• The Cookie Cutter Life
  • The Cookie Cutter Life

For as long as I could remember, I’ve wanted anything but the cookie cutter life. While my friends around me were diligently working their way up to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants, I was dreaming of a life unfettered by society’s expectations.

At one point, I thought nothing could be more exciting—or unconventional—than being a war correspondent in the Middle East. Then, I fantasized about being a marine biologist, so I could swim with dolphins all day. And finally, the one dream that really stuck through all these years, was my dream of becoming a missionary. I wanted to travel all over the world, go to the most dangerous and desolate places, and live to tell the tale.

The more my relatives pressured me to pursue a conventional career choice, the more it fueled my dreams of an adventurous, independent, carefree life.

But life took an unexpected twist, and I now find myself living a very safe life, in a country that—my friends still like to remind me—I once vowed I would never live in, with most of my life choices thus far determined by circumstances beyond my control.

Over the years, life has snuffed out the adventurous spirit within me, and I find it much easier to reach for the same dreams as everyone else—awaiting the day when I can own my own house and fill it with pretty furnishings from Anthropologie, a well-stocked kitchen, and a fluffy cat.

Some days, I wonder what 17-year-old me would think of the life I’m living now. And when I see others living the life I wanted, I wonder: Did I not fight hard enough for my dreams?

Although I’m not currently living the life I dreamed of as a 17-year-old, I’ve discovered that God’s vision for my dreams always defies my expectations in mind-blowing ways.

So while I’m not quite scaling mountains or ministering to lepers, I have the privilege of traversing the most dark, dangerous, and desolate places in the hearts of men through my current job. Instead of just telling my own story, I get to help others tell the stories that God is writing through their lives, pointing many around the world to the light of Christ—all the things I dreamed of doing, while ensuring I have enough money to feed myself and to take care of my parents (instead of shaving a few years off their lives from worry).

Perhaps one day, when I get that dream home, I might be able to open it up and provide rest and refuge to missionaries, or pursue another dream I have: to fill my home with adopted babies. But for now, I’m learning to follow God’s leading one step at a time, recognizing that while I can plan my ways all I want, it’s the Lord who determines my steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Over time, I’ve come to see how I’ve allowed my “dreams”—that desire to be different or to stand out—to become an idol in my life. Perhaps I was tired of being forced to fit my life into a cookie cutter whose shape I didn’t like.

But now I’ve come to realize, there’s nothing wrong with having a cookie cutter life—it just depends on whose cookie cutter I’m fitting my life into.

Artwork by YMI X Estelle Queck (@morethanworks)

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