I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writers who have inspired me to write and after whose work I model my own. One such writer, it may surprise you, is Shauna Niequist, the Christian author, podcaster, and speaker who is best known for writing Cold Tangerines, a book you probably recognize from your mother’s bedside table.
A major reason Niequist’s work resonates with me is because much of it centers around choosing to live wholeheartedly in a world that consistently says you’re not doing enough. One of my favorite pieces of hers is called “Things I Don’t Do,” where she argues for the importance of prioritizing your life and letting go of these excessive and unproductive expectations. This idea resonates with me deeply. For so long, I have made exhausting (and at times unnecessary) to-do lists and spent too much time comparing myself to others. So here we go: a few things I do, and a few things I don’t:
Things I Do
I spend time with my family. Kendahl, Chloe and Kevin are my #1. Some things on this list will change and morph over time; this one never will. A work trip to San Antonio this past spring reminded me of how much home base means to me.
I invest in my church community. When we moved to St. Louis last summer, one of our major goals was to find a church where we grow, serve, know others, and are known. We’ve been so fortunate to find all of these things at One Family Church, an amazing and diverse community of Christ followers.
I do my best to be present in a community of a small group of friends. As I get older, I realize more and more that having a few close friends in life, friends who really know you and who walk through life with you, is so valuable.
I read and write.
I watch Parks and Rec. We can’t remember if this is the third or fourth time through the series, but we just finished it a couple of nights ago and I cried three separate times. Parks and Recreation is the best comedy television show of all time. DO NOT @ ME!!!
Things I Don’t Do
I don’t run half marathons or lift huge weights. My doomed foray into half-marathoning has been well-documented, so I won’t go into it here. I’m content to ride my bike and play tennis. As far as lifting, I’m not trying to get huge. My former barber used to talk my ear off about lifting and the importance of getting stronger; I’d get lectured every time I went in there. I haven’t been back in quite some time.
I don’t use Instagram or Snapchat. Life without social media is beautiful. I do use Facebook, mainly to keep our friends and family updated on Chloe’s life. A coworker of mine recently told me she friended me on Facebook “so she could see pics of Chloe.” Touché.
I don’t work sixty-hour weeks. Perhaps there will come a season where I will, but for now, I relish coming home at 4 p.m. to be with my family. There are a lot of temptations—especially for someone who is driven by achievement—but I am constantly reminded that my family is the most important thing.
I don’t frequent restaurants, drive a new car, or go on big vacations. This is an example of a temporary “things I don’t do” item. Kendahl and I are committed to paying off our student debt quickly, and that means making lots of sacrifices. Instead of eating out, we have people over to grill or eat donuts. Instead of driving a nice car, I jam out in my 2003 Honda Civic. Instead of big vacations, we relax in our Wal-Mart kiddie pool in the backyard.
I don’t watch Game of Thrones. I’ve never seen an episode and I’m pleased to report that I am still living a fulfilling life.
The beauty of the “Things I Don’t Do” list is twofold: It absolves us of the responsibility of trying to measure our value or performance against someone else, and it frees us from judging others. Hopefully it’s detectable that this list has no “Things you should or shouldn’t do” spirit about it. (Except for Parks and Rec. You really should watch it.) Each of us has limited resources, time, and energy to devote and must constantly make choices. To the one who selects to watch Game of Thrones, or to the one who pursues the next level of bench press, I salute you. I am comfortable with the choices I’ve made, understand that I cannot fully pursue everything I might like to, and know there are some things I simply won’t spend time doing. As I get older this list evolves, but the reason for it does not. So if you care to find me, I’ll probably be at home with my daughter, on our couch, eating a delicious homemade pizza and taking in the soothing wisdom of Ron Swanson.
Matt Cambridge (’12) is a new dad to Chloe, husband to the beautiful Kendahl, and a human resources professional at Boeing. He lives in St. Louis and enjoys eating Hershey’s kisses, riding roller coasters, and watching the latest stand-up specials on Netflix. You can read more of his work at laughcrythink.com.