My Little Duke

The Road Less Travelled

Steph Duke2 Comments

I’ve another blog post to finish and an entirely different one to start. I’ve a to-do list the length of my arm that’s growing longer, not getting shorter! I’ve emails to write, messages to reply to and a million and one other things to do right now …


But I’m writing this blog post instead.


One thing I’ve been learning recently is to be ready when I get a little nudge in my spirit. There have been a few moments like this over the last few weeks and I haven’t stopped to listen or to write. Instead I’ve chosen to stay busy and the moment passes. Whatever ‘it’ was, goes unsaid.


The call on my life is most definitely not to leave words unspoken. I’m called to write. Despite the fear or feeling like I’m unqualified, I am called to be a voice - even when that voice is a little bit shaky. I have the incredible gift of time now that I’m not teaching, but isn’t it amazing just how quickly we can fill our time up?! I’ve managed a pretty good job of that and sometimes forget that I need to intentionally make time to write.


It sometimes just takes a post on instagram to spark me off, an article I read online or a conversation with a friend. In this instance it was an eloquently written caption by an insta-turned-real friend, Emma Martin. Emma writes with a sincerity and depth that I have rarely seen elsewhere across social media. In this particular post she talks about ‘imposter syndrome’ – that ‘little voice that tells us we are out of our depth, whispering that we aren’t good enough.’



I could have written the exact words used in this post as they resonate with so much of how I’m feeling in this season. Emma writes:


“I’ve never been a particularly ambitious sort of person - in the traditional sense at least. I guess my ambitions are just to raise my family well, to be content in my creative life, to be well thought of. Popularity and pay grades, status and scaling the ladder have never been my cup of tea. I admire those who are driven and focused, who are born achievers, but I’ve always been OK with admitting that my path is a quieter one. 

Ten years ago I was in a career that was demanding in every respect. And at home I had three tiny demands of a different sort. My only ambition was to get down off the ladder, rather than head up it. 

It’s scary to admit that as a woman sometimes, because I think the pressure can be to uphold feminist values, to do anything the men can do, to be doing it all. For me, feminism is about having the choice. To make the decisions that change things for the better. To choose happy.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt out of my depth in what I do. Lately though, the tiny voice of self doubt has been creeping in. I’m never sure whether social media is a help or a hindrance. 

Farah Storr, the author of that article I read, talks about coming to the realisation that everyone is winging it though. In careers, in motherhood. In relationships and homework and making sure the tea has vegetables in. In being on time for things and responding to emails in a timely manner. In remembering to put petrol in the car and send off that invoice. In being a good friend, a good employee, a good person. We are all imposters really - in a life that is rarely picture perfect. 

I thought I’d share that tonight (and share how I’ve been feeling lately too!) because I think it can be really easy to assume that others have it totally sussed. I know I often do. 

Here’s to being ambitious, brazen imposters this week. Squashing the doubt. 
And realising that we’re not so different after all.”


It feels like I’m consciously having to squash the doubt every single day! I never thought I’d be where I am now after handing in a resignation letter to my school almost one whole year ago. Who even does that?! Me, apparently.


I remember a moment when I was at my absolute lowest - I took a mad notion and hastily sent Emma a 3 lined (probably incoherent) email asking for some help and advice. Something told me she’d been an English Teacher once upon a time and I needed someone – anyone - to tell me that they understood. I’ll never forget hearing the ping of my inbox shortly after and an email reply from Emma sat waiting to be read.


I wept as I read her story, knowing that her journey wasn’t dissimilar to mine and one I’d soon be following.  Emma assured me of so many truths that others just couldn’t understand. She confirmed to me that stepping away from school wasn’t failure and that choosing family and faith over fear and financial stability was never going to a bad decision. Hear me clearly – Emma did not force me to quit my job – but she was instrumental in helping me begin to see clearly when my vision was clouded and murky.


So why am I sharing this?


I had a conversation with someone recently. In fact I’ve had similar versions of this conversation with quite a few people and the outcome has always been the same. I’m asked how I’m doing? How are things going? What am I up to these days now Phoebe is at school? My response is the same each time. I feel my heart beat a little faster, my blood begin to rise and before I even know what I’m saying I hear my voice speaking these words, “I’m doing really well thanks, actually … I’ve been back subbing again.”  


Immediately I cringe inside because I know exactly why I’m saying those words. Why do I believe the lie that telling people I’m back subbing in schools means I’m “doing ok”? Why do I feel the need to justify the way I live my life or how I choose to mother my child to anyone? Oh I know why - because the response I get is always the same. The concerned and sympathetic looks disappear as soon as I say I’m back working in school, when I confirm that I’m back earning substantial money and using my qualifications again.



She isn’t crazy.

She’s doing ok.

She didn’t just make the BIGGEST MISTAKE OF HER LIFE.


The biggest mistake of my life at this present moment in time is still believing the lie that I need to be doing it all. I’m qualified to sub and subbing is a great way to earn much needed money.  Is it what I feel God calling me to invest time in right now? I’m not so sure. The choice to sub is a financial decision right now. And I’m acutely aware that by choosing to sub, I’m actually trying to take back a bit of control. God is faithful and will provide. If I believe that then I need to demonstrate that and speak that out proudly in conversations. Because more and more I’m realising that choosing the road less travelled is what will make the biggest difference, have the greatest impact and leave a legacy that lasts long after I’m gone. Working myself to the bone, keeping up appearances and chasing after a bigger paycheck just isn’t me any more. There was I time when I thought that’s who I was. Not now.


Now my heart is to counsel and serve, to practise hospitality and encouragement. It’s not about shouting the loudest or hustling the hardest. It is about learning to be someone with the kind of grace, beauty and gentleness of spirit that can speak with power. The kind of power that brings change, hope and healing to a broken world fuelled by ambition and greed, a world that’s perpetuated by self-doubt. And when the great big measuring stick of success comes to bite me on the bum I’m going to tell it to go and do one! I’ve found a new barometer of success to measure my life against and he has a name. His name is Jesus.


The life that Jesus offers us is certainly one that is less travelled on. It’s the narrower way. It’s not an easy path to take – pretty darn counter-cultural if you ask me! It’s definitely a ‘climbing down the ladder’ kind of life. One of service and not self. But it’s a life that offers radical abundance, immeasurable joy and ZERO LIMITS. God could tell me to move to Japan and I’d go tomorrow. For our lives are but a vapour and our time is borrowed. So in this season I’ll keep on keeping on quietly walking my daughter to and from school every day. I’ll keep listening when God speaks creative dreams and ideas and I’ll keep squashing that doubt!


‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.’

 Exerpt from my favourite poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost