Roadmap

adrian-203269

It’s strange to return to this place I’ve allowed to lie dormant for nearly a year. Entirely unintentional, but it is so incredibly easy to let writing slip away from you as the days pass and you try to make sense of them.

Many of the conversations I’ve had this past year have centered around finding and making your place. And the lesson I learn over and over again is that things will always look different than you imagined. Different, not better, not worse. That there is no arrival, just the opposite. We occupy this body and our lives, growing and filling spaces as we occupy them, and then, we move forward. That moving forward, is inevitable.

The danger is in defining yourself singularly. In finding your identity in one thing, be it a degree, a person, a place, a job, a bank account balance. Because, regardless of whether or not you are in a place to call these things yours–your life does not begin with their possession.

And you are allowed to try new things. To work jobs you may have no interest in. To pay your loans and cry mirthlessly over your bank account balance. To move back home and try and figure out how the person who first left and the one who’s now arrived have anything in common anymore. This is all still movement, even if it sometimes feels like you never left home to begin with. Ignore the compulsion to compare, because navigating this mapless season looks different for everyone.

A friend of mine put it as “building blocks for the future”. We’re still growing, still learning, still moving forward, just in a less defined way. Exist in the day-to-day, put no pressure on the future other than knowing it will someday be here, looking different than expected but still inhabitable, and maybe even more than you planned for.

Advertisements

what I learned in college (outside the classroom)

_MG_5243

  1. How long you can get away without showering and/or washing your hair (four days).
  2. Straightening your hair everyday is a waste of time.
  3. In fact, don’t try at all–unless you want to (unless it’s for you).
  4. What you think you want will change.
  5. Forgiveness is hard. You’re still learning.
  6. You are definitely a food snob.
  7. When you wish away time, it listens.
  8. Your friends will change.
  9. Leave your eyebrows alone–they know what they’re doing.
  10. Sometimes sadness will threaten to swallow you whole–it won’t.
  11. Value places for what they were, but don’t be afraid of moving forward (they will always be there).
  12. Group projects are hell.
  13. Don’t drink coffee (you add too much sugar).
  14. It’s okay not to know.
  15. Really, it’s okay.
  16. Give yourself permission to feel (sometimes :)).
  17. All those events you think you’ll regret not going to? You won’t.
  18. Never apologize for alone time.
  19. Running sucks. But sometimes it doesn’t.
  20. It’s not about knowing so much as being present.
  21. You will settle into yourself.
  22. Don’t put too much pressure on home. It will be there, but you will change.
  23. You are still bad at making decisions.
  24. Transitions do not always equal escape.
  25. People will hurt you. And you will hurt them.
  26. Conversations open your world.
  27. Allow yourself some mistakes.
  28. Cut your hair. Cut it again.
  29. You will lose things and not be there. It will be okay.
  30. You will find people who understand.
  31. Your faith doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
  32. Believe in the possibilities, but also accept if things look different from what you pictured.
  33. It’s okay to let people in, sometimes.
  34. You are who you are. Don’t apologize for what you feel, or don’t feel.
  35. Let it go.
  36. Everything in life is a chapter.
  37. Believe in the beauty of the everyday.
  38. And of the future.
  39. Acknowledge the hard–don’t be afraid to admit to struggle.
  40. Time only speeds up now.
  41. Speak up. Ask questions.
  42. Say what you think. Admit what you feel. It’s not weakness.
  43. Thank God for the growth, for the change, for the process. Thank him again.
  44. You are worthy.
  45. Don’t be afraid.
  46. Stay up late sometimes.
  47. Allow new passions to grip you and pull you in.
  48. You’ve made progress. You’ve grown. Believe it.
  49. Don’t project onto places and people; nothing and no one is perfect.
  50. Write things down. See where you’ve come from and where you are going. Believe in the process that is progress.

On Transition

photo-1416862291207-4ca732144d83

You’ll never be completely at home again because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

-Miriam Adeney

This is one of my favorite quotes. I stumbled upon it before I went to Ireland for the first time. I had no idea how true it would become for me, how true it continues to become for me.

You don’t even have to travel far to relate to Miriam Adeney’s words. Just the fact that people are always coming into our lives, the fact that we are always moving in some capacity, it means our definition of home as we know it will change.

That has never been more true than now. Home as I know it may be the same, but I come back, changed. From the experiences I’ve had. From the conversations, the people, the friends I’ve made. And when we leave a place, we can’t ever really return back to it, back to those moments that defined it. There’s something bittersweet about that realization.

Transitions are a constant. And I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at them. But I still find myself holding onto things a bit too tightly, things that slip away. The more you explore the world, the more your heart will yearn for more, and not just that, it will ache for places and people and times that are long since past.

Part of your heart will always ache for places and people of the past, but beyond that, there is always a sense of fullness that overrides everything else. And I think that’s a worthy price. There’s something kind of beautiful about the journey. About the people and places we’ve yet to meet, to visit, to hold close to our hearts.

I honor those places by remembering, and opening myself to the transitions yet to come.

Discovery

photo-1447876464283-8f7b5c21e00a

I was flipping through a Bon Appétit  magazine the other day. It was a travel edition, which caught my eye just in the fact it married two of my favorite things: food and travel. When I wasn’t drooling over delectable photos of Pho or lamenting the lack of cultural variety in the food options near me at the moment, I was reading the articles in the issue. And this quote, from Michael Chabon’s piece about his family’s travels in Morocco, struck me:

“Nothing moves me more profoundly than discovering the extent of my own ignorance.

