Dilemmas and Dream Crushing

* Warning:  The following post is rated PG.  * I’m a Dream Crusher.

That’s right.  A Grade A, number one killer of hope and inspiration.

Santa Clause?  Fake.  Easter Bunny?  Come on.  Tooth Fairy?  I used to think so, until I saw my grandpa take out a whole mouthful of teeth every single night and place them by his bedstand.  The guy never had so much as a penny to show for it.

It’s all bunk.

If you think that’s mean, we’ve only scratched the surface of my capabilities.

Eight years ago, after being laid off from my job when the dot-com bubble burst, I started my own business doing training and development work for corporations.  In the early days of self-employment, I spent a lot of time prospecting, but not a lot of time generating income.  During this time, Gabby worked as a manager at Dell, Inc. and supported us.  That year, my gross profits amounted to the value of an eight-year-old BMW.

Without air conditioning.

Or doors.

Gabby didn’t particularly love her job at the time, but she was good at it, and it brought us a nice income.  After coming home from our mission year in Guatemala, it wasn’t all that surprising that she didn’t rush right back in to her work helping to make millions of dollars for a large, global computer manufacturer.  Something in her gut told her she was meant to do something else with her life.  Unfortunately, unlike Gabby herself, her gut didn’t provide many specifics.

Eight years later, I’m the main bread-winner, and Gabby is the main child-rearer and all-around magician of our lives and schedules.  She volunteers.  She helps with my business.  She keeps us all sane.  Our existence as a family is generally very joyful and stress-free, thanks to my wife.

But her gut is still talking.  And it’s starting to get into the details.

Gabby has always had a way with people.  She is kind and generous.  She wants to be a helping hand for others, even when that help is kind of messy.  In fact, I think she prefers it to be messy.   She also remembers how she would have given her right arm to have had some medical training when visiting small villages during our year in Central America.  Both of us recall countless opportunities to truly change a child’s life for the better, had we only known how to provide basic care.

It’s pretty obvious to you where we’re heading with all of this.  Whether it’s divinely inspired, or simply a result of eating too much dairy, her gut has finally spoken.  She wants to be a nurse practitioner.  Caring for patients.  Healing the sick.  Doling out prescriptions.  Trying to make health care a better place for all of us.  Honestly, the miracle here is that it took seven years to figure it out.  This call to service that started as a seed years ago is finally germinating into a full-on desire to commit herself to helping others sustain the most precious gift we’re given by the Creator.

Life itself.

The good news is that we live in a city that boasts one of the finest medical training institutions in the country – Vanderbilt University.  They have specialized Family Nurse Practitioner programs that would allow Gabby to take an accelerated track to earning an advanced degree that fits her skills to a “T.”  Unfortunately, there are no other programs of this kind in the city where we live, and it costs as much as a new  8-Series BMW.

With a chauffer.

Holding a briefcase full of money.

Bring on the Dream Crusher.  Call from God?  Nope.  I think it’s the dairy talking.  For the past week, I have been visibly antsy when we talk about this latest turn our lives have taken.  Rather than display excitement that Gabby may have found her true calling in life, I am agonizing over the price tag.

I know.  I’m a barrel of laughs.

This must simply be too purposeful for me, the Accidental Missionary.  Dedicating your life to service.  Finding a way to make your work something meaningful.  Developing yourself so you can help the Great Physician do the work that miracles miss.

We’re now facing what my friend Joe would call an honest-to-goodness dilemma.  A dilemma is not a choice between two alternatives where one is obviously right.  No.  A dilemma is a choice when both seem to have equal merit.  Think of how many people those tens of thousands of dollars in tuition payments could help.  Then think of how many people that trained medical professionals can help.  Especially ones who feel called to work with underserved populations both at home and abroad.

It’s a dilemma.

But is it?

It’s only a dilemma in the way I have defined it.  It’s not like we would liquidate our savings and give all of our money away if Gabby decides not to pursue this calling.  Could we?  Sure.  Would we?  I’m a little to “of this world” for that to happen.  At least not tomorrow.

What if we don’t have enough for retirement?  Lord knows our mission year set us back quite a ways.  When you make $260/month, there’s not a lot left over for savings.  Or even Ramen noodles.  Now, with Gabby staying at home with the kids, we’ve gone from being DINKs (Dual Income No Kids) to SITCOMs (Single Income, Two Children, Outta’ Money).  As Gabby will tell you, staying home and working for the kids has a great benefits package, but the pay sucks.

And what about those kids?  We should help support them by saving something for their college education, right?  This new plan could slow down our savings there.

And what about our life as we know it?  There would be lots of changes.  Scheduling hassles.  Gabby studying at night.  I might have to scale back business travel to be around for the kids when Gabby needs to be at school.

When we get right down to it, it’s only a dilemma because I am scared.  Scared of losing the staus quo.  Scared of sacrificing a good chuck of our retirement nest egg.  Scared of debt and the stress it can bring.  And I worry about all of this even though we haven’t even made a decision, she hasn’t even applied to the program, and we haven’t even investigated all of the alternatives.  Gabby even admits she may take her first prerequisite and realize it's not for her.  I’m worrying ahead of schedule.  It appears this is the only thing I do that doesn’t get a healthy dose of procrastination. It’s premature Dream Crushing.

And why am I worried?  I view money as security.  It’s one tangible way that I can maintain some semblance of control in a chaotic world.  It affords us comforts and flexibility.  If I have it, then I can conceivably handle anything the world throws at me.

If I don’t have it, then I have to rely on, well…


Sounds like a dream.