits. Despite the rich history we shared, the growth and the challenges and the shared faith, I made the call to walk away.
Yep. I unsubscribed from Donald Miller’s emails last month.
I know… monumental, right?
Truth be told, I hung on a lot longer than I probably should’ve. I was hanging on to the glory days of the past, when Blue Like Jazz made us all want to write melancholy-but-hopeful memoirs and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years taught us about the grand cosmic cinema of which we’re a part. The old DonMillerIs.com blog gave us much to think about as he tested out his powerful prose on an enthusiastic emergent audience.
And of course, don’t even get me started on Storyline, the program/book/website that wrecked my life (I say that positively and also somewhat wearily) with its big questions, big dreams and bigger action steps.
He was heralded as the voice of our generation, and I agreed. But then, the 2010s happened, and things began to change. Perhaps the man spent a little too much time hanging out with Michael Hyatt. Perhaps he just needed to make some more money. Perhaps he just got old. Whatever happened, the narrative went from Miller speaking to our generation to speaking to … businesses?
Storyline became StoryBrand, and Miller began counseling businesses on their marketing strategies. It’s OK, I said to myself, he still has his blog. Oh, weird… he’s got other people writing his blog, too? No prob. It’s OK, I said to myself, he still is writing books. Oh, he shelved them?
You go to the old DonMillerIs.com, and it redirects to StorylineBlog, which immediately greets you with an ad for a 5-minute marketing makeover. And the emails transitioned from felt-needs and life milestones to “The 5 Elements of a Money Making Website” and “No more random acts of marketing.” These emails started out being digests of his blogs and were transitioned into StoryBrand marketing.
Clicking the “unsubscribe” button felt like the end of an era.
I’m probably more troubled by this than I should be. It’s probably a tad dramatic to see this transition as seeing one of my heroes fall. He didn’t have a romantic scandal, steal money, punch his dog or blackmail his enemies.
But it feels like someone who once spoke to me (and countless others), now speaks to companies. It feels at once brilliant and betraying.
Maybe it’s because it speaks to something more telling about myself than necessarily about Don (whom I have met a couple of times).
I’m afraid of trading deep thoughts, idealistic principles, youthful enthusiasm, powerful prose and huge dreams for the “grown up” resignation to snuggle up to “the man” and scratch out a living.
Don’t get me wrong; working is good. Making money is good.
I just don’t want to get to the point where I’m so consumed with making a living, building an industry or checking boxes on a never-ending list that I’m hardly recognizable with the values and dreams that have defined me.
Yes, things change. That’s inevitable.
But for many of us, dreaming the big, change-the-world kinds of dreams becomes unrealistic or immature at some point. For some people with awful childhoods, it came early, as they had to grow up quickly. For others, the post-high school years brought a sobering dose of reality. And for others still, having a few years in the working world under their belt put them in a daily daze of navel gazing where our biggest dreams involve weekend plans, Netflix and interior decorating.
I feel that gravity. Those emails were, to me, another reminder of the pull I experience to replace change-the-world idealism with one-day-at-a-time, practicality.
Little by little, we tread the paths of our lives. Eventually, we’ve walked certain paths so much that they become trenches, ruts of routine that are so deep we can’t see the rest of the frontier. We can’t see the other possibilities, but even if we could, we couldn’t do anything about it from the trenches.
There comes a point when we think we’re too old for certain things, like career paths, musical choices, international travel, big projects or more. The rut is there. We’re too busy maintaining all we’ve amassed so far. It’s the difference between being a pioneer and being a settler.
I guess those emails reminded me that at some point, many of us decide to be a settler.
May we dare to keep dreaming, even in the midst of being faithful caretakers of that with which we’ve been entrusted. May we hold to our values, while finding new ways of expressing them.
May we be the people who can write (and encourage) better stories, while still paying the bills.
By the way, I’ve subscribed to a new email list: Writing prompts.