Oh man, there it is. It’s that glorious, often-uncomfortable unknown that gets me, that the travel bug feeds off of. When you’re lost, standing on an unfamiliar street, a hand cast over your eyes as you look around, taking in the rush of people around you, the murmured words in a language that sounds like poetry–there’s no feeling like it in the world. And a feeling that’s only found by traveling it. The world.

When I say there’s no feeling like it in the world, it’s because that lost feeling is equal parts terrifying and wonderful. Because you know you can hail a taxi if you’re hopelessly lost, can stumble over the words flowing from the mouths of the people around you, can right your wrong turn fairly easily. But then, you stay in it. Leave the map folded in your pocket. Because this is life, life actively being lived in a place that is different from where you’ve ever been before. Familiar motions, humans living life, but in this new place you’ve only just set foot in.

That’s why I love traveling. Why my feet crave unknown streets, my eyes new sights. I want places to shape me as I step into them, open to the lessons I’ve yet to learn, the things I’ve yet to know.You can’t help but grow.

.

Sacred Calling

CSlKIgDUcAAjXNL

I attended my first writer’s conference over the weekend, and if I’m being honest, I was uncertain whether I would enjoy it or not. But I found myself pleasantly surprised, at the weekend’s conclusion, how much I’d learned.

It’s easy for me, as a writer (or some days, aspiring writer) to get stuck in neutral, an unproductive state where I feel I have nothing new to learn. What an arrogant place to be, no matter the practice. What’s worse about this neutral state is that it’s rarely accompanied by any sort of writing.

I slip into this neutral mode only too easily, and rarely detect it until I’m in too deep. The cure, I’ve found, is in inspiration. Little ideas that stick in my mind, refreshing the dullness there. Because I am a writer, though it’s often so much easier just to not write at all.

I showed up to the Indiana Faith & Writing Conference on Friday uncertain what I’d find. I certainly didn’t expect to leave inspired, to leave filled. How important, I realized, it is to rub shoulders with people who love words just as much as you do. How incredible, I found, it is to listen to writers who know so much more than you.

I was spellbound by Scott Russell Sanders’s reading Friday evening. Unable to take my eyes from the photographs he wrote stories from, I was inspired. Words in the hands of the right person can accomplish so much.

I learned about writing spiritual memoirs. How to try and capture transcendent moments, to not rely on overused phrases that only have meaning to a select group.

I learned how to write characters nothing like me, through empathy, through not assuming I know a person entirely based on a stereotype.

I learned how to balance vulnerability in my writing, to make sense of the past in a productive way, a way that could cause growth for me, and reflection for others.

I can sum up this weekend, and where it left me with Dr. Householder’s words from his session on flash fiction: “I want to celebrate the voices God has given me. Own it as a sacred calling.”

A sacred calling that must constantly be sharpened.

Home

a570af34

I am a firm believer in the impact of adventure.

The forced upheaval of your comfort zone, leaving what you know for something new. It forces growth, it forces acknowledgement of who you are and where you come from. It was only through leaving home that I truly began to appreciate it. It was through leaving home that I began to see the biases I held against it.

Cultural bias is usually reserved for different cultures, ones outside of your own. It was only once I left America that I realized I actually had biases against my own culture. It’s easy to place the unknown on a pedestal, and that is a lesson I’ve learned through experience.

All my life, I wanted to leave home. To explore other countries and places I thought I’d like better than where I was. I’ve been lucky enough to do just that. But what I didn’t account for was how those experiences would cause me to return home, and view it with new eyes. To appreciate it for what it was. Not bad, just different.

When you leave for a trip, all you can think about is getting to that far-off, distant place. Of starting your adventure there. But what we don’t realize until after-the-fact, is how that place will impact home. How it will make that arrival home that much sweeter, make you realize the things you never saw before.

It was only through leaving what I knew that I realized how much it meant to me.

(Study) Abroad

steam

I don’t much remember my first day in Ireland.

I remember it was raining (the default Irish weather). I remember I was in dire need of a shower, and was jet-lagged out of my mind.

I don’t remember meeting anyone, or taking a tour of the town I was to live in. What I do remember is a knotted fear settling deep in my stomach. A quiet voice in the back of my mind wondering if I’d done the right thing, in choosing to spend the next four months in a foreign country with a group of strangers.

It was a combination of  switching time zones, and a snoring roommate that caused me to lay awake that first night, worried I’d made a mistake. My friend, who was also awake, and I padded downstairs in the dark to the kitchenette. Made tea and dipped biscuits in Nutella.

We were uprooted, dislodged from anything we knew. My bare feet skimmed the cold floor, and tears started to gather at the corners of my eyes.

And what I didn’t know, what I couldn’t even begin to comprehend, was how important that place would become to me.

I had to enter in with that uncertainty, with that choking fear. Because without it, I would never have been able to look back and see how far I’d come, how much I’d changed.

To fear is to be human. To fear is to be me. That night I had no idea what was to come. And if I could do it again, I wouldn’t change that night of fear, that night of worry, that night of tears, because it was from there that I launched into the most incredible four months of my life.

To dislodge yourself willingly and dive headfirst into a new place…you can’t help but come out changed. Fear is but the launch pad into experience